The Best Snare Drum

Mapex All Maple Snare Drum

Our Top Pick for 2017: Mapex All Maple Snare Drum
Read our full review.

You’re a drummer, playing to an audience of thousands. The crowd roars, the bass bounces, the guitar shreds, the vocals wail. Suddenly, the band goes silent, and it’s your shining moment. The toms bounce, the hi-hat rings, and the bass drum kicks. You slide over to the snare and CRACK! BAM! BOOM! Busted. Suddenly, the swells of applause erupt into a cacophony of laughter and groans.

Whether the crowd be real or imagined, the breakdown of a drum kit is devastating. Lucky for you, there’s a few snares out there that excel in disaster prevention and suit every need.

#1. Mapex All Maple Snare Drum

Mapex All Maple Snare Drum Gold Pick

View it on Amazon: $111.15*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

With endorsements from drummers such as Lamb of God’s Chris Adler, BB King’s Tony Coleman, and Aimee Mann’s Ivan Edwards, Mapex has proven to be a reliable and versatile brand in the drum world. Mapex produces seven different lines of drums, ranging from the introductory Voyager and Horizon series, the intermediate Meridian Birch and Meridian Maple, and the professional level kits of Saturn and Orion. Revolutionary in their execution, the All Maple Snare proves to be a top contender. Coming in at 12.2 pounds, the 14×5.5″ drum offers a lightweight option that does not skimp on structure or quality. The Mapex All Maple Snare Drum sets the gold standard for maximum play and flexibility. An ideal model for jazz clubs, studios, or the symphony, the MPX demonstrates versatility and a full-bodied, rich tone.

The MPX features a 100% 5.1mm maple shell, with lacquer finishes of Transparent Midnight Black and Transparent Natural to fit the aesthetic of numerous drum sets. The 2.3mm triple-flanged hoops make for a more open sound, and the smaller hoop size does not compromise sound depth. The MPX provides a snare responsiveness that is unmatched. With the slightest tuning, it can adjust from a deep, resonant sound to a tight, locked tone. The nylon washers on the chrome-plated lugs make the tuning process quick and painless. These tight settings, along with drumheads from Remo and a 20-inch snare wire, make for easy tuning and a sound that is fitting for any genre.

We’ve discussed the bells, whistles, and rim shots of the MPX. Now, let’s hear from a few satisfied customers. Guitar Center customer Nolan from Indiana says, “such a crisp sound and perfect pop….a nice crisp bang…perfect for the price.” When compared with a previous purchase, Amazon user Dave says, “Great sounding snare for the $$$! Tuned it up and it sounds great without any tape! Nice active snare with a more solid deep tone than my old steel shell.” For a different perspective, satisfied Amazon customer tjbackstage says of the MPX, “As a jazz guitarist looking for a good snare to use with brushes for some of my home recordings, my $150 budget led me to this drum as being my best option. And after a couple years, I’m still enjoying it…as a standalone drum to be used with brushes by an amateur, the Mapex MPX 14×5.5 maple snare does the job perfectly.”

The MPX has a style and distinction worthy of the Gold Pick, but there is no one-size-fits-all snare out there. While the MPX All Maple promises high quality, some consumers have suggested using an alternative to the Remo drumheads for the most effective sound and attacks. Evans drumheads are said to provide optimal sound and power. Musician’s Fried user drummingagain claims, “Change the stock batter head to Remo or Evans big improvement. Want a big fat maple sound? Change the batter hoop to a Pearl fat tone hoop. Amazing sound!” In addition to the drumheads being an acquired taste, some have criticized the MPX’s ability to maintain its tuned settings. Observer on Musician’s Friend writes, “I have expected deep, fat, low sound provided with maple shell and depth (7″). It can be reached but just sporadically…it detunes too easily and has too much overtones. If you like high tuning though and strong rimshots, you could be happy.”

With a beautiful maple finish and a dynamic sound, the Mapex MPX All Maple Snare is a popular product for the experienced drummer. The clean look and tone is a perfect blend of sophistication and sharpness that can hang back or take center stage. The higher tones and tight tuning match well with Jazz, Reggae, or Funk sound. The MPX All Maple has a one year warranty on finish and hoops and a two year warranty on hardware, but you can’t beat the lifetime warranty on shells.

#2. Pearl Vision Birch Snare Drum

Pearl Vision Birch Snare Drum

View it on Amazon: $109.99*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

The Pearl Vision Birch Snare Drum has an elegant look that exudes power, style, and packs a big punch. In addition to being a more affordable option, a birch snare produces a deeper, sharper sound to bring out the sound of the high end. The Pearl Vision Birch has 1.6mm steel rims that can withstand heavy use and keep the pace moving. The SR-900 dual strainer is another unique feature that brings a more resonant sound. The 8 lugs design is also a classic model that breeds potential for an eclectic set of sounds. A stylish drum, this snare comes with matching black finish and hardware or ivory finish with chrome hardware.

With endorsements from Electric Six’s Mike Alonso, Gov’t Mule’s Matt Abts, and Lupe Fiasco’s Kenneth “Bam” Alexander, Pearl has been a mainstay in the drum culture, used by music professionals, academics, and hobbyists alike. Founded by Katsumi Yanagisawa in 1946, Pearl was the first drum manufacturer to combine roto-toms and Phenolic shells, creating the Vari-Pitch drum lines. As the successor to the Export and Session series drums, the Vision line began with the VSX wrapped and lacquer finished drums, eventually expanding to maple, birch, and artisan lines. In 2002, Pearl developed dozens of prototypes to determine the began the optimum wood composition, thickness, and bearing edge in a drum kit. Final testing was done in actual recording sessions where the sound was overwhelming praised for its incredibly balanced sound from lows to highs that could be recorded without electronic enhancement. After two and a half years of research the “Reference Series” made it’s debut in 2005 and immediately won the prestigious Musikmesse International Press Award for “Best Drum Set”. As of 2011, these drum lines feature two-ply heads, new lugs, and Remo drumheads as standard equipment.

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When it comes to an affordable snare with a reliable sound and staying power, the Pearl Vision Birch does not disappoint. Amazon customer george states, “The wood tones on this snare are warm with a great biting snare crack when you pound them. It only took a few moments to find the “sweet spot” in the tuning for a great rock sound and then tuned it a little higher for a jazz set. I have recorded this snare several times with different mics to great success and have had several other “high-end” snares available that didn’t quite get the sound. I was impressed, you will be too.” Remarking on the Pearl Vision Birch’s finish, Ryan T. from California says “The Ivory looks absolutely gorgeous, you won’t be disappointed with the visual aspect of the item. And for the price, you seriously cannot beat this deal.”

You’ve heard some nice words on the Pearl Vision Birch, but there are some inconsistencies when it comes to sustaining the signature sound of a wood snare. Honest Abe Owner of KABR Online writes, “…change the heads to a quality head like Remo or Evans and lose that chinsey snare…you stand a better chance of getting a decent sound and feel.” asdfasdf of Baldwin, MO notes, “8 lugs give it an open sound, but it can be hard to tune, and only really sounds good when perfectly in tune or when muted.”

#3. Pork Pie Little Squealer Snare Drum

Pork Pie Little Squealer Snare Drum

View it on Amazon: $189.00*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

As a small-scale manufacturer founded by Bill Detamore in 1987, Pork Pie Drums are known to be a highly respected brand in the underground drum community. Pork Pie specializes in a sleek design and fresh look. Having maintained a small business model, Pork Pie uses handmade materials to produce high-quality snares that prove big things sometimes come in small packages. The newest line from Pork Pie is Little Squealer, which started with one snare drum and has since grown to a full drumset, rounded out with four piece kits and four sets of snares.

In addition to drum manufacturing, Pork Pie also offers a complete line of services that include drum restoration, customizing, and refinishing. Bill Detamore has done customizing for many big bands from Van Halen to Yes and Fleetwood Mac to Framing The Red, Marilyn Manson, Blink 182 and Guns N’ Roses. Marky Ramone of The Ramones, Butch Norton of Eels, and Pennywise’s Byron McMackin have also been known to use the full line of Pork Pie products.

The finest line in Pork Pie is the Little Squealer. At 10 pounds, the Little Squealer is a lightweight contender with a resonant sound best suited to clubs and small-scale venues. Kissed with an ebony satin finish and black chrome hardware, the Little Squealer trades in the flash for a more understated, mature look. With 2.3mm triple-flanged steel, the overall look appears to match a true artist at the kit. The Remo drumheads give it a more uniform design that will hold court in any kit.

The Little Squealer’s visual appeal is complemented by its full sound and easy play. The natural bounce and crisp tone are ideal for double-stoke rolls and fills. Charlie Korch from Musician’s Friend says, “I have been using it on my gigs recently, and I have had many compliments from band members, and soundmen alike. I have an arsenal of snare drums, and this one is currently my workhorse, regardless of price.” As a new customer to the Pork Pie line, Dash from Atlanta, GA writes, “It’s a workhorse – sounds good for recording too. Very nice tuning range. I’ve always loved Ludwig metal snares but this Pork Pie drum gives my 70’s Supraphonic a run for its money. A no-brainer if you’re at all hesitant and shopping for a metal snare.”

Since its inception, the Little Squealer has proven to be a top selection in the Pork Pie line. Despite its strong throw-off and good starting head, however, it does have the occasional ringing issue. Customers seem overall impressed with the quality compared to other low-priced snares, but one customer claimed to have needed replacement lugs and tension rods after using it for a short time. On the whole, the Little Squealer holds true as an affordable, metal option for those who like to bang, bang, boom.

#4. Griffin Snare Drum

Griffin Snare Drum

View it on Amazon: $41.95*
*Price typically updated every 24 hours. Current price may be different.

Let’s say you’re looking for the best snare around, but the budget is a little tight. The Griffin Snare Drum is for you. A 7.5mm maple wood shell makes this 14×5.5″ snare drum a punchy sound and aggressive attack. With eight tuning lugs (two more than the average set), the Griffin has a high quality sound that works in the studio or on the big stage. It also includes a drum key and deluxe snare drum throw-off, with a 20-strand snare wire and a gross weight of 6 pounds. With a high-gloss finish in black, pearl white, and silver sparkle, the Griffin snare has a flare and style that does not skimp in quality. Amazon user mamasolo exclaims, “This drum was very affordable and works fantastic! The sound is perfect in both modes and works very well. Would DEFINITELY recommend!” While many will opt to save up and scrape pennies for a snare of slightly higher price, this bad boy provides efficient use in strengthening your skills. Recent Amazon buyer jbobby said, “I went with this snare because of its overall versatility, and of course, low price. Needed a beater snare to practice on, and this one is perfect for such an activity.”

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With many high-quality snares priced above $200, the Griffin Snare offers a clean, even toned option for under $100. Unfortunately, the lower cost of its materials and features can make for unpredictable performance. Drummer and blogger Bloose took to the Tama forums to inform prospective Griffin buyers to take heed. He said, “It should be noted that the snare bed will not completely eliminate the buzzing of the snare wires. This is because any sound near the drum will cause the heads to vibrate somewhat. How sensitive the snare is, how much tension is on the heads, and how much tension is on the strainer, will all determine the amount and how loud the buzzing is. Without a snare bed, the slightest sound will cause buzzing and loud sounds cause a lot of buzzing.”

Pre-purchase considerations

Now you’ve checked out the list of top snares, there’s something for you to consider: what works best with your kit. For some drummers, a clean, cohesive look is of the utmost importance. When it comes to snare options, there are a series of parts that effect the look, sound, and overall appeal. So, let’s break down what considerations should be made in tying together the look and sound of your kit.

Ease of Assembly

If the unit isn’t easy to assemble, you’re probably going to want to return it. All of the units on this list offer hassle-free assembly.

Shells

First and foremost, it’s all about the shell. Shells are usually categorized into wood or metal-based materials. On the wood spectrum, we have maple, birch, ash, mahogany, and bubinga. Metals may be brass, bonze, steel, and aluminum. All of these materials and their subcategories are impactful on both look and sound. Occasionally, special materials like acrylic, titanium, and carbon fiber may be used.

When it comes to attaching the shell, custom drum makers may glue together segments of wood, known as staves, to form the shell. Most shells are made from either a single, thick ply or multiple, thin plies that are formed through heat and compression. Thinner shells may have reinforcement rings added to the top and bottom that can be made from a slight variation of the source material.

Hoops

Next, let’s talk about hoops. On the manufacturing end, hoops will match the shell design, but hoops may also be customized. Companies like Yamaha, PDP, and Gretsch are known for their high quality production of wood hoops in their models, which provide a nice alternative for drummers seeking warmer sound. For most, the choice comes down to triple-flange metal or die-cast hoops. These days, triple-flange metal hoops are more common, and are included in the Gold and Silver Picks. The triple-flange sound is that of a longer ring, with greater sensitivity and more overtones. Die-cast hoops have a more solid sound for clean rim shots and big hits. The make and style of hoops provide a number of variations that can fit your playing style and overall sound.

Snare Wires

We’ve covered what’s up top, now it’s time to discuss the bottom: snare wires. Snare wires are thin strands that give the drum its signature snare sound. The number, thickness, and configuration of snare wires are all factors that will alter sound quality and density. The most common model is the 20-strand conventional chrome-plated set. The shape and material of the wire differs in snares. Standard wire will have a crisp attack, but some carbon content, found in high-grade steel alloy snare wire, will make a thinner sound. The thickness of the wires corresponds directly to the sensitivity required by the player. A marching band drum may have a plastic, synthetic gut wire for a dry sound, while an orchestral band snare has cable wires for a darker, less sustained tone. For a jazz player who uses brushes, a snare with thin wires is recommended. A rock drummer is more inclined to use heavy gauge wires to match the heavier hits of the rock sound.

Strainer

A strainer is the tool that holds the snare against the head to allow for adjustment of wire tension. Strainers include a mechanism for tension adjustment and a butt plate to anchor the snares on the side. Over time, it is critical to replace a strainer to assure strong wire tension and prevent the buzzing sound that can happen with snares over time. Brands like DW, Dunnett, and Engage offer replacement strainers that will custom fit a variety of kits.

Conclusion (Wrapping it up)

Ultimately, the best snare out there is the best snare for YOU. The Gold, Silver, and Bronze, and Budget represent four different brands that offer a range that won’t break the bank or break your stride. For jamming in the basement or gigging on the road, these snares are guarantee that you’ll get plenty of bang for your buck.