Slingerland vs. PDP: Maple snares head-to-head

The sound of Neil Peart's snare drum in Rush's 1982 "Signals" album prompts a mostly unscientific comparison of Slingerland and PDP maple snare drums

By Darin Soll

Back in October, I wrote about my quest for the snare drum sound on Rush's 1982 "Signals" album.  In that post, I share the evidence that "Old Faithful," Neil Peart's number one snare from 1977 to 1993, was a 5.5x14 Slingerland Artist 3-ply, 8-lug snare.  Andrew Olson's excellent blog on Neil and his drum kits through the years details the kit Neil used for Signals on this page.

Two weeks prior to my October post, I found a 1964 Slingerland 5.5x14 Deluxe Student model in Sparkling Red Pearl finish at my local Sam Ash store.  The Deluxe Student model is based upon the same 3-ply maple-poplar-maple shell as the 3-ply Artist, so I decided to give it a try.  Outfitted with new Evans G1 coated batter and Hazy 300 snare side heads, as well as Puresound Custom 16-wire snares, this classic Slingy's sound is very similar to Peart's snare on "Signals."

Another maple snare drum in my collection, a 2008 PDP Platinum 5.5x14 1-ply solid maple, also produces a very "Signals-esce" sound.  And the PDP has a Slingerland connection--readers of this blog know that I purchased the Platinum solid maple snare as a less expensive alternative to Slingerland's legendary 1-ply Radio King model.  Two very different snare drums, built 44 years apart, both conjuring up The Professor's sound?  This calls for a head-to-head comparison!

1964 Slingerland 5.5x14 Deluxe Student 3-ply
2008 PDP Platinum 5x14 solid maple

Again, I want to point out that while both drums incorporate maple into wood shells of similar dimensions and wear Puresound Custom 16-wire snares, these are two very different drums.  The main differences include:
  1. The Slingy has a 3-ply maple-poplar-maple shell with maple re-rings, while the PDP has a 1-ply steam-bent solid maple shell with no re-rings.
  2. Slingerland used 30-degree roundover edges, while PDP cuts sharp 45 degree edges with a shallow backcut.
  3. The Slingy's shell depth is 5.5", while the PDP's is 5.0".
  4. The Slingy has six tension lugs, while the PDP has ten.
  5. The Slingy has chrome-over-brass stick saver hoops (similar in rigidity to 2.3mm hoops), while the PDP has been upgraded to 3.0mm steel DW True Hoops.
  6. The Slingy wears an Evans G1 coated 1-ply batter head, while the PDP wears a Remo Controlled Sound coated 1-ply reverse dot batter head.
As a result, this comparison is a mostly subjective review of each drum's performance in six categories:  (1) Quality of construction, (2) Ease of tuning, (3) Sensitivity, (4) Projection, (5) Overall tone, and (6) Resembles "Signals" snare sound.  Here are the results of my review:

Snare drums head-to-head:  Slingerland Deluxe Student vs. PDP Platinum solid maple

Rating scale:  1 to 5, with 5 being highest
Category Slingerland Deluxe Student PDP Platinum solid maple Comments
Quality of construction
Slingy remains solid after 50 years!  PDP's original 1.6mm hoops and clunky throw were mediocre.
Ease of tuning
PDP's bearing edges are excellent.  Slingy more challenging to tune evenly with only 6 lugs and less rigid brass hoops.
PDP "edges" out Slingy with sharper bearing edges and even tension between its 10 lugs.
PDP solid maple shell projects more volume, overcoming any dampening effect of the reverse dot head.
Overall tone
PDP solid maple shell adds somewhat more body, "woodiness" to tone.
Resembles "Signals" snare sound
Both drums are close--PDP wins with drier tone due to heavier hoops and 10 lugs.
Total scores

Notes:  Both drums tuned to 3g using Tune-bot.  Volume results are based on average decibel levels measured by Extech 407730 sound level meter.
Slingerland Deluxe Student upgrades:  Puresound Custom 16-strand snares, Evans G1 coated batter head, Evans Hazy 300 snare head.
PDP Platinum solid maple upgrades:  DW Mag throw, DW 3.0mm True-Hoops, Puresound Custom 16-strand snares, Remo Controlled Sound reverse dot batter head.

The PDP Platinum solid maple snare wins this mostly unscientific challenge, 26 to 22!

While a solid shell could help the Slingy's scores, in the context of this challenge, I think heavier hoops, or a Slingy with eight or ten tension lugs, would really level the playing field.  Either improvement would even the tension across the heads and dry out the tone.  Unfortunately, I have not found any 6-hole snare side 3.0mm or die cast hoops for 14-inch drums in my online searches.

PDP drums continue to impress.  Don't overlook them as you search for the right snare for your sound!

This comparison got me thinking...wouldn't it be interesting to have Bernie Stone at Stone Custom Drum build a reproduction of The Professor's Old Faithful snare?  "Stone Faithful?"  Hmmm...

Until next time!


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