Steel snare drum question

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
What makes steel snare drums sound so different from one another? My Tama Rockstar steel shell sounds like crap. I had a Pearl steel shell snare that was warped, but it sounded so much better than the Tama. I played a Ludwig steel-shelled Heirloom snare that was to die for. Does it just come down to bearing edges and shell material and tuning, or is it something else?

Thanks!
 

lefty2

Platinum Member
I would say it's really the heads , snare wires and the tuning. They should all sound fairly close. I've only had two steel snares one in the 80s on a Tama royalstar kit. It was an inexpensive snare. And one that I have now Yamaha tour custom series from the 80s I like them both a lot. I didn't have them at the same time so I really have no comparison of the two, only that I like them both
 

incrementalg

Gold Member
The Dunnett classic stainless steel sounds incredible. I guess like any other drum it’s the sum of its build and parts that defines its sound. The Ludwig heirloom sounds great too...especially for the price point.
Some steel drums I’ve played sound harsh and are hard to tame, but the good ones have a balance of bite and body. For a long time I thumbed my nose at steel because I’d only heard the lower line ones that sounded and felt cheap.
 

RobertM

Platinum Member
I’ve heard that the old Sonor ferromagnese steel snares were great. I don’t know much about steel snares, but it seems that the closest thing now to that might be the seamless ferro steel snares at Oriollo. Otherwise, the Dunnetts are nice—they have wide snare beds and use 42-strand wires. Sonor’s Steve Smith signature snare also sounds amazing (it’s a cast steel shell, and Oriollo also makes cast steel, bronze, and brass snares).
 

Tamaefx

Silver Member
I had a rockstar snare drum, not good, and a Tama metalwork : very good. Same hardware but the shell had a very different quality, heavier, more rigid.
 

PorkPieGuy

Platinum Member
I had a rockstar snare drum, not good
I've tried so many different heads on that thing, plus replaced the bottom head and the wires. I just think that old snare is just going to sound bad no matter what. On the flip side, there's just something in me that would feel silly about spending good money on another steel-shelled snare...even if it sounded great. It sort of makes as much sense as me buying more than one maple-shelled drum set...which I've done plenty. That Heirloom sounds tremendous though. There's absolutely no comparison with the Tama. They are definitely apples and oranges.
 

Winston_Wolf

Platinum Member
I think the general care in the construction plays a big role, consider the sound difference between a Paiste 2002 cymbal and a Zildjian ZBT. Same metal but they're miles apart in sound simply because of the amount of work that went into making it.

I also think thicker steel shells sound more focused and have fewer funky overtones that plague cheaper steel snare drums.
 

Tamaefx

Silver Member
That’s what I noticed with my Tama metal snare drums. Same hardware (throw, lugs,..) but heavier / thicker shell on the MW and slightly heavier rims. The shell was more rigid too. Notice that I tried die cast hoops on the metalwork : it killed the liveliness of the drum.
The rockstar did sound harsh, in need of moongel or O ring whereas the MW sounded like a good snare even unmuted with a G1.
 

harryconway

Platinum Member
Yeah .... look at the Rockstar snare prices on eBay .... no a lot of love for that one. I have an old Royalstar (early 80's) that sounds great ..... and the vintage Imperialstar fetch some decent $. Certainly, not all steel shells are created equally. And that's the foundation.
 

Peedy

Senior Member
Being slightly sympathetic to the makers, there’s no real motivation for them to produce a great sounding low end model that’s going to cannibalize their higher end sales. Give that one to a high school and buy a decent Yamaha, Premier etc.

Pete
 

Brad Edwards

New member
I would say it's in the quality and workmanship of the drum. I agree with Cornelius. Several years ago, I tried out a Jeff Ocheltree carbon steel
snare that sounded fantastic. The drum was very heavy.
 

lefty2

Platinum Member
Yeah .... look at the Rockstar snare prices on eBay .... no a lot of love for that one. I have an old Royalstar (early 80's) that sounds great ..... and the vintage Imperialstar fetch some decent $. Certainly, not all steel shells are created equally. And that's the foundation.
I think my 6 and 1/2 by 14 Royal Star was a 1982 I thought it sounded good back then
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Bearing edge profile and snare bed shape count for a lot. Also hoops. If the hoops hold onto the head over gravity, it ruins the tuning capability of the head. The head must drop out of the hoop in mid air or the head won't be able to be cleared by tuning/tensioning.
 
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timmdrum

Silver Member
What makes steel snare drums sound so different from one another? My Tama Rockstar steel shell sounds like crap. I had a Pearl steel shell snare that was warped, but it sounded so much better than the Tama. I played a Ludwig steel-shelled Heirloom snare that was to die for. Does it just come down to bearing edges and shell material and tuning, or is it something else?

Thanks!
When I bought my Rockstar DX kit new in '91, I thought the snare had an Alex Van Halen sort of trash-can-y ring to it, which I didn't hate, but noticed was unique. I recall reading a review somewhere around the same time that said exactly this; I thought it was in Modern Drummer but I couldn't find a review online that made this statement. It sounded fine with the noisy alt-rock I was playing at the time. By appearance, it looked the same as the Pearl Export snare shell, to the level that they looked manufactured by the same 3rd party company, but definitely sounded different.
 
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Rattlin' Bones

Gold Member
There's a reason so many kits, when a snare is included, it's a steel snare. And look at how many old usedLudwig/Rogers/Slingerland steel snares there are for sale vs wood or other metals. And how many "student" snares are steel vs other shell types. Steel is the cheapest snare to make and they made/make a ton of them. And it's not because they sound good. They're cheap cheap cheap to manufacture.
 

makinao

Silver Member
Every single part makes a difference. I have a 70s Pearl 4515 steel snare. Nothing special, but it got the job done. I tried many kinds of heads on it, as well as both 20 and 42 strand snares, and the character remained the same. But when I changed the original lugs (because of cracks) to lighter generic ones, the difference was dramatic. Since then I’ve changed the original 1.6mm hoops to 2.3mm, and the difference was not as profound as with the lugs.
 

Bo Eder

Platinum Member
Maybe it's time for an upgrade? Maybe you should try other material: aluminum, brass....maple? Yes, I'm talking about spending more money than you probably want to spend, but it couldn't hurt to look around at some of the more expensive offerings. I got my hands on that DW Performance snare that was 14x8, steel, and that drum sounded great right out of the box. Of course, at $350, it should sound pretty decent. Pearl's Ian Paice model is a 6.5x14 steel drum too that sounds really good - but at a higher price point. At a certain point I learned that these "starter" snares were just not going to cut it, so I kept myself in the 5x14 Acrolite and above range. I basically eliminated ever being able to blame the gear if anybody didn't like what I was doing ;)
 

Iristone

Member
I think shell thickness and beading affects it as well. My Ludwig Corey Miller is constructed similarly to a Black Beauty, and sounds likewise to me. SUPER SENSITIVE just like any Ludwig snare drum I've seen.
 

Push pull stroke

Platinum Member
Every single part makes a difference. I have a 70s Pearl 4515 steel snare. Nothing special, but it got the job done. I tried many kinds of heads on it, as well as both 20 and 42 strand snares, and the character remained the same. But when I changed the original lugs (because of cracks) to lighter generic ones, the difference was dramatic. Since then I’ve changed the original 1.6mm hoops to 2.3mm, and the difference was not as profound as with the lugs.
Andy would no doubt agree with you on this. He is a very firm believer in the effect of lug mass on overall sound. And just hardware mass in general.
 
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