What is the difference between a ‘Nitrided handpan’ and ‘Stainless handpan’?

Playing an Yishama Pantam

Choosing the material of your handpan is an important part, but how do you know which one fits your needs? You will find all the answers in this article.

Nitrided steel begins by taking cold rolled steel with low carbon content, usually DC04 and sending it to a professional facility for the nitriding process. 

This kind of steel does not have great rust resist qualities and is quite soft, that is why the nitrating process is applied for this steel.

The nitrating process makes the steel harder and creates a protective layer – also referred to as an nitriding layer.

So, what are the positive and negative aspects of nitrided steel for the player?

As a result of the steel properties and the nitrided process we receive a sound quality which is more ceramic and clay sounding.
The high frequencies in the notes are more amplified with great volume, resulting in a handpan which is great for outdoor and busking playing.
It can easily be heard miles away.

The tuning for this material can hold for many many years to come if played correctly (See the article on ‘How do i play my handpan correctly?’)

The down side of this steel is that it needs more cleaning care than stainless steel, although having the nitriding process to protect it from rusting, it will still need to be cleaned and oiled frequently and should avoid being playing at the beach.

(See the article – ‘Pantam care’ for information on how to clean your instrument)

What about stainless steel handpans?

The most obvious and upfront positive quality of stainless steel is that it does not rust, you can take your handpan to the beach or other humid areas and play without worrying about having it rust.

It is still recommended to clean and oil your stainless steel handpan, but it is not required on a weekly basis.

The sustain of the stainless steel handpan is quite longer than nitradid steel, resulting with a very warm and soft tone with abundance of sustain.

The down side of stainless steel handpan is that it is very sensitive to heat, playing outside under the sun is not recommended, the result will be that your instrument will go slightly out of tune for a few moments, after cooled down it will most likely get back to his original tuning, but this can change if it was left for a long time under the boiling sun – in this case your instrument might not fully return to his original tuning after cooling down.

The amplified frequencies of the stainless steel handpan are not as of the nitrided handpan, the amplified frequencies are on the lower end, resulting in an instrument which is very very enjoyable to play at closed spaces or quiet rooms, but it might be less efficient for large outdoor playing or busking.

So what should you chose?

In conclusion, the right choice of the material starts by understanding your needs and use of the handpan, if you are planning to play a lot at outdoor space or busking, then in this case we truly recommend choosing a nitraded handpan.

If you are planning to play mostly at home or at concerts then we recommend going for a stainless steel handpan which gives a wonderful sound experience.

We hope this article helps to best understand the differences between these materials and know which kind will fulfil your needs.

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