A good snare has bite, punch and power – it has to cut through the mix and drive it. Here's a common method used by top engineers
Whether you're using a snare, a clap, or both as your backbeat, you want it to have an attack that bites and a weight from the meat of the drum to give it power. You want it to burst out of the speakers at you so you first need to use compression to give it that energy and drive.
Next use EQ for presence and weight, and then some subtle saturation to glue it into the track and, by degrees,give it colour and character.
This example uses the classic four-to-the-floor up-tempo beat with an unprocessed kick and hi-hat quantised to a straight grid. It's a classic snare sound.
1.First across the snare is a classic FET-style Urei 1176 compressor with its fast attack and release times. It'simportant to set the attack time medium to slow so that the initial transient isn't affected, and have a fast release so that the tail of the sound comes back up at you to give a sense of power and energy.
2. Using a 'surgical' EQ, in this case DMG Audio's Equality, we add bite by boosting the presence rangearound 3kHz by about 2dB. A small .5dB shelf boost adds to the brightness and opens it up. We also take out some of the 'woody' frequencies at about 400Hz. A touch of weight is added at 180Hz but not much, if any, is needed in this case.
3. Lastly, some gentle saturation can help to glue the sound into the track. Here PSP's MixSaturator is used to subtly drive the snare and also soften the hard front of the sound in much the same way an old tape machine would have done. More severe colouration, courtesy of a Sansamp, is probably unnecessary in this context but it adds a distorted character to the sound.
Audio examples embedded above on Soundcloud