Buyers' guide: mid-price metal snare drums

5 snares under £500, 5 essential buying tips

Premier Modern Classic
Premier Modern classic: sturdier metal for your hard-earned brass

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 mid-price metal snare drum…

5 buying tips

1. Choice in this middle price range is vast. The snare drum is the most important drum in the kit, the drummer's signature. While many drummers will own just one kit, they may have a collection of snare drums, if only because they take up a lot less space. Accordingly, the manufacturers swamp the middle, semi-pro/pro market with as many variations, sizes and colours as they are able to muster.

"The snare drum is the most important drum in the kit - the drummer's signature"

2. While you may own a favoured all-purpose snare, it's useful to have a selection for different gigs and styles, particularly for recording. We've stuck mostly to standard sizes here, but odder sizes are also available to buy.

3. Metal shells include steel, stainless steel, brass, bronze, aluminium and even copper. Brass is historically prized in the world of snares, but the brighter timbres of aluminium or steel might suit you better.

4. Some shells are spun in a single piece rather than having a vertical butt weld. Beaded shells, like the classic Ludwig Supraphonics, are actually two spun halves joined at the centre bead. A spun shell should resonate better than a welded shell, but it's a subtle difference.

5. Once again, the small details should be a step up: better quality and heavier hoops, well machined tension rods and lugs, and, crucially, a quieter, smoother strainer/throw-off.

5 mid-price metal snares under £500

1. Ahead black chrome on brass

Ahead, which was previously famed for aluminium sticks, enters the drum market with this black chrome-over-brass beauty. The metal 'S' hoops bend in rather than out, and a central band of snares can be tensioned separately. Our full review concluded by describing the Ahead snare "as though John Bonham, Bill Bruford and Stewart Copeland had collaborated on a joint signature snare". Impressive stuff.
Read the full review

2. Ludwig Supraphonic 400/402
£460 / £495

The daddy of them all, the 14"x5" 400 was the most recorded snare drum of the 1950s to 1970s, while the 6½" 402 was all John Bonham ever needed. Chrome over Ludalloy (aluminium), centre bead and simple throw-off conspire to produce the most reliable snare ever. Note the light aluminium, rather than steel, shell.

3. Pearl Sensitone Elite (beaded brass 14"x5")

Based on the Ludwig Supraphonic, Pearl's everyday pro snare range is typically well made with a generous spec, including substantial 1.5 mm beaded brass shell and SuperHoop IIs, stainless steel tension rods and brass lug inserts. Available in steel, bronze and aluminium, this brass model is the natural all-rounder.
Read the full review

4. Premier Modern Classic (hammered brass)

Visually striking in black-chromed, hand hammered brass with vintage-style tube lugs - the only kind that would fi t, really. As with cymbals, hammering of the alloy makes the sound more complex, breaks up the sound waves inside and results in a more dense, colourful timbre. The Nickel Drumworks strainer is very smooth.

5. Pork Pie Big Black Patina (14"x 6 ½")

Something a bit different, with earthy patina'ed brass, polished centre bead and chrome fittings. A pretty funky looking drum. Underneath this is a timeless beaded brass, 10 double-ended tube lug design. The (un-patina'ed) normal Big Black is a dead ringer for Ludwig's Black Beauty, but will cost you far less.

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