This is a rare snare drum, only a few hundred were ever made in a limited production run back in 1989. I had already tried out one of the 14 x 4.75 2003 models (only size made this time), a very nice drum for sure, but I do like the 6.5 depth for the extra power in the sound and therefore one of the 1989 originals was the only option.

1989 14 x 6.5 Noble & Cooley Zildjian Snare Drum

Early Black Chrome Strainer Badge

Rare Sales Tag

The drum is generally in very good condition, some of the black chrome finish has rubbed away on the top hoop (very common on these drums), apart from that it has appeared to have survived well. I was really keen to test the sound of this drum, the 1920's Ludwig Heavyweight brass snare had impressed me and it seemed that a brass shell was a good way to go. On paper a snare drum using Zildjian cymbal alloy would take that a step further! The shell being made from cymbal alloy means the tone is very musical and unique (imagine a chime from a well crafted bell rather than a clank from a steel can). The lugs mount to the shell off centre which means no contact point on the part of the shell that resonates the most. The strainer, butt plate and tube lugs are all made from brass. It stands to reason that not only does the shell resonate but what is fitted to it does as well. This is very subtle, but the overtones produced from pot metal castings and steel will obviously be inferior to solid brass items. In theory the design is well thought out (these drums don't like being thrown about though), so it was now time to put the theory into practice.

GMS describes bell brass snares as "Bell Brass - projection, volume and intense attack; large dynamic range; loud!!" Any excuse I get to try out drums is always welcome so it was time for a comparison with a full kit down at the local rehearsal studios to find out!

I immediately went to my Ludwig 14 x 6.5 Ludalloy Super Sensitive as I've used this drum as a yardstick for years (it's featured elsewhere on the site). The drum runs a Gretsch top die cast hoop and is the best sounding Ludalloy drum I've tried (I've owned a few). We're talking about a drum that is definately no slouch. However... the differences were immediately noticeable, the N&C had a gorgeous and much more varied tone all of its own, along with more cut and projection. To try to put the volume in perspective, the N&C has the about the same kind of power on a normal full stroke as the Ludwig (with die cast top hoop) does on a full stroke rimshot!!!! Despite having a conventional strainer setup it was easily as sensitive as the Super... very impressive! The Super's best strengths are it's almost military precision on ghost notes and versatility. It's perhaps the best all rounder of the three here, the Ludalloy shell has the most neutral tone meaning you could play this behind various types of music and it would sound fine.

Next for comparison was the old 1920's 14 X 6.5 two piece shelled Heavyweight Brass Ludwig which had already seen off a lot of modern snare drums in a recent visit to a Drum Superstore. In all fairness it did a better job at trying to keep up . The N&C once again had a more colourful tone and better cut although the margin was reduced, especially in the projection stakes. On the other hand if you are after an old vintage tone then the heavyweight is the best bet here. As they say, horses for courses! It certainly highlighted just how good the old time brass Ludwig snares are and you can read more about this drum in another section of the site.

All the drums tested sounded great. In a live environment all of these would get the job done with no problems at all. The subtle differences in tone would certainly be more noticeable on a recording. The further you go down the road with "sound quality" the more you come up against the law of diminishing returns: the further you go the more it costs and the less additional effect it has overall. That said, the Noble & Cooley snare drum has amazing tone, power and sensitivity. You can play it loudly or quietly and it's lovely. I have heard of these snares going into orchestral roles and can see why. Equally, it's great for heavy music due to the projection it has. For the sound page the N & C was deliberately run with minimal dampening to exaggerate the tone which is unique so you can hear it better. Despite the VERY low tech recording method (these drums kick alot more live believe me!) differences can be heard and in a studio this would be more so.

CLICK HERE for the sound samples from that day.