There’s nothing quite like a good DW snare drum. DW is an incredible drum brand. Whether you’re playing one of their Design, Performance, or Collector’s Series snares, you always feel the work put into it.
We’re going to take a closer look at DW’s Performance Series snare drums. The options aren’t as extensive as the Collector’s Series snares, but there are enough choices to leave you feeling a bit overwhelmed. So, I will review the Performance Series snares and give you a small guide to picking a good snare drum.
Guide to Choosing a Snare Drum
There are four main things to look out for when choosing a snare:
- Shell material
- Hardware design
The first three aspects will determine how the snare sounds and feels to play. Picking a good color is the cherry on top. Let’s have a closer look at how each of these features affects a snare drum.
The shell type refers to what the snare drum is made of. It’s either going to be made of wood or metal. The most common wood shells are maple, birch, mahogany, and poplar. The most common metal shells are steel, brass, aluminum, and copper.
Wood shells give a snare drum a warm and earthy tone, while metal snare drums have an aggressive bite. Metal snares cut much easier through mixes, whereas wood snares have a more musical touch.
The environment you play in will determine what shell type you need. If you play in a rock band with heavy instruments, you may need a metal snare to compete with all the noise. Wooden snares are a more common choice that works well for every setting.
The size of a snare drum will determine the pitch. Larger snare drums have deeper tones, while smaller ones have higher-pitched tones. The differences are quite subtle when comparing snares with minor size differences. Larger shells also feel a bit from standard shells.
The most common diameter size for a snare drum is 14 inches. You rarely get anything larger than that, but you often get smaller snares that are 12 or 13 inches.
The depth is the largest contributor to the pitch of a snare drum. The deepest snare drums have 8-inch depths, while a shallow snare can have as small as a 3-inch depth. A snare drum with a shallow depth is commonly referred to as a piccolo snare.
The next thing to look out for after the depth and shell material is the hardware features on the snare. The biggest one is the snare throw-off. Different drum brands make different throw-offs. Some are fancier than others, so always look at how it works to see if it’s something you’d like.
You should also check if the snare has die-cast or triple-flanged hoops. It will be a bit more expensive and heavier if it has die-cast hoops.
The final hardware feature to look at is the lug design. While lugs are mainly an aesthetic feature, some lugs are made to be more beneficial than others.
If you’re anything like me, you’d think that aesthetics is always an important part of any drum. When buying a snare drum, the last thing you should check is the available finishes. Some snares have hundreds of finishes, while others only have a few. In extreme cases, this may affect your buying decision.
I wouldn’t worry as much about this, though, as sound will always be more important. It just helps if your snare looks good when you play it!
What is the DW Performance Series?
The DW Performance Series is the mid-range product option from DW. While it’s considered mid-range amongst the brand, the Performance Series drums are professional level. They cost a lot, and they sound incredible. They’re just not as high-quality and personal as DW’s higher-end Collector’s Series drums.
All the DW Performance kits have maple shells, and they come as shell packs with toms, a snare drum, and a bass drum.
The cool thing about the Performance Series is that you can easily buy a Performance Series snare on its own.
What Snare Drum Options Are There?
The Performance Series has a few standard options that you can buy.
Here are the maple shell options:
- 14” x 5.5”
- 14” x 6.5”
- 14” x 8”
Here are the steel shell options:
- 14” x 5.5”
- 14” x 6.5”
- 14” x 8”
As you can see here, the shell size options are fairly standard. That’s where the strength of the DW Performance Series comes in. The drum configurations are more standardized to make the drums a bit cheaper. While the Collector’s Series drums are often custom-made, the Performance Series drums are made and sold at a larger scale, making them more affordable.
DW Performance Series Snare Drum Review
Let’s have a closer look at how the aspects from above relate to the Performance Series snare drums. Since the only two shell options are the maple and steel snares, I’ll compare them in each section.
The wooden Performance Series snares are made with 10-ply HVX maple shells. These shells give the drums crisp yet warm tones that are cutting and powerful. I’ve always been impressed at how sensitive these snare drums are, reacting beautifully to the softest touches.
While the maple shells project quite well, the steel shells have more projection. They’ve got a stronger bite to them, sounding amazing when you play rimshots. The steel shell doesn’t have the same musical complexity as the maple shells. Instead, they sound a lot more straightforward and powerful.
If you want a versatile snare, I’d say go for the maple shell. The steel shell is a great option if you want a loud and powerful snare.
Both types of shells share construction features, so I’ll be referring to both of them in this section. Two big hardware features have me sold on all DW snare drums. These are the True-Pitch tension rods and the MAG snare throw-off.
The True-Pitch tension rods are fine-threaded lugs that help with tuning accuracy. You can only find these on DW and PDP drums, and they’re a big reason why these drums stay in tune for so long. Tuning can get quite complicated, especially with snare drums. So, having these special tension rods makes these snares all the better.
The MAG throw-off is a magnetic system that controls the snare drum wires. The throw-off turns on and off with a magnet mechanism, making it incredibly easy to change the snare drum settings. I’ve played too many gigs where I got stuck trying to turn a janky snare drum off. This magnetic throw-off prevents that from ever happening.
All the DW Performance snares are equipped with triple-flanged hoops. I’d love it if they had die-cast hoops, but it would make the snares cost a lot more. So, it’s understandable that DW has equipped them with standard hoops to keep them more accessible.
You can expect to pay between $300 and $600 for a Performance Series snare drum. The ones with steel shells are more affordable as steel is cheaper than maple wood. All the steel snares cost between $300 and $400.
The maple snares are a bit more expensive, costing over $400. The larger the dimensions of the snare drum are, the higher the price will be.
In the grand picture, these snare drums are fairly expensive. However, they’re professional snare drums with top-quality construction and sounds, so the prices are justified.
You only have one finish option with the steel snares – steel. So, getting a steel snare doesn’t leave any room for a personal touch.
Here are all the finish options you get with the maple shell snares:
- Tobacco Stain
- Chrome Shadow
- Black Diamond
- Gold Sparkle
- Pewter Sparkle
- White Marine
- Charcoal Metallic
- Cherry Stain
- Ebony Stain
- Gold Mist
- Natural Wood
These are all the finishes available for the full Performance Series drum sets.
Pros and Cons
- Maple shells have warm and musical tones
- Steel shells have punchy and aggressive tones
- True-Pitch tuning rods are fantastic
- MAG throw-off is a huge time-saver
- Limited shell options compared to similarly priced snares on the market
The DW Performance Series snares are solid options if you’re looking for a pro-quality snare drum. Getting one of these is a fantastic way of experiencing the high-quality design of a DW drum without paying a high price for a Collector’s Series snare drum.
I’d suggest getting the steel shell version if you’re on a lower budget or play in a metal or rock band. The maple version costs a bit more and works brilliantly for literally everything else.
Tama Starphonic Series Snare
The Tama Starphonic snare is to the Tama Star what the Performance Series is to the DW Collector’s Series. However, there are more shell options than just maple or steel.
Here are the different Starphonic shells that you can get:
While the wood Starphonic snares sound great, I think this snare shines in the metal snare drum world. The copper and steel Starphonic snares are top-quality snare drums loved by drummers who want punchy and aggressive tones.
One of my favorite things about the Starphonic snares is the detachable Strainer Butt. It allows you to remove the bottom head without changing the tension of the snare wires. It may seem like a small feature, but it’s hugely beneficial when you’re tuning and changing your drumheads.
Overall, it’s an excellent alternate snare drum to the DW Performance Series. All the snares cost a bit more, so you may need to save for a bit longer if you choose to get one.
- Excellent metal snare drums
- Crisp and aggressive tones
- Detachable Strainer Butt is great
- More expensive than the DW Performance snares
Mapex Black Panther Snare
The Mapex Black Panther is a legendary line of snare drums from Mapex. There are too many snare options to count in this line, so I’ve chosen the Mapex Black Panther Shadow snare as the best alternate option to the DW Performance snares.
It has a mixture of birch and walnut for the shell. The birch brings out a lot of punch from the snare, while the walnut adds a bit of dark complexity. I’d say it’s a good change of pace from the standard maple shells of the DW snares.
The snare has Mapex’s SONIClear bearing edges, which maximize the tone produced from the snare and enhance the tuning range.
I’d say the snare throw-off on this Black Panther snare isn’t as good as the MAG throw-off on the DW snare, so that’s something to take note of.
- A unique mixture of birch and walnut
- Punchy tone with dark complexity
- SONIClear bearing edges are excellent
- Snare throw-off is not as good as the MAG throw-off on the DW snares
Pearl Masters Maple Complete Snare
The Pearl Masters Maple Complete snare drums are another fantastic maple option to consider. They have very similar prices to the Performance Series snares, making them arguably the top competing snare drums.
The one thing I love the most about these Pearl snares is how they look. Most of them have a distinct line that circles the shell that looks a bit like a racing stripe. A few unique finishes, such as the Cain and Abel Graphic look amazing. While that particular finish isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, I think it’s a huge selling point for many drummers.
The Masters Maple Complete snare drums have very similar tones to the Performance Series snares. So, the decision on which snare to buy lies largely in the choice of hardware and visuals.
- Excellent finish options
- Pearl SuperHoop II triple-flanged hoops are excellent
- Beautiful warm tones
- Weak stock drumhead
Answer: The Collector’s Series is DW’s pristine line of drums. While the drums are higher quality than the Performance Series drums, the big difference is that the Collector’s Series is custom. This means that you can custom order a kit from DW, and they’ll make it according to your expectations.
Over the years, DW has made Collector’s Series kits from weird and wonderful woods with odd sizes to match. On the other hand, the Performance Series will always be a maple set of drums with standard drum sizes. If you want to read more on the differences, you can check out this article.
Answer: All drum sets should have at least one snare drum. However, ask any drummer, and you’ll find out that one snare drum is never enough. Since snare drums are so personal in their sound, it’s good to have a few of them for different settings.
You’ll find that you’ll only ever use at most three snare drums in a setup, but having a collection of them will give you the tonal tools you need to tackle any setting. I’ve bought and sold so many snare drums in my drumming career. That cycle will probably never stop.
Answer: Triple-flanged hoops are the hoops that you’ll find on most drum kits. They’re the standard type of hoop to use. Die-cast hoops are seen as luxury hoops. They’re a lot heavier, bringing out a brighter sound from the drums.
You’ll find die-cast hoops on most of the flagship kits from all the major drum brands. While they’re a higher-quality option, they’re not always practical. I have two main drum sets that I use that have both types of hoops. I often find myself using the one with triple-flanged hoops for gigs as it’s lighter and easier to move around.
If you have a budget of around $500, you can buy an incredibly good snare drum. While the DW Performance Series snare is one of the options, there are some other fantastic options to consider.
I suggest checking out all the different shell materials and seeing which sound you love the best. If you want a top-quality maple snare drum, the DW Performance Series snare won’t let you down.
For more interesting reading on drum gear, check out the following articles: