(NOTE) This was the first ever post on HandPans Magazine back in 2010 (and is still overall the most 'popular' - by views). More up-to-date info can be found by following the link under each instrument.
Advertised as the first US made handpan ‘The Halo’ like PanArts ‘Hang’ is a descendant of the steel pan family of percussion instruments of Trinidad and Tobago, and like the Hang, the Halo is usually played positioned within the lap, or directly in front of the player, in a style similar to that of bongo drums.
A resonant steel instrument, the Halo, is designed to engage both body and mind, carrying both musician and audience away in a trance like exploration fueled by expressive and beautiful notes and tones, delivering a new voice to the world of modern sound sculptures that gives the original Hang a run for its money.
Designed and produced in Germany by ‘Bill Brown’ the ‘Caisa’ drum is another Hang alternative sound sculpture. Constructed from steel the Caisa is hand tuned with the tone areas being hammered by hand, usually in a pentatonic scale, and feature between ten and twelve notes (depending upon the model).
Like the Hang and the Halo, the Caisa is best played from a lap position, and while the Hang are nick-named U.F.O’s due to their shape, the Caisa have been nick-named the ‘Mushroom'; due to its protruding horn like base.
The 1Tone ECLIPSE
The most commercially available instrument of our selection is the 1Tone ECLIPSE Hank-style drum. An instrument that has been described as 'If the Hang, and a Hank had a baby, this would be it'. And that essentially sums up the 1Tone quite nicely, with the drum resembling the Hang in appearance, with the notes laid out in the same fashion, but utilising the tuned steel tongues common to the Hank.
Bali Steel Hand Pans
With a sound that seems a little closer to its predecessor the steel pan, Bali Steel hand pans are for all intents and purposes an almost perfect replica of the Hang. Shaped by hand on the island of Bali, Indonesia, and built by a team of three people, Bali steel hand pans are currently available in two scales, ‘Shang Diao’ (F Bb C Eb F G# Bb C Eb , and ‘Gong Diao’ (F Bb C D F G Bb C D), at the current price of $1050.
Not speaking Spanish there is very little I can tell you about this next hand pan, except to say that of all the hang replicas I’ve heard, this one by far has my favorite sound. Said to cost somewhere in the region of $1800, BELLArt BEIIs, like the Hang, have a long waiting list, however, rumour has it that they are starting to appear more frequently now, and they do occasionally appear for sale on sites like ‘GumTree’, and eBay. MORE INFORMATION
The French made space drum is another excellent alternative to the Hang, designed by ‘Phillipe Maignaut’, and ‘Djoliba’, the Spacedrum is the first handpan to be made available in a thirteen note version (in addition to its six and eight note models). This spacey melodic percussion instrument is available in pentatonic, diatonic and even chromatic ranges. permitting the musician to play all styles of music in any key.
The Zen Tambour
A relative of the ‘Hank’ drum, the ‘Zen Tambour’ is the handcrafted percussion instrument created by ‘Steve "Spike" Finch’. And is an instrument that boasts completely customisable and personalised sound depth, artwork, and finish.
At a cost of around $400, and with a waiting list of (currently) only three weeks, the Zen Tambour represents another of the more accessible alternatives to the highly sought after handpans.
[EDIT] Since this original posting more Hang drum alternatives have appeared: Find more.