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  • DW Collectors Series Showcase!

    So Many Shell Options - What's Right for You?

    DW Collectors Series Drum Sets offer so many different shell configurations, it can be a little confusing.  Not only do you have a ton of finish and size options, you can also choose your shell material.  This is where things can really seem daunting.  What's the difference between an SSC Maple shell and a Maple/Spruce shell?  What the heck does Cherry even sound like?  Don't Worry!  Drum Center of Portsmouth has got your back.  We demo 5 variations of DW Collectors Series Drum Sets in our latest comparison video.

    DW Collectors Series SSC Maple

    Tonality. Thump. Resonant. These words best articulate our opinion of this DW Collectors SSC Maple 5pc Drum Set in elegantly understated Satin Natural Oil finish.  These thin shells with re-rings are the classic DW sound.  Punchy and well rounded, SSC shells give you a tremendous amount of versatility.

    DW Collectors Series Cherry/Spruce

    Going into this comparison, we weren't sure what to expect from the Collectors Cherry/Spruce kit.  We've heard a few Cherry kits in the past, which shared many birch-like qualities.  The addition of Spruce warms up the tone with a little extra low end, giving this Collectors Series recipe a truly unique voice.

    DW Collectors Series Maple/Mahogany

    The sustain and projection of maple, married with the warmer quality of mahogany is fast becoming a favorite with studio and touring artists alike. This versatile wood combo comprised of mostly maple, with a mahogany inner and outer ply, is excellent for a wide variety of musical applications.  This gorgeous Pale Blue Oyster FinishPly wrap gives off a vintage aesthetic, but the tone projects a more modern vibe.  It gives you the versatile tone of maple, with a little extra emphasis on the low end.

    DW Collectors Maple/Spruce

    Punchy, warm, round tone is delivered in spades from this DW Collectors Maple/Spruce Drum Set in Natural Hard Satin.  The differences between this kit and a Pure Maple Collectors kit are relatively subtle, until you listen to them side by side.  The tone is decidedly Maple, but with a more leveled EQ sound.  It gives you every frequency in equal doses, which may just be your ideal drum sound!

    DW Collectors Cherry/Mahogany

    The last DW Collectors Series Hybrid shell kit we tested was this magnificent Cherry/Mahogany in Exotic Spalted Maple veneer.  This drum set was the most eye-catching, and its tone was by far the most unique.  The tone can be compared to birch on steroids.  Massive thump with a rich, buttery low end tone projects with epic volume.  We'll just go ahead and say it, this was our favorite.  Believe the hype on this one!

    Drum Center of Portsmouth is your home for DW Collectors Series Drums

    No matter what sound you're looking for in a drum set, DW has it.  Drum Center of Portsmouth has more DW kits in stock than most, and if we don't have it we'll help you dial in on the perfect custom order.  Check out our website for an amazing selection of DW Collectors Series Drums, or call us at (603)319-8109 with any DW questions you may have!

  • Modern Takes on the Classic Ludwig Black Beauty Snare Drum

    Recreating the Magic of the 1930's Engraved Black Beauty Snare Drum

    Few snare drums are more iconic than the legendary Ludwig Black Beauty of the 1920's and 30's.  Its black nickel over brass shell set the standard for what a great snare drum should sound like.  The 12 point flower engraving made this snare drum visually stunning, as well.

    Today, you can find several examples of handmade snare drums created in the Black Beauty's iconic image.  We've put together a video comparing 3 modern snare drums that were influenced by the classic Ludwig model.  As a bonus, we included a demo of an original vintage Black Beauty from the early 1930's!

    AK Drums Black Beauty Brass Snare Drum 14x6.5 Engraved Polished Shell

    Every drum made by Adrian Kirchler is a true work of art. The detail in this custom-made piece is second to none. AK drums are all completely handmade in Italy and are not easy to come by. We waited over a year to get our hands on these beautiful instruments, and it was well worth it!

    This snare drum features a 1-piece brass shell in Gun Metal finish with traditional scroll engraving.  The shell is adorned in "pre-aged" gold hardware, completely handmade by Adrian himself.  Don't hesitate to get your hands on one of these phenomenal heirloom pieces before the opportunity is gone!

    Joyful Noise Scrolled Elite Snare Drum 14x6.5

    The JNDC Scrolled Elite is exquisitely faceted in a hand-engraved feather motif scroll. These extraordinary drums are hand-engraved by the world-renowned master drum engraver John Aldridge. Each drum is truly one-of-a-kind, both aesthetically and sonically.

    Hand-selected for their increased mass and density, the Scrolled Elite shells possess an explosive power that is literally felt. Its hardware consists of 2.5mm solid brass hoops with ten solid brass Corder tube lugs. It also features bell-flanged bearing edges and vintage-inspired crimped snare beds for an authentic vintage vibe.

    Dunnett Classic 2N Antique Brass Snare Drum 14x6.5 Engraved with Brass Trim

    The Dunnett 2N snare drum model has been a best-seller here at Drum Center of Portsmouth.  This hand-engraved model with classy brass trim takes everything up a notch.

    While the Dunnett is the most affordable of the 3 snares in this comparison, it doesn't skimp on features.  John Aldridge has painstakingly engraved the shell of this beefy snare drum, making it one of a kind.  The shell also features a thin lacquer finish that will Patina over time.  This drum will darken through the years, making it a truly desirable collector's piece!

    High-End Snare Drums are our Specialty

    At Drum Center of Portsmouth, we are known for our boutique snare drum inventory.  We carry the largest selection of the finest instruments you will find anywhere.  If you are looking for something truly special to add to your collection, look no further than the Drum Center of Portsmouth!


  • What's The Best Metal Snare Drum Under $200?

    Budget-Friendly Beats

    At Drum Center of Portsmouth, we are known for carrying the finest snare drum selection in the world.  Some cost upwards of $5,000.  Clearly, that is not the price point %99.9 of people are comfortable with.  For the rest of us, finding a quality snare drum without breaking the bank is the goal.  We've gathered three fantastic offerings for our latest comparison video to help you decide what's the best metal snare drum under $200!

    Pearl Modern Utility Steel Snare Drum - 14x6.5

    Bellowing, open, and untamed, Modern Utility Steel snare drums add fat, cracking tone to your drum set arsenal. Its thin 1mm beaded Steel shell is rolled to ring with open punch when played at full force, and speaks with a crisp sensitivity at lower impact. The finish is blasted with a satin textured coating which gives it a cool, versatile vibe. The Modern Utility features Pearl's CL arch lugs and smooth SR700 snare strainer for precise tunability. It's an exceptional primary or added snare, and brings a high-volume power to your playing voice.

    Tama Soundworks Steel Snare Drum - 14x6.5

    This Tama snare drum has a slightly thicker 1.2mm thick steel shell that provides a very powerful, cutting sound that is designed to thrive in live settings, but we've found that the Soundworks Steel snare is great in a recording situation too. If you need the bottom end that modern music requires, coupled with the high end cut to combat loud guitars, the Tama Soundworks steel at Drum Center of Portsmouth is a perfect fit for you. The high quality components make this a solid candidate for the best metal snare drum under $200.

    Ludwig Supralite Snare Drum - 14x6.5

    The last entry in our Best Snare Drum Under $200 was the Ludwig Supralite.  Supralite series snare drums also feature a thin, beaded steel shell. The hardware consists of solid chrome-over-brass tube lugs, 2.3mm triple-flanged hoops, and brass snare wires.  We are huge fans of Ludwig snare drums, and this low price offering gives you tone, volume and quality in spades.

    Your Home for Snare Drums (at any price point)

    Whether you're looking for a $200 snare drum or a $2,000 snare drum, Drum Center of Portsmouth has exactly what you're looking for.  We pride ourselves on finding the perfect instrument for YOUR needs.

  • A&F Snare Drum Showcase at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    Vintage Vibes with Modern Sounds

    A&F snare drums blend old-world craftsmanship with new world sounds.  The boutique drum company out of Austin, Texas creates instruments with exceptional sound and a beautiful aesthetic.  In their relatively short history, they have burst on the scene with a totally unique vibe unlike anything we've seen at the Drum Center of Portsmouth.  They locally source all available materials and hand-make their shells, hoops, lugs, and badges.  A&F uses Italian leather washers between anything that makes contact with the shell and hand stamp every badge for each drum with its own exclusive serial number.

    We've put together a comprehensive showcase of 10 amazing A&F snare drums we currently have in stock!

    A&F Prototype Raw Bronze Snare Drum 14x7 10-Lug

    These particular A&F Snare Drums are a Drum Center of Portsmouth EXCLUSIVE!

    This 14x7 A&F Raw Bronze Snare Drum is innovative, gorgeous, and completely handcrafted from scratch in Austin, Texas. A&F cuts, rolls, welds, and sands their own shells, then treat them with a patented oxidizing formula to jumpstart the patina process. The edge is a 45 degree cut with a 3.5" snare bed, and the drums are fitted with 10 in-house machined raw brass lugs. This deceptively heavy snare is hyper-sensitive, with a fundamentally bright and "cymbal-y" tone with projection and articulation that is second to none.

    We also included the 14x6 and 14x4 Prototype Bronze A&F Snare drums in our video showcase.

    A&F Solid Core Mahogany Snare Drum 14x6.5

    The next A&F Snare Drum tested was their exclusive 1/4 inch one-piece seamless core shell carved out of single tree trunk, hence the vertical grain! It has no re-rings, and it features their 45-degree edge and comes with A&F handmade raw brass hoops and lugs. It has a deep, throaty, woody tone with incredible snare sensitivity and response. We think this is one of the finest wood snares currently on the market!

    A&F Nickel Over Brass Snare Drum 14x4 8-Lug

    This 4x14 A&F Nickel Over Brass Snare Drum is an absolute knockout. This particular brass shell was sent to a nickel plater in Texas who's family has been plating nickel since 1930's. The edge is a 45 degree cut with a 3.5" snare bed. This deceptively heavy snare is hyper-sensitive, with a fundamentally bright and crispy tone with projection and articulation that is second to none.

    A&F Raw Brass Snare Drum 14x5 10-Lug

    This particular A&F Snare Drum is one of our best sellers.  The 14x5 Raw Brass Snare Drum has 10 lugs and projects a classic vintage brass tone with more volume than you'd expect.  Both visually and sonically stunning, this may have been our favorite recorded sound of the showcase.

    A&F Raw Steel Snare Drum 14x6.5 w/ Nickel Over Brass Hardware

    Have you ever seen a more beautiful steel snare drum?  We were absolutely blown away by this magnificent 14x6.5 Raw Steel A&F Snare Drum.  The nickle over brass hardware is a fantastic contrast to the shell's raw finish.  The tone is raw, sharp and energetic.  Simply amazing!  We also tested this raw steel shell in 14x4.5 with raw brass hardware and were equally impressed.

    A&F Steam Bent Maple Snare Drum 14x6.5 Charcoal Grey

    A&F Snare drums also include a solid maple shell in their lineup.  This 14x6.5 has a very low pitch with great sensitivity and a dry, woody tone. It comes built with A&F's raw brass hoops, 10 lugs, no reinforcement rings, 45 degree bearing edges, and a whole lot of sass!

    A&F Maple Club Snare 14x5 10 Lug Charcoal Grey

    Rounding out our A&F Snare Drum showcase is the 14x5 Maple Club snare drum in Charcoal Grey.  The Club shells are cut with an outside reverse baseball bat bearing edge and do not use re-rings. This drum is finished with patented A&F raw brass hardware. The lower mid-range tone you get when striking this drum is clean, natural, round and woody. This particular snare is 14x5 with 10 lugs.

    Drum Center of Portsmouth is Your Home for A&F Snare Drums!

    We are very excited to be carrying the A&F line at Drum Center of Portsmouth. Once you play them for yourself, you'll understand why!  If you have any questions about this high-end, boutique drum company give a call at (603)319-8109.  We are happy to help!

  • Sonor Snare Drum Shootout!

    150 Years of German Precision

    Nothing sounds like a Sonor snare drum.  For nearly 150 years, Sonor has been crafting some of the finest percussion instruments available.  If you ask anyone at the shop what their go to sound is, many of us will say it's Sonor.  Most of us own (at least) one Sonor.

    What makes Sonor Snare Drums so unique?  To start, they hand craft their high end lines the way they have been doing for decades.  Unique shell construction using proprietary molds produce slightly undersized shells.  This allows for the drum head to float on the bearing edge, yielding greater resonance and sensitivity.  Sonor snare drums have an incredible dynamic range.  At the slightest touch the drums open up and produce clear tone.  The high quality components and gorgeous finish options make these drums as beautiful to look at as they are to play.


    Sonor SQ2 Beech Snare Drum 13x5.5 Birdseye Maple

    This handsome little guy features a heavy beech shell that projects crisp, clear tone.  It has beautiful birdseye gloss veneer on the outside, and a matching veneer inside!  18-Strand steel wires and 2.3mm Power Hoops allow the beefy shell to breathe and articulate.

    Sonor SQ2 Maple Snare Drum 13x7 Scandinavian Birch w/ Gold Hardware

    Our next SQ2 snare drum is quite stunning with its eye-catching gold hardware.  The versatile 13x7 heavy maple shell packs a a ton of powerful pop with some serious mid range tone.  With matching Scandinavian Birch veneers inside and out, this is one of the most beautiful examples of SQ2 craftsmanship you'll find.

    Sonor One Of A Kind Maple/Beech Snare Drum 13x7 Mango

    This 9-ply, 7mm maple/beech blended shell is veneered inside and out with a ply of elegant vertical mango wood. Combine this deep, thin shell with triple flanged hoops, 45 degree bearing edges, precision snare beds, and Dual Glide Strainer, and you have a staggeringly dynamic, world-class instrument that sounds as good as it looks. Seriously, the level of detail on the badge alone will blow your mind. Just 99 of these were produced worldwide, and they come with a luxurious custom Hardcase and "Welcome Box". It takes a lot to stand out on the Drum Center of Portsmouth showroom floor, and these immaculate instruments might just be the crown jewel in our collection!

    Sonor Phonic Reissue Beech Snare Drum 14x5.75 Rosewood

    Sonor Phonic reissue snare drums are faithful recreations of the legendary Sonor beech shell snare drums of yesteryear. Boasting a 14x5.75, 12-ply beech shell with a rosewood gloss veneer, this snare drum is meant to stand out both sonically and visually! The beech shell provides a sound that is classic Sonor; balanced and versatile, with a warm low-mid body and controlled overtones. Ten Phonic lugs, German die cast hoops, slotted rods, classic Phonic strainer, and 20-strand steel wires round out the vintage experience this drum offers. Get your hands on one of these beautiful Sonor Phonic drums at Drum Center of Portsmouth today!

    Sonor SQ2 Heavy Maple Snare Drum 14x6 Ebony Gloss

    This 14x6 combines many of our favorite Sonor specs into one beefy drum.  A heavy maple shell, ebony gloss veneer, and the fattest diecast hoops in the industry makes this drum visually and sonically stunning.  With articulation and volume to spare, this may be the only snare drum you'll ever need.

    Sonor SQ2 Maple Snare Drum 14x6.5 Signal Grey

    This Medium Maple Sonor SQ2 Snare drum is a well-rounded workhorse.  We ordered this Signal Grey lacquer finish from their RAL color options list.  Man, were we pleased when we saw it in person.  This drum features triple flanged hoops and 24-strand steel wires that give it extra sensitivity.

    Sonor Phonic Reissue Beech Snare Drum 14x6.5 Mahogany

    This Phonic Reissue has a 14x6.5, 9-ply beech shell with a mahogany veneer in matte finish.  Like the 5.75 we tested earlier, the beech shell projects a sound with drier body and balanced overtones. Ten Phonic lugs, German die cast hoops, slotted rods, classic Phonic strainer, and 20-strand steel wires round out the vintage experience this drum offers.  This may be our favorite recorded sound from the video.

    Sonor SQ2 Beech Snare Drum 14x8 Gloss Rosewood

    We saved the biggest, and possibly best, for last.  A few of us have owned some version of this 14x8 heavy beech shell.  It simply has all the low end tone and beefy projection you could ask for, along with surprising sensitivity.  This particular Sonor SQ2 has an immaculate Gloss Rosewood finish on the exterior along with a matching matte veneer inside!  Diecast hoops and 24-strand steel wires round out this monstrous beauty.

    Drum Center of Portsmouth has YOUR Sonor Waiting for You!

    We know Sonor drums, and we carry a massive selection in stock at all times.  If you are looking for a German engineered instrument that will do it all, look no further than Sonor.  Get it from the pros at Drum Center of Portsmouth!

  • Tama Star Snare Drums Shootout

    Boutique Quality Snares from the Strongest Name in Drums

    Tama Star snare drums are ultra-high end snare drums that focus on sound first. Unlike many "boutique" snare drum builders that focus on aesthetics, Tama Star snare drums are built to achieve an optimal tone. Simply put, any furniture maker can build a beautiful drum. At the end of the day it's sound that is most important.

    That's not to say Tama Star snare drums aren't beautiful, because they are. No drum manufacturer pays more attention to detail than Tama. Their flagship Star lineup sets the standard by which all others are currently measured in the industry. We tested 10 gorgeous Tama Star snare drums head to head in our most recent video.

    Tama Star Bubinga Snare Drum Dark Red Cordia

    If you ask around the shop what the best looking Tama Star finish is, many of us will tell you it's the Star Bubinga Dark Red Cordia. From the flawless outer finish, to the immaculate shell construction, this snare drum is an absolute dime-piece.

    It sounds as good as it looks. We tested a 14x6.5 and a 14x5.5 model, and neither disappointed. Both deliver immediate low end with a sharp, yet not harsh attack. Tama has a way with Bubinga that exploits the best qualities while minimizing the troublesome ones.

    Tama Star Reserve Bubinga/Walnut Snare Drum 14x6.5

    The Tama Star Reserve Bubinga Walnut Snare Drum also yields an extremely sharp cut and projection. The hybrid shell of Bubinga and Walnut with Maple Sound Focus Rings creates a solid, clear tone with all the resonance you could ask for. The beautiful Claro Walnut exterior ply lacquered in black see-through gloss adds to the elegance of the snare drum. It also features Sound Arc Hoop and STAR Tube Lugs with lug nuts for accurate tuning.

    Tama Star Maple Snare Drum 14x6.5 Gloss Sycamore

    Referred to here at the shop as a "Modern Day Radio King", the Tama Star Maple snare drum is a winning combination of vintage sound and modern features. Although they feature one of the most popular and traditional drum shell materials, Star Maple drums have some unique hidden features that set them apart from the rest. The thin 5 ply, 5mm shells are comprised of a 2mm thick solid wood core ply between 1.5mm thick plies. Traditional Maple shells generally sound bright and open. This Star Maple snare drum has those characteristics, but with rich dynamics. The concept is similar to other solid shell drums, but thinner by comparison.

    Tama Star Maple Snare Drum 14x5.5 Smoky Black

    The single-ply Tama Star Maple snare drum in Smoky Black finish may have been the biggest surprise of the day. We've played a ton of solid shell maple snare drums over the years, so we had our preconceived notion of what it was going to sound like.

    We're not sure how, but this single ply snare drum spoke with overwhelming brightness and clarity. No matter how we tuned it, this beauty retained its body and tone. Watch the video and hear it for yourself!

    Tama Star Reserve Hand Hammered Copper Snare Drum 14x6.5

    The only metal snare drum we tested in this Tama Star snare drum shootout was the Reserve Hand Hammered Copper. The series' first metal snare features a hand hammered copper shell. With mid-low end and tons of volume, the hand hammered shell creates a deeply harmonic overtone. A slightly smaller diameter hammer is used on the edge of the shell compared with the hammer that is used on the center. This gives the shell a unique barrel shape that lends to the special tone it produces.

    To complement the shell, Tama added customized 2.3mm brass flanged hoops. The edge of each hoop is slightly shaved down compared to a standard flanged hoop, yielding a sharp, bright attack. The combination of warm, rich resonance with sharp, bright attack offers an original sound that we think you'll love!

    Tama Star Reserve Maple/Bubinga Snare Drum 15x8 Caramel Olive Ash Burst

    It can be an extremely gratifying sensation to discover a special snare drum that brings a newfound creativity to your playing. All of a sudden, your go-to phrasing is out the window and you're heading down a new path. We feel this is exactly what Tama has accomplished with the beastly 15x8 Star Reserve snare drum.

    Its combination of Bubinga/Maple hybrid shell and Brass Mighty hoops provides a huge backbeat. However, it still manages to maintain a great balance of low and high end frequencies. No matter how you tune this drum, its presence is clearly heard and felt. Tuned low, the drum functions wonderfully as a ballad snare with the snare wires engaged. With the wires off, it can double as a floor tom - giving it surprising versatility.

    Tama Star Solid Maple Reserve Snare Drum 14x5 Oiled Natural Maple

    The 1st model of the Star Reserve snare series was developed to attain unparalleled sensitivity and response for drummers. Tama combined a solid maple shell with a slightly sharper Starclassic bearing edge and Brass Sound Arc hoops. The result is an ultra-sensitive, clear, and bright tone. It also features Tama's unique STAR Tube Lugs with lug nuts for articulate tuning. Supersensitive Hi-Carbon Snare Wires feature a thin brass plate and softer hi-carbon coils that respond to even the softest touch of the batter head.  This Tama Star Reserve in Oiled Maple is an understated instrument that just oozes class and sophistication.

    Tama Star Walnut Snare Drum 14x6.5 Red Burgundy

    Star Walnut drums are intriguing to us at Drum Center of Portsmouth.  While they are the most "affordable" Star offering, to some, they are the best sounding.  This Tama Star Walnut snare drum was no exception.  When you watch the video, we think you'll find the Walnut's tone will stand out the most.

    As with their Star Bubinga shells, Tama seems to bring out the best qualities of Walnut.  This snare just seemed to have a warmer, fatter projection than most other Walnut drums on the market.  This snare drum comes highly recommended.

    Tama Star Snare Drum Zebrawood 14x6

    Finally, we put the Tama Star Zebrawood snare drum through its paces.  This snare drum can be summed up in one word: unique. With a look and sound unlike just about anything else, this solid-shelled beauty represents a real rarity among the galaxy of snare drums. This is a drum that speaks with the clean, dry crispness of aluminum and backs it up with the ruddy warmth of mahogany. If you are looking for a special snare drum to add to your arsenal of sound, look no further!

    Your Home for Tama Star Snare Drums

    At Drum Center of Portsmouth, we carry the most Tama Star snare drums you will find anywhere. Our staff understands the subtle tonal difference between each and every Star drum Tama has to offer. When you are ready to explore the unique sounds of Tama's flagship line of ultra-high end drums, give us call.  We will match you up with the sound that is right for you!



  • What's the Best Snare Drum Under $500?

    What's the Best Snare Drum Under $500?

    One of the questions we get asked the most at the Drum Center of Portsmouth is, “What’s the Best Snare Drum Under $500?”.  With so many available options, the answer will differ on which one of our staff you ask. We decided to compile a list of sub-$500 snares that we are currently enjoying.

    Canopus Yaiba Maple Snare Drum 14x6.5

    Canopus Yaiba Maple Snare Drum

    If you ask Shane what he thinks is the best snare drum under $500 is, the answer is the Canopus Yaiba Maple.  If a customer walks into the store without a particular brand of snare drum in mind, 7/10 times they’ll choose Canopus.

    Canopus is able to keep the price of the Yaiba series under $500 with very few compromises. The Yaiba Maple is made in Japan and features top-quality hardware, including their best in class Snare Wires.  This snare projects ideal warmth and sound great in a variety of tunings.

    Yamaha Recording Custom Brass Snare Drum 14x5.5

    Yamaha Recording Custom Brass Snare Drum

    Jeremy “T-Bone” Charron’s pick is the Yamaha Recording Custom Brass snare drum.  The drum delivers full sound, rich mid-range and a wide tuning range. The Recording Custom Brass boasts premium features for this price point, including a thin 1.2mm shell, 2.3mm DynaHoops, and 20-strand snare wires.  It even includes additional 10-strand Steve Gadd style snare wires!

    Tama SLP Classic Dry Aluminum Snare Drum 14x5.5

    Tama SLP Classic Dry Aluminum Snare Drum

    The Tama SLP Classic Dry Aluminum is the least expensive snare on our list.  At under $300, this extremely versatile instrument hits well above its weight.  Chuckie is drawn to the seamless 1.2 mm Aluminum shell with a center bead. The 8-lug Steel Mighty Hoops make for a crisp sound with short sustain.  Tama’s SLP projects a super-dry center hit, but play out towards the edge more and it has a surprising amount of life to it.

    Mapex Black Panther Design Lab Cherry Bomb Snare Drum 14x6

    Mapex Design Labs Black Panther Cherry Bomb

    Tom’s choice for best snare drum under $500 was a no-brainer.  Mapex has been making exceptional value snare drums since the introduction of their Black Panther line.  Their latest rendition of the 14x6 Cherry Bomb is no exception.

    The Mapex Black Panther Design Lab Cherry Bomb Snare has a smooth, unique tone that really set it apart from the other snares on this list.  Its 8-ply, 9mm Cherry shell sports dual air vents and stylish tube lugs. It ships with Remo USA heads, so it’s ready to rock straight out of the box!

    Gretsch USA Chrome Over Brass Snare Drum 14x5

    Gretsch USA Chrome Over Brass

    The most iconic snare drum on our list is the tried and tested Gretsch USA Chrome Over Brass.  The G4160 has been the go-to snare for countless musicians for decades and it currently sits atop Barrett’s list.

    This beefy snare is packed with high-end features like diecast hoops, Lightning throw-off, and 42-strand snare wires.  We’re not sure how Gretsch packs so many premium features into a drum under $500, but it sounds incredible!

    Ludwig Acrolite Classic Snare Drum 14x6.5

    Ludwig Acrolite Snare Drum

    What does “The Hawk” think is the best snare drum under $500?  Many people look to his wisdom when it comes to drum sound, and he rocks the Ludwig Acrolite Classic Snare Drum

    The Ludwig Acrolite Classic is a staff favorite, due to its classic brushed aluminum shell with 2.3mm triple-flanged hoops, 10 classic bowtie lugs, the new P88AC strainer/butt, milled center bead, and classic Blue/Olive Badge.  The sum of its parts is a truly unique tone that we think you’ll enjoy, too!

    Looking For Your Ideal Snare Drum Sound?

    Best snare drum under 500

    The Drum Center of Portsmouth is your home for world-class snare drums.  We have a snare sound for absolutely everyone at any price point. If you’re looking for just the right snare drum to express your musical voice, we can help.  We are all passionate about our instrument and can help you find your ideal snare drum. Talk to one of our knowledgeable drummers today!

  • Tama Star Drum Sets - Head to Head Review

    Tama Star Drum Sets - Bubinga, Maple, Walnut Compared at Drum Center of Portsmouth!

    Tama Star drums have generated a lot of buzz since their launch in 2013.  The Star line is handcrafted by a small group of artisans in Japan to incredible tolerances.  Their uncompromising attention to detail makes Tama Star Drums a shop favorite at Drum Center of Portsmouth.  We’ve put together an epic head-to-head comparison video of Tama’s big three - Star Bubinga, Star Maple and Star Walnut.

    The Idea

    Working at a drum store has its perks.  One day during a meeting, someone had the idea to order a bunch of the world’s finest drums for a comparison video.  After a few long months our shipment arrived, and we were rewarded with three jaw-dropping kits. The Star Maple and Star Bubinga kits share the same configuration.  10x7, 12x8 rack toms, 14x14, 16x16 floor toms and a 22x18 bass drum. The Star Walnut kit sports slightly different sizes: 10x8, 12x9, 14x12, 16x14, 18x22.

    Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat.  Tama Star drums are among the most beautiful instruments on this planet.  When these kits were unboxed, everyone at the shop stopped what they were doing.  You can’t take your eyes off of them. The exotic grain, the flawless finish, the stunning hardware, those INLAYS!  

    Once we got over the initial shock of pure aesthetic perfection, we got to spend some quality time playing Tama’s flagship line.  And, oh...what a joy it was.

    Tama Star Bubinga

    At the front line of Tama Star drums is the Tama Star Bubinga.  The kit we test drove was finished in immaculate Dark Red Cordia.  The shell construction of the Star Bubingas is a super-thin 4.5mm with thick 9mm reinforcement rings.  The interiors are equally as gorgeous with an inner ply of oiled Cordia.

    Right away you can spot something unusual about these drums.  Tama ships them with Remo Ambassadors, as opposed to Evans heads.  This is just one of the details that help you realize that Tama spared no expense regarding the sound of these drums.  The kick drums come equipped with PS3 batters and Fiberskyn resonant heads.

    The sound of Star Bubingas can be summed up in a word - aggressive.  Their dark tone is immediate, sharp and punchy. Their note is clear and beautiful, and they tune up with ease.  Tama’s Zinc diecast hoops keep the sustain focused and the drum in tune for days. The kick drum was our favorite part of this kit, providing ridiculous thump and cut.

    Tama Star Maple

    As we switched over from Star Bubinga to Star Maple the benefits of Tama’s Star Hardware became apparent.  Tama’s Super Resonant Mounting system works with a nifty quick-lock tom bracket that makes setup a breeze. Simply flip a switch on the tom stand arm to release your tom while leaving the memory lock in place.  Slide the tom back on and, boom. Ready for the next gig. The floor toms also employ these quick locks, making them ultimately gig-friendly.

    Our Star Maple kit was also drool-worthy in appearance.  The finish is called, “Gloss Sycamore” and resembles the most heavily figured Flamed Maple you could imagine.  The gloss is flawless, and has a genuine 3D appearance.

    Star Maple shell construction is completely different from the Bubingas.  At the center of the shell is a “solid-core” ply of 2mm maple, sandwiched between 1.5mm thick cross-laminated plies on both sides.  This thin, 5mm base is supported by 5mm Sound Focus Rings. The reasoning behind this recipe is to simulate the sound of a solid-ply shell without the solid-ply drawbacks.

    This kit delivers maple tone on huge doses of steroids.  The midrange frequencies BOOM with an unusual blend of modern/vintage sound.  Sticking is clean and articulate and sustain goes on and on. If you crave maple tone, Tama Star Maple delivers in spades.

    Tama Star Walnut

    Rounding out the Tama Star Drums lineup is Star Walnut.  As mentioned before, our Star Walnut had slightly different sizes than the other kits.  Toms were slightly deeper, and the floor toms were slightly shallower. The finish is a more understated Dark Mocha Gloss, sans inlays.

    Along with the sizes and finish being different, shell construction is also unique to the Star Walnut line.  Toms are 5mm and the bass is 6mm without reinforcement rings.

    These thin walnut shells produced rich, dark tone as one would expect from Walnut.  What surprised us was an element of bright attack. The shallower floor toms kept right up with its earlier competitors, and the kick delivered the most low end.  The sound of this kit was not unlike birch with some enhanced low-end. This kit would make an excellent rock kit with plenty of aggressive thump to keep up with the mix.

    The Verdict

    Tama Star Drums are uncompromising.  They use the finest materials that are crafted by the world’s finest drum makers.  The hardware is strong, beautiful and practical. They are simply among the finest instruments money can buy, and their price tag reflects this.  We appreciate that these kits are for a handful of fortunate people, but we are grateful that Tama continues to push the limits of what a drum set can be.

    The Tama Star Drum line covers every base between its Maple, Bubinga and Walnut kits.  Each voice is uniquely magnificent. We carry a huge selection of Tama Star Drums at Drum Center of Portsmouth.  We will gladly talk shop about Tama or any other brand you are interested in!

  • Bop Kit Battle – Sonor SQ2, Canopus RFM and Ludwig Classic Maple

    Three Top Tier Bop Kits Head-to-Head

    Jazz.  It’s one of America’s original art forms and provides the soundtrack for your Sunday brunch.  The anchor of any good Jazz trio is the bop kit drum set.  Just like the eggs in your Sunday brunch, there are many ways to make a bop kit.  We chose three magnificent maple bop kits from three different manufacturers to compare their discernable differences.  Our “Bop Kit Battle” participants are the Sonor SQ2, Canopus RFM and the Ludwig Classic Maple Jazzette.

    The Parameters

    For this comparison, we chose three maple kits in “standard” bop configuration.  Each kit consisted of a 12-inch rack tom, 14-inch floor tom and an 18-inch kick drum.  The depths of the drums were also standard, except for the Canopus and its 13-inch deep floor tom.

    Accenting these three gorgeous kits were some seriously high end Paiste cymbals.  The hi-hats we selected were some genre-appropriate 15” 602 Modern Essentials.  The crash cymbal was a luxurious 20-inch Signature Traditionals Light Crash, and the ride was a 22” Masters Dry.  For a comparison this classy, we needed an extraordinary snare drum.  After much deliberation, we decided on the Schagerl Anteres Brass 14x6.5 snare drum with Black Hardware.

    Canopus RFM Bop Kit

    The first kit we set up was the Canopus RFM in a Bitter Brown Oil finish.  Canopus drums are a staff favorite at Drum Center of Portsmouth.  They are a boutique-level brand that is devoted to the science of their sound.  They build their drums from scratch, and spend an obsessive amount of their resources on R&D.  Canopus has a drum line for every conceivable genre of musician, and their RFM Bop Kit was a joy to experience.

    The 12-inch tom uses a RIMS style mount, and their proprietary low-profile solid lugs are very sleek.  Their Bolt-Tight leather washers are a small but ingenious addition that help keep the kit in tune throughout your gig.

    RFM shells have a relatively vintage vibe to them, as they are thin and sport reinforcement rings.  They arrive from the factory with Remo coated Ambassadors on both the top and bottom, giving them a focused, slightly drier tone.  The low end is prominent when tuned low, and they have clean, crisp tone when tuned up high.

    The Canopus RFM kit falls right in the middle of the three kits, pricewise.  You get a ton of value for your money with this kit.

    Sonor SQ2 Maple Bop Kit

    The second kit we put through its paces was the Sonor SQ2 Maple in Rosewood High Gloss.  The SQ2 line is completely customizable from shells to finish.  We ordered this one with thin maple toms and a medium maple kick.  Each drum also boasts a classy Rosewood interior veneer.  We were extremely excited to unbox this high-end bop kit and couldn’t wait to lay into it.

    From an aesthetic point of view, it doesn’t get much better than an SQ2.  The attention to detail by Sonor’s craftsmen is arguably the best in the industry.  Once you realize that the drums perform as good as they look, there’s no going back.

    Their mounting hardware is rock solid and allows for maximum resonance, along with optimal maneuverability.  The shells are undersized by 12mm, which give them a bright, modern attack that is undeniably the “Sonor sound”.  Notes are clear and defined, regardless of tuning.  Playing an SQ2 is just fun.  The response and feel you get behind the kit is a truly unique experience.

    Ludwig Jazzette Classic Maple

    The final participant in our maple bop kit shootout was the Ludwig Jazzette Classic Maple in Vintage Blue Oyster Wrap.  Ludwig has a huge following and is steeped in American musical history.  Many people are aware of their significant presence in Rock n’ Roll with their huge, wide open sound.  So, how do the Classic Maple shells hold up in a bop setting?

    The 12-inch rack tom sports the straightforward Atlas mount for a quick, easy setup and good resonance.  The classic lugs along with the eye-catching Vintage Blue Oyster wrap has turned many heads here at DCP since its arrival.

    Not surprisingly, the Ludwig Jazzette kept right up with its higher-priced competitors with ease.  The Classic Maple shells are built to the toughest standards in the industry.  Like Sonor, they undersize their shells, which gives you a little extra response and feel.  Shells tune up quickly and easily and produce a warm, round tone that is noticeably balanced.  We especially enjoyed the musicality of the bass drum, which was tonally distinguishable in comparison to the previous kits.

    The Verdict

    The idea behind this comparison was to highlight three flavors of maple bop kits that might not be on every drummer’s radar.  Despite their base-level similarities, each kit managed to distinguish itself visually and sonically.

    The RFM had a unique tone with a slick, vintage vibe that would easily hold its own in any trio.  Canopus makes an incredible instrument and may be the best manufacturer you’ve never heard of.  At Drum Center of Portsmouth we like to say that people who know drums, know Canopus.  If you aren’t familiar, you should definitely get acquainted!

    The SQ2 gave us everything we expected from an ultra high-end, custom drum set.  Flawless tone.  Gorgeous finish.  Practical, sturdy hardware.  You pay a premium when you choose a Sonor SQ2, but you know exactly where your money has gone once you sit behind your instrument.

    Ludwig’s Jazzette kit performed well above its price tag.  It’s can be argued that the sound you get from the Classic Maple shells is preferable to that of a kit costing twice as much.  Great looks, practical hardware and distinguished tone make this kit an undeniable value.





  • The Best Drum Set under $800 - With Video

    What’s The Best Complete Drum Set Under $800?

    Tama Imperialstar and the Ludwig Element Evolution are compared in this informative review!

    Tama Imperialstar Drum Set with Meinl Cymbals at Drum Center of Portsmouth



    At the Drum Center of Portsmouth, we are frequently asked. “What’s the best value drum set for a beginning drummer?”  If you are in the market for that first drum set, there are many inexpensive options out there.

    When it comes to “value”, you can’t beat the complete drum set.  Complete drum sets offer everything you need to get your drumming career up and running - drums, cymbals, and hardware, all in one convenient package.  We carry several varieties of complete drum sets at Drum Center of Portsmouth, including the Yamaha Rydeen, Pearl Roadshow and PDP Mainstage.

    The two standouts in this category are The Tama Imperialstar and the Ludwig Element Evolution.  To us, you won’t find a better value in a complete drum set under $800.  So, which kit is the best? We decided to find out, as we put these two best-selling kits in a head to head comparison.


    The Criteria

    We rated these two drum sets based on the following criteria: Drum Shells, Hardware, Cymbals, Drum Heads, Options, and Sound.  We began with the Tama Imperialstar.


    Tama Imperialstar

    Tama Imperialstar has been the best-selling drum set at this price point for a long time due to its name recognition, history, and longevity.  The Imperialstar reviewed was a 5-piece kit: 10x8 and 12x9 toms, 16x14 floor tom, 22x18 bass drum and a 14x5 snare drum.  These shells are 100% Poplar, a porous wood, typically found in a lower-cost drum set. The finish of this kit is a wrap that Tama calls, “Candy Apple Mist”, and is quite eye-catching.

    Tama Imperialstar Candy Apple Mist Drum Set at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    The hardware pack included with the Tama Imperialstar includes the legendary Iron Cobra single-chain drive bass drum pedal and hi-hat stand, a snare stand, drum throne, as well as a straight cymbal stand and a hide-away boom cymbal stand.

    Tama Iron Cobra Bass Drum Pedal at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    The Imperialstar comes with the Meinl HCS cymbal pack, consisting of a  pair of 14” hi-hats, a 16” crash cymbal and a 20” ride cymbal.  These cymbals are made of brass, which is an entry-level, low cost cymbal material.  Brass is typically associated with “harsh” sound, but the Meinl HCS cymbal pack does provide some pleasant musical tones.

    Meinl HCS Cymbals at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    Tama gives you stock, single-ply drum heads on the Imperialstar kit, including a pre-muffled bass drum head, along with a coated, single ply snare drum head.  These heads deliver clear projection, but their durability leaves something to be desired.

    The Imperialstar comes in six durable wrapped finishes, and has a ton of add-on options for additional drums.  This makes the Imperialstar an excellent choice for the beginning drummer who wants to expand their setup over time.

    The sound of the Tama Imperialstar is clean, sharp and dynamic thanks to its precise bearing edges, single ply heads and quality components.  The Meinl HCS Cymbal pack fit in relatively well with the overall sound of the Imperialstar.  Watch the video and hear for yourself!


    Ludwig Element Evolution

    The Ludwig Element Evolution Drum Set is comprised of 3 of the biggest names in drums: Ludwig, Zildjian and Remo.  The configuration of the Element Evolution is only slightly different than that of the Imperialstar, sporting a slightly deeper 16x16 floor tom.  The 5-piece kit we tested was a wrapped White Sparkle finish.

    The Ludwig hardware pack is similar to the Tama Imperialstar in terms of what you get - a single chain driven pedal and hi-hat stand, single braced snare stand, throne, and bass drum mounted toms.  The Element Evolution does offer 2 hideaway boom stands, as opposed to the Imperialstar.

    Ludwig Element Evolution Drum Set

    Included with the Ludwig complete drum set is Zildjian’s ZBT Bronze cymbal set.  The sizes are the same as the HCS set included with the Tama Imperialstar - 14” hats, a 16” crash and a 20” ride cymbal.  These cymbals are definitely easier on our ears in comparison to the entry-level HCS brass cymbals.

    Zildjian ZBT Cymbals at Drum Center of Portsmouth

    Another bright spot for the Element Evolution is the 2-ply, Pinstripe tom heads by Remo.  These heads provide more durability for the beginning drummer, as well as a controlled, low-end thud that we found pleasing.  While these are not the preferred USA Remo heads we sell here at Drum Center of Portsmouth, they are a step up from the less-durable single ply Tama heads.

    Remo Pinstripe Drum Heads on the Ludwig Evolution Drum Set

    Ludwig offers slightly fewer options when it comes to finishes and add-on drums relative to Tama’s Imperialstar, but there is certainly enough to keep the beginner drummer busy for years to come.

    The overall sound of the Ludwig Element Evolution is impressive.  All the drums tuned up easily and gave us nice round tone, thanks to the 2-ply Remo heads.  The Zildjian ZBT cymbals yield relatively smooth musicality and are a tremendous value at this price point.


    The Verdict

    Both the Tama Imperialstar and Ludwig Element Evolution are simply a ridiculous value at this price point.  The fact that you can spend less than $800 and have a solidly built, great sounding kit that will last for years is a testament to both manufacturers.

    1. Drum Shells

    When it comes to the drum shells - we are giving the slight edge to Tama.  The reason we went with Tama is that they disclosed what their shells are actually made of on their website.  We weren’t able to find that info from Ludwig.

    2. Hardware

    The winner for hardware was also Tama. You can’t go wrong with Tama Iron Cobra hardware.  The quality speaks for itself.

    3. Cymbals

    When it comes to cymbal sound, the Zildjian ZBT bronze cymbals are in a class above that of the brass Meinl HCS.  Ludwig takes this category with relative ease.

    4. Heads

    Ludwig’s 2-ply Remo Pinstripe heads also out-performed the stock, single-ply heads found on the Tama Imperialstar.  While we do recommend you replace either set of heads, the Element Evolution stock heads will give you more legitimate playing time before having to do so.

    5. Sound

    Which kit has the best overall sound?  We’ll leave that up to you to decide, because after all, all ears are different. Check out our head to head comparison video and let us know what you think!  Whichever kit you choose, you can’t go wrong, because we've picked the best of the bunch. We highly recommend spending a little more on one of these kits out of the gate, rather than going with one of the less-expensive options.  By spending a little more up-front, you will get a better sounding, longer lasting kit that will provide the new drummer with more enjoyment while they learn their instrument. If they decide to bail, or trade-in their kit down the road for a new one, either one of these kits will yield a better return on investment than their cheaper competitors.

    In Closing

    Have some questions?  Give us a call at 603-319-8109, or email us.    We offer FREE SHIPPING, or if you're local, we offer free set up and tuning on sets purchased here, as well as a LIFETIME LABOR WARRANTY.  That's right, All services performed on your drums will not be charged.  At the Drum Center of Portsmouth, we are obsessed with sound, and helping you get behind the drum set that is right for your individual needs.  When you’re ready to make your first investment in a drum set, you can rely on us for honest answers to any questions you may have.

    Our Tama Imperialstar Drum Set and add on page is here.

    The Ludwig Evolution Drum Sets are here.


    Drum Center of Portsmouth
    144 Lafayette Road
    North Hampton NH, USA

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