Compiling a review of the best snare drums is a mammoth task. The snare is such an important part of any drum set and in many ways it determines much of the character of the kit. It stands to reason that snare drums come in many shapes and sizes in order to suit many musical applications. There are snares which are best suited to orchestral music, snares for jazz, snares for rock and metal, and so on.
In this review we have selected 10 of the best-sounding snare drums of 2020 along with our opinions as to why exactly these drums are so sought after.
These snare drums cover a wide range of musical applications, plus we’ve made sure to include snare drums of all budgets to ensure, so there’s something in here for every drummer.
Here are the best snare drums 2020:
- Ludwig Supraphonic
- Yamaha Recording Custom
- PDP Black Wax
- Ludwig Black Beauty
- Gretsch Renown
- Gretsch USA Bell Brass
- Pearl Sensitone
- DW Collector’s Series
- Pork Pie Big Black Brass
- Tama S.L.P. G-Maple
1. Ludwig Supraphonic
The most versatile snare drum
Ludwig’s Supraphonic is often cited in online reviews as one of the top-rated snare drums around. So what makes this drum so popular? Well clearly it has a rich history. If we take a look at some of the songs this snare has featured on, it makes for an impressive resume.
Hal Blaine, the infamous studio drummer from the 60’s and 70’s, recorded with this drum alongside artists such as The Beach Boys, Elvis, The Supremes and Frank Sinatra. That goes some way to explaining the versatility of this instrument.
The Supraphonic is available in 5-inch and 6.5-inch variations. Ludwig used aluminium to make the shell of the Supraphonic and plated it with chrome for a sleek look.
|Image credit: Ludwig Check Price on Sweetwater||
This drum is versatile with tunings and gives an amazing crack when tuned up in pitch. There is a nice natural ring to the drum. You can get everything from a Buddy Rich buzz roll to a hard and fast backbeat with this drum.
The Ludwig Supraphonic is also available with a deeper shell. The 6.5-inch version has been favored by rock drummers such as John Bonham of Led Zeppelin and Alex Van Halen of Van Halen fame. There is a gorgeous tone from this drum at a medium tension. The first stroke of a rimshot brings to mind the drumming virtuosity of Bonham on Led Zepellin’s classic ‘Moby Dick’.
2. Yamaha Recording Custom
The best studio snare drum
The Yamaha Recording Custom line of drums was developed in conjunction with legendary studio drummer, Steve Gadd. These drums are pristine in how they sound and look. Particular attention has been given to how these drums sound when recorded. And there’s no better drummer to consult than Steve Gadd, the man who has played on countless albums and hit songs.
|Image credit: Yamaha Check Price on Sweetwater||
Yamaha have made their Recording Custom snare available in different materials. This particular model is made from birch, which is a strong, but lightweight wood. Yamaha have opted for a 6-ply shell, which fewer than normal. They tell us that this gives the drum more body all round.
If you prefer a metal shell, you can opt for the same drum in aluminium. The dimensions of this snare are pretty standard, with a 14-inch diameter and a depth of 5.5 inches.
This is a very versatile snare drum and so will suit the professional drummer who deals with a lot of music styles, but wants a jack-of-all-trades. This is definitely one of the best-sounding snare drums for the money.
3. PDP Black Wax
The best low-budget snare drum
Are you looking for a good snare drum at a good price, which doesn’t cost a whole heap of money? Well a Black Wax maple snare from PDP might be what you’re after.
They’re available in many sizes with differing diameters and depths, so you can suit pretty much any style you like. You can choose from 5.5×13, 5.5×14, 6×10, 6×12, 6.5×14 and finally 7×13 shells.
|Image credit: PDP Check Price on Amazon||
PDP are an off-shoot of DW Drums, so these drums are made with quality, but at a lower retail price. You can fetch one of these snares for well under $200, which makes it a bargain. Being made by a subdivision company of DW means that you also get the benefit of some of that infamous DW innovation.
So, there are true-pitch tension rods for greater control and also a mag throw-off for controlling the snare wire easily. Soundwise they play amazing well. The 6.5×14 is a bright and snappy snare with some nice definition, particularly at higher tunings.
4. Ludwig Black Beauty
A classic snare drum
The Ludwig Black Beauty is something of a mythical beast when it comes to drumming. This snare drum has long been sought after by drummers and producers all over the world. Far from being the newest snare on our list, this snare has been around for a long time – and people still love it.
In fact, Bob Clearmountain, a world-class recording engineer and producer, was known to always bring a Ludwig Black Beauty snare with him to each recording session. Bob has worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry, from Brian Adams to Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones. When he needed a strong backbeat snare in the mix he often opted for the ever-reliable Black Beauty.
This drum is deceptively versatile too, capable of low rich tones and a high crisp crack. It really depends on your musical intentions. It responds well to pretty much all types of drum heads as well as snare wires. The shell of this drum is so resonant that there are practically no dead spots.
|Image credit: Ludwig Check Price on Sweetwater||
This is a big brass snare drum, created from the material that was popular before the lighter alternative of aluminium was about. It’s been coated in nickel as opposed to chrome, and has a center-beaded shell with 10 lugs for tuning. It’s a deep drum too, coming in at 6.5 inches deep.
Older Black Beauty’s can be prohibitively expensive. If you go looking for an original model from the 1970’s, you could be looking at several thousands of dollars. A 1990’s Black beauty might still cost you over a grand.
A modern Black Beauty retails at around $700-$800 which still makes it out of beginner budgets, but more reasonable. With that said Ludwig have created and released the Black Magic snare drum which is under $500 in most cases.
The Black Magic snare drum is based on the Black Beauty, but with a few corners cut to reduce the cost. So if you’re looking for something in the Black Beauty style, but want to save a few bucks, definitely check that one out too.
5. Gretsch Renown
A good mid-range snare drum
Gretsch are one of the heavyweights when it comes to instrument making. Their name is synonymous with quality guitars, basses and drums. Many drummers favor Gretsch for their quality craftsmanship and attention to detail.
With their Renown Series snare drum, they have produced an affordable snare for drummers of all levels. This is a 14×5.5-inch drum with a maple shell. It’s available in a number of finishes for around $320. For that you get a quality 10-lug drum with a lot to offer.
|Image credit: Gretsch Check Price on Sweetwater||
The Gretsch Renown sounds incredible at all tuning ranges. There is a nice bit of body with lower tuning which you lose slightly at the higher tensions, which is understandable with a 5.5-inch depth.
That said the impressive crack from this drum at higher tunings more than makes up for that. All in all, this is a great little maple snare drum and perfect for a host of music styles from rock to jazz.
6. Gretsch USA Bell Brass
A high-end snare drum
And now we come to the most expensive snare drum on our list. This fine piece of craftsmanship is a high-end professional snare drum made with a 3 mm brass shell. Gretsch have built this drum to the highest spec.
The 6.5-inch shell gives a warm wood-like sound and makes for a drum which sings in both low tuning and high tuning. This drum is favored by drumming greats such as Steve Ferrone. This drum is of the highest quality. There is precision in every stroke, and this makes it a great snare for jazz or even an orchestra.
|Image credit: Gretsch Check Price on Sweetwater||
This is clearly a top-end snare drum with a hefty price tag to boot. The finish is one of the coolest we’ve witnessed yet. It retails at around $1000 online and in stores, so it’s strictly reserved for the professionals or the amateurs with deep pockets.
7. Pearl SensiTone
This range of snares by Pearl is available in both metal and wooden varieties. There’s also quite a lot to choose from sound-wise when we compare the shells. Both the brass and the phosphor bronze shells have a sharper tonal ring to them, which is especially noticeable when playing rimshots.
The wooden shells, maple and mahogany, have a warmer snap. The mahogany SensiTone sounds quite deadened in comparison to the maple which has more natural sustain.
|Image credit: Pearl Check Price on Sweetwater||
The SensiTone series by Pearl has some wonderful-sounding drums and all are worthy contenders. We recommend you take a listen to each drum individually, so you can determine which sounds best to your ears.
If you’re a fan of deeper drums, Pearl also make the SensiTone in a 6.5-inch variation. This lowers the tuning range slightly and adds more body to the sound overall. As far as the 5-inch depth shells go, the maple SensiTone is definitely one of the best wood snare drums we’ve heard miked up.
8. DW Collector’s Series
DW are famous in the drum world for their exquisite-looking drum kits. They’ve always gone the extra mile to make their kits stand out from the rest. For years now they have offered custom finished, so that you can have a kit with anything from zebra stripes to your own face plastered over the shells.
Well, this Collector’s Series snare drum is a perfect example. This drum looks like something that should be in a trophy cabinet as opposed to on a bandstand. But don’t let the flashy look deceive you – this snare is a contender.
Collector’s Series snare drums produce a warm and rich tone and while versatile with tunings, they do have sweet spots. I would say a mid-tension to high is where these drums excel.
|Image credit: DW Check Price on Sweetwater||
DW Drums, as a company, have always been serial innovators when it comes to making life easier for modern drummers. They have fitted this snare with some of those innovations, including true pitch tension rods, which have a finer thread depth for more accurate tuning.
There’s also their patented mag throw off design which makes turning off the snare strainer as easy as dropping your hand. You can even do it with the stroke of a stick.
While DW create beautiful instruments, they are not known for their budget snare drums. If you want a cheap snare drum, then look to their line of PDP drums as mentioned at number 3 on our list. PDP cater well to beginner and mid-range prices and are producing some of the best value snare drums around.
Meanwhile, at around $700 this is not the most expensive snare drum you will ever encounter, although do bear in mind that a lot of the cost here is due to the finishing and extras. For example if you want to go for a gold finish on the hardware instead of chrome, this will cost extra.
If, on the other hand, you want a DW snare at a more inexpensive price, you can pick up one of their Performance Series snares for a couple of hundred dollars less.
9. Pork Pie Big Black Brass
Pork Pie Percussion created their line of Big Black snare drums as an alternative to the hugely popular Ludwig Black Beauty. This is a 1 mm thick shell drum with a 6.5-inch depth and 14-inch diameter.
The shell is made from brass yet the overall weight is quite low which is a bonus for such a deep snare. The Big Black works pretty well with most tunings, but especially when cranked up good and tight. At this tension it’s easy to get crisp rim shots which will cut through the mix of any band.
|Image credit: Pork Pie Percussion Check Price on Sweetwater||
This is a good metal snare drum for this price point. It’s well built and ships with Remo heads top and bottom. It’s not the loudest snare drum you’ll ever play, but when you find the tuning sweet spot this drum really sings.
10. Tama S.L.P. G-Maple
The best 13-inch snare drum
This is a stunning maple drum by Tama. On first impressions the drum actually looks as deep as a marching snare. This is of course because G-Maple snare is not only deeper than your average snare, but it’s also not as wide.
This is a 13-inch drum as opposed to the standard 14-inch diameter that we usually associate with snares. The sound of this snare is bright and poppy. It’s great for rimshots and fast backbeats, so punk or metal would sound great with this snare. If you value your snare hits on 2 and 4, and also like to play loud, then this might be the snare for you.
|Image credit: Tama Check Price on Sweetwater||
This drum is best suited to music which requires a defined backbeat. It’s a beautiful-looking drum, with some nice features, such as a removable butt-plate, which saves time when changing heads. It’s priced at around $350 which is a good mid-range price for a quality snare drum.
With this snare drum review we’ve looked at some of the best snares for purchase in 2020. A good snare is an extremely important component of any drum set. The snare gets played, in most cases, more than any other drum on the kit. It’s typically positioned right in front of the drummer for that very reason. It’s also the drum that you are most likely to hear when you notice a song in the background in passing.
Snare frequencies occupy a large portion of the mid-range of our hearing. This range is what our ears are most attuned to, so we’re more sensitive to it. That’s why, when you turn the volume of down a song gradually, quite often the last audible sound from the drum kit will be the snare drum.
Finding the right snare drum can be tough, but with a little research and a lot of sampling, you should be able to find out what it is exactly that you value.
First off, the material is a huge determining factor in the sound of a snare. Generally wood sounds warmer than metals like brass and aluminium. There can be great weight differences too.
Look at the dimensions of the drum. Are you comfortable with a smaller diameter, such as a 13-inch drum, or do you need the standard 14-inch variety. Do you know what the difference in depth does to a drum? Well, simply put, with a deeper drum it takes more time for the sound to travel in the drum. This can affect the attack of the drum. It will affect how and when the snare wires resonate. These little factors all make up the sound characteristics of a snare drum.
Have fun on your quest for the perfect snare drum!