6×14 Copper and 4.75×14 Painted Alloy Classic Snares
Premium metal drums that provide maximum impact without
sacrificing versatility or sensitivity.
The Massachusetts-based Noble & Cooley drum company has lineage that goes back as far as 1854, when Silas Noble and James P. Cooley began building instruments in the kitchen of the Noble family farmhouse. The two men later moved production into a separate factory and soon began making drums for the Northern Regiments during the American Civil War. Fast-forward to the 1980s, and Cooley descendent and company owner Jay Jones ushers in the boutique era after breaking out his old steam-bending machines to build a customer a new snare drum from scratch. From that point on, Jay and his son Nick, the company’s VP, have continued to produce some of the most gorgeous snare drums and drumsets in the world, complementing seven generations of skilled craftsmanship with cutting-edge hardware innovations and proprietary shell designs.
N&C first began experimenting with metal shells after teaming up with Zildjian to create a limited run of snare drums built from the cymbal company’s bronze alloy. Jones later developed the Alloy Classic model, which features a cast-aluminum shell in either 4.75×14 or 6×14 sizes. Those drums became favorites for many drummers, both live and in the studio, and in 2019 the metal offerings were augmented again with 6×14 and 8×14 snares featuring a sturdy copper shell. Oh, and both the Alloy and Copper Classics are available in black, raw, or brand-new flake or sparkle paint finishes. We got our hands on a pair of stunners: a 6×14 raw Copper Classic with black-chrome hardware and a 4.75×14 Alloy Classic painted in a gorgeous high-gloss silver sparkle.
Both drums featured N&C’s legendary solid-brass throw-off and proprietary solid-brass/low-mass tube lugs. The rims are standard triple-flanged steel. (Die-cast hoops are an option as well.) The hardware is offered in chrome or black chrome. The heads are Remo Ambassador Coated batters and Ambassador Hazy Snare Side bottoms. The wires are twenty-strand, but they are arranged with gaps between the sixth and seventh strands and the fourteenth and fifteenth strands. This custom configuration provides the increased sensitivity of a wider strainer without choking the bottom head. The throw-off and tension rods are each insulated from the shell with plastic gaskets.
The Alloy Classic shell is cast by pouring molten aluminum into a mold and then CNC-machined into a perfect cylinder. This type of shell is different from one made from sheet metal that’s been rolled into shape and welded at the joint, or one that’s been sliced from a large tube. The casting process results in a porous shell, which leads to a drum with a denser sound. This translated into a thick, chunky tone that maintained depth and punch when the heads were cranked or detuned to slack. The tone of the Alloy Classic was a true hybrid between the brightness and dry “pop” of aluminum and the warm, chesty smack of solid wood.
The shallower depth of the Alloy Classic allowed for lightning-fast snare response and impeccable sensitivity across the entire head. You won’t find a more satisfying jazz/funk sound than what you get from this drum. With the batter head just below the choking point, the tone was thick, the attack was crisp, and the overtones were rich yet controlled. Those qualities remained in perfect balance at lower tunings as well, especially in the finicky medium and medium-low registers that are often required in modern-rock and country mixes. No muffling was needed, even when tracking the drum with close mics. The gold-sparkle painted finish—which I’ve never seen on a metal shell—was simply stunning. If a perfect snare drum exists….
The new Copper Classic snare is the big, beefy brother of the Alloy Classic. It also features a solid-brass throw-off and tube lugs, custom-configured twenty-strand wires, Remo heads, triple-flange hoops, and plastic gaskets. The Copper Classic is offered in larger sizes (6×14 and 8×14), and features a slick laser-etched badge. The Copper Classic is also available in painted finishes, but we received one with a raw finish and black-nickel hardware. It, too, was an absolute stunner.
Now let’s talk about the sound. You couldn’t draw up a more perfect contrast between these two Classic series drums. The Alloy Classic is dry and cracking; the Copper Classic is sonorous and biting. Yet both share the same thick, dense attack, crystal-clear sensitivity, and mic-friendly tone. I used the Copper Classic to record some aggressive modern-rock tracks, and it provided a perfect mix of surgically precise transients and a deep, compressed tone. For this session I only used a single Shure SM57 on top and filled out the sound with a pair of heavily compressed room mics. Yet this snare sounded like the best, most meticulously mixed sample I could have imagined. I did have to apply two small rolls of gaffer’s tape near the bearing edge to control some of the high-pitched overtones. But other than that, it was modern-rock ready from the get-go. I’d put this drum up against my trusty bell brass snare any day.
By Michael Dawson