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Aria Snare Drums

Article from Making Music, May 1987


If you're thinking of acquiring a new snare this year, the fashion is all about extremes. Either the shallow crack of the 4in deep Piccolo or the heftier thump of the 8in job. None of this Middle Of The Road 5- or 6in stuff. The search for a better, newer or just plain louder sound goes inexorably on, and the player with only one drum to choose from probably considers him (or her) self unfortunate and unhip.

With this in mind, Aria sent two of their new, Taiwanese-made snares round, one wooden, one metal, but both 8in deep. Here we pause to make a small but important observation. Deep in size don't necessarily mean deep in pitch. If anything it does add crispness to the sound, and volume depending on tuning and damping. But getting the sound of a Piccolo snare from one of these would be no problem.

Straight out of their boxes, both drums reflect my oft-made comment that in terms of quality and value for money, drummers have never had it so good. God knows what kind of remuneration the Taiwanese factory worker receives, but to keep prices down to this kind of level, luxury for them must be a shoe on each foot.

However, Western guilt aside, the drums look solid enough. Ten lugs (good for fine tuning and keeping it) are set in sprung, angular boxes. See also the on/off internal damping with added fine adjustment (good design), but (and it's a biggie) a very mysterious snare action.

In principle the idea of creating even snare tension by connecting the straining mechanisms on either side of the drum with an internal rod which, activated by the usual level, moves both parts up or down simultaneously, sounds both logical and desirable. Sadly neither of these identical systems on the test drums were in working order on arrival. The lever on the 3 Ply wooden snare moved the mech into the off position, but wouldn't lift it back into the on. This could only be achieved by pulling both sides up along their nylon paths by hand. With nothing to hold them in place however, a few whacks of the stick combined with a little gravity, and down she started to go.

The version on the steel drum was at least intact, but even with the fine adjustment as tight as possible, a long, uncontrollable snare buzz couldn't be eliminated. Only by taking off the snare set could the adjustable position of the mechanism in relation to the lever be seen clearly. Once set with a screwdriver it worked well and all buzzes were chased quickly away.

The inclusion of a 20 strand snare set may be intended to compensate for the relative insensitivity of the thicker (black) snare head, but achieving a sound where the snares are loose enough to create tonal depth yet tight enough to give crisp stroke definition is hard enough without also having to deal with the unintentional sympathetic buzz of snares every time you hit a bass drum or tom. And the more snares in the strand, the more buzz you have to wrestle with. I reckon 12 would do these drums perfectly well, so do consider a few snips with the wire cutters (and a thinner snare head) if you buy either of these drums and run into such problems.

In overall sound terms both drums also suffered from the density of their 'Powered Series' batter heads. These induced the Boxey tone, known and hated by all sound engineers, which exaggerates all the middle in the sound and loses the top end, where the cut and Crack factor originate. So experiment with better quality heads and you'll be quids in.

No prizes for guessing which drum sounded more cutting and voluminous and which sounded thicker and richer (metal and wood respectively).


Despite the factor that you may have some work to do setting up the snare mech properly, these drums are tremendous value for money, as good as many a drum made by the name makers. It's no Ludwig 402 but that'll cost you another £80. The finishes may not be stunning but they are a lot better than the name badge which is ghastly and my only real quibble.


PRICE SDM8200 £79.99 (Steel)
SDW820DN £99.99 (wood)
SIZES both 14 x 8in.
SHELLS 3 Ply Wood. Steel
HEADS ARIA powered series, matching smooth black plastic top and bottom
FINISHES Chrome. Black Plastic Wrap.

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Publisher: Making Music - Track Record Publishing Ltd, Nexus Media Ltd.

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Making Music - May 1987

Review by Andy Duncan

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