A good snare drum is what drives the whole drum kit. Bass drums provide the “thump”, cymbals and hi-hats supply the jazz, but snares are the backbone of it all. The snare is the glue that holds together all the sounds coming from a drum kit, hence a good snare drum is absolutely essential if you are a person practicing the art of drumming. If you are a studio or live stage professional, you probably know how crucial the snare drum is, as well as the accessories that go on it.
One big problem with choosing a good snare drum, or for that matter just about any drum is this- once you open a magazine ad or look up the internet, you will be flooded with a river of drum ads, and each manufacturer will claim that their drum is “the one”. So how do you stay away from the mediocre and overpriced drums, with drum prices ranging from as low as $100, to as high as $2000?
These are the prime factors to take into consideration while choosing a snare drum
1. How tough is the shell: Shell rigidity determines the quality of sound projected from the drum. The drum shell should not contort or cave in at the bearing edges as soon as you tighten down the lugs and other hardware. Put down the shell on the floor in a vertical position and press your weight on it. The shell should not flex too much, and if it does you better look for a different one.
2. Shell material: This is going to determine the warmth of the sound, and its frequency response. Typical shell materials include wood, metal, and fiberglass. Look for the densest and most structurally rigid woods, maple is always a good option and is used in some of the finest drums. Fiberglass shells can be very tough, but look out for the inferior fiberglass models, since they might actually be inferior to similarly priced wooden shells.
3. Shell construction: Shells may be segmented, lathe manufactured (metal shells), or ply-based. Heat fused plywood shells consist of multiple layers of wood and/or fiberglass sandwiched between each other for maximum structural integrity. Also important, is the thickness. Too much thickness and you will lose out on sensitivity. Too little, and your drum will begin to sound like a tambourine, it will also be structurally weaker.
Once you make sure you have noted down the drum’s specifications for the three aforementioned characteristics, you can go ahead and make a choice based on your needs and your budget. Drum heads can always be changed, and cheaper snare drums are always going to have low quality or mediocre heads pre-installed. Make sure to swap them out for something better in the future because you might want a better sound and stick response as your skills get better with time. That said, we have prepared a list of some of the top snare drum models. Take a look and decide which is the best for you. Choose wisely!
GP Percussion SK 22 Student Snare Drum Kit
This kit is great for learners as well as intermediate level drummers who just want a good snare drum to practice with. It is definitely not meant for studio use, although your kid can play around with it in front of friends or at a house party, since it is primarily intended for younger users. The drum measures in at 14″ x 5.5” and has 10 lugs. It comes with a double brace stand, a practice pad, a pair of drumsticks and an okay carry bag. You might want to change the heads since the default ones sound too damp and overpopulated at almost every range.
Mapex MPX 14″ x 5.5″ All Maple Snare Drum
Pro: Great sound, made from maple and chrome
Con: Sounds slightly sharp at medium-high frequencies, tuning needed
It is quite rare to find a drum with a maple shell and chrome finishing at the sub-$150 price range. Not only does the MPX look and feel god, but it also sounds incredible thanks to the incredibly rigid shell and surprisingly good default drum heads. Its 14″ x 5.5′ size makes it a well-balanced choice for multiple playing styles, and rim shots are made easy with those 2.3 mm hoops. It is especially good for advanced learners who want a drum that sounds good straight out of the box, and its quality ensures that it will last forever. The default Remo heads do not need to be replaced any time soon either.
Pearl S1330B Black Steel Piccolo Snare Drum
This is a really sharp and ‘tangy” sounding compact drum that is amazing for those high pitched, loud rim shots. The shell is metal and holds up really well against abuse, and you can use this for those high frequency highlights in almost every scenario, including rock, reggae, pop, jazz, etc. The lows are clear and balanced, while the highs are loud and powerful with lots of sharp peaks- just what you need from a good piccolo drum. Once tuned, it stays as such for quite a long time and this can prove handy while practicing, since you rarely have to tune the drum before every session and can put more time into learning.
Pork Pie Little Squealer Snare Drum
While it may have a funny name, the squealer is all serious when it comes to sound quality. Boasting a rock-hard 8-ply maple shell, this 13” x 7” beast of a snare drum can crank out virtually every frequency of sound, especially in the medium-high range. The bullet-hole vents give it a very unique and well distributed sound response, while the 2.3mm heavy duty hoops ensure cracking rim shots that sound fabulous at all volumes. The hardware is all black finished and the drum is equipped with cast hourglass lugs for that extra durability and solid tuning.
Spaun Acrylic Vented Snare Drum
The giant air vents in the acrylic shell of this 13″ x 5.5″ give it tons of attack, which is quite unusual for a snare drum of this size. An acrylic shell is lighter and more rigid than a conventional wooden shell, and tends to have a sharper, bright response compared to fiberglass or even metal. The voice produced by this drum is sharp and crackles like a whip, but is still focused enough for you to play deep, thoughtful notes on it. The lugs are round, and give it a unique look that helps you stand out from the rest of the drummers.
Tama S.L.P G-Bubinga Snare Drum
Pro: Sturdy 12-ply Bubinga shell
Con: Air vent could use a better ring
It looks great, sounds amazing, and feels sturdy. Made from super tough bubinga ply, the shell is 12 layers and 10 mm thick, while the outer ply is made from quilted bubinga. It is 14″ x 6″ in size, meaning that the drum heads displace a ton of air and the shell is deep enough for the sound to be projected in a proper manner. It produces very consistent, and well-balanced mid tones, with sharp and crystal clear high tones that sound even better with a little bit of tuning on the lugs. Each of the lugs is extremely light and is attached independently of the others so that you get a better and more natural resonance out of the shell.
Gretsch Drums Artist Series S1-0613-MS 13″ Snare Drum
The maple shell coupled with a silver sealed interior makes for impeccably clear sound quality since the maple shell resonates well with the rest of the hardware and the silver sealed interior captures every last vibration, preventing any frequencies from leaking out. One of the cons of having a silver sealed interior is the fact that you lose out on ultra-low frequency resonance because of the added weight to the shell. However that is not a big deal since the ultra-low frequencies are not meant to be handled by a snare drum anyways, that is the job of the bass drum.
Ludwig LB416BT Black Beauty 14″ Snare Drum
Ludwig has always been famous for their drums and the quality has not shown any signs of deteriorating over the last half century. This snare resonates brilliantly with Ludwig’s patented brass-on-brass design that couples a lightweight, yet sturdy nickel-plated brass shell with brass plated strainers and lugs. The nickel plating adds high frequency response and clarity, while the brass-on-brass collisions give a tone of consistency and uniformity to the sound. Die cast hoops and millennium strainers complete the package. This drum is absolutely flawless except for the fact that its shiny finish tends to catch dust and grime quite easily.
Pearl MCX Masters Series 14″ Snare Drum
Designed for hardcore professionals to be used in the realm of live entertainment as well as studio recording, this snare drum is loaded with everything that one can expect from a flagship Pearl model. It is built around a 6-ply 100% custom picked maple wood shell that is constructed with Pearl’s legendary Superior Shell Technology which is basically a process that makes their shells virtually indestructible. Apart from being tough enough to support a car, these shells are also very responsive and lightweight, enabling you to extract really fine and exquisite notes from the snare drum that would be impossible with lesser drums. The die cast hoops allow you to hit harder and get more balanced sounds without any unwanted noise flowing in from the sides.