DW Design Black Nickel Over Brass Snare Drum review

The first stand-alone snare drum to join the ever-expanding Design Series from Drum Workshop

  • £289
  • $499

MusicRadar Verdict

An absolute stunner of a snare, both aurally and visually. Top quality design and construction is what we've come to expect from DW, only now it comes without the price-tag.


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    Superb quality and price tag.


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Since DW's Design Series was first unveiled to the world a couple of years ago, the range has now grown to include a host of new kits and add-ons, including the Frequent Flyer, the Mini-Pro and DW's first acrylic-shelled kit.

The Black Nickel Over Brass (BNOB) is the first snare in its own right to be released under the Design Series name.


The drum features a 1mm, bead-reinforced brass shell which has been finished with a black-nickel coating; giving a dark, lustrous appearance. The snare is available in just two sizes, the deeper 14"x61⁄2" model (as review) and a standard 14"x51⁄2".

The more seasoned among you may have already noticed the similarities here with the famous Ludwig Black Beauty, commonly recognised as an industry-standard studio snare. It is fair to say that DW may have borrowed some inspiration from this iconic drum whilst creating the BNOB. In DW's defence though, it certainly won't have been the first.

As with the rest of the Design Series, there seems to be very little compromise in quality with these cheaper, Taiwanese- manufactured drums when compared to the high-end Collectors Series (which are built in the Californian custom shop).

The Design Series snares are afforded many of the same luxuries as their more expensive siblings, including the signature DW Mag Throw-off and True-Pitch tuning system. The snares feature triple-flanged chrome hoops and unlike the rest of the Design Series (which come with the adorably cute Mini-Turret lugs), the snares come with their own dual-rod take on the classic DW Turrets.

Hands On

The mirrored, black nickel finish of this drum is truly mouth-watering to behold. After lifting it, brand new from its box, we take a moment to savour its beauty before the realisation dawns that we have now absolutely covered it in greasy finger prints. Damn.

The drum is surprisingly heavy considering the 1mm thin bronze shell. Whether this can be put down to the weight of the brass alloy or the typically chunky DW hardware is irrelevant; this snare feels reassuringly sturdy considering the sound thrashing it is inevitably about to receive.

With the drum at a medium tuning, a light stick-hit brings the drum to life with a subtle attack that fades with a harmonic ring from the brass shell. With the strainer loosened, the drum comes into its own, offering a backbeat that occupies a much wider sonic space than before; offering a thick, deep backbeat.

Well suited for New Orleans second-line styles and slightly reminiscent of a fat, Nashville country vibe. The produced sound is typical of what you might expect from this drum; lively and warm yet versatile enough to be used in any style. Unsurprisingly, it records like an absolute dream too.

Tom Bradley

Tom is a professional drummer with a long history of performing live anywhere from local venues to 200,000 capacity festivals. Tom is a private drum tutor, in addition to teaching at the BIMM Institute in Birmingham. He is also a regular feature writer and reviewer for MusicRadar, with a particular passion for all things electronic and hybrid drumming.