Snare Drum Survey
Snare drums are intensely personal things. Even if a drummer can't afford a really good kit, the chances are he'll find a way of getting a good quality snare drum.
The snare's the heart of the kit and if there's a good hard sound generated here, the rest of the kit will get by. The real choice is between wood or metal shells and really it's a choice that depends on personal preference. Certainly the metal shell is tougher and harder, but it isn't always louder. Wood still finds a large degree of acceptance among drummers who like the traditional "thick" sound, so it's really a case of you pays your money and takes your choice.
Here we list most of the snares available in the U.K. today to help in making your choice.
It is Boosey and Hawkes' good fortune to market the Beverley drum in this country. Occupying pride of place in any Beverley kit is the Beverley 21 snare drum. With a centre-beaded shell, ten lugs, a smooth snare strainer which insures the absence of any sound-deadening within the shell, this 20 strand tie-on snare measuring 14"x5½" (35 x 14cm) is the perfect all-purpose snare.
CBS/Arbiter make the complete and extensive range of Rogers' drums in Great Britain, and the Dynasonic snare drum is certainly not the least among them. The 5"x 14" Dynasonic, available with wire snares, and 6½"x14" model, with either wire or nylon snares both offer a host of commendable features. These include two separate tension screw adjustments (one on the frame for controlled tension on the snare wires, and a second on the snare strainer for controlled bottom head snare contact). Both models have a brass shell which boasts trumpet-like penetration, as well as a cymbal-like choke-free snare action.
Cleartone's contribution to the drum world is the Slingerland range. Slingerland offer a choice of colours, but Cleartone have found that the chrome snare is far and away the most popular.
The Super Sound King, model number 121 measuring 14"x6½" (35x16.5cm) is the top snare in the Slingerland range. This boasts 10 lugs, a Jewell Super Snare strainer across the width of the drum, and a bass shell.
The Sound King Range also boasts a brass shell, and with a Zoomatic snare strainer, this snare comes in four models: Model 130 measures 14"x5" (37x15cm) and sports eight lugs: model 131, at 14"x6½" (35x16.5cm) also comes with eight lugs, while models 132 and 133 measuring 14"x5" and 14"x6¼" respectively come with ten lugs.
Hohner's range of Sonor snare drums are all made with a perfectly seamless metalshell, and are fitted with Remo heads. The D426 measuring 14"x5" (37x15cm) has in addition seamless super profile counter hoops, eight metal lugs, double tension with spring inserts, Tone control, a parallel action snare mechanism with direct axle control, and 12 individually adjustable snares.
The D454 snare supports the same dimensions as the above-mentioned snare, but also boasts snares with 20 strands and four point attachment.
The D555 also measuring 14"x5" (37x15 cm) sports the same features as the D426, as well as a centre bead, 10 metal lugs, with spring-loaded inserts, 20 tension rods with locking counter nuts, a snare strainer with four point vertical tension adjustable from either side, and all-metal snares with 22 strands.
The D556 snare drum with measurements of 14"x6½" (35x16 cm) rounds out the Hohner range of snares. Apart from its increased size the D556 offers all the advantages identified with the Hohner D555.
This is the Rolls Royce of snare drums. As you can imagine from the price, it's a beautiful precision-made drum and on the understanding that it's something special, it has to be evaluated against other drums costing similar amounts.
Actually this drum is priced way above most of its rivals and the big question has to be: Is it worth it?
Our answer is Yes, but with qualifications.
Big thing about this drum is a snare frame which cradles the snare delicately against the snare head and provides the best system we've found of controlling the snare.
Without doubt, the biggest problem drummers have is worrying about their snare drum sound and all too often, it's snare tension that is really at the root of the trouble. A fraction too much slack and the snare sound isn't there, a fraction too tight and the drum is "choked"and sounds dull and lifeless.
The snare cage on the Dynasonic is held by tension ropes just as usual snares are but because the cage is rigid, once set, it remains in place, gently offering the snare against the snare head. Inside the cage, the snare tension is adjustable and by this method very fine snare adjustment is possible. We found this system worked perfectly and our only reservation was about the extra amount a drummer has to pay to get the best.
There are other things that you get for your money, however. The shell of this metal drum is brass. The fittings are of an extremely high quality and the drum gives an overall impression of quality.
As far as sound goes, the Rogers drum has its own sound. There's a high pitched ring that is part of the natural sound of this drum. We think it would be excellent for stage work, where high volume is needed but we were slightly unsure how this would adapt to the recording studio.
We found rim shots produced a particularly powerful sound and we felt every confidence that we could mistreat this drum without an adverse effect.
The snare action lever is very positive and fortunately doesn't protrude above the rim and get in the way of the sticks. All adjustment knobs are large and easy to turn.
Head tensioning is by ten lugs with squared ends for the usual Rogers key and all fittings are exceptionally well fitted to the shell. The damper was a joy to use and all the drummers who tried this drum liked it.
This Rogers Dynasonic snare drum was supplied by CBS/Arbiter's Fender Soundhouse showrooms.
Premier Drums, along with the Olympic range which is marketed by Premier, answer most of the questions which any drummer could ever hope to ask. In their range of snare drums, Premier have several variations of their successful 2000 range. These include the standard 2000, which measures 14"x5¼" (35x14 cm).
Variations on this theme include the 2003 which measures 14"x6½" (35x16.5cm); the 2006 which measures 14"x12" (35x 30cm); and the 2011, which at 14"x14" (35x10cm) is the smallest in the Premier range.
Premier appreciate the fact that some drummers prefer the sound of a wooden shell, and as a result, they are proud to market the 2001 and 2010. Measuring 14"x5½" (35x14cm) and 14"x4" (35x10cm) respectively, these models are also available in the complete range of Premier's tasteful finishes.
All the snares in Premier's 2000 range feature their unique snare action, which includes positive on/off action, and easy to find fingertip controls. The snares should arrive perfectly set, but if not, they can easily be adjusted by two levelling screws which increase or decrease the snare pressure.
Other noteworthy Premier specifications include the patented "Flobeam" snare bar support, with the snare holders completely detached from the shell; either precision spun metal or laminated, dry-bent wooden shells (lacquer coated); die moulded hoops; "covered" bolts; Ever-play Extra heads; and diamond-chrome plating (in the metal snares).
Traditionalists will also find themselves at ease with Premier's range of Hi-Fi snares. Model 31 is 14"x5½" (35x14cm) and comes in a wood shell. Drummers who prefer the advantages of the Hi-Fi range, which include external throw-off operating 20 strand snares, as well as optional gut snares or 42 strand wire snares (albeit at extra cost), but prefer a metal shell will be easily accommodated by models 37 and 38 which measure 14x5½" (35x14cm) and 14"x6½" (35x16.5 cm) respectively, which has the added visual attraction of a brushed-chrome finish.
Premier's fine range of Olympic snares are also acclaimed by drummers everywhere. It is Olympic's contention that the snare drum is the most important drum a drummer will ever own, and their emphasis is on wooden shells. This category includes models 1180, a 14"x4" (35x10cm) snare, and the 1182 measuring 14"x5½" (35x14cm), both of which feature six tension brackets and 12 strands.
Models 1001 and 1002 measuring 14"x4" (35x10cm) and 14"x5½" (35x14cm) respectively, also have wood shells, but offer eight tension brackets and 16 strands.
This is also true of the 1005 model, which boasts a chromium plated metal shell, and measures 14"x5½" (35x14cm).
All of Premier's Olympic range feature 12 strong and yet shallow steel counterhoops, easily adjustable snare throw-off mechanism, and Everplay Extra plastic drumheads. The complete range of Olympic snares is available in a wide variety of nifty finishes.
Beverley is one of the best-known British drum manufacturers and the company has a fine reputation for combining high quality with modest prices. This snare drum is the top of the Beverley range and has found popularity, not only among the owners of Beverley kits but also among drummers who prefer other tom-toms but want a biting metal sound.
Oddly enough this drum hasn't a real metal sound. I think that's something of a compliment because many drums achieve volume and hardness but also add a great ring to the sound, which tends to be a little unpleasant. This sounds rather like a louder and harder wooden snare drum and will probably find greater acceptance for that reason.
The shell is centre beaded and has ten lugs for head tensioning. The lugs are adjusted by a key which fits screw-drive type slots, and the fittings are all sturdy. The fittings are only bolted to the shell by one central bolt and we did feel that they might be a little more securely fastened. Likewise, the snare tensioner is held against the drum by two spindley bolts that we felt might prove a little inadequate if the drums received a heavy blow.
We felt the snare system was the weakest part of the drum's design although it's an operational weakness and not a sound weakness. It's a little finicky to adjust, the knurled knob is a little small to find instantly and it's difficult to get the adjustment right without a little fiddling, although we did find that it held adjustment excellently during prolonged playing. The snare's a 20 strand type with tie-ons damped by screwdriver-adjusted teeth. We had a little problem with internal damping. The small knob was difficult to find and adjust quickly and if unscrewed too far, would detach itself from the adjuster and roll on the floor and get lost. Nevertheless, the damper worked well and did slacken during playing.
It's easy to slip the snare on and off during playing — perhaps a little too easy — but the action is smooth and positive.
The chrome finish is excellent and the construction is tough enough to dispel the usual worries, namely road managers dropping it.
The Beverley 21 snare drum was supplied by the St. Giles Music Centre showrooms in London.
Simms-Watts, a division of Rosetti & Company Ltd., market the French-made Asba drums. Asba snares come in a choice of chrome, wooden and transparent Altuglass shells, and all the snares marketed in this country by Simms-Watts measure 14"x5" (37x15cm). All of these drums feature fast action snare release, super fine adjustments on the snare tension controls, and a tuning key housed in a socket on the drum. The sectional shells are held together by snap action clips, and all the Asba snares are designed to fit easily within any Asba bass drum.
The Rose-Morris drum making section has 130 years of experience, and the result is the Shaftesbury range. Shaftesbury produce wood, metal and acrylic shelled snares. The basic size is 14"x5" and the 422 metal shell, with an anodised aluminium shell, chrome plated rolled-steel counter hoops, and adjustable throw-off snare action, incorporating 24 strand wire snares, comes with Tone-blasted heads. Model 423 has all of the above features, with the exception, of course, of the shell, which is wooden, with a silvered hammer finish inside. The Acrylic 5034 is much the same, the only difference being it's acrylic shell.
Rose-Morris is justifiably quite proud of their recent acquisition of the Ludwig franchise in this country. The long-established Ludwig line provides for all occasions.
The Supaphonic 400 all metal snare — probably the most popular "added snare" — is constructed from a one piece seamless shell, beaded in the centre and flanged at the ends. There are ten self-aligning tension casings and a P—85 snare strainer which offers complete control with-full drop snares. The hoops are triple flanged. The Supaphonic which measures 5"x14" also comes in a 6½"x14" size. Ludwig also offer the same features in clear Vistalite, sizes 5"x14" and 6½"x14" and the sizes are also available in tinted vistalite.
The Aerolite snare drum makes possible a lighter drum with the resonance and tone you would expect to find in a much heavier model. The Aerolite has the same tested shell design as the Supaphonic with eight selfaligning tension casings and brightly finished hoops. Like the Supaphonic, the Aerolite is fitted with Weather Master plastic heads. This snare comes in a 5"x14" size.