Stealthy-looking, bold-sounding offerings from one of America’s most treasured brands.

The Gretsch company has been producing world-class drums since 1883, which precedes the birth of the modern drumset by several decades. With such rich history comes great responsibility, and over the years Gretsch has had to choreograph a delicate dance that upholds company traditions while also adjusting its catalog and business plan to best serve ever-evolving musical and manufacturing demands and expectations.

Several issues ago, we reviewed the new 5.5×14 Brooklyn Standard snare, which drew from traditional and contemporary design elements to create a workhorse wood option that excels in all musical applications. Also new for 2020 are the more modern-leaning Black Copper snares, which we have for review here. These drums are available in two sizes, 5×14 and 6.5×14, but are otherwise identical. Let’s give them a closer look.

Shared Specs

July 2020 Gretsch USA Black Copper Snare Drums E

The foundation of these two drums is a thin 1 mm copper shell that has integrated bearing edges and snare beds. The shells are powder-coated in black, which gives them a flat-black appearance and a textured feel. The paint also helps control overtones of the highly resonant copper alloy. Both drums come with Gretsch’s classic Lightning throw-off, which has a quick-release latch on one side and a tension adjustment knob on the other. Forty-two-strand snappy wires are included, as is a slick Snap-In drum key holder that allows you to store a Gretsch drum key within a hole in the shell. The heads are Permatone by Remo: a coated single-ply batter and a hazy bottom. Both drums are also outfitted with die-cast hoops and slick laser-engraved round-badge logos that expose the rich copper shell underneath the powder-coated finish.

5×14 G4160BC ($899.99)

The shallower Black Copper snare features eight of Gretsch’s double-ended G5472 lugs. This number of lugs helps open up the tone of the drum while providing maximum tuning stability and flexibility. The die-cast hoops rein in some overtones while also adding incredible power and snap to rimshots and density and clarity to rimclicks.

July 2020 Gretsch USA Black Copper Snare Drums b

Of the two sizes, the 5×14 proved to have more tuning versatility, especially in the often troubling medium-low and low register. I felt this drum performed best in the upper range, from medium-high up to piccolo-tight. The tighter tunings allowed for superb sensitivity and dynamic response, while also providing a strong “crack” followed by rich yet controlled overtones. If you’re looking for a drum with a unique and lively voice that also records beautifully without any muffling, check this one out.

6.5×14 G4164BC ($929.99)

July 2020 Gretsch USA Black Copper Snare Drums D

This deeper model features ten double-ended lugs and boasts a more powerful and vibrant tone. Like the 5×14, it’s extremely sensitive and articulate, and rimshots have a very strong, dense attack. The tuning range is truncated by comparison; the batter head seemed to disengage from the shell below medium-low tension, which resulted in an overly flappy, distorted sound. But within the higher registers, there’s a lot of big, bold tones to explore, from a super-singing and smacking Chris McHugh–type tone at medium tension (check out the Keith Urban tune “Sweet Thing” for reference) or a brighter modern-rock ping, à la Deftones’ Abe Cunningham or the Chili Peppers’ Chad Smith, when the batter head is cranked. Again, even though the overtones were prominent, the deeper Black Copper snare recorded beautifully.