Buyers' guide: budget metal snare drums

5 snares from £149, 4 essential buying tips

Worldmax metal shell snare
Worldmax metal-shell snare: a veritable bargain

For some, buying new music making gear is the most fun you can have with your clothes on. For the inexperienced, though, it can be a stressful experience. There's so much choice, and, depending on your skill level, buying the wrong gear could seriously stunt your progression.

To make it easier, we've put together a buyers' guide, which includes our top product picks and essential buying tips. Here's how to buy a budget metal snare drum…

4 buying tips

1. Once past the £100 mark, every aspect of your snare should improve. Look for a better quality steel shell, or maybe even one in bronze, brass or aluminium. Steel is loud yet sensitive and responsive. aluminium a little drier and tauter, brass and bronze fruitier, darker and more musical.

Shells should be at least 1mm thick, while lugs and tension rods should have nylon washers and isolating gaskets - the sort of small details that make the drum perform more sweetly.

"Once past the £100 mark, every aspect of your snare should improve"

2. The shell will still be a single sheet that has been bent into a circle and butt-welded, but the weld and the turned-over lip for the bearing edge will not be neat and clean - no ragged edges or unsightly, lumpy welds.

3. Compare the different snare strainers/throw-offs to see which feels smooth and looks like it won't break - it's the only mechanical part and can see a lot of rough action. The heads should be professional quality, usually Remos or Evans.

4. You'll get all the big names, but the drums will mostly be made in China or Taiwan. These days, that should not put you off - quality control is getting better each year.

5 budget metal snares from £149

1. Mapex Black Panther black chrome snare
£209.95 (14"x5")

What's in a name? The Black Panther label has done wonders for Mapex, the evocative title proving so successful that it's now attached to a wide range of drums, from cherry wood to phosphor bronze. This steel snare in black chrome is one of the least expensive, but performs as well as any.
Read a review of the stainless steel engraved Black Panther

2. Ludwig Classic 300 Series snare
£170 - £190 (brass/bronze)

Although budget Taiwanese models, they retain the Ludwig magic, making a virtue out of simplicity with clean lines and finished to a high standard with heavy 2.3mm steel hoops. The P82 strainer is basic, and so not the smoothest, but the sound is brilliant: brass brighter, bronze mellow and appealing.

3. Worldmax Classic metal shell snare
£80 - £200 (steel/brass)

Excellent quality on a budget, this range includes 14"x6 1/2" steel-shell, 14"x5" hammered brass nickel, 14"x5" Vintage Classic brass and 14"x6 1/2" Vintage Classic all-black brass shell snares. The brass models are close-runners to Ludwig's Black Beauties in terms of sound, at a third of the price.
Read the full review

4. Dixon Artisan nickel steel snare
£149 (14"x6 1/2")

Finished in chrome, this drum sports long bridge lugs and triple-flanged hoops. It's beautifully responsive and delivers a great slice of cracking top-end underpinned by a low/mid-range that will rock hard without breaking into a sweat.
Read the full review

5. Highwood Hammer snare

As the first fruit of the liaison between Highwood and eDrum, these 14"x5 1/2" and 14"x6 1/2" black nickel plate drums offer Highwood fans metal snares at a genuine, sensible price. It's a superior package. These are workhorse, hard gigging snares that you will be very proud to own.
Read the full review

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