August 24, 2014

Budget snare drum options

By Darin Soll

Finding the right voice for a new song in the studio often involves trying out new snare drums or upgrading existing ones.  As a result, my snare drum arsenal has evolved a bit since My wife thinks I have too many snare drums, a post from just over a year ago.

Despite my wife's concern, I continue to find ways to bring new and creative snare voices to my sound on a budget.  Each of my current snare drums cost between $40 and $299 before upgrades.  Here is my current snare drum lineup, from most-used to least-used:

Slingerland Sound King 6.5x14 (vintage 1965-1979)
Shell: Chrome-over-brass   Typical tunings: 3F to 3G
Upgrades: Trick GS007 multi-step throw (chrome) with Retroplate, Puresound Snappy 20-strand snares, Remo Controlled Sound reverse dot batter head
Comments: Workhorse heavy brass snare; this 1975 model's original Zoomatic throw was broken; low-cost alternate to Ludwig Black Beauty
PDP Platinum Solid Maple 5x14 ($299 new)
Shell: 1-ply solid maple   Typical tunings: 3G to 3A
Upgrades: DW Mag throw, DW 3.0mm True-Hoops, Puresound Custom 16-strand snares, Remo Controlled Sound reverse dot batter head
Comments: Low-cost alternate to vintage Slingerland Radio King; shell really sings at higher tunings; awesome rimshots with 3mm hoops
Slingerland Deluxe Student 5.5x14 (vintage 1963-1976)
Shell: 3-ply with re-rings   Typical tunings: 3G to 3A
Upgrades: Puresound Custom 16-strand snares, Evans G1 coated batter head, Evans Hazy 300 snare head
Comments: This 1964 example of Slingerland's lower-cost 6-lug student model utilizes the same maple-poplar-maple 3-ply shell as the 8-lug Hollywood Ace and 1970+ Artist models
Rocket Shells C-900 8x13 (used)
Shell: Carbon fiber over core  Typical tunings: 3F to 3G
Upgrades: WorldMax 2.3mm chrome hoops, Puresound Custom 16-strand snares, Evans Power Center reverse dot batter head, Evans Hazy 300 snare head
Comments: Lightweight, versatile, and powerful; tone somewhere between metal and wood; smooth Nickelworks throw
PDP Limited Edition 6.5x14 ($200 new)
Shell: 20-ply maple/bubinga   Typical tunings: 3F to 3G
Upgrades: Remo Emperor coated batter head
Comments: Low-cost alternate to Ludwig "Brick;" includes DW Mag throw, 2.3mm hoops, and quality snares; heavy and loud; using 2-ply batter head to dampen volume a bit
PDP Limited Edition 6.5x14 ($200 new)
Shell: 20-ply birch   Typical tunings: 3F to 3G
Upgrades: Remo Controlled Sound reverse dot batter head
Comments: Very similar to PDP 20-ply maple/bubinga--no need to own both, but black satin finish looks great with my PDP FS kit; includes DW Mag throw, 2.3mm hoops, and quality snares
Ludwig Acrolite 6.5x14 (vintage/used 1962-present)
Shell: Aluminum   Typical tunings: 3F# to 3G
Upgrades: Trick GS007 multi-step throw (chrome) with Retroplate, Puresound Equalizer 16-strand snares, Evans Power Center reverse dot batter head, Evans Hazy 300 snare head
Comments: Newer Classic reissue model; P-85 throw was bent; lower-cost alternate to Ludwig Supraphonic
Ludwig Acrolite 5.5x14 (vintage/used 1962-present)
Shell: Aluminum   Typical tunings: 3F# to 3A
Upgrades: WorldMax 2.3mm chrome hoops, Puresound Snappy 20-strand snares, Evans G1 coated batter head, Evans Hazy 300 snare head
Comments: Classic aluminum tone; this 1966 model's P-83 throw seems smoother than newer P-85; weak rimshots with original 1.6mm hoops
Pearl Export 6.5x14 (vintage 1986-1996)
Shell: Steel   Typical tunings: 3F to 3G
Upgrades: WorldMax 3.0mm black hoops, Puresound Custom 16-strand snares, Remo Controlled Sound reverse dot batter head
Comments: Very low-cost steel snare; 3.0mm hoops dry out tone a bit; consider upgrading stock Pearl throw
Mapex MPX 3.5x13 piccolo ($50 new)
Shell: Steel   Typical tunings: 3A to 3A#
Upgrades: None
Comments: Throw is not smooth, but it gets the job done

As you can see, there are excellent options available to the budget-conscious drummer looking to build up his or her snare drum arsenal.  Happy drumming!

--Darin