Tour Custom and Recording Custom Snares

Complementary, high-quality maple and birch options tailor-made for live and studio applications.

Yamaha recently revamped the classic Recording Custom series birch drumsets and metal snares in collaboration with longtime endorser and legendary drummer Steve Gadd. Earlier this year, the company added birch snares to the series in 5.5×14 and 8×14 sizes, as well as 5.5×14 and 6.5×14 all-maple options in the Tour Custom series. We were sent one of each to review, so let’s see how they compared.

Tour Custom Specs

As the name implies, the Tour Custom series is designed for working drummers requiring versatility, simple and stable hardware, and timeless finishes, all at an affordable price. The 5.6 mm shells on the 5.5×14 ($580) and 6.5×14 ($640) Tour Custom snares are crafted from 6-ply maple, and the bearing edges are precisely cut to 45 degrees. That combination makes for a warm and open tone with tons of depth, exceptional sensitivity, and a wide dynamic range. The satin lacquer finishes for this series include Butterscotch (i.e., natural maple), Candy Apple, Chocolate, Caramel, and Licorice. We received a 5.5×14 in Caramel and a 6.5×14 in Candy Apple. Both drums had a deep, rich color that still was subdued enough to allow the grain of the maple to show through.

The 2.3 mm DynaHoop steel rims on the Tour Custom snares have an inverse upper flange that is folded towards the center of the drum rather than outwards. This hoop style is a modernized version of the classic Slingerland “stick saver” design and is employed to help control the overtones for a stronger fundamental tone and to provide a smoother rim click sound.

The Tour Custom snares feature ten of Yamaha’s low-profile Absolute lugs, which are mounted with a single screw so as to minimize the impact of the hardware on the drum’s resonance and tone. Similarly, the drums are outfitted with a compact, lightweight P-Type strainer that features a small but smooth throw-off lever and tension-adjustment thumbscrews on both sides of the shell.

Drumheads include Remo Ambassador Coated batters and Ambassador Snare bottoms, and both drums came with twenty-strand high-carbon steel coiled wires.

Recording Custom Specs

The newly revised Recording Custom birch snares are available in 5.5×14 and 8×14 sizes and have 6-ply/6 mm shells with 30-degree bearing edges. The flatter edges are used to balance out the naturally sharper, brighter tone of birch with a bit more fatness while not sacrificing response, sensitivity, or dynamic range. These are top-shelf snares with beefier appointments. These include modernized one-piece lugs that retain the classic look of the original Recording Custom series but are bridged between the connecting screws to help maximize sustain and tone.

The heavy-duty Q-Type strainer is a much more robust and slick design with exceptionally sturdy and smooth-operating parts. The triple-flange hoops are lightweight (1.6 mm), which again helps open up the sound of the more controlled birch shell while also providing stable tuning, strong backbeats, and a solid feel. Yamaha supplies the drums with Remo Ambassador Coated and Ambassador Snare heads and twenty-five-strand carbon-steel wires.

Finishes for Recording Custom snares include Solid Black, Classic Walnut, Surf Green, and Real Wood. Our 5.5×14 ($1,140) came in the simple Real Wood finish, while the 8×14 ($1,240) was done up in super-cool Surf Green.


The Sounds

To get the most accurate assessment of the sonic differences between these four snares, we started by tuning them as close to identically as possible. We started with the top and bottom heads cranked tight. (The tops were tuned to the note F# at each tension rod. The bottoms were tuned very high: 400 Hz at each tension rod.)

Because they shared the same shell dimensions, the 5.5×14 Tour Custom and Recording Custom snares were the easiest to pitch-match and compare. There was a very palatable difference in power, crispness, and fullness between the two series, with the Recording Custom version being discernibly “more” in all three categories.

Not that the Tour Custom drum was lacking; in fact it was actually a more enjoyable drum to play in terms of feel and warmth. But the Recording Custom had more presence, a tighter tone, and a punchier attack. In the studio, the Recording Custom was simply stellar, requiring very little EQ, compression, or dampening to get it to jump through a dense mix. The 8×14 version had more reverberant attack and a longer sustain, but the snare response remained crisp and quick. And when you detuned the batter head all the way—soft, gushy perfection.

On gigs, however, the Tour Custom was a more forgiving drum, as it had a warmer timbre and produced a wider swathe of overtones that blended well with the other instruments onstage. It also felt easier on my hands, especially when they were smacking rimshots set after set. The 6.5×14 Tour Custom had a beefier overall tone; at tight tunings it had a nice, woody smack, while medium and low tunings produced a longer, richer sustain.

The old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true when comparing the ticket prices of the $580 Tour Custom 5.5×14 to the $1,140 Recording Custom. But it ultimately comes down to what you actually need for your particular situation. Are you primarily a session drummer who banks on providing the highest-fidelity snare tones possible? Or do you need a reliable and great-sounding drum that you can depend on for any live gig without draining your bank account? Either way, Yamaha has your back. Check them out at your local Yamaha dealer or shop now at Sweetwater.