The Snare Wires General Info Thread

Mike Stand

Silver Member
When choosing snare wires, drummers generally talk about wire material (steel, brass, etc.) and number of strands. However, I think that there’s perhaps more to the story than just that.

I gather from different sources that there are indeed numerous technical specifications that can change from one brand to another. Canopus mention “spiral diameter” and “core width”. Nonetheless, I found little information on the technical specifications of different wires and no conclusive information at all on how these different specifications influence the sound. I find it strange that while we dissect every other part of the drum set, there are still unanswered questions about snare wires. So, why not try and build a thread that can serve as a general guide? Who can help?

BTW, I got the idea when I tried out some new 20 strand steel wires and found out to my great surprise that they sounded very different to previous steel wires I've had. I compared them to another set and noticed that one was plated (chromed?) and the other wasn't. Also, on one set the coils seemed to be more condensed while on the other set the coils were slightly more stretched out giving them a lower profile.
 
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mandrew

Gold Member
There is a lot of variety in wires. Not only in wire count, but, as you have discovered, material and coatings. There is another thing to consider, and that is the coil configuration. The number of bends in each wire can greatly effect the sound. Tight coil patterns are "wetter", and more elongated the pattern, the dryer the sound.
 

Mike Stand

Silver Member
Wow, just when I thought that this thread was about to sink without a trace, there's the first reply, and a really good one at that. Thanks Mandrew.

Your description of coil pattern definately corresponds to my recent experience with two different sets of wires. Now I know to look out for wires with a more elongated coil pattern.

And what about plated wires? What are they plated with (apart from chrome)? And what's the effect?

And what about the wire material? I've read how some people like high carbon wires? What are they and how do they sound?

And what about wire thickness? The manufacturers must certainly know the specifications of their products, and the more serious ones might even know what the resulting sound is like. Whay isn't this info more widely available?

Plenty of questions, I know, I'm just trying to keep the ball rolling.
 
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mandrew

Gold Member
Plating tends to stiffen and brighten wires. I use Puresound snares, and particularly recommend the concert line for a drier sound. Very crisp and articulate. The 16 strand set has good balance for most snares, being in the middle count wise. I use them over 2 mil heads for more response. When I want more of a concert snare sound, like for marches etc., I use the 12 strand set. For general use, I like 16 strand wires for a balance between snare sound and drum sound. don't be scared by the "concert" name.
 

Diet Kirk

Silver Member
I have an interesting set of snare wires on my snare at the moment. I forget who makes them.

They have three seperate groups of wires. The centre group can be independantly adjusted. So you can kind of kill two birds with one stone. The main pair of wires are set tight enough for a nice snappy responsive crack and the inner set are loosened off a touch so that I also get that lovely constant rolling buzz quality.

I think I'm also correct in saying that the nylon equivalent to what used to be made from cat gut, with less wires and a straighter coil pattern are the go to wires for hip hop snare sounds.
 

Mike Stand

Silver Member
Plating tends to stiffen and brighten wires. I use Puresound snares, and particularly recommend the concert line for a drier sound. Very crisp and articulate. The 16 strand set has good balance for most snares, being in the middle count wise. I use them over 2 mil heads for more response. When I want more of a concert snare sound, like for marches etc., I use the 12 strand set. For general use, I like 16 strand wires for a balance between snare sound and drum sound. don't be scared by the "concert" name.
I checked out those concert wires on the Puresound website. The stretched coil pattern resembles the one on a nice pair of Sonor wires I had. They might be right for me. They appear to be chromed, or is the online image just shiny?I certainly don't like the 20 strand Puresound steel wires which I've got at the moment.

I have an interesting set of snare wires on my snare at the moment. I forget who makes them.

They have three seperate groups of wires. The centre group can be independantly adjusted. So you can kind of kill two birds with one stone. The main pair of wires are set tight enough for a nice snappy responsive crack and the inner set are loosened off a touch so that I also get that lovely constant rolling buzz quality.
I think those might be the Fat Cat wires. Interesting concept.
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
Interesting thread. I think your lack of response probably illustrates just how little we know about snares. Yet, the snares can alter a drum's sound quite dramatically. In general, though, count me among the largely ignorant on this subject. Naturally, I must now investigate!

I can remember in the past seeing snares that were made of nylon, steel, high carbon steel, even wound steel (sort of like guitar strings), and within those categories, variations of loop size and length and wire guage.

Let's look into it.

GeeDeeEmm
 

Fieldhouse

Junior Member
Good thread topic for sure. Snare wires are something that don't get enough attention and are actually very important to your "sound" and should be chosen with due dilligence and wisdom.

The pattern and material of the snare wires makes a huge different to the playability of the snare, as well as the sound. Generally I work with this understanding;

20-Strand are a good middle ground, If you want more details projected and crack out of your snare, go for more strands (24, 42). If you like a more open, warm snare sound, use 16 Strand, etc...

Brass wires will be warmer than steel wires. You also have to keep in mind the drum itself, and it's tonal qualities. If you have a bright Steel Snare, you may not want to add Steel Wires as this will make the drum even brighter and using Brass Wires could warm up the drum's tone considerably.

Tightly wound wires will have a snappier, "poppier" response and loosely wound wires will make the drum have a drier crack and more open tone.

The thicker the individual wire (core width), the higher the fundamental pitch will be, and thus the overall brightness will be affected. Any kind of coating on the wires will add to this also, chrome probably brightening the wires up further. High Carbon Steel will also be brighter than low Carbon Steel. They will also last a little longer, as the higher the Carbon content, the less oxidization taking place.

It's also important to keep in mind the drum itself, and it's tonal qualities. If you have a bright Steel Snare, you may not want to add Steel Wires as this will make the drum even brighter and using Brass Wires could warm up the drum's tone considerably. Alternatively, Steel Wires could bring a drier/darker/warmer snare, for example, a bronze snare, to life.

I just replaced my snare wires with Puresound Custom Pro - Brass , 20-Strand. My Pearl Steve Ferrone (Brass, 14 X 6) is now warmer, drier crack and more open tone, which suits my playing more than the previous wires, which were a bright, tightly wound, snappy steel set.

I've run on a bit, but hopefully that can be useful to this thread.

I'm quite curious to try the Puresound Equalizer wires eventually, interesting concept, can't quite imagine what they will sound like. Anyone tried these?

Jon
 

mandrew

Gold Member
This is a great thread. A lot of folk are looking to vintage sound drums, but focus mainly on shells and heads. In the 30's -40's, snare wires had a more tubular, wound shape. Metal wound over silk and other configurations were common, as well as gut. See Adrian Kirchler's site (AK drums) for a clear picture. How vintage is vintage? That opens up a whole new discussion!
 

Mike Stand

Silver Member
Brass wires will be warmer than steel wires. You also have to keep in mind the drum itself, and it's tonal qualities. If you have a bright Steel Snare, you may not want to add Steel Wires as this will make the drum even brighter and using Brass Wires could warm up the drum's tone considerably.

Jon
That's seems to make sense. After all, a brass shell is considered warmer and darker sounding than a steel shell. Yet, on the Puresound website they say about wires that "The brass models provide a brighter, resonant sound, whereas the steel models provide a darker, crisp response."

Did they just get it the wrong way round in the description?

On another note, I've just discovered how different wire designs can be. Check out the Grover Pro website for completely straight wires, as in wires without coils! Like how they must have been to begin with. And it's not just a vintage or jazz thing. They also offer heavy gauge "stadium" wires, presumably for rock.
 

bsmntdrummer

Junior Member
Just a heads up that Drum Magazine has a big article comparing 37 different snare wires in their March issue. I've only had time to glance at it so far, but it looks pretty informative. And timely, apparently.

I never thought about snare wires that much, but I really noticed a big difference when I switched from stock snares to a set of Puresounds on my acro. The drum was much more sensitive sensitive and articulate. Of course, the old wires were original and pretty shot, which exaggerated the difference, but still.
 
Good thread topic for sure. Snare wires are something that don't get enough attention and are actually very important to your "sound" and should be chosen with due dilligence and wisdom.

The pattern and material of the snare wires makes a huge different to the playability of the snare, as well as the sound. Generally I work with this understanding;

20-Strand are a good middle ground, If you want more details projected and crack out of your snare, go for more strands (24, 42). If you like a more open, warm snare sound, use 16 Strand, etc...

Brass wires will be warmer than steel wires. You also have to keep in mind the drum itself, and it's tonal qualities. If you have a bright Steel Snare, you may not want to add Steel Wires as this will make the drum even brighter and using Brass Wires could warm up the drum's tone considerably.

Tightly wound wires will have a snappier, "poppier" response and loosely wound wires will make the drum have a drier crack and more open tone.

The thicker the individual wire (core width), the higher the fundamental pitch will be, and thus the overall brightness will be affected. Any kind of coating on the wires will add to this also, chrome probably brightening the wires up further. High Carbon Steel will also be brighter than low Carbon Steel. They will also last a little longer, as the higher the Carbon content, the less oxidization taking place.

It's also important to keep in mind the drum itself, and it's tonal qualities. If you have a bright Steel Snare, you may not want to add Steel Wires as this will make the drum even brighter and using Brass Wires could warm up the drum's tone considerably. Alternatively, Steel Wires could bring a drier/darker/warmer snare, for example, a bronze snare, to life.

I just replaced my snare wires with Puresound Custom Pro - Brass , 20-Strand. My Pearl Steve Ferrone (Brass, 14 X 6) is now warmer, drier crack and more open tone, which suits my playing more than the previous wires, which were a bright, tightly wound, snappy steel set.

I've run on a bit, but hopefully that can be useful to this thread.

I'm quite curious to try the Puresound Equalizer wires eventually, interesting concept, can't quite imagine what they will sound like. Anyone tried these?

Jon
This is an interesting topic. Yes, I have used the Puresound Equalizers with nice results on my early '90's 7x14 Noble and Cooley SS Classic, which came standard with a generic set of 20 strand Taiwanese chrome wires, believe it or not. Those old ones sound it quite good, but the Puresounds really brought out the full potential of the drum, while greatly cutting back on the sympathetic buzz while playing my deeper-depth tom kit, which tends to have tunings more closely aligned with the N&C's. I hope this gives you a better ideal of how they might work for you.
 

markdrum

Silver Member
I've got a Ludwig snare from the 80s that has a strainer that mounts individual strands. I currently have 8 steel wound strands and 8 nylon ones and it sounds phenominal! With this strainer you can adjust each strand individually. The only drawback is finding the individual strands. The last nylon ones that I bought were Yamaha and they were pretty expensive. It's worth it though.

The one with the center adjustment screw is a Grover. They're a brand that you don't hear about much but they have some great products. Everyone talks about Puresound but Grover can match them stride for stride. Some of the Pearl Ultrasounds are great too. I really like the "C" shaped ones. That's a sound that I've been looking for.
 

Mike Stand

Silver Member
Just a heads up that Drum Magazine has a big article comparing 37 different snare wires in their March issue. I've only had time to glance at it so far, but it looks pretty informative. And timely, apparently.
March of which year? 2014? Anyway, I'm not going to find it anywhere here in France.
 

Mcdonap

Member
March of which year? 2014? Anyway, I'm not going to find it anywhere here in France.
March 2015. It just came in yesterday's mail for me. Maybe the article will show up on their website.

I had recently switched my snares to Canopus wires, and I'm pretty happy with the results.
 

Mike Stand

Silver Member
March 2015. It just came in yesterday's mail for me. Maybe the article will show up on their website.

I had recently switched my snares to Canopus wires, and I'm pretty happy with the results.
Thanks for the info. Hoping the article will eventually find it's way online. Or perhaps a good soul will scan it and post it here?

Canopus are one of the rare manufacturers who seem to have really thought about their wires. Their website has some detailed info on their wires.

But they don't appear to be distributed in Europe.
 

Mike Stand

Silver Member
Plating tends to stiffen and brighten wires. I use Puresound snares, and particularly recommend the concert line for a drier sound. Very crisp and articulate. The 16 strand set has good balance for most snares, being in the middle count wise. I use them over 2 mil heads for more response. When I want more of a concert snare sound, like for marches etc., I use the 12 strand set. For general use, I like 16 strand wires for a balance between snare sound and drum sound. don't be scared by the "concert" name.
Yep, I've had these concert wires on my 14x5,5 maple snare for a week now (16 strand version).

Everything you said is spot on. I'm getting a good balance between snare response and drum tone, good crisp snare response without being too papery or wet but not too dry either. I imagine the 12 strand version would be noticeably drier for a more typical concert snare sound.

I favour a rock flavoured backbeat playing style and these wires hold up quite well. The "concert" tag shouldn't put anyone off these wires.
 
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