lud­wig raw brass phonic snare

From £400 Two new con­trast­ing snares from Lud­wig – the ex­pen­sive Raw Brass Phonic and the more mod­est Stan­dard Maple with Eco-Tech ve­neer fin­ish

Rhythm - - FRONT PAGE - Words: Ge­off Nicholls

Lud­wig’s Supra­phonic is prob­a­bly the most fa­mous and long-run­ning snare drum of all time. Now in re­cent years, Lud­wig has jus­ti­fi­ably taken to ex­tend­ing the for­mula by of­fer­ing vari­a­tions on the ba­sic alu­minium-Supra­phonic with the Bronze Phonic and Cop­per­phonic. And fol­low­ing the re­lease of 2016’s Raw Patina Cop­per­phonic, Lud­wig adds this funky-look­ing Raw Brass Phonic.

Along­side this we have the 2018 edi­tion of what Lud­wig calls its Stan­dard Maple snare drum, which was first seen in 2017.


Lud­wig fans will be aware that the ear­li­est (1960s) Supra­phon­ics had brass shells be­fore the alu­minium ver­sion be­came mas­sively pop­u­lar. A brass shelled Supra with a black nickel ex­te­rior is a Black Beauty, which is Lud­wig’s other leg­endary all-time win­ner. So we can view this Raw Brass ver­sion as ba­si­cally a Black Beauty mi­nus the black fin­ish. The raw brass shell it­self is 1.2mm gauge and seam­less – the cru­cial as­set of Lud­wig’s ex­pen­sive Amer­i­can-sourced metal shells. Lud­wig USA’s Uli Salazar tells Rhythm that the ‘raw’ fin­ish is, “nat­u­ral oil and lu­bri­cant rem­nants from the shell for­ma­tion. We don’t treat the shells to age them.They sim­ply come out that way and we spray a very light sealer coat on them”. So, as with theRaw Patina Cop­per­phonic (see Rhythm, March 2017) every drum is vis­ually unique.

The var­ie­gated brass is off­set by the gleam­ing chrome of the 2.3mm triple-flanged steel hoops and 10Im­pe­rial lugs. It’s cer­tainly an ar­rest­ing im­age.

While the Raw Brass ex­tends a clas­sic for­mula, the Stan­dard Maple shows Lud­wig mov­ing with the times, of­fer­ing a 5-ply, 5mm Amer­i­can maple shell (Lud­wig’s Clas­sic Maple snares are 7-ply) with a syn­thetic Eco-Tech outer ve­neer. The lat­ter is an in­creas­ingly pop­u­lar al­ter­na­tive to scarce ex­otic wood ve­neers, much like Sonor’s SQ2 and other com­pa­nies’ Alpi fin­ishes. Lud­wig used it first on the 2014 Signet series. It’s de­scribed as a ‘durable outer ve­neer’, although you would not mis­take it for a real ve­neer. And in­deed the re­view drum fin­ish is called Brandy, so Lud­wig is not try­ing to pull a fast one!The point is, as Uli Salazar ex­plains: “They are dig­i­tally cre­ated to save on the use of ex­otic trees. They of­fer ex­tra­or­di­nary dura­bil­ity com­pared to a true ve­neer, and are great value as well.” We have the 14"x8" model, there’s a 6½" too, and both have 10 Clas­sic ‘bowtie’ lugs. Cen­trally mounted, these Clas­sic lugs ne­ces­si­tate over-long ten­sion rods, which al­ways looks a bit un­wieldy.

Both drums have the rel­a­tively new P88AC (At­las Cast) strainer, the long-awaited and most

a lethal com­bi­na­tion of su­per-clean br ight and shiny chrome with mu­si­cally com­plex and dark funky br ass

wel­come smooth-ac­tion re­place­ment for the an­cient P85. The Raw Brass has a cast P35 but plate as well, while the Stan­dard Maple has a P32, a type Lud­wig has been us­ing for way over a half-cen­tury. It’s ba­sic and you’ll need a screw­driver to tighten it, but it does the job.

Hands On

With its 1.2mm gauge metal and 2.3mm triple-flanged hoops, the Raw Brass Phonic is heavy – rather heav­ier than a reg­u­lar alu­minium Supra­phonic. It feels sub­stan­tial, and you are im­me­di­ately re­as­sured by the sound, which is tonally rich.In fact, it sounds the way it looks – a lethal com­bi­na­tion of su­per-clean bright and shiny chrome with mu­si­cally com­plex and dusky funky brass.

Brass has a dark tim­bre, more colour­fully com­plex than alu­minium. I put this drum next to an old Supra­phonic and it is deeper pitched while re­main­ing sharp and crisp.

By to­day’s stan­dards the Im­pe­rial lugs are chunky but they don’t seem to af­fect res­o­nance un­duly other than maybe con­tribut­ing to the fo­cused com­pact­ness of the sound. Lud­wig also makes snares with tube lugs, which no doubt are less con­strict­ing, but the Im­pe­ri­als have never been an is­sue.

The Stan­dard Maple has a thin 5mm, 5-ply shell. We have been sent the 14"x8" model to re­view, and here’s some­thing in­ter­est­ing about it. Play­ing this next to the brass Supra, sit­ting above the drums as nor­mal, it strikes me that the maple drum ac­tu­ally seems brighter than the brass. The brass is sharp, metal­lic, clangy – but the maple has an in­her­ent perk­i­ness that ap­pears ini­tially to pro­duce a higher reg­is­ter ping, even though the shell is 8" deep.

Ap­ply­ing bat­ter head damp­ing, those high perime­ter fre­quen­cies are sub­dued and now you start to ap­pre­ci­ate the ex­tra body of the maple drum.

I get a friend to play both drums while I walk away and I re­ally hear the dif­fer­ence. The depth, vol­ume and rounded wood­i­ness of the deep 8" drum be­comes in­creas­ingly dom­i­nant. But the brass drum has a pres­ence and a rich mu­si­cal­ity, which is why brass snares are so loved by many drum­mers.

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