BY AJ DONAHUE
A drum no less iconic in look than in sound, the nickel over brass snare drum has been a staple among professional and working drummers for decades. Celebrated for a unique combination of woody warmth and metallic crack, these venerable veterans are some of the most frequently recorded drums on the planet, so I was very eager to check out the model DW sent over for review.
I did a little reading and was surprised to find out that this is DW’s first appearance in the NOB market. From a company so ubiquitously associated with studio players, the late submission seemed a little strange. But, once the drum arrived, it was abundantly clear that this was no afterthought produced to fulfill an expectation. DW really went above and beyond to make the Nickel Over Brass Collector’s Series snare something special.
TO BE SPECIFIC
DW’s literature about the drum refers to it as the classic “workhorse” snare. While I understand the attempt to convey the extreme versatility of the nickel over brass model, it almost makes the drum sound a bit pedestrian.
Far from run-of-the-mill, however, the drum features a 1mm beadless brass shell with an attractive nickel plating, the company’s proprietary True Hoop counterhoops and True Tone wires, as well as the spectacular MAG throw-off and 3P butt plate (more on those later). Equipped with these sleek, updated appointments, the snare offers a very modern interpretation of the classic NOB look. In fact, I was at first a little put off by the look of DW’s robust chrome hardware against the sleek black nickel, but it grew on me very quickly (DW offers all its hardware in a variety of plating options, including black nickel).
However, even the most expertly engineered accessories will be wasted on a drum that doesn’t speak to the ears first. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case here.
The NOB model performed very well at low and medium tensions, offering a fat, ringing wallop when smacked square in the center, but it really delivered when tuned just a little tighter. Backing up each note with a deep, warm tone that had plenty of bite, the drum immediately recalled that clean, archetypal studio snare sound heard on early records by The Police and Tom Petty. Every stroke was crisp and dynamic with almost as much character owed to the wires as to the shell.
I used the drum in a number of different settings at this tuning, and it handled everything beautifully. Playing rimshots a little down and left of center produced a high, barking crack that lent just a shade of credibility to my hideously un-funky interpretation of “Cissy Strut.”
I also have to mention that, normally, when snare drums have such a wide dynamic range, I’ve found they have a kind of built-in volume threshold. Not the case here, however. This one gets loud.
I recorded a heavy, guitar-driven band rehearsal with a single condenser mike placed in another room. Upon listening back, I realized that my rim-laden backbeats were drowning out almost everything else (Okay, maybe I was playing a bit too enthusiastically). While the drum itself certainly can’t be blamed for being too capable of handling heavy hits, it should, like any piece of high-end machinery, be used with caution (and earplugs!).
Sorry for that awful pun, but no review of this drum would be complete without mentioning the included MAG throw-off and 3P butt plate. Simply put, this was the most satisfying throw combo I’ve used. The MAG throw-off is a very easily operated drop-style throw that uses a built-in magnet to stay closed. The magnet is strong enough to keep the wires in place throughout even the most raucous performances, yet remained very easy to disengage. Wire tension is adjusted with a rotating textured knob, and everything about the MAG’s action was smooth, simple, and wonderful.
The three-position (3P) butt plate, which utilizes a baseball bat-styled lever to quickly switch between tight, medium, and loose wire tensions, was no less impressive. One quick flip of that lever, and the snare moved from low and loose to clean and crisp to snug and snappy with very little effort. Both components are just excellent additions that really help make this drum special.
The Nickel Over Brass Collector’s Series snare is a reliable (and yes, “workhorse”) snare drum that’s made exceptional by DW’s brilliantly designed appointments. Readily delivering the tonally rich, classic crack that’s made brass drums so popular, this ultra-dynamic unit would be at home on any drum set. And with the added facility of the MAG throw-off and 3P butt plate, the DW NOB is more than capable of handling most any musical situation. Drummers should be mindful of their volume with a snare this powerful, for sure, but it would make a welcome addition to any player’s collection.
Shell 14″ x 5.5″ 1mm beadless brass shell
Finish Black nickel
Features MAG throw-off and 3P butt plate, 20-strand True Tone wires, and 3mm True Hoop counterhoops. DW by Remo coated Ambassador batter and clear Ambassador snare-side heads
List Price $667
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