Independently adjust top and bottom heads using a dial for lightning-fast tuning.

There’s often a fine line between innovation and gimmickry. The latter is often thrilling and captivating at first glance, but inevitably there are one or more shortcomings that render the product impractical at best and utterly useless at worse. Innovation, on the other hand, often changes the landscape of what’s possible, ultimately rendering its predecessors obsolete. (Think about what the modern hi-hat stand did to all other foot-operated cymbal holders, like the low-boy.) Now, on paper, the new dialtune cable-tuning snare drum could easily be cast into the gimmick list. That is, until you actually try it. This thing works…like, really works. Let’s take a closer look.

What Is It?

The dialtune snare comprises a 6.5×14 maple shell, in natural or Espresso finish, outfitted with super-precise cable-and-pulley systems attached to it in place of standard drum lugs. There are two cables, one for the top head and one for the bottom, that are operated with large twist knobs on opposite sides of the drum. As the tension is increased, the pulleys steadily lower the quick-release hoops towards the center of the shell, therefore raising the pitch of the drumhead.

The adjustment knobs operate very smoothly, but also maintain a necessary amount of friction to keep the head from losing tension while being played. The uniquely designed hoops require no screws or threading, making drumhead changes much simpler, quicker, and easier than with traditional rims and threaded screws.

Simply loosen the cable until the head is slack, and rotate the hoop so that it unlocks from the small vertical posts on the subhoop. From there, the drumhead can be popped off the shell and replaced with a new one. Batter head changes can be executed in under a minute, while bottom head changes take a little longer due to having to remove the wires from the strainer first.

How Does It Sound?

With your eyes closed, the dialtune snare sounds as good as any other high-quality 6.5×14 plywood maple drum. While the cable system and quick-release hoops do add bulk to the drum, we were surprised by how little impact they had on resonance, projection, sensitivity, and tone. When cranked as tight as possible, the drum sounded very funky, articulate, and focused. And everything down from there sounded full, warm, rich, and open.

Even when tuned super low, the cables maintained a consistent tension. I didn’t need to use muffling at any point, nor did I have to retune the drum between songs or takes to keep it at a consistent pitch. And yes, you can change the tuning—either by a little or a lot—in a matter of seconds, even while playing a groove with the other hand. For recording purposes, the dialtune makes it super easy to get the snare pitch to sit perfectly within a track. And on gigs, this one drum can transform from a super-tight Steve Jordan–esque “pop” to a chesty Don Henley “thump” in less time than it takes for your guitarist to retune. Make sure you check out our real-time tuning demo linked below.