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What's the difference between the brass and maple snare shells?

What's the difference between the brass and maple snare shells?

Your snare drum is arguably the most important sound in your drum set. At the very least, it's the most recognizable. For many listeners, your snare sound is the audio cue that can help place a genre, or even decade of music. At Dialtune, we take our snare shells very seriously. Since the start at Dialtune, we've experimented with a wide range of shell materials and sizes before locking on our 6.5"x14" All-American Maple and Black Nickel over Brass shells. 

Whether you're familiar with maple and brass snare shells, or you're just learning there's more than one material used to make a drum - we wanted to put together a blog that walks through the fundamentals of maple and brass, gives you some critical points of differentiation, and helps you find the shell that most fits your musical play style best! Let's get at it!


Meet the legendary Black Nickel over Brass

Black Nickel over Brass dialtune snare shell

Brass snare shells bridge the gap between wood and metal nicely thanks to their bright, full and open sound. Dialtune brass snares feature an electrolytic nickel plating with a secondary treatment to turn the surface black. A common misconception, black nickel shells are not actually painted, but rather use a chemical reaction in manufacturing that changes the traditional gold coloring of brass. These shells have a distinct smack that can cut through dense musical performances, and typically carry a vibrant high-, mid-, and low-end; with a well-rounded overall musical sound. When it comes to metal snare drums, few alloys are more prized than brass. It’s warm when feathered, bright and aggressive when pummeled, and extremely articulate when fed ghost notes. 



Why Maple is the all-around snare shell

North-American Maple Dialtune snare shell

When it comes to wood snares, North American maple (a.k.a. hard maple or rock maple) accounts for the lion’s share of options on the market. Dialtune uses 8-ply North-American maple snare shells that express warm tones, a very wide tuning range, and a sound that works very well for all styles and genres of music. The tonal quality is produced by multi-ply shells of hand-selected maple, and they offer excellent resonance throughout the tuning range. Tuned tight, maple shells deliver plenty of snap and crack, middle range is bright and robust, while tuned looser, the sound is punchy with good reverberation.  It’s durable enough to survive the occasional drop, kick, and tumble across a stage. As a tonewood, it can be manipulated to create a massive range of sounds. 

The details matter. How we arrived at our 6.5"x14" shell size

We chose 6.5x14” (depth x diameter) for our drums because of how many acoustic options this size of drum offers our drummers. In the future, we look forward to offering more sizes and shell materials, but if you could only pick one size... this is it. The diameter, thickness, depth, and  hoops matter, and we wanted to break down the specific reasons why this is the perfect size for both brass and maple snares:

  • Shell diameter: The snare drum’s diameter — how large its playing surface is — determines the tuning range. We specifically chose 14” as our snare diameter as it is a happy middle-ground between the bright, higher-pitch found in 13” snares, and the deeper, darker sound of 15”-16” snares. 
  • Shell thickness: The thickness of a snare plays a factor in pitch, output, and resonance. The thicker the snare, the higher the tone and projection. Thinner snares are often associated with darker, more resonant tone. So our thick 8-ply All-American maple shells provide a really warm and crisp pop, giving the drum surprising brightness at the top end with rich, darker tones when tuned down low. Meanwhile, our brass shell is 1.2mm, naturally yielding a highly resonate tone can be cranked up for a bright and vibrant high, or tuned down low to achieve a darker and deeper natural tone.
  • Shell depth: The depth of a shell is responsible for the observed sense of speed and fullness. Deeper snares are often characterized by a fatter, slower attack, while thinner snares tend to be less resonate, crisp, and quicker to attack. We LOVE the 6.5” depth, it’s the middle ground between pancake snares (1.5-3” in depth) and deep snares (8” or more).  
  • Dialtune’s Quick-Release hoops act as a hybrid between traditional flanged and cast hoops. They supply a dryness and power similar to cast hoops but with a chunkier attack and without the “dinner bell” harmonic ring of flanged hoops. And because the rim bends in toward the head, s-flange hoops are also known as ‘stick savers’ reducing the amount of wear as you play. 

In summary

We hope this has been helpful in teasing apart some of the key differences between our maple and brass shells, and why we think the 6.5x14" is a phenomenal all-around size.

We've got some exciting updates and news planned for 2024, more on that soon! Until then, you can always reach us at, or drop a message on our Contact Us page!

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