I have been lucky enough to own several excellent drums, and played on many more. Ritmo by Matt Smith, Skin on Skin by Jay Bereck, Moperc's by Michelle Ouelett, Isla by Mario Punchard, LP, Gon Bops original and new, some old Cuban drums. However, the drum I enjoy most, my very favorite drum for rumba is this old Valje tumba produced sometime in the 1960's by Tom Flores with this excellent skin by LH Percussion.
This drum just has a beautiful tone, not too dry, not too wet sounding and can be played as loud or as softly as you want. I can tune it down or up and it still sounds great. The best thing about this drum though, is it's bass tone, it can be heard and felt whenever it's played in rumba, this drum gives that bomba that BOOM it needs to really push and drive the clave. I love it.
I got this drum from a friend in Berkeley a few years back. I remember him mentioning it was a little big for him to comfortably play and he preferred his other drums, so I made him an offer and he bit! he's right, it is a big drum, 31" tall, 12 1/4" at the head. I believe this Valje's large size is what gives it the incredible bass tone it has.
I got very lucky with the skin, not too thick to choke the bass, not too thin to sound ringy, it is soft to the skin and responsive to the touch.
I also really enjoy the look of this drum. Made in another era, the red quarter sawn oak just has a character of grain you can't find anymore. This Valje has a few scars here and there, and I've had to repair a couple cracks, but it has been solid now for a couple of years. I had new lugs made by Ralph Flores at Resolution drums, as the LP lugs that were on it just did not look right I don't baby this drum, I use this drum for public rumba and playing outside in the park. I play it hard and I am not afraid to hit the skin or sides of the drum with sticks.
I've got a another Valje from the 60's I pair up with this drum and my Sol quinto rounds out this rumba set. As beautiful sounding set of congas as you will ever hear, made right here in California.
Like I've said, I've owned a lot of nice drums but this one is staying with me.