Now here’s a subject that is sure to raise differences of opinion. It’s easy to have a favorite drummer and just take his kit as being the best because ‘he’ is playing it. Not always the case, though. Some drummers are so good they make an ordinary kit sound brilliant. Take John Bonham, I could line up my saucepans and woks and let him play them, and he’d still sound better than a lot of the people we hear today. John though had a brilliant Ludwig kit, so he sounded, well… Bonham!.
The best snare drums have been around for quite some time, essentially since the 1300s. So, they’ve had enough time to get the design sorted out by now. In those days it was called a Tabor and was of course for military use.
As it evolved, Beethoven wrote marches using it, and it became an orchestral fixture. In the early 1900s, some German bloke started messing around with it to give it another sound. He’s not important to this story about drums his name was… Ludwig or something!
The snare strainer came in 1924, and by 1957 we had what we know it as today with a synthetic head.
The snare drum had changed from being a call to men to destroy generations to a call to inspire them.
You can’t get much better than that!
Let it Rock!
Top 10 Best Snare Drums of 2023
1 Ludwig LB417 Black Beauty
Well, we had to start with this one, I suppose. If ever pieces of musical equipment deserve the word ‘legend’ this is probably one of them. There must be very few people in the world who when they hear the name Ludwig don’t think of either Beethoven or drum kits.
Played by some of the greats and heard around the world it was Roger Taylor who used his Black Beauty to lay down the driving force that was Queen at Live Aid.
Ginger Baker of Cream used one, and it i rumored that the man himself used one on ‘When the Levee breaks’ from Led Zeppelin 4. Not so sure about that one as he was known not to favor a brass shell preferring chrome over Ludalloy.
Then there were some drummers from insignificant bands that never quite made it like Ringo Starr. He used one on ‘that’ Ed Sullivan show and for many years after. A lot of people have used this snare drum. In fact, there are not many that haven’t at some point. Its sound is big and powerful. It will assault your ears.
Made from a single sheet of brass it is machine spun into a single shape then chrome plated. And Ludwig’s P85 Supraphonic strainer gives it its edge. No matter how hard you hit it this snare, it is responsive yet has an enormous feel to it. The look is finished off with the antique black finish.
Ludwig only makes a limited number every year as the process is time-consuming and complex so you can rest assured of the quality that you’re getting. And despite its brilliance, it is also practical, and the tension rods screw into the lugs easily with the drum key.
The sound. Very little comes close if you like that big fat Ludwig sound. That’s what you’re paying for, and that is exactly what you get.
It is simply one of the best snare drums in history and well deserves its legendary status.
And speaking of paying. At first glance, this looks expensive. It isn’t. It really isn’t.
2 DW Collector’s Series Black Nickel Over Brass Snare Drum
This might best be described as a drum for all seasons. It is designed to give you a powerful, punchy sound and to deliver it all day long if necessary.
It has a 1mm brass shell that has a black nickel plating which delivers its sound. It’s bright and will cut through any mix.
With some snare drums, you can listen and pick a genre they will comfortably fit. That cannot really be said about this snare as its versatility lends itself to a variety of styles of music and playing styles. Studio-wise it is a good choice because of its brightness, and it won’t get lost, but likewise, on stage, it is a powerful force.
Great care has been taken in its construction to ensure good quality materials are used. The tension rods are stainless steel as are the lugs and three position butt plate for snare tension are nickel-plated. Likewise, the counter hoops are nickel-plated steel.
This is a snare drum with a bit of attitude. It is loud, yes, but it has a nice body tone sensitivity that allows it to work well when played with brushes. It is popular amongst drummers who play in bands and orchestras who play a variety of styles as it can be played to fit most styles.
If you are looking for a crash, bang wallop snare this probably isn’t it, but if you want something with a bit of volume but a little bit of extra style and class, this is certainly worth a close look.
It has a competitive price tag for what is a quality instrument.
3 Gretsch Drums Full Range Series S1-6514-BRH 6.5×14″ Hammered Brass Snare Drum
Gretsch, in some quarters better known for their guitars than their drums, have actually been making drums since the 1880s. Over the years they have had some famous players on their kits. Charlie Watts and Phil Collins just two of them.
And before anyone gets excited no the ‘In the Air Tonight’ drum sound wasn’t a Gretsch. (here’s a bit of info-50% of it was a drum machine, a Roland CR-78, played with heavily gated live drums through an SSL desk, which is why no one ever was able to recreate it exactly).
Anyway, Phil was a big Gretsch fan, and why not. They have made some great kits over the years.
This snare is made from brass which creates a naturally warm sound but then adds a hammered or planished effect. The shell is 1.2mm in width.
The fittings are well made, and the hardware is essentially chrome. There are ten lugs and diecast hoops. And there is a fully adjustable side pull with fixed butt plates.
This snare gives you a good balance of sensitivity with power. It has a wide tuning range that allows you to set up in a variety of styles. And it will play well loose with a dry gentle sound or tight with a lot of brightness and attack. It enjoys a twenty strand snare wire and an adjustable throw-off.
Having a gentler sound than some snares and is not built to be thrashed as some are. Having said that it will still rock pretty well if asked, but this snare has another side to its character and does not have a harsh sound.
Well-priced it is a quality snare drum from a quality manufacturer.
4 Mapex MPX 14 inch x 5.5 Inches All Birch Snare Drum
Mapex is relative newcomers to the musical instrument manufacturing business and only arrived in 1989. Based in Taiwan where they are owned by KHS Musical Instruments. They produce seven lines of drums from introductory, beginner stages up to Pro level.
This particular model is the MPX 14 inch by 5.5-inch snare.
In this world of high tech design, there are still some drums made of wood, especially Birch, Maple, and Poplar, and this snare by Mapex is one of them manufactured from Birch.
One thing about wood construction is that some believe it gives a crisp and bright sound and has an attack that is unique. There is some truth to this, and this snare certainly demonstrates that. Some drums are built with a wooden base but then covered in chrome or other materials, but this is just pure wood. With its metal fittings of course.
First reactions are that it is a powerful drum, and the sound seems to cut through and has an impact on the strike. One reason for this is the amount of sustain is short compared with other snare drums, which will give it a more dynamic effect.
It is, therefore, suitable for styles of play that need the snare not to get lost in the sound, and the bright, aggressive sound produced by this drum doesn’t allow that to happen.
A well made snare, and with its black lacquer finish an impressive sight. And at a budget price which is about right, so while it is a decent snare you are not buying top drawer quality.
5 Pearl S1330B 13 x 3 Inches Black Steel Piccolo Snare Drum
We remember many years ago, our drummer getting his first real snare drum. Very similar to this, a Piccolo. It seemed so thin and small. He was very upset when someone asked him where the rest of it was.
They have a sound all of their own and are favored by some drummers. For example, funk drummer David Garibaldi uses a Piccolo Snare.
The big difference between the piccolo and the standard snare, apart from the depth of the drum, is the sound created. The piccolo produces a very high pitch sound, almost like a sharp crack and it can be tuned to a higher pitch than a standard snare. This gives it the ability to make a completely different sound.
It will of course, not suit every genre of music but where a sharp, fast-paced snare sound is required, it will be hard to beat.
This snare drum by Pearl is a good example. Founded in Japan in 1946 and are still based there, they make every kind of drum and percussion instrument you can think of and are very good at it. All levels of drums leave their factory from beginner ranges to the Pro level.
This is a steel shell drum that is just 3 inches in depth finished in black. It is a well-made drum with chrome lugs and tension rods.
Pearl is an established and esteemed manufacturer, and they have produced a quality snare with this model. It won’t suit all styles of music where you need a big sound but is great for the tight intricacies of jazz and funk. And it is set at a great price.
At the end of the day, it’s the sound. Someone once said to one of us, “do YOU think it sounds good. If so that’s all you need.” Good advice indeed and the best advice when it comes to equipment. And, this most certainly sounds good.
6 Ddrum Hybrid Snare Drum
Now, correct me if I’m wrong please but does this look a little Goth in its design? Something about it just screams ‘Within Temptation’ or ‘Nightwish’ or maybe there is a bit of ‘Evanescence’ about it? Perhaps it’s just the red and black design which we think is quite nice.
Originally a Swedish company established in 1983 they were bought out and now are based in Florida in the US. Some of their kits and drums are now made in China.
They are possibly better known for their electronic drum kits where they have excelled over the years, but they also work with the acoustic versions and this snare is a good example of what they are capable.
It’s a thirteen inch by six-inch snare made from multi-ply birch wood. The main body is finished in that stunning satin black finish. The hardware is all nickel-plated but then given that red and black finish. The hoop is die-cast and is given the satin black treatment, and it has double bridge lugs.
Even the tap-style throw-off gets the satin black look. It really does look something out of the ordinary.
The sound is pretty big, especially if you don’t tune it too high. It pounds away and is really not for the faint hearted at all. It’s not just for hammering though and has a nice rounded sound created by the layered Birch. The sustain is nice and not too much, which allows the drum to resonate.
It is a decent snare with lots going for it in the sound department and how they have managed to produce such a good snare drum to sell at this price is very surprising.
Take a look, for the money it is an excellent buy.
7 GP Percussion SK22 Complete Student Snare Drum Kit
Every day you get home from work, or wherever you are, and your ten-year-old says ‘please get me a drum kit, I wanna be a drummer.’ You smile sweetly and think oh hell, how much is this going to cost? Then you approach him or her with the delights of learning the harmonica, but no…drums it is.
You know that one day you’re gonna tell John Bonham exactly what you think as the sound of Led Zeppelin IV coming from their bedroom shatters the peaceful neighborhood!
GP Percussion may have the product to solve your problem. Let us make this very clear from the outset. This is a budget snare. We are not going to try and dress it up as anything else. If you gave it to a Pro to use he’d probably ask you if your feeling ok? But that doesn’t matter. It’s not for him or her.
This is a snare drum, especially for children and the young player. First timers. Even maybe students who have been playing a year or so. It has everything you need to get them started on the road to getting your neighbors to move house.
It features a 14 inch by 5-inch snare drum with a metal shell. There are only ten lugs, so tuning will not be precise, but that won’t affect a student. It has a double braced snare stand. And it comes with practice pad made from rubber to give everyone a little peace occasionally. As well as drum sticks and a drum key.
It all fits into a padded backpack, making it an all in one package.
Now correct me if I am wrong, but at this price, is this not the most amazing deal you can find to get your young hopeful started? The sound is ok. It’s not for a gig or an experienced player but for a learner it’s fine.
One thing you do need to do is wrap it all up and as he or she opens it up and their little eyes light up, run up the stairs and hide Led Zep IV! That is not the first thing they should try and learn.
8 Ludwig Supralite Snare Drum
We have heard some drummers say that they would love to have some Ludwig, especially the snare drum, in their kit but could never afford it, If you are looking for an affordable Ludwig snare then maybe you’ve found it.
The Ludwig Supralite snare is pure Ludwig in its makeup. It has a great sound, and it looks the part.
Ludwig has traditions to be maintained. Long-standing traditions of excellence, and ever since ‘that’ night on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964 when Ringo sat atop of an elevated drum stage with Ludwig emblazoned all over the front of his drum kit they have ensured those traditions of excellence have been maintained.
With this Supralite snare drum, everyone can now share in that tradition and have the Ludwig sound.
It’s built with quality materials. A beaded steel shell, brass with chrome covered fittings, 2.3mm triple-flanged hoops and brass snares, it is built to sound big, and it does.
It has that renowned mixture of a crack and a thud as a sound, and when you hear it, this snare drum could hardly be anything other than a Ludwig. It is not a Black Beauty, of course, it isn’t, and you wouldn’t expect it to be, but it still has a great sound.
Plays great when it is tuned tight though you need to be careful if your tuning is a bit slack with the looseness of the fittings.
At the price, it is a great buy. If you want to buy Ludwig and have a tight budget take a look. We doubt you will be disappointed with one of the best Snare Drums currently available.
9 Mendini by Cecilio Student 14-inch Snare Drum Set with Soft Case, Drum Sticks, and Stand
We love to see these student and beginner packages made so affordable. If there are no new kids picking up the sticks because parents cannot afford the costs where are the next generation of drummers coming from?
No drummers equal what? What is a rock band without a drummer (and a little bit of bass)? Nothing. We need kids to play, and these packages open the door for them.
This is designed for the kid starting out. Maybe the student who is playing a little bit, It definitely is not for a gigging band.
When reviewing what drums to buy, we must all keep a sense of realism. This is not going to have a killer snare sound. It may have a few weaknesses in the manufacturing process, and perhaps it doesn’t tune as it should.
But, none of that is particularly relevant. It’s not for a seasoned drummer; it’s for someone who wants to learn, and on this, they can.
The drum is a 14inch metal based with its adjustable snare. The package comes with a double-braced stand and a pair of sticks and includes a padded carry case. It’s nearly all there.
We say nearly because possibly a rubber practice cover would also have been a good idea to give the neighbors a rest, but in its absence, a student can learn and take the first steps.
It’s made quite well and will take what a student can throw at it. The sound is ok. Not vintage toppy snare but adequate to learn on and for the price it all represents a good deal.
10 Yamaha Stage Custom
Yamaha sets the bar quite high when it is producing its drum kits and especially its snare drums. It’s been over fifty years now since they arrived on the scene and they have got better as time went on.
Yamaha like making drums with a classic feel and the Stage Custom range offers that and especially the snare drum. The shell is always an important element of the manufacture of a drum and in creating its sound. It needs to resonate but not to the point of echoing in on itself or not being crisp and clear.
To ensure the sound is superb, Yamaha has used 100% Birch on this fourteen-inch snare drum, and the sound created by its six-ply structure speaks for itself. Many of the great snare drums utilize Birch because of the sound it creates, a fact not lost on Yamaha.
Attention has also been paid to the hardware with steel triple-flanged loops, ten lugs, and a side throw-off. The drum is finished off with a high-gloss cranberry red lacquer.
This is a quality snare drum. It has the drive and is big sounding, making it responsive, and yet it also has a sensitive side. It fits a wide variety of styles and genres and is a snare drum you would buy if you wanted a cover all drum options.
It’s most definitely in the frame for one of the best snare drums.
Yamaha makes quality drums, and this is another. A great sound for a very modest price.
Best Snare Drums Buying Guide
I suppose the majority of us know this, but today there are a lot of manufacturers making great products in whatever musical environment they work in. This is no more evident than in drum manufacture.
Not so evident are some of the big names who were around when we were taking our first musical steps. Slingerland, played by heroes Rich and Krupa, they seemed to lose their way and were finally bought by Gibson guitars.
Blind leading the blind there as someone said the other day. Trixon went under in the early 70s, and Rogers were assimilated into Yamaha and effectively disappeared in the mid-2000s. Making drums is a tough competitive world.
Time For Some New Blood…
With the demise of some established names came new ones. Yamaha themselves, Tama, Mapex, Sonor, and of course looking down on them all, Thor with his big booming hammer of a snare drum, like some ruling god who dwelt in the land of Ludwig.
Changing your snare drum is a big thing. We are sure as drummers you won’t underestimate its importance, not only to your personal sound but to the sound of the band or group or whoever you work with.
Drummers are the cornerstone upon which most music is built and following behind them the bass guitarists. The rhythm section. The driving force. Take them away, and you haven’t got a lot. The snare drum is such a critical part of that. The beat, the links, the cues it is the most audible and noticeable of all the kit and what a lot of other members of the band will rely on.
What Is ‘your’ Sound?
That will be the key to you buying the best snare drum. What sort of music? Is it varied? Or does it sit in one genre and not leave it. If it’s varied, then you need a snare that will do it all. We have looked at a few of those. If it’s big’ you’re looking for then, we say with a smile, there’s one or two of those: all quality, all well made, all with great individual sounds.
And The Kids?
If you’re buying for a beginner, then there are some complete package options that aren’t going to break the bank. The world needs drummers. It won’t have them if the kids don’t play.
So, What’s The Best Snare Drums?
We are going to make no apologies here. There are some great snare drums out there. Good manufacturing, great sounds, some with great price tags, but we are going to step away from the norm for a minute. Usually, we say one item is our favorite, but here we are choosing two.
The first is the…
A great price so a kid can start his musical drumming journey.
And as I say we make no apologies…
We look up to the heavens and see Thor with his thundering snare, the…
It is and will always be just enormous. It is our choice for the best snare drum.