You are correct, at least in my experience, that they are loud. I had a Ludwig Supralite and it worked well live, and it sounded great and did manage to cut through those Marshall stacks better than my Supraphonic but I sold it because I am no longer competing with that kind of wattage now.Basically, my understanding is steel shells are loud. Great for getting "past" those Hi Watt and Marshall amps when gigging. My Pearl phosphor bronze is pretty loud too but not overwhelming. Guess I'm just going to buckle down and buy a steel for $100 or less to give it a try. BTW, I had a custom aluminum shell made. 5mm thick and cast rather than spun or rolled and welded. That snare drum was LOUD. Ended up selling it because it just overpowered everything including cymbals.
The Premier steel snares are very nice too and their chrome finish is second to none (although, I know that isn't a big concern of yours )