DW Aluminum & Concrete Snare Drums Tested!

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DW’s John Good is relentlessly curious about drum shells. His numerous experiments in drum construction have resulted in the use of numerous exotic shell materials (bamboo), hybrid shells (Edge series), wood ply drums (VLT, HVX, and many others), and clever new designs over the years. Two of his latest snares drums released this year have aluminum and concrete shells. Yes, that’s right, concrete!

This unusual material was chosen for the unique tonality it offers compared to either wood or metal drums. DW says it offers a very loud gunshot sound that’s very dry. It’s available in two different sizes, 14" x 5.5" and 14" x 6.5".

DW also introduced a new thin aluminum snare model that features a rolled beadless shell design. These shells are designed as workhorse general-purpose drums and are very resonant with lots of overtones. The aluminum model is also available in 14" x 5.5" and 14" x 6.5" sizes.

We were sent the 6.5" version of the Concrete snare and the 5.5" 1mm Thin Rolled Aluminum snare to audition.

1mm Thin Rolled Aluminum Collector’s Series Snare

The drum has a matte-gray powder-coated finish that’s more of a dove gray. It is very attractive (in the tradition of most DW drums), and has gleaming chrome hardware that contrasts nicely and adds a bit of bling next to the matte-finish shell.

This drum features a dual-sided 10-lug design where one centered lug receives top and bottom tension screws rather than using two individual lugs, as is the norm with DW snares. It has a rolled bearing edge and snare bed. As the name suggests, the shell is 1mm thick (or thin as they describe it), which differs from DW’s other heavier gauge aluminum snares. DW was aiming to recreate a ’60s-style Acrolite-sounding snare drum with this thin shell.

Our drum had 3.0 steel DW True Hoops, which are very thick triple-flanged hoops, even thicker than the professional triple-flanged hoops offered by many other companies. All the hardware has rubber gaskets isolating it from the shell. The drum has DW’s MAG throw-off and fantastic 3P butt plate. More on this later.

As is common to DW drums, the company uses its own True Pitch tension rods here, which have more threads per inch and are therefore incompatible with standard lugs, and vice versa. It also has a DW’s TrueTone wires and a white coated single-ply batter head made for DW by Remo that has the helpful “drum tuning for dummies” numbers at the lug points to make drum tuning easier and also make it a bit harder to lose your place mid-process. Finally, it’s finished off with a round satin-finish metal badge with the drum’s serial number – this is, after all, a Collector’s Series drum.

But that’s not all, folks! This drum can also be further customized to reflect your tastes. You can choose from five different hardware color options or substitute die-cast hoops or even tube lugs if you wish.

Hardware

Both of these review snares feature DW’s Mag Throw-off and 3P butt plate. This isn’t a diminutive throw-off and extends about 2" beyond the edge of the hoop, while the butt extends about 1.25", so you’ll need to put the throw-off in the corner of a standard 14" hard case for it to fit.

I prefer side-throw snare throw-offs to the flip-down style that the DW’s Mag Throw-off design uses, because side-throws are quicker to operate since they require a shorter throw motion and don’t require you to move your leg to disengage them. However, the Mag throw-off is very smooth and quiet; characteristics not all side-throw designs share.

I love the 3P butt plate. It’s probably not that often that you’ll hear a reviewer say how much they like a butt plate, but DW’s is no ordinary design. The 3P moniker denotes its three positions, which you select via a small lever. Once you set your typical tension, you can vary the wire tension (i.e., sound) by moving the lever to one of the other two slots. This is very clever should you want a typical tension and one a bit looser and one a bit tighter. However, you could also set your typical tension at the lowest position and have two tighter selections possible, or vice versa. One small issue with this is you’ll need to orient the position of the snare so that you can get at both mechanisms if you think you’ll need to fine-tune the tension. Personally, I ignored the fine tune knob once I set it, and positioned the 3P lever to where I could easily access it.

Of course, if you never adjust your wire tension during a gig this could all be a moot point and overkill.

Sound

As mentioned, this snare is designed to be a “workhorse,” useful for live or recording. It doesn’t have a ton of beef but instead it emphasizes mid and high frequencies. It’s crisp and sensitive and has a noticeable amount ring midway between center and edge, which was especially pronounced when doing rimshots.

I took this drum out on an acoustic (no drum mikes) gig and put a small piece of duct tape near the edge to tame it a little, and it sounded very good. When comparing it to a vintage mid-60’s Acrolite, I found the DW drum to be just as crisp with a bit more ring than the Ludwig drum. It’s also a half-inch deeper so it offered a bit more volume too.

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DW Collector’s Series Concrete Snare Drum

Shell
Rumor has it this concrete blend might actually be composed of a material closer to soapstone should any handy drummers reading this be tempted to make a trip to Home Depot and attempt a little DIY-ing.

The shell and edges are completely smooth to the touch. No, there aren’t any grains of sand or grit in the shell. Blindfolded you might think you were stroking a satin-finish wood drum, though I didn’t actually do this lest someone see me – thus requiring a quick explanation.

Appropriately, this drum looks like it’s made from concrete. The drum is gray, though our drum has a slightly darker tone toward the bottom head that gradually gets lighter toward the top head. I suspect its been painted, and is the most attractive concrete snare I’ve ever seen. Of course, it’s also the only concrete drum I’ve ever seen.

The hardware on our drum had DW’s Satin Chrome finish, which I found to complement the shell color very nicely. The drum is about as attractive as one can imagine given the shell material. Presumaby, it would be easy for DW to paint or wrap it, but leaving it in its “natural” state like this helps remind you this ain’t no ordinary wood drum.

The features of both review drums are nearly identical other than their dimensions and the shell materials. Both share the same superb hardware. The concrete drum features a 5.5mm cast shell with a standard 45 degree bearing edge and snare bed. The edges look quite sharp, in fact.

Going into this review, I read some comments in online forums and wanted to address the principal concerns drummer’s voiced about concrete shells:

Durability
It’s hard to know how durable the drum shell will prove to be. It feels solidly made and I imagine it will be quite durable if you never drop it from great heights or leave it out in the open in a rainforest throughout the monsoon season. The methodology and timeframe of our reviews precludes such torture testing, but of course, few drums wouldn’t be damaged in such situations. In a hardshell case and with a modicum of care it should last a lifetime. Another big question, which ties in with the durability issue should it be dropped, is its weight. The concrete drum weighed in about 11lbs., versus about 9.5lbs for the aluminum drum. Keep in mind the concrete drum is also an inch deeper than the aluminum, so weight shouldn’t be an issue. In fact, when the drums arrived for review in two boxes, I couldn’t tell which was which from their weight, and both proved quite easy to carry, unlike some thick bell brass snares I’ve lifted.

Sound
DW says this drum is very different from wood or metal drums and has a dry, focused sound but also has a lot of volume.

If your back were turned you might think it was a heavy brass-shelled drum. It certainly is crisp but also has warmth and bottom.

The concrete drum doesn’t sound that different from some thick bell-brass snares I’ve played in that it was loud and had a meaty and crisp tone with lots of ring. I liked the drum’s articulate sound but found off-center rimshots to have a loud metallic clang that may require dampening.

I take exception to the claim that this drum is in any way dry. It has oodles of ring. Even dead center hits at a mild volume are followed by a noticeable decay of a few seconds. Off-center hits or rimshots create as much ring as impact, and will make you run for your gaffer’s tape. I’d rather have too much ring than too little, simply because you can always reduce it, but can never add it. A rounder bearing edge might have offered more balance between the impact and decay as would using a thicker or pre-muffled snare head.

Metal drummers take note: DW is correct in claiming it is capable of producing loads of ear-damaging volume, so be careful out there!

Verdict

The features are exceptional and I think DW has done a good job creating two new voices to its already extensive offerings.

The aluminum drum would function very well as your primary “workhorse” snare drum. The concrete drum has a one-of-a-kind shell, whose creation is amply justified by its larger-than-life sound and crisp yet meaty tone that’s ideal for rock music.

Details

Shells 5.5mm concrete shell with 45 degree bearing edges and 1mm rolled aluminum beadless shell. Features DW Turret 10-lug design, DW MAG throw-off and 3P butt plate, 3.0mm True Hoops, True Tuning stainless steel tension screws, True Tone snare wires, Remo heads.

Model, Size & List Price
DW Collector’s Series Concrete Snare Drum
14" x 5.5" and 14" x 6.5" $1,231
Aluminum Thin 1mm Rolled Shell
14" x 5.5" $662
14" x 6.5" $693
Contact
DW
dwdrums.com
800-453-7867