6 Best Budget Snare Drums (2020) – Cheap But Punchy!

Updated on by Brett Clur | Please note that there may be affiliate links on this page.

When it comes to a drum kit setup, your snare drum is your most important piece. It’s the drum that you’re going to hit the most, allowing you to provide constant backbeats and grooves.

With that being said, you should have a snare that you love hearing. If you don’t like the sound of your snare, you’re not going to enjoy playing it. 

These are some great budget snare drums on the market that sound solid and punchy.

Best Budget Snare Drums - Affordable Options

When it comes to versatility, Pearl’s Modern Utility snares take the cake. They’re designed in a way to make them fit perfectly within any style of music, providing a sound that blends well with everything. This Steel version has a 5.5” x 14” shell that is full of musicality and usefulness.

This snare has a slightly boxy sound with an open ring. The steel shell gives it an open attack that is quite fat, allowing the snare to resonate loudly. Rimshots will echo throughout venues, giving you an effective tool to play accented notes. It sounds great when tuned medium to high but not so great when it’s tuned low. 

It has Pearl’s SR700 strainer which is a throw-off that Pearl uses for their higher-end snare drums. It makes turning the snare on a smooth and easy process.

The finish of this snare is a smooth satin that blends with the steel, giving you a sleek, modern drum with a metallic feel.

This is a great snare drum for someone who gigs constantly and plays different styles of music. It’s highly versatile while having great value for money. 

  • Versatile
  • Pearl SR700 strainer
  • Effective rimshots
  • Doesn’t sound great when tuned low

Tama’s Metalworks series provides several snare drums in different sizes. This steel snare drum has a standard size of 5.5” x 14”.

It has a bright punch that is extremely clear, especially in higher tuning. The resonance is smooth when it’s tuned low. The overall feel of the snare is very responsive for the price. Ghost notes can be heard clearly while buzz rolls and rimshots are easy to play.

It has a matte-black finish that matches the color of the hardware. This gives it a smooth black look that some may like while others may not. The finish will fit in nicely with any type of drum kit you put it with.

The steel shell makes this snare quite loud. If you need a bright and loud snare drum, the Tama Metalworks Steel 5.5” x 14” is a great option.

  • Clear punch when tuned high
  • Smooth resonance when tuned low
  • Loud
  • Bad stock drumhead

The Yamaha Stage Custom Birch arguably holds the title for the best sounding drum kit at its price range. So, it’s great that you can purchase the snare drum separately if you want to, allowing you to get that Stage Custom snare sound at an affordable price.

This 5.5” x 14” snare drum has a rich sound thanks to its birch shell. When tuned high, it delivers a clear tone that is sharp and crisp. You’ll find that many drummers that high play high-intensity music love using the Stage Custom snare.

It has just the right amount of attack to support instrument hits in a song. The crack will leave you wanting more.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t sound too great when tuned low. Intricate rudimental sticking won’t translate well on a looser drumhead, causing the notes to get lost the faster you play. This snare drum needs to be tuned high to get the most responsiveness out of it.

A great thing about it is that there are many different finishes to choose from, allowing you to choose a snare that will match the color of the rest of your drums.

  • Rich sound
  • Great for crisp high tuning
  • Several finishes to choose from
  • Not responsive when tuned low

If you’re looking for a vintage tone that projects, the Gretsch Black Nickel Over Steel will have you covered. It has a 6.5” x 14” steel shell that delivers a huge sound that will take you back to 80s rock.

It’s slightly deeper than the other snares on this list, giving it more depth in tone. It will give a smooth fat sound when tuned low that sounds great. You’ll notice that quite a few cheaper snare drums don’t sound good when tuned low. This snare is one of the exceptions.

It has quite a long ring when played loudly. However, you can get that under control with a bit of muffling. Some drummers may even like the ring, but it will be too aggressive for most situations.

The black nickel covering of the shell makes this snare look very cool in a drum kit setup. I’ve always loved black snare drums, and this one doesn’t disappoint.

  • Sounds great when tuned low
  • Responsive
  • Looks great
  • Long ring when played loudly

Tama’s Sound Lab Project is a series of drums that are designed in a way that makes them affordable and accessible to everyone. They have a certain level of quality that is rare in such affordable drums. The Big Black Steel snare has an 8” x 14” shell that produces a huge sound.

The tone is bright with a long sustain. When hit hard, it produces many overtones that give it an aggressive sound. Even though its aggressive, it has great sensitivity and response.

This snare sounds fantastic when tuned high. The extra depth gives it character, allowing you to feel it in your body every time you hit it. It’s not common for deep snares to sound great when tuned high, making the Big Black Steel snare very unique. 

Such an aggressive snare is great for styles like rock and metal. It will fit well on stage and in the recording studio.

The stock drumhead that comes with it isn’t great, meaning you’d have to replace it to get the best tone possible.

  • Aggressive tone
  • Has a lot of depth
  • Great when tuned high
  • Stock drumhead isn’t great

The Ludwig Supralite is a 6.5” x 14” steel snare drum with excellent sound, response, and playability. It has a tone that easily compares to higher-end snare drums. The reason it’s low-priced is that costs are saved on the hardware.

This snare has a snappy attack that produces a lot of mid-range overtones, giving it a sound that fits with many different styles of music. The sound cuts through mixes very easily, meaning you don’t have to hit the snare to hard to have an effective tone.

It fairs well in all kinds of tuning, with low tuning sounding beefy and high tuning sounding cracking.

The one issue with this snare is that the lugs tend to strip. They can be easily replaced and it’s just the price to pay for getting such a great sounding snare drum at this low price.

  • Easily compares to higher-priced snare drums
  • Versatile
  • Wide tuning range
  • Lugs tend to strip

Getting a Great Snare Sound 

You can do a few things to a snare drum to make it sound great, even if it’s cheap. The first thing to do is to make sure all the tension lugs are evenly tightened. This will mean that your snare is in tune and you have a good base to start with when tuning higher or lower.

The next thing to do is to get a decent drumhead. Drumheads that come stock with snare drums usually aren’t high-quality. Swapping that stock drumhead out with a better one will make a world of difference. There are plenty of specialized snare drumheads out there for dry, warm, or resonant tones.

The last thing to do is to change the snare wires. Snare wires will affect how much your snare rings and how responsive it can be. You can change the tension on the wires to have them tight or loose.

When it comes to drum sounds, it also depends on how you play the drum. A pro drummer will play a cheap snare drum and make it sound like it costs a lot more than it does. It’s all in the technique and feel.

Conclusion

There’s a snare drum in this list for everyone. If you’re on a tight budget, you don’t have to spend a lot of money to have a decent snare drum that will sound great. You could also get one of these snares to add to your wide collection of snare drums.

I’ve personally been in situations where I put together a kit for one of my students to play. I was able to get a cheap snare drum for it and tune it up to sound tight and punchy.

So go, get yourself a great snare and whip out those ghost notes and rimshots.

Brett Clur

About Brett Clur

Brett has been playing drums for 18+ years. He's a huge drumming gear enthusiast and also teaches drumming to his students. He's most active on Instagram (@brettclurdrums), where he regularly uploads drumming videos.

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