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Posted by Sam Bertness on

Looking for a new snare drum? Of course you are.

If you're trying to stretch your dollar, here are four drums under $400 that should be on your short list.

Mapex Black Panther Sledgehammer

Probably one of the most appropriately-named snares in history, this Mapex Sledgehammer delivers huge amounts of power. Crank it up or drop it down and have some earplugs handy for everyone in range.

The brass shell speaks (or shouts, perhaps) with a full, bright tone that's perfect for any style of aggressive music. The heavily hammered shell also lends a welcome degree of clarity and articulation that prevents your ghost notes from getting lost in the mix. Tuned up, the snare's tone remains full-bodied and doesn't choke, and while it definitely prefers to live in the mid- and high-range tunings, you can still get away with dropping it down without completely losing the tone thanks to the hammered shell.

And just in case the sonic properties weren't enough, the Sledgehammer delivers in the visual department as well, offering one of the most unique and sinister presentations I've ever seen in a drum. The brushed treatment given to the metal adds incredible depth to the hammering on the shell, while the graduated tube lugs put a cool twist on an otherwise traditional lug design.

Finishing the drum off are a pair of features normally only found on higher end instruments: a dual-strainer system that allows for snare tension adjustment on both ends of the drum, and heavy gauge stick saver-style hoops that help to cut down on the amount of sawdust left on your floor after a session.

Mapex Black Panther Sledgehammer Snare Drum -

Shop The Mapex Black Panther Sledgehammer Now

Tama 14" x 5.5" S.L.P. Vintage Steel

In the market for something a little more traditional? The Tama S.L.P. (Sound Lab Project) Vintage Steel snare offers a bright and snappy voice that is equally at home playing classic rock hits, Chili Peppers covers, or modern pop styles.

This is easily one of the nicer steel drums available on the market without spending $600+ on a cast stainless steel model. It is capable of channeling tones from legendary recording snares like the Ludwig Acrolite and Supraphonic with bright and articulate response while pleasantly subduing any nasty overtones (something of an infamous hallmark of steel snares).

Visually, the snare features a classic 'chrome everything' look that will be at home on any drum set. Unique tube lugs that are also found on some other S.L.P. snares are a welcome visual accent that give the drum a touch of personality, while Tama's no-nonsense Quick Touch strainer and stick saver-style hoops finish off the hardware package.

Although simple and straightforward, The Tama S.L.P. Vintage Steel is definitely one of those drums that has everything you need, and nothing you don't.

Tama S.L.P. Vintage Steel Snare Drum

Get The Tama 14" x 5.5" S.L.P. Vintage Steel Now

DW Performance Maple Snares

If something full and warm is what you're after then look no further than DW's awesome Performance series snare drums. Available in tons of finishes and 4 sizes, there is truly something for everyone here.

The smaller 5.5" deep drum offers well-rounded tones, able to crank up for sensitive, concise playing or dropped down for a swampier character.

The 6.5" will likely be the most popular, offering plenty of body and power. Of all the snares on this list, the 14" x 6.5" Performance is the most like a blank canvas. It can do everything you need it to do.

DW Performance Series 14" x 6.5" Snare Drum

The 13" x 7" power piccolo is a cool drum that can wear several hats. Crank it up for a full-bodied side snare, keep it in the middle for an awesome pop rock or punk tone, or put a thicker head on it to turn it into a blast-beat machine.

Finally, for those who demand a huge sound and enormous presence, DW offers one of the only 8" deep snares in this price range, and it doesn't disappoint. Tuned up or down, the drum produces all kinds of sounds that you'd normally associate with a thunderstorm.

DW Performance Series 14" x 8" Snare Drum

The shells on the Performance drums are based on those offered in DW's flagship Collector's series, offering a great balance of low-end presence and bright attack. The snares all feature DW's MAG throw-off, heavy gauge triple-flanged hoops, and are available in 5 lacquer and 4 wrapped finishes. Truly something for everyone!

Shop The DW Performance Series

Tama 14" x 6" S.L.P. G-Bubinga

Looking for something a bit different? Something classy and yet edgy? Something you can take into a recording session and on stage? Something that looks good through every Instagram filter? Enter the SLP G-Bubinga.

Dressed in nothing but a glossy clear coat that allows the bubinga shell's natural water-like grain to show through and accented with icy cool black nickel hardware, this particular SLP posses a unique combination of boutique looks, versatile performance, and reasonable sticker price (seriously, Tama could charge another $200 for it and I'd still recommend it).

Sonically the G-Bubinga is unique, owing both to its uncommonly thick 10mm shell and bubinga's intriguing tonality. The drum is very powerful when it needs to be, but is also completely capable of speaking with a soft and delicate voice. Bubinga has a beautifully colorful tone coupled with a pleasantly punchy character that makes this drum a joy to play.

More than any other drum on this list, the G-Bubinga is a drum that really needs to be seen, felt, and heard in person. And thanks to the use of a veneer-quality outer ply, each one looks a little bit different.

Get the Tama SLP G-Bubinga Snare Drum at Chuck Levin's

Get The Tama S.L.P. G-Bubinga Now

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Sam Bertness

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