Premier Super Ace Snare Drum

Prior to the popular Premier Royal Ace snare drum of the 1960’s, Premier had some other classic snare drums that worked with an internal parallel snare mechanism.

Premier launched the Ace snare drum in the 30’s, which progressed through various design changes over the decades until becoming the Royal Ace in the 1960s. Prior to its final incarnation, In 1958 Premier launched the ‘Super Ace’ in their 1958 catalog as ‘Premiers greatest achievement’. With its exclusive parallel snare mechanism, it boasted perfect response with heads and snare wires at any tension, with absolutely no snare buzz when the wires were thrown off.

The shell had a lever midway, which gave the player control of the internal snare mechanism. Moving the lever up or down effectively switched the snares on or off (via a bar positioned horizontally through the shell, with the butt ends attached). The design of the lever and the butt ends are very art deco, chromium plated to the highest standard, as expected on all vintage Premier. Their chrome really was second to none. The drum featured flush braced lugs, slot tension rods and die cast hoops (with shallower rims than previous drums to ‘allow for faster playing’).

The wooden shelled Super Aces came in several sizes, the standard being 5.5 and 6.5, but with a 4” model available as well as 8”. I’ve never seen an 8” model, but would love to hear one. (If anyone has one, please send some pictures). Their sound was very much like the Royal Ace that I’ve discussed in previous issues; warm with a nice ring from the die cast hoops and a real sensitivity, with the added ability to give a strong backbeat without losing tone. The drums were available in a good selection of colours and finishes; Marine pearl, black pearl, silver, gold, aquamarine & red sparkle, white & black duroplastic.

The drum was also available in a metal shell at both 6.5 and 12”. These were the Concert Ace’s, initially designed for orchestral and symphony work, but quickly becoming one of the most sought after snare drums in the USA in their time. I haven’t seen or played a 12”, which is described in the catalogues as capable of ‘every degree of volume from a whisper to a tremendous roar’. I recently had a 6.5” Concert Ace in the shop; with its chrome over brass shell and die cast hoops, this drum could give any of the other big names 6.5” COB’s a run for their money in my opinion. Its new owner is Matt Helders of the band Arctic Monkeys.

The snare wires on these drums were a single 20 strand wire which hooked onto a bar inside each butt end; some of the earlier models had a slightly different set of wires which screwed directly into the base of the snare butts. (See pictures). These wires are getting hard to come by, but there are people who can build replica sets or repair and modify older wires. Email me if you need some made.

A classic snare drum that went on to become the Royal Ace (which I’ve discussed previously), Premier’s flagship snare drum of the 1960’s. Expect to pay around $400  for a drum in good working condition with original wires.


Rick Latham's Polish Snare Drum

We got this question from Rick Latham as he was ending his summer tour in Europe.Can any of you help us out here? - NSMD:  Hi George, Greetings brother from the Black Forest of Germany! Hope you are doing well. I'm nearing the end of a three month tour here in Europe - Germany, Italy, France, Poland, Switzerland... all great! I ran across this drum in a drum shop in Poznan, Poland and the guys are curious if it's anything cool - or maybe a bastardized-something-weird? Ha! I told them if anyone would know, it would be you - so give it your best shot.

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Premier 2000 Snare Drum

The 2000 snare drum was introduced by Premier around 1966 with it gaining its debut in the 1968 catalogue.  Although Premier had other metal shell snare drums on the market this model became iconic for both its design and its sound.

The 2000 features a single spun metal shell, with no bead, plated in Premier’s world famous chrome. The early 2000 snare shells were brass, with the older block style P badge and ‘Beer barrel’ die cast hoops.  These brass shell drums are very rare, I’ve only seen one.  The shell construction was changed to aluminium quite quickly, and remained staple throughout the 70’s (one can only assume this was a cheaper option for the mass production of a popular snare drum).  Die cast hoops remained standard, but with a more streamline design. In the Late 70’s / early 80’s the shells became steel and the tension rods became square rather than slotted.

The 2000 was both stylish and highly functional for its time, when many other brands were copying Ludwig.  The unique ‘flo-beam’ snare mechanism with a central bar and snare brackets that are detached from the shell allow full resonance of the drum. Twin 12 strand snare wires remain at full tension even when ‘thrown off’ preventing bounce back on the resonant head.  Two height adjustment screws at each butt end hold the snare wires in place and keep the snares wires level; some argue it’s perilous to mess with these, and that they should remain at their factory setting. If  you buy a 2000 snare in poor condition or with the wires missing, chances are you will need to adjust these screws, but do so with care as the heads are prone to snapping off. The throw lever was, and still is, like nothing else on the market.  Beautiful and sleek from a design perspective and smooth in its action.  Later the snare wires became one piece 24 strand rather than the earlier models that were fitted with two 12 strand sets. Additionally, tone control dampers were omitted from later drums.

The 2000 snare was available as a 4”, 5.5” and 6.5” shell, with the 5.5” being the most common.  Premier also produced a 14 x 12” concert model.  The aluminium shells are the most common and preferred by players, although with these drums the chrome is prone to flaking off. Most don’t care too much as this doesn’t affect the sound of this drum.

This snare drum was famously endorsed by the late Keith Moon.  I’m assuming that the 2000 that Keith moon played was a 60’s brass shell, but I could be wrong. Other earlier players include Clem Burke (Blondie), John Maher (Buzzcocks), Rick Buckler (The Jam), Billy Doherty (The Undertones), although the snare remains hugely popular today.

Today, Puresound make replacement wires for these drums, available in regular or equaliser (4 central wires omitted).