This is something that I'd been meaning to try out for a long time. My curiousity started when I picked up a 1960's Ludwig brass hoop and tapped it with a drumstick... it had much more sustain, a higher fundamental note, and a bell like chime rather than a metallic clunk when compared to a modern steel counterpart. Plenty of musical instruments are made of brass underlining the material's musical quality. It stands to reason that when you hit a drum not only does the shell resonate but all the items fixed to it do also! This is very subtle but the question is it enough of a difference to matter? This is what this experiment was all about.

The first problem involved is getting two identical snare drums, or at least in theory anyway! Luckily I found two 14 x 6.5 Super Sensitives on Ebay "requiring work". As is usually the case you also find the "work" is more involved than stated in the auction! The next stage was sourcing all the parts which took a couple of months. This also involved buying a scrap Supra 400 to locate a bottom brass hoop! Luckily I had kept a brass top hoop from a '63 Supra which made life a easier.

The next stage involved two careful rebuilds. I bought four brand new heads (Remo Ambassador top and snare side) and a set of Puresound PS 1416 wires to use on both drums to keep things as consistant as possible. Here was the result:

Rebuilt Supers

Above: Phew... all done and built! You'll notice I left the top brass hoop unpolished to help identify the drums at a quick glance.

The next challenge was to tune both drums as identically as possible! After alot of fiddling with both drums next to each other I matched both batters and both snare side heads. After making sure it had even tuning all the way round on both drums we were in business.

The experiment needed a "control" which we can use as a reference. Here is a comparison of the hoops when tapped to get your ears used to the idea of how they resonate. It's essential to listen to these closely because once you lock in on the characteristics by ear you will hear that trend mixed in with the drum sound repeatedly in the rest of the samples:



The brass one resonates for a longer time and a higher fundamental note. This difference as you will see becomes part of the drum's character when played.

The test setup I used was very simple; one set of wires, one mic / stand kept at the same level / distance for both drums, and one drum stand down at the local studio's rehearsal room. The first test was to compare both drums unmuffled (to eliminate the mufflers and therefore give a fair test of which drum actually had more ring) with no wires to exaggerate any differences:



As you can hear, although both drums are the same type the sound is not. Sure enough the brass hoop equipped drum rings longer, is slightly warmer and richer in tone. If you listen carefully to the "control" samples again then you'll hear that sure enough, to a lesser degree and mixed in with the drum shell / heads resonating, the same behaviour as when the hoops were tapped. This for me underlines that a hoop's characteristics will affect the overall response from the drum. The next test was to introduce some snare wires to show the drums in an unmuffled state only:



Pretty much the same deal with wires as you'd expect. I decided it was time to turn up the muffling a bit. With the Ludwig mufflers my preference is to turn them up until you hear them first come into contact with the head and take the excess out of the ring... any further twiddling after that point means the pad begins to stretch the head and affect the tuning for no real extra muffling effect IMO. The next experiment was to record a rimshot from each with the mufflers set as evenly as possible:



Both drums did have a similar rimshot sound if the muffler was introduced and perfectly usable. Notice how with the same tuning the cob hoop equipped drum sounds higher pitched due to the higher fundamental note the brass hoop has. For the final test I messed around and did a couple of drum rolls with accented notes, the mufflers are still on lightly too. This was probably the loosest part of the testing but I reckon it's still pretty representative of what I'm hearing from them here:



You can certainly hear the brass hoops ringing on this test adding presence and colour to the tone. The steel hoops sound sharper with less overtones.

Conclusion: The test proved without a doubt that there is indeed a difference between Ludwig COB vs COS hoops. It's certainly subtle, but it's there! The drum with brass hoops sounded slightly warmer, had a more interesting tone and greater sustain. This was even more apparent having the drums in front of you than the recordings actually reveal. The crispy snap you expect from a Ludalloy shell is obviously still there but having brass hoops to colour the tone a bit in additon works well in my opinion. I have since tested the two drums on a guitarist friend and drummer and both could hear differences. I did this without telling them which was which. You might be interested to hear the drummer friend prefered the drum equipped with brass hoops. Another interesting match would be to fit these on a modern Black Beauty for an all brass layout, I would think it would result in a very open colourful drum. The more muffling that was introduced the more subtle the difference. A big "o" ring would have reduced both to a generic "pop" which is why I prefer adjustable mufflers, I do like things left a bit open so you can hear the drum's tone. Steel hoops are probably more durable for hard rimshots in the long run (a consideration if the drum is "hammered" regularly) although I see this swap as being better for studio work than live where the difference can be better heard. If you are wondering where to find 8 or 10 lug Ludwig brass hoops you'll be looking for pre-'65 Supras / Supers / Acrolites, get the owner to test them with a magnet first though before you buy incase they have been replaced with steel versions at some point! I've heard it mentioned before that the very early acrolites were more "open sounding" (ringy) than the rest that followed. I think this experiment may have helped to prove why.