There seems to be many rumours flying around regarding the old style Supras and the new Monroe version. I have seen the new Supras advertised as exactly the same specification as the old type yet at the same time it seems the Vintage crowd aren't convinced. Infact the old Supras in good condition often sell for a higher price than the new version! A few years ago I decided it was time for some evidence gathering... the truth is out there...

70's 402 Supra 2004 Supra

Above: Just as suspected... the 2004 version Supra (right) is subtley different...

1. The size of the centre bead is larger on the old drums, check the gap under the lug!

2. The rods on the old drum are far more level with the shell and better placed.

For a start the shell dimensions have changed as can be seen by the poor lug casting fit round the beading but in addition it may be slightly undersized as well. That being the case the shell thickness may also have changed, the theory here being if Ludwig still use the same blanks and the material is not stretched over such a large diameter, the shell will end up thicker. If I get hold of one of those drums I'll be sure to have a good look at it's dimensions and write them here. Apparently this new style shell started being produced from 1992, those made before this date being the familiar originals.

The hoop material thickness has increased to 2.3mm on the new versions which may dry out the drum slightly. Apparently the hole spacing is pushed further out on these new hoops as well. How much the rod splay can be blamed on either the new hoops or the new shell will be answered when I get hold of one. It was pointed out to me that the lug casting is still from the original tooling which explains the poor fit round the beading. Clearly the answer is the lug casting needs reworking to suit the new style shell!

Although it's unlikely to stop the drum functioning, if you want to try to correct the rod splay the use of alternative triple-flanged hoops might provide a cure. For example if the hole spacing on old Ludwig hoops was smaller then so will be the rod angles in relation to the shell. I've discovered personally in the past when fitting up triple flanged hoops to old tube lug drums (which are fussier due to a static tube lug thread rather than a threaded receiver that can tilt in the lug) that hole centres across hoops can vary between manufacturers quite noticeably. Apparently when Ludwig moved production from the Chicago factory they stopped producing their own hoops and sourced them from Taiwan instead. Alternatively you could source and fit tube lugs.

Black Beauty with Tube Lugs

Above: on the subject of tube lugs, it appears that the 2004 Ludwig snare drums fitted with these don't suffer from rod splay which suggests to me that the tubes have been produced with the new shell in mind.

I have played some of the new Supras in brass and bronze guises and they did play perfectly well. I have yet to do a direct OLD - NEW comparison to nail the exact differences, which are most likely quite subtle. It seems the company that were spinning the original shells years ago are now defunct (Reliable Metal Works?) and production was moved to a different factory altogether which helps explain the new shell design.

Ludwig Import Series Brass Snare

Above: 2004 Ludwig Import Series Brass Snare.

A last thing worth noting is the Ludwig Import Series, these are generally recognisable by the Black & White badge. These thinner shells are from China and are rolled joined ones instead of being machine spun, very much like the Pearl Sensitone I'm told. They use classic lugs like an acrolite and have a cheaper strainer fitted. These are NOT Supras!!!! Just to add to the confusion Ludwig fit the B/W badge to the latest acrolites which are spun aluminium shelled as usual!

Conclusion: It seems to me given the differences above that logically the old Supras do have certain applications such as:

if you want to emulate THAT old 70's Bonham sound for example, an old 70's drum will do it best!

Of course if you are not trying to emulate a certain sound you could use new or old versions quite happily. Do they make Supraphonics exactly like they used to? Ummmm... no, not in 2004 anyway. All things in manufacturing are "subject to change" and therefore can change without notice so keep that in mind when using this information as a guide! Does it all matter? I'll leave that for your ears to decide, it's likely to be very subtle!