It is rare to find a consensus pick for the best sounding instrument in any category, but most top professional drummers agree the Ludwig Supraphonic LM402 is one of the best sounding snare drums overall. Many of my favorite recordings feature a Supraphonic and it’s been a staple sound of many top professional drummers. The Supraphonic has a crisp attack and a fairly bright overall sound which cuts through the band to provide a steady back-beat.
This drum is also available in several different sizes along with a choice of either a hammered or smooth shell; the shell itself is beaded, chrome-plated aluminum for a signature look and sound. Personally I prefer the 6.5x14 inch smooth shell because it has a big sound that still blends well while the hoops are extremely solid and will stay in round. Available with either imperial or tube lugs, I recommend the imperial lugs because they’re slightly more durable and have the look you’re more likely to associate with the Supraphonic snare drum. While expensive, the high price point is justifiable because what you have here is one of the best sounding drums on the market.
Gretsch Mark Schulman Signature Snare Drum
Gretsch is one of the oldest drum manufacturers and they’re usually associated with jazz music. However they have teamed up with drumming legend Mark Schulman to create an amazing snare drum which is useful across multiple music genres. This drum features a 9-ply maple shell with bubinga stripes which produce a unique sound that works with almost any style of music. A nice bonus of using the Bubinga stripes is they give the drum a nice look while the high gloss finish is beautiful.
This snare drum has a bit more bite than typical Gretsch drums, but retains a mature sound that they’re known for. The 45 degree bearing edge helps the drum cut through louder bands, the 42 strand snares are very crisp, and the die-cast hoops are very durable but maintain a good sense of pitch. This drum is available in a couple sizes which are small in diameter than most 14 inch drums which gives it a unique sound. I like the 6x13 inch size because it generates a sound big enough to use it as a primary snare drum.
The Ludwig Black Beauty line of snare drums is famous for being the best model for rock music because it has a crisp, amazing sound that’s truly ideal for just about any musical genre, including rock. The Ludwig Black Beauty 5x14 Brass LB416BT snare drum has a crisp sound with a warm sustain, great for the studio and live performances. This drum has a legendary sound other companies have tried to imitate but none come close to producing a drum which sounds as warm and crisp.
This snares brass shell really cuts through the sound of a full band and there are several options for the strainer holding the snares in place. I prefer the P86 because the P85 is notorious for being troublesome and the p70 is quite cumbersome. The available tube lugs are great because they don’t crack or lose tension, the smooth shell has a more consistent sound, and the die-cast hoops are sturdy and durable. The name Black Beauty is the most famous and most well respected name in snare drums and this pick carries on that tradition.
DW Collector's Series All-Maple Snare Drum 6x14"
DW's Collector's Series All-Maple Snare Drum is one of the best sounding drums for rock because it creates a very consistent sound. In fact, DW's Collector's series drums are used by top professionals because of their superior quality and amazing sound. This drum has a 60 degree bearing edge along with a lacquered interior which helps to produce its unique, superior sound. These drums are available in countless different sizes and quite frankly they all sound great. I prefer the 6x14 inch size because it offers a full sound that’s very versatile.
Available in several different shell types, I recommend the all-maple shell for its warmth and pure tone. The 10-ply shell is made from North American Maple and has a 6-ply reinforcement hoop to retain a pure tone. Additionally, the hoops and hardware are some of the finest around since they’re more durable than other high-end snare drums. I find that the strainer is a bit more solid than some of its competitors. This drum can be customized to your personal taste with plenty of options for shell and hardware finishes available.
Gretsch C-65142S Maple Shell Snare Drum
The sound of Gretsch drums have long been associated with Jazz music and it seems as though their drums are designed specifically for the Jazz drummer. This custom wood snare by Gretsch has a 6-ply maple shell offered in a wide selection of attractive finishes. There are two different options for the throw off including the classic Gretsch lighting design (Which I prefer because I’m used to its motion) and a newer Dunnet throw off. This drum has Gretsch’s proprietary snare bed cut into the drum making it more responsive than most drums. The drum has reliable die-cast hoops and several options for number of lugs (I prefer to have a lot of lugs because of more control when tuning.) This drum has a very warm sound which fits in well with any Jazz ensemble.
Yamaha Maple Custom Absolute MAS1460 Snare Drum
Yamaha’s Maple Custom drums have always been a favorite of mine for Jazz playing because they’re very warm and intimate. Their drums just seem to have more character than other brands and the Maple Custom Absolute snare drum is no exception. The drum has a Maple shell with an unusual depth of six inches which splits the difference perfectly between too deep and too shallow; the drum is deep enough to have full body without too much boom. Yamaha throw-offs are very easy to switch on and off and this is often done throughout the course of a Jazz set. I prefer the MAS1460 model because of the absolute lug system for tuning but hook lugs are also available. These drums are also available in matching colors to the full drum set, good news for drummers who want a fully matching kit. This drum is very responsive and has warmth that is unmatched.
Tama’s Starphonic Bell Brass snare is one of the finest drums available, creating an explosion of sound when played loudly while extremely sensitive for soft playing. The drum has the most complete range of any drum on the market with a very unique sound and one of the few drums which doesn’t need to be attacked to overpower a loud metal band. This snare allows the player to relax and focus more on the groove, rather than just beating the drum mercilessly to create volume. However, it’s durable enough to handle any kind of attack that you can provide.
The 3MM Bell Brass shell is one of the highest quality shells available and the hardware can handle intense tuning and rim-shots. This drum creates the standard that all other metal drums try to match, and that’s why it’s used by many top professionals. Although one of the most expensive drums one the market, it’s also one of the very best drums overall.
DW Collector's Series Bell Brass Snare Drum
DW‘s Collector’s Series Bell Brass snare drum is designed to compete with Tama’s Bell Brass snare drum but at a much lower price tag. It has just as much power but a slightly different sound that is a bit wider and has enough pop to cut through at extreme volumes while retaining DW’s refined sound. This drum is made from rolled brass alloy which is different than the beaded and hand hammered brass offered by other companies. The shell has a smooth and brilliant looking brass finish to compliment this overall very heavy drum with a large sound.
As stated in our previous reviews of DW Collector’s series snare drums, the hardware is extremely durable and well made with hoops which can handle intense rim shots and high tension tuning. The strainer is of the highest quality and there are also several different options for hardware colors. The drum is available in 4x14, 5.5x14, and 6.5x14 inch sizes; as with most metal drums, I recommend the deeper 6.5x14 size for increased volume capacity. As with most DW drums, this snare drum is expensive but well worth the extra cost when you consider its price against other brass snare drums.
Pearl Ultracast Snare Drum
Pearl’s Ultracast snare drum is used by many professional Metal drummers. Rather than a brass shell, the Ultracast uses a thick 3mm aluminum shell to create its intense sound but retains a bit of warmth to which can overpower when necessary. The Ultracast features a milled cast aluminum shell with bearing edges which are very consistent to help the drum retain some tone even when cranked to extreme tightness.
The drum features quality SuperHoop II rims and a great sounding set of snares while all of the hardware has the same consistency and durability Pearl is known for. The drum is available in 5x14 and 6.5x14 inch sizes although I prefer the deeper 6.5x14 size for increased volume capacity. The drum has a nice black heavy-metal look that will fit right in on stage or in videos while being priced several hundred dollars less than its competitors, making it a great buy.
Mapex’s Black Panther line of snare drums features unique drums for specialization in one particular musical genre and their Fastback snare is great for hip hop because of its dry attack. It has a deeper tone appropriate for a darker hip hop sound but with enough pop for other sub-categories within this genre as well. Its maple shell is drier than most and delivers a clear “pop” and it features high-quality Sonic Saver hoops designed to keep tension throughout extreme tensions and heavy rim-shots. The Cylinder-Drive strainer is very smooth and durable with a 45 degree bearing edge which gives it a sharp attack that will cut through electronic effects while the 7x12-inch size produces a big and bright sound that’s perfect for hip hop. The Sienna Burst finish and chrome hardware looks great to give this snare the right amount of “bling”.
Tama’s S.L.P. line of snare drums are made to excel in a particular style or playing situation. These Sound Lab Project drums have quickly become favorites for many drummers because of their original sound and design. The G-Maple snare has a 13-ply, 10 milimeter maple shell that’s much thicker than most maple drums which gives it a loud “pop” as well as a bright sound to cut through electronic sounds and heavy bass.
The 7x13 size is perfect for hip hop because it gives the drum a pointed sound and the 7-inch depth helps it produce more sound than most maple snare drums. The 20-strand Starclassic Hi-Carbon Steel Snares are of the highest quality and have a crisp sound that’s almost crunchy. The die-cast hoops are very durable and do a great job of holding tension well. The drum has a natural finish that’s not very flashy, but this does give the drum a more mature look.
Pearl teamed up with drumming legend Omar Hakim to create his unique signature snare drum. While he isn’t known specifically for being a hip hop drummer, his snare drum works well within the genre. This snare is referred to as the Power Piccolo because it has a tight, but powerful sound. The 5x13-inch dimensions work extremely well in the studio because the drum delivers a sharp attack. Even though it’s quite small, this pick is louder than maple drums because it has a 6-ply African mahogany shell that’s more powerful than maple. In fact, not many drums are made from mahogany so this pick delivers a unique sound ideal for hip hop.
Because this is a wooden snare, it can serve as a nice foundation for hip hop production effects because they’ll often enhance the sound of the drum rather than changing it. The SuperHoop II hoops are very durable and hold tension well while the SR-015 strainer is smooth and well designed to prevent bending. This reasonable priced drum has a natural, beautiful mahogany finish which is unique enough for the hip hop genre.
Pearl’s Maple piccolo snare has always been my favorite piccolo snare because it has the classic small and compact sound you’re likely to associate with piccolo snares. The maple shell prevents the drum from sounding like a tin can (a common problem with other piccolo snares) and also makes for a warm sound unmatched by other piccolo snares. The Maple shell also gives the drum a softer tone that is very useful when using it as an alternative to a big metal snare drum.
The 13 inch diameter and 3 inch depth are the perfect dimensions because they keep the sound very pointed and this drum is great for orchestral players looking for a snare drum responsive enough for soft, intricate playing. Pearl is known for their quality hardware and this drum’s lugs and hoops are extremely durable; the 1.6mm steel hoops are designed to hold pitch and the one piece lugs can support the tightest tensions. This drum's price tag is slightly higher than other drums, but it is well worth the investment because of the great sound and high quality maple shell.
Pearl’s Brass piccolo snare shares many of the same features as its industry standard maple brother as well asa brass shell giving it a little more "pop" and "ping" than the Pearl Maple Piccolo. It’s not as harsh as most brass drums and can be kept under control much more easily. The 13 inch diameter and 3 inch depth are the perfect dimensions for a piccolo snare because they keep the sound very pointed. Pearl is known for their quality hardware and this drum’s durable lugs and hoops are no exception. The 1.6mm steel hoops are designed to hold pitch while the one piece lugs can support the tightest tensions. The snares create a crisp sound which interacts well with the brass shell to create a great sound while also complimenting metal snares and wooden drums alike.
The Pork Pie Little Squealer is an amazing sounding drum which gets name from its piercing attack and pointed sound. Its 8-ply hard rock maple shell sounds a lot sharper than other maple shells and this works well to cut through a group. It has 2.3 MM hoops which can withstand intense rim-shots, while the brass snare wires create a very crisp sound. Pork Pie strainers and throw-offs are smooth and rarely falter, so you can consistently rely on this drum’s hardware for bright and sharp sound. This drum is also quite affordable and is available in several different sizes.
Mapex drums are quickly growing in popularity and their MPX Maple Snare is the best budget maple snare available. Maple is one of the finest woods for drums because it has a warm sound that adjusts well to dynamic changes. While often an expensive wood, this drum has a very affordable price tag. Like most maple drums, this drum has a lot of warmth but still has great punch with a 6.5 MM maple shell which has a very clear tone and crisp attack. The triple-flange hoops are well made and very durable along with two-piece low mass lugs which aren’t as prone to breaking as one-piece options. This very professional-looking drum is available a couple of different finishes and sizes, but I prefer the black 14 x 5.5 inch size.
Yamaha’s custom series of drums are the highest quality budget drums available. In particular, this custom birch snare drum trounces other budget snares because it has a birch shell which sounds superior to cheaper woods such as poplar and other blends. Some professionals even prefer birch to maple because it often has more power and has less warmth.
The Stage custom snare drum has high quality Yamaha triple flange steel hoops that are very durable and stay in round. This snare also features quality, one-piece lugs which can take a lot of punishment (especially from younger drummer) and can endure high-tension tunings well. These lugs also help beginners learn how to tune drums effectively as well.
Yamaha pays careful attention to the way in which they construct their bearing edges and the ones on their stage custom drums create a very focused sound along with great tone. It also integrates 1.8mm wire snares which create a crisp sound that’s better than most budget snares. This drum is offered in several different sizes and colors although I recommend the 14 x 5.5 inch version with natural wood finish.
Pork Pie percussion is an interesting company specializing in snare drums. While not as well-known as other drum manufacturers, they have a reputation for superb quality. Don’t let the name fool you, Pork Pie’s Little Squealer series of drums actually have a big sound that’s very full. There are several different options for the shell type, and I prefer the steel shell for its added pop and affordable price tag. The shell is made of heavy-gauge steel with a black finish and the Pork Rings mounting system uses high quality triple-flange hoops and durable, hourglass- shaped, one-piece lugs designed to minimize shell contact. This pick also has wire snares which have a crisp sound that can really pop. These drums are available in many different sizes and I prefer the 6 x 14 inch size.