I have often wondered about going with wide snares instead of the standard width. Any suggestions on this? What would one gain from wide snares vs standard? And what are the various sizes?
+1Generally, from what I have seen, the wide snares are used by guys playing in very loud situations where they want the snare to cut through the mix more. The examples I'm thinking of are John Bonham (used wide snares on his LM402) and John Tempesta (has wide snares on his Tama Signature 14x7 brass drum). I don't know how Lombardo sets his up but I can see wide snares on one of his drums in one of his Drummerworld pics.
Sometimes a snare can start to sound like a tom if you are hitting it real hard. With the wide snares, you get a lot more snare sound but it changes the character of the drum sound, as well. Due to the extra contact area with the bottom head and the fact that you usually have to crank up the tension on the snares to reduce extra sympathetic buzz, they can dry up the tone of the drum and give you less bottom end. You end up with a higher pitched, dry drum sound with a lot more snare buzz sound and cut. I tried wides on my 402 Supra but I found that I enjoyed the traditional stock sound more on that drum so I went back to 20's. I have a Tama Starclassic heavy brass 14x7 and I recently put a set of 42 strand snares on it in order to set it up like the Tempesta signature drum and I do enjoy the sound of the wides on that drum. I haven't taken it on a gig yet but it sounds nice in my living room. As has been said before, your drum must have a wide snare bed to fit the wide snares or you won't be able to get the residual snare buzz under control.