"The aluminium model is, frankly, a stone-cold bargain": DrumCraft Vanguard snare drums review

The revived drum brand is turning its attention to the most important drum in your setup, and you can snare yourself a bargain

  • £174+
  • €199+
  • $178+
DrumCraft Vanguard
(Image: © Future)

Early Verdict

With its new Vanguard series snare drums, DrumCraft has something to offer for everyone. Whether you're upgrading to your first aftermarket snare or simply looking to expand your sonic options, these drums give you a great starting point straight out of the box


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    Great sound


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    Limited finish options

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DrumCraft Vanguard snare drums: What is it?

No matter what style of music you play, there’ll come a time when you want to upgrade your snare drum, or perhaps just expand your sonic palette. As one of the most character-defining sounds in our kits, there’s no shortage of options - shell material, diameter and depth all play their distinct roles in our snare’s overall sound, and as you might already have discovered, we can never have enough snare drums. 

DrumCraft was recently revived by German retailer Thomann, and after successfully relaunching its range of kits, it’s now turning its attention to snares. The new Vanguard series is the perfect step up from the snare that came with your kit, allowing you to tailor your sound with a more specific snare.

There are seven drums in the line-up in total, with 14” x 5” and 14” x 6.5” offered in maple, aluminium and copper shells, while the birch is reserved for a 14”x4” piccolo model. Thomann/DrumCraft sent us a trio of snares to try out, and as we’ll see, these aren’t just the same designs repeated in different shell materials. While each drum has common lines on the spec sheet - tube lugs, DrumCraft’s cylindrical throwoff, OEM Remo UT heads and 20-strand they’ve been designed with tweaks to compliment the shell type and desired sound. So, let’s get whacking.


As we’ve already mentioned, the Vanguard series is fitted with tube lugs. These sleek-looking, hourglass-shaped lugs give a contemporary twist on the traditional straight tube lug design, lending a bit of extra class to the visual side of the drums.

DrumCraft has also debuted its cylindrical throw-off. This allows for traditional tensioning of the snares via a thumbwheel, but the throw-off is moved horizontally through a slight spiral curve. This allows us to position the snare wires’ contact with the bottom head continuously, rather than simply on or off the surface of the drum. It feels purposeful and high-quality too, and stays where you put it.

DrumCraft Vanguard snare drums: Performance and verdict

DrumCraft Vanguard Aluminium 14” x 5.5”

DrumCraft Vanguard

(Image credit: Future)

When it comes to Aluminium snare drums, there are likely two models that will immediately spring to mind - the Ludwig Supraphonic or more affordable Acrolite. Here, DrumCraft has adopted design elements of both of these drums, with seamless Aluminium shells finished in a similar spacecraft grey hue to an Acrolite but giving it the tuning accuracy of the Supra with a 10-lug layout. Our review model is the 5.5-inch version – a half-inch extension in depth to Ludwig’s classic student model – however if you prefer a deeper shell, you can also get the Vanguard Aluminium in a 14”x6.5” shell size, putting you squarely in the arena of John Bonham’s favoured Supraphonic LM402.

At 1.2mm, these are on the thinner end of the scale, and DrumCraft has opted for a flat, rather than beaded centre to the shell. It’s joined by 1.5mm, triple-flanged steel hoops, and both Aluminium models follow the same design in terms of spec, it’s only the depth that changes.

As with the other two snares on test here, we tried the Aluminium model at a number of tunings ranging from just above finger-tight through to cranked. The good news is, if you’re eyeing this drum up as an affordable alternative to a vintage aluminium snare, you’re unlikely to be disappointed. Aluminium shells have a reputation for creating a dry sound, and while this is true of the Vanguard, we found that it has just a little more ring than the two Acrolite models we compared it with. At lower tunings, it’s present as a fuller note, thinning out as we increase the tension, and swapping the factory-fitted head out certainly diminishes it further. 

What remains, is a full-bodied quality to the drum’s overall tone. Tuned low with some heavy damping applied it can do the ‘phat’ ’70s sound. In the middle, we get a perfect mid-tension classic rock sound, and with a few twists of the drum key, we’re into vintage funk and soul territory. 

Of course, no snare drum can be described as ‘quiet’ but, in a similar way to the archetype Aluminium drums, there’s a softness to the Vanguard which, while still cutting through, does so with control. Aluminium snare drums are among some of the most recorded in popular music history, and this one does an excellent job of proving why. At just under £200, it could be one of the most versatile additions you’ll make to your kit in a long time.

DrumCraft Vanguard Copper 14” x 6.5”

DrumCraft Vanguard snare drums

(Image credit: Thomann)

At first, it might appear that DrumCraft has made a glaring omission from the Vanguard line-up, supplying us with tried-and-tested wood and metal shell materials, but foregoing a brass-shelled drum. That is until you spy the Copper models in the range. Our review model is the deeper 14”x6.5” model, and it’s been equipped to rock. 

For a start, that beautiful copper shell isn’t just copper. It’s been given a hammering in order to dry the drum’s response out in the same way as our cymbals get a factory beating. It doesn’t stop there, either, because DrumCraft supplies both Vanguard Copper models with 2.3mm die-cast hoops to further reduce sustain and overtones. The finishing is flawless, with the dents and craters uniformly covered and the copper colour offset by the hardware’s glossy black nickel coating.

We’ll use two words to describe the Copper drum - ‘Beefy aggression’. Copper is a sometimes-forgotten shell material, and we’re glad that DrumCraft has chosen to highlight it here. Across its tuning range, this drum gives us plenty of body, and a shapely defined attack, but unlike some brass drums, the ring and sustain is more manageable without the need to resort to dampening.

That said, if you’re a fan of big, fat rock backbeats, the Vanguard Copper tuned low, but high enough to start activating the shell’s character will give you exactly that, and this was intensified when we swapped the factory Remo for a dual-ply Emperor. Conversely, while it sounds great at mid-tension tunings, we love the way this drum sounds cranked up. Higher-pitched snare sounds are finding favour again, and this one can take some hefty tension without losing all of its weight. Think Deftones at the heavier end or cracking neo-soul at the other, and you’ve got yourself a snare sound that not only cuts through – particularly when you unleash a rimshot on the die-cast hoops – but is incredibly satisfying while it does so. If you’re bored of steel, or the myriad brass snares on the market, consider giving the coppers a call.    

DrumCraft Vanguard

(Image credit: Future)

DrumCraft Maple 14” x 5.5”

Maple might well be joined only to steel as the ‘vanilla’ flavour in the drum shell world, but that’s exactly why you shouldn’t dismiss it. On the contrary, its ubiquity is owing to the fact that it’s virtually impossible to go wrong with a maple-shelled drum. For its Vanguard Maple models, DrumCraft has again opted for 2.3mm die-cast hoops, adding a little extra focus to the sound. Maple offers a fairly balanced blend of attack and body, but the warmth of the low end makes this drum a pleasing all-rounder, especially for situations where you want a more subtle snare presence. The high end is less intrusive, and the shallower depth of our 5.5” model means that the snares respond well even at lower playing volumes. That’s not to say it can’t compete in the power stakes though, and when tuned up high, it’s capable of producing a really pleasing higher tension sound. But here, it’s just minus some of the ear-slicing frequencies that the copper and (to a lesser extent) the aluminium models deliver.

The maple shell, combined with the die-cast hoops gave us our favourite cross-stick sound of the three drums we have for review. Executed properly, you won’t struggle to get that fat, clunky wood sound. Once again, the finishing of the snare is done to a high standard, although the finish of the maple models brings us to our only slight gripe. While the blue burst paint job is eye-catching, we think a couple of additional finish options would be welcome. A 14”x5.5” maple snare drum is, on paper, about as pedestrian as they come, but don’t be too quick to overlook this workhorse for being a ‘sensible’ option, particularly if you’re playing acoustic music, jazz, blues or funk. It can do them all with an overtone that isn’t overpowering, and we definitely wouldn’t be worried about using it for heavier styles either. 


It’s hard not to be impressed with DrumCraft’s output in the Vanguard line-up. It shows thought and some tailoring to the proposed application of each drum, all of which were a lot of fun to play and easy to achieve appropriate sounds from. The Copper model is the most pointed, stylistically of the three (as well as being the most expensive), but still delivers versatility within the louder, more aggressive areas. The aluminium model is, frankly, a stone-cold bargain, particularly if you’re looking for all the benefits of an aluminium-shelled drum to play rather than simply ‘collect’. Finally, what the maple model lacks in excitement, it makes up for with its ability to work in so many situations. 

DrumCraft’s styling, range options and overall execution have produced three well-priced and very usable snare drums, making us curious to try the birch piccolo model too. 

MusicRadar verdict: With its new Vanguard series snare drums, DrumCraft has something to offer for everyone. Whether you're upgrading to your first aftermarket snare or simply looking to expand your sonic options, these drums give you a great starting point straight out of the box. 

DrumCraft Vanguard snare drums: Hands-on demos


Drums Bonedo

DrumCraft Vanguard snare drums: Specifications

DrumCraft Vanguard

(Image credit: Future)
  • Shell material: Copper, Aluminium, Maple
  • Diameter: 14"
  • Depth: 5.5" (Maple, Aluminium), 6.5" Copper 
  • Thickness: 1.2mm (metal drums) 6-ply, 7.2mm (wood drums)
  • Lugs: 10
  • Hoops: Triple flanged, chromed steel (Aluminium), 2.3mm die-cast (Maple, Copper) 
  • Throw-off: DrumCraft
  • Snare wires: 20-strand 
  • Contact: DrumCraft
Stuart Williams

I'm a freelance member of the MusicRadar team, specialising in drum news, interviews and reviews. I formerly edited Rhythm and Total Guitar here in the UK and have been playing drums for more than 25 years (my arms are very tired). When I'm not working on the site, I can be found on my electronic kit at home, or gigging and depping in function bands and the odd original project.