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Bell Brass vs Aluminum tone

Swjake83

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So I’ve searched and I see all kinds of aluminum vs brass threads and videos, but nothing I can find comparing bell Brass (actually bronze right?) with aluminum. I’m down to really 2 snares that I am stuck between, both are cast I believe. Gretsch Bell Brass and the Noble & Cooley Alloy. The videos I’ve seen of both are really right in the wheel house of what I like. A nice dry crack with just a hint of overtone. I’m leaning toward the Bell Brass as it seems even a little dryer in videos I’ve watched, but that also seems opposite of what I would expect.

Anyone have experience with both? Thanks!
 

Steech

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You could try a Keplinger Black Iron.
It has qualities of both bell brass and aluminum plus its own type of magic.
 

Ptrick

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I have many cast bronze (bell brass) and many cast aluminum.

Cast bronze is much fatter overall. It’s warm, fat, and has a ton of presence along the frequency spectrum.

Cast aluminum sounds great, but is a dryer, thinner sound overall. It doesn’t have quite the “gut punch” cast bronze does.

In a live mix with music, both cut thru amazingly well. Just depends whether you want dryer and a little more brittle sounding (aluminum), or a big wide sound that cast bronze provides.
 

Ptrick

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You could try a Keplinger Black Iron.
It has qualities of both bell brass and aluminum plus its own type of magic.
This is actually a really good answer. I can definitely see a black iron splitting the difference. Keplingers, regardless of the choice of metal, have a very thick sound to them. I think it has something to do with the more rounded edges.

I have just recently fallen in love with the Keplinger sound, and have a 14x6.5 10 Lug Copper, and 14x6 8 lug Stainless Steel.
 

Swjake83

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Aluminum is much dryer.
Bell Brass has a lot of overtones.

Here's one of mine.
Great playing and sounding drum! This is more what I expected the bell brass to sound like. The ones that had me intrigued are a few from Drum Center of NH and also one from Memphis drum shop. Both came across as pretty dry to me, like I mentioned more than I expected. My main snare now is a custom made maple at 6.5”. It cracks but still has good warmth.

I have many cast bronze (bell brass) and many cast aluminum.

Cast bronze is much fatter overall. It’s warm, fat, and has a ton of presence along the frequency spectrum.

Cast aluminum sounds great, but is a dryer, thinner sound overall. It doesn’t have quite the “gut punch” cast bronze does.

In a live mix with music, both cut thru amazingly well. Just depends whether you want dryer and a little more brittle sounding (aluminum), or a big wide sound that cast bronze provides.
As much as I try to go for variety, I usually end up tuning any snare I play to medium high. Haha. They just feel and play better there. I can’t do the big fat sound. So this one I really want to cut, but also not ring forever so I can leave it open.

It feels like I’m describing aluminum… do you all agree?
 

Swjake83

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I should say, cut more than my maple, but still have some depth and not sound like a piccolo. In the noble and Cooley alloy (cast), it’s hard to tell much difference between the 6.5 and 4” depth. In the Acrolite style (spun) the depth makes a much bigger impact even on a video.

Thanks again for the replies!
 

Steech

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Even when tuned high, bell brass drums have a low end that is completely unique. I had held off on getting a bell brass for a long time, and kind of dismissed them as hype.

Finally got one, and...

Same here. My Gretsch Bell Brass is a game changer for me.
 

Steech

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Compared to the tama sfmill shared, same amount of overtones in your Gretsch?
I’m not sure what a sfmill shared is (typo maybe?) but yeah, the Gretsch BB has a lot of overtones but they’re pretty manageable.

My Keplinger Black Iron has a similar crack, but it’s a bit darker and dryer. It really does sit right in the middle between the Gretsch and my Dunnett Aluminum.
 

Ptrick

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Great playing and sounding drum! This is more what I expected the bell brass to sound like. The ones that had me intrigued are a few from Drum Center of NH and also one from Memphis drum shop. Both came across as pretty dry to me, like I mentioned more than I expected. My main snare now is a custom made maple at 6.5”. It cracks but still has good warmth.


As much as I try to go for variety, I usually end up tuning any snare I play to medium high. Haha. They just feel and play better there. I can’t do the big fat sound. So this one I really want to cut, but also not ring forever so I can leave it open.

It feels like I’m describing aluminum… do you all agree?
The beauty of bell brass is it doesn’t lose its balls when tuned up. And it can sound dry when cranked. What you may be hearing in a lot of the files you listened to is that when recorded, even though bell brass has a lot of ring, it blends in with the overall sound (wide frequency spectrum), which is what gives it such a full sound.

I played a N&C Alloy Classic 6” and Pearl Ultracast 6.5 for years. They sound amazing. Bell brass maintained all of what they do, but added in more of everything. There’s a reason it is used on so many albums.
 

Swjake83

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I’m not sure what a sfmill shared is (typo maybe?) but yeah, the Gretsch BB has a lot of overtones but they’re pretty manageable.

My Keplinger Black Iron has a similar crack, but it’s a bit darker and dryer. It really does sit right in the middle between the Gretsch and my Dunnett Aluminum.
The video of the tama in the first reply that sfmill posted is what I meant.
 

Swjake83

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So….I’d say yes, my Gretsch is pretty similar to the Tama BB.
No problem! Haha. Ok great. It still sounds amazing even though not as dry as some videos I’ve found. Glad to know it better represents the real world sound. That ring isn’t bad by any stretch. Still hard to decide because I like both sounds. Haha
 

katulu

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My Gretsch BB is tuned quite exactly to Metallica's "Black" album snare sound. I think the 42-strand wires help that shotgun sound, as well as controlling the ring a bit with a CS head. I don't think of BBs having so much "overtones" as "ring time" because the sounds seem to be all in accord. I'd say my most naturally dissonant snare overtones come from my Pork Pie Pig Iron snare (natural referring to a configuration with a coated 1-ply head). So stay away from that. If you want dry, not too full of body, I'd say go with the Aluminum. As for a particular style of ringing with certain Aluminum tunings, the snare side head is the key - you can dramatically dry up that ring by tuning the snare side relative to wherever you set the batter.
 

Steech

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No problem! Haha. Ok great. It still sounds amazing even though not as dry as some videos I’ve found. Glad to know it better represents the real world sound. That ring isn’t bad by any stretch. Still hard to decide because I like both sounds. Haha
I hear you.
You could watch a demo of the Keplinger Black Iron for comparison.
 


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