I get asked a lot about why I play and endorse the gear that I use.
“Do you get it for free?” – No. I get gear at a discount. I still buy it.
“Then why play it if they aren’t giving you stuff?” – Well, it’s the sound that I hear in my head. Why else would you play it?”
That is the simple honest truth. Despite having played and owned a wealth of drum kits from numerous manufacturers big and small, I love the sound of Ludwig. I love the look of Ludwig. I love the history of the Ludwig brand. They were the first kits I ever played when I started out and that’s why I play and endorse them with the enthusiasm I do today. So, when I get asked, “Why Ludwig?” I can think of many amazing products that have been released just over the past few years. From the fat sound and funky vibe of the newly redesigned Club Dates, to the full richness of both the Legacy and Legacy Mahogany drums, to the bite of the Keystone series: Ludwig has a vast array of drums that both sound and look fantastic. But, one recent offering really stands out for me.
The Ludwig Copper-Phonic Snare Drum
I was very excited when I heard that Ludwig was going to be adding a copper offering to their Supra-Phonic line. I mean, how could you go wrong with the most recorded drum in history, now in luscious copper? When I saw the drum at the 2015 NAMM show, I knew it was something I had to add to my collection. Now that I have them (both the 5×14 and 6.5×14), I couldn’t imagine going to a gig or a session without at least one. They have definitely become my go to drums.
Imagine the punch of a Black Beauty and the bell like ring of a Bronze shell but more subtle. That is what the Copper-Phonic gives you. You get punch, you get bite, but you also get a buttery kind of subtlety. It sits in the mix (live or in the studio) in a very clear, but unobtrusive way.
There are a couple of key reasons why the Copper-phonic sounds the way it does (and a reason why all Ludwig metal snare drums have made their way on to more recordings, and into more drum arsenals than any other snare drum. Ever.)
The Beaded Shell
This is a feature on pretty much every single metal Ludwig snare drum. From the Acrolite all the way up the Black Beauty of Chief (titanium) Supra-phonic. Putting a bead in a shell does several things:
First off, it adds more mass to the shell. If you were to straighten out a beaded shell, you might get another half an inch (or more) in overall depth. That might not seem like too much, but it makes a difference. That extra mass translates to a drum that has a bit more ‘thump’ to the sound.
Secondly, the sound has more places to go. By adding that bead, you are giving the sound waves different places to go than straight up and down.
Third, when you couple a beaded shell with a flange bearing edge – where the head has a lot of contact with the shell – and you get a rich, fat tone that is complex and musical.
The fact that the Copper-Phonic is non-plated means that this very musical material can vibrate more freely. You’ll notice that Ludwig’s copper tympani aren’t plated. There’s a reason for this. When you add layers onto a vibrating body (guitars, basses, drums) you will change some of the vibrating characteristics of that body. Simply put; the Copper-phonic has room to breathe.
What you get from an non-plated copper shell (and the reason why I love it so much) is a mix of tones that give a nod to all the existing Supra-Phonics. You get some high-end love as on a regular Supra-Phonic. You get some punch and meatiness like you would with a Black Beauty. You get some bell like quality and warmth as you would in a bronze shell. And, you get a little bit of bite like you would from a regular brass shell. All from one drum.
Obviously, plating isn’t bad though. On a regular Supra-phonic, it’s the plating (chromium) that enhances the high-end I mentioned above: a quality that might otherwise not be as present given the drier nature a regular Supra-phonic (Ludalloy) shell has. Think of the difference in tone between an Acrolite and a Supra-Phonic and you’ll hear what I mean. The Acrolite too has a coating on it (either black galaxy or the traditional matte grey) that gives it that undeniable dry bite. With the plating on a Black Beauty (black nickel) it helps to tame some of the more higher and wild characteristic of brass; giving you a wonderfully powerful and musical sound.
Obviously, I’m a big fan. I own both sizes (again, the raw, unpolished versions). Since they showed up at my door I’ve let a lot of my friends play them and pretty much everyone has fallen in love with at least one of the sizes. So yeah, it’s great that Ludwig is offering this type of shell. But you know what the best thing is? Ludwig hasn’t tried to reinvent any of the sounds they already offer. In the copper shell, you have yet another unique voice. A voice that easily carries on the Ludwig legacy of great sound and great looks. A voice that, for this drummer, has become the king of my snare drum arsenal.
The Copper-Phonic is available in a variety of options (raw shell, polished, or polished/hammered with a choice of tube lugs or Imperial lugs). Check them out at: http://www.ludwig-drums.com/usasnares_copper-phonic.php
Wich heads do you prefer on the copperphonics?
My head of choice for most of my snare drums is the Remo CS coated (reverse dot). I get good durability, less need for muffling, and with the dot underneath I can still do brush work. It’s a great feeling head and very resilient under my stick. I get a lot of life out of it.
I love how these things sound when they are mic’d up. I couldn’t afford the Ludwig Copper-phonic so I ended up getting a used Yamaha Copper Noveau snare. It just didn’t quite sound the same as the Ludwig. Currently own a Ludwig Twisted Salesman snare and a chrome over brass Ludwig Supra-phonic with tube lugs. I might just end up saving my money and getting the Copper-phonic.
Ultimately, it’s the metal itself that gives you that great sound. That and how you play it! Obviously, I love my Copper-phonics. If you aren’t totally happy with your Nouveau… see what kind of sounds you can get from it by changing tuning, head combinations, etc (if you haven’t already). If you want to trade in the Nouveau and spring for the copper-phonic – I would definitely recommend the 6.5×14. It is a very versatile size and gives you all of the ‘wallop’ you will night when you lay into it, but still gives you a crispness when you back off a little bit. Between that and the other Ludwig’s you own, you’ve got yourself a great collection that will cover anything that gets thrown at you! Thanks for checking out the review and for your comment!
Played Pearl 8×14 brass for years, loved it, roadie
dropped and busted aluminum, had to have a snare looked at many video and found the copper phobic 8×14 raw patina, oh my Lord, sky parted and was sold, cost is high but sound is wonderful, and when miked totally awesome
Randy, Sorry to hear about your Pearl Aluminum free floater, but I’m glad you were able to make some lemonade out of lemons. That 8×14 is something I have my eye on too. I’ve played one and it just has such an amazing sound and feel. I can imagine that it is amazing when mic’d up. Thanks for the comment and ENJOY the new drum! Best. Christopher
That was an amazing review! I have a hammered black beauty. This will be my next drum. Probably unhammered. Thanks for explaining all the things that set Ludwig apart. I’ve only recently started playing their snares.
Hey Miles. Yes, I really am a fan of Ludwig snares (regardless of the fact that I’m an endorser). That hammered BB is a really great drum. I like the unhammered copper drum myself. Copper has a lovely musical note, but since it is a little dry as well I think the hammering takes out TOO much of that musical note (for my ear). Enjoy!
Great review. Thank you so much for writing this. I’m interested in buying a Ludwig snare but need some help deciding on which line of Superphonic’s I should buy. I’m looking for a nice low fat-wet sound. Would this copper phonic offer offer this and what would the sound difference between a 8×14 or 6.5×14?
Thanks so much Jon. I think any of the Supraphonic snares can offer the sound that you’re looking for… but it’s not just going to come from the drum. If you de-tune a drum too much to get ‘that sound’, then it might be a bit harder to play (what some of us refer to as birthday cake it with baseball bat ‘splat’!).
I think the Copper is a nice option because it has a nice musical note to it, but it’s not as wild as brass, but not quite as warm as bronze. You get a musical note, but it’s a bit drier. So, that helps with achieving the sound you’re looking for.
Beyond that… I would also consider the following: cut out an old head so you can use it as an overlay (there are also companies make that stuff too like Big Fat Snare Drum, etc.). Or using a heavier batter head (like an Emperor or even a Powerstroke 3). Experiment to get the sound that you are looking for.
As far as size – I want to get an 8×14 next. That said, I use my 6.5×14 for almost everything I do of late. It’s an incredibly versatile drum and I love it for everything – jazz, rock, pop, funk… it can do it all.
I hope that helps and please let me know what you decide! Best. christopher
Just ordered a 5″ CO from IM. Got the Raw model. Super excited to play this snare!
Congrats on the new drum Steve! It will be easy to experiment with some different tones out of the drum as well. Right now, I’ve got a coated CS (reverse dot) on mine… but I’m thinking about putting a good old fashion Ambassador on next. Stay in touch and let me know how you’ve tuned it up, head combinations, and how you’re digging it in general!