|Before getting into the following drum nerd information, I should say that differentiating between the tonal characteristics (low, mid, high, bright, etc.) with the naked ear is next to impossible. However, advances in recording technology and microphone sensitivity - for both studio and live performance situations - make it important to understand the subtle differences in the main materials. This helps you choose the sound qualities best suited for the style of music you're playing. There is a noticeable difference between a wood drum and a metal drum, but it's subtle. Bottom line: If it sounds good to you then it's the right material and tone.
Not asleep yet? Congrats! You're probably a drum nerd.
Maple - The most widely used of the woods listed here because it resonates well and produces the widest range of frequencies. This makes Maple a popular choice for many styles of music and is widely used for both live and studio situations. Overall, it has a somewhat lower tone, but it's the most evenly balanced (in low, mid and high tones) of the woods covered here. Generally described as producing a warm tone.
Birch - Another widely used wood in drum manufacturing. Birch is the hardest of the woods listed here which also makes it the loudest. Similar to Maple in the overall representation of the three frequencies, but with a slightly boosted high frequency which increases the "cut" of the tone. Generally described as producing a bright tone.
Mahogany (African Mahogany) - The highest output of low frequencies which produces a darker, low "punch". The high frequencies are also reduced which helps add to the overall deeper sound of this drum. Generally described as having a rich tone. If buying Mahogany, make sure the drum you're buying is "true" or African Mahogany as many drums marketed as Mahogany are actually Lauan or Philippine Mahogany - both much cheaper than true Mahogany.
Brass - Very bright, sharp sound. In my opinion, Brass reacts to changes in dynamics better than the woods which helps explain why it's the main choice for symphonic snares. Most professional drummers will have at least one Brass (or some other type of metal) snare in their war chest - used either as their main snare or as an auxiliary/back-up drum.
Lauan (or Philippine Mahogany) - This is the softest of the woods listed, which means it resonates the least and therefore produces the lowest quality tone. Because of the unremarkable (read: unattractive) grain of Lauan, drum manufacturers usually "wrap" or cover these with a plastic finish rather than a stain finish. However, just because a drum is wrapped does not mean it's Lauan or a cheap wood. This wood can be a great choice for a drummer's first kit because it's a decent sound for a lower price.