Gear

A Trio In Metal

Peace Snare Drums

Peace is still a new kid on the block, yet over the last few years the company has made a mark with a line of budget drums that offer a tremendous bang-to-buck ratio. The company also makes pro gear and, to my great surprise, some pretty groovy high-end snare drums. I received three of the company’s metal snares, all from the shockingly large Peace Drums catalog. These are the real deal, and Peace has priced them as such. I found some grand delights and some small letdowns. Peace snares rock! Who knew?

The Allure Of Aluminum

First up, and to my tastes the most exciting offering, is the 13" x 5" Batterie Pristine Lyte Aluminum Alloy snare. This very handsome drum is unique in appearance with an all-aluminum, all-matte motif. Its shell is seamless, with a brushed finish rather than a polished sheen. The eight tubular lugs, also made of matte aluminum (with steel-threaded inserts for the tension rods), have a subtle swell to their shape. Heads are crowned with die-cast, matte-finished aluminum hoops that are wide, extending the outer diameter of the drum beyond 14". The effect is more Roman columns than the usual deco mechanical device you get with tube lugs. This drum looks great.

And it sounds great too. The Pristine Lyte Aluminum snare sings with a breathy, slightly sandy voice that can whisper or startle. True to Peace’s catalog claims, it tuned well at both tight and slack tensions, giving it a range that defied its 13" diameter. In spite of the drum’s small head size, I found a large range of good off-center sounds and excellent snare response. The cross-stick sound is a just slightly dull (perhaps owing to the aluminum hoops), and the tall “stick chopper” shape of the hoops felt a little odd (though not bad) under my hand.

The sound of this aluminum shell is neither sharply pointed nor dull. It has a solid whack that drives the backbeat with confidence, but it’s a whack of a different flavor. It’s not a gunshot, but it’s not the wet, warm smack of bronze either. It’s a particular sound, very different than either brass or wood, and unique and pleasant enough to be a worthwhile addition to a snare drum arsenal. Personally, I’d like it to be my #1 go-to drum — I liked it that much. Unfortunately, the list price of $1,627 left me crying in my beer.

And while we are on the subject of price, I’ll say that while this is a great-sounding drum with a cool design and appearance, certain little details make it seem overpriced to me — in particular, the slightly fugly, cheap-looking throw-off and homely badge. Once I cross the line into snares that list over, say, $1,200, I want to fall completely in love with every single element of the drum. I want a fancy, boutique throw-off like a Dunnett or a Trick, and I want a badge with ornate engraving and a serial number that says something like “No. 1 of 5.” Still, my ears are in love with the Pristine Lyte, and if I turn it to hide the throw-off and badge I’m happy. I’m anxious to see what the actual street price of this drum turns out to be. You should be too.

Heavyweight Contender

Like the Pristine Lyte Aluminum snare, the 14" x 5.5" Batterie Foundry Cast Steel snare drum is boldly handsome. The thick (5mm), cast-steel shell is richly chrome-plated to a shaving-mirror gleam, and then accented with a knurled band around its circumference. The ten curvy tube lugs and die-cast steel hoops are all fabulously chromed. Black nylon washers nestle under lugs at contact points with the shell, and these small black accents push the drum over the top into a great, macho look.

Though it looks like a gleaming brute, the Batterie Foundry Cast Steel drum is quite sophisticated. It easily passed the whisper test (hold the drum up to your face and whisper — the snares should buzz), and it articulated the best buzz rolls I could muster. Off-center ring was timbale-like. Indeed, this thick steel shell is a cousin to a timbale, and is also a sonic cousin to the infamous cracking steel sound of name drummers including Chad Smith and Morgan Rose (yes, I realize that they play another brand). It responded perfectly to soft rudiments and violent backbeats alike, and did it all with the signature pop of a steel shell mixed with a very meaty, fat body. Perhaps owing to the thick cast shell, the tone had no unsavory wang, just a ring that is unique to steel. It was fun to smack this drum, which had the aural torque of a V-8 engine. Drive a band? Heck, you can dominate a band with this thing. This is a fun, fun drum.

On the downside, it features the same questionable throw-off as the Pristine Lyte, and lists at $1,040 — still too high a mark for a snare fitted with such a cheap strainer. And it weighs a ton. Well more like 15 lbs., actually — but recalculated into relative drum weights (akin to dog years), that’s a ton. But if you can handle lugging this around, it’ll cover your rocking needs, and take on all challenges.

A Beauty By Any Other Name

Before we investigate the secrets of the 14" x 5.5" Black Chrome-Over-Brass snare — a very good drum with few flaws — I must digress. The original Ludwig Black Beauty hails from around the 1920s, and had a brass body with a bead that circled the shell. Die-cast hoops were held on with clips and tension rods that connected to tube lugs (modern hoops with holes hadn’t yet been invented). Top and bottom edges of the brass shell were rolled and creased to form bearing edges.

Apparently, it is one of the greatest combinations of materials and design ever devised, because every year yet another company introduces a “new” snare that is essentially a Black Beauty with subtle twists on the original design (including different crimps and welds and lugs and shell thicknesses). Hey, even Ludwig — which made chrome-over-brass variations of the drum in the ’60s — this year introduced a new black copy of its own invention! Furthermore, most top studio cats have at least one actual 1920s Black Beauty in their arsenal.

So let me introduce to you the Peace SD-142 Black Chrome-Over-Brass snare drum. It is another in the endless line of Black Beauty knock-offs, but a good one at that! And at a list price of $679, it will give some stiff competition to other such snares with beaded brass shells, die-cast hoops, and ten tube lugs. Peace has passed muster with no sweat. The chrome was smooth and lustrous, and fit and finish was quite good. The curve of the tube lugs is an aesthetic plus. Nylon washers sit under the tension rods, which work fine, but aren’t quite buttery smooth. There’s that same no-bling snare throw-off, which I still don’t like, but there’s also the two fine, 4.5mm zinc die-cast hoops, which I do like. (The shell is 1.2mm thick.)

Brass snares like this have a wonderful, wet, warm, thunk sound under the crisp, fast responsiveness of the heads and wires. Breaking the head in a bit only adds to the sweetness of the backbeat. This Peace drum is no exception — it’s a really good drum, and offered up all the sweetness of the beaded brass magic that drummers have come to know and love. Is it just like the real deal? Well, if you mean an antique drum in great shape that costs a bundle … no. But it does play like a contemporary beaded-shell brass drum. And if you don’t have the dough for a real antique but still want a B.B.-style snare (and you should), this drum is worth checking out. Heck, if you swapped out the throw-off for a boutique one and the tension rods for stainless steel, you’d be set for many years.

Verdict

Peace has surprised me with the vigorous quality and forward-thinking aesthetics of these three drums. Two of the three are, in my opinion, fine drums that have been priced too high. The third black/brass snare drum is a winner in the essential copycat category.

  • Model SD-504 Batterie Pristine Lyte Aluminum Alloy Snare
  • Shell 13" x 5" Seamless Aluminum
  • Finish Matte
  • Features Eight tube lugs, aluminum counterhoops.
  • Price $1,627
  • Model SD-513 Batterie Foundry Series Cast Steel Snare
  • Shell 14" x 5.5" Cast Steel
  • Finish Polished Chrome Plated
  • Features Ten tube lugs, black nylon washers, ornamental knurled band circling the shell
  • Price $1,040
  • Model SD-142 Black Chrome-Over-Brass Snare
  • Shell 14" x 5.5" Beaded Brass
  • Finish Polished Chrome Plating
  • Features Ten tube lugs, nylon washers, 4.5mm zinc die-cast counterhoops
  • Price $679

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