Many handpan enthusiasts are asking this question – what is the difference between 1.0mm vs 1.25mm steel and what are the benefits for each?
How would I know which one to choose for my handpan?
In this article we will do our best to give our point of view on this topic. We will share our results after years of experimenting with these two thicknesses on different steel types.
1.0mm – gives more blooming overtones. The sound is a bit more ‘crisp’ and can remind more of the clay sound of the popular Nitrided steel which is commonly referred to be sounding similar to clay than to metal.
Some players enjoy the strong volume of the 1.0mm steel. It can fill up the space you are playing very easily with reach overtones that attract the human ear.
In nature, high frequencies have a longer wavelength. That is why they are more easily detected by the human ear from distance. By having the strong volume on the overtones the human ear detects them from further distances and attract the listener to come closer to the player and instrument. This quality is great for buskers who are looking to attract a walking audience in the street.
1.25mm – has a deeper tone, putting more emphasis on the fundamental tone, this quality is really great for indoor playing, meditative playing, intimate playing, or a small home concert.
The sound in my opinion is warmer and the sustain of the fundamental tone is greater than the 1.0mm. Although the overtones are more of a beautiful decoration for the deep fundamental tone – that is why we use this steel more for the deeper Pantams, starting at A2 ding and lower.
Building Pantams from 1.25mm is WAY longer and harder work. From the forming, shaping, and tuning, it can even take twice the time than making a handpan from 1.0mm steel.
Longer working hours do not immediately mean a better handpan.
It is a matter of choice of sound by the player, the building process is longer because there are completely different methods of forming and tuning the instrument.
Let's sum it up
n the end it all comes down to the preference of the player.
We usually suggest going for 1.0mm for higher range scales and for the lower ones we recommend the 1.25mm for deeper tones.
To hear the difference between these two thicknesses through speakers or even headphones is very very difficult.
It is mostly noticed while playing, the way the sound touches our ears and the way our body reacts and feels from the steel. These qualities are hard to detect by home monitors or headphones.
We hope this article helped you choose the best material for your pantam and scale!