Ludwig Black Beauty Review: Worth It?

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Our Verdict
The Ludwig Black Beauty is one of the most popular snare drums of all time, for a good reason. These drums sing and they hold their value over time—something to consider when adding more snares to our collections. Many famous drummers have used the Black Beauty including Ginger Baker, John Bonham, and Ringo Starr. Unfortunately, the build quality of these snares has declined over time, so finding a used Black Beauty, you'll find it will often better made.
What We Like
Warm, punchy sound
Awesome-looking drum
Incredible tone
What We Don't Like
Build quality has declined in modern times
Cheap throw-off

After four years of piano lessons from age 7-10, I begged my mom to let me switch to playing drums. Hesitant that I wouldn’t stick with it for long, my parents bought me a Remo drum practice pad and signed me up for lessons to see how serious I was. 

As I proved myself by practicing month after month on my pad, they finally helped me out and arranged for me to get a drum set. 

On my 11th birthday, my grandfather delivered an old red Ludwig drum set. The kit was beat-up and scratched. The hardware stands were mismatched. The cymbals included were a pair of 70s Zildjian hi-hats and an old 19″ Paiste crash, and the snare drum was something akin to the CB700 or Sunlite steel or aluminum drum. 

At age 11, I didn’t know better. However, as I progressed in my drumming over the years, I quickly realized the importance of having better cymbals and a robust and versatile snare drum. 

As I asked my drum teachers, musician friends, and older drummers what kind of snare drum I should get, they all recommended the same thing…the Ludwig Black Beauty.

Ludwig Black Beauty Review

Ludwig Black Beauty Snare Drum - 6.5" x 14"

The Ludwig Black Beauty is legendary—it's versatile for any musical application.

View Price at Sweetwater View Price at Guitar Center
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I’m 32 now and have been playing Ludwig snares since I was 16 years old. I’ve played varying sizes of Black Beauty snares on tours, sessions, and a wide variety of gigs from small jazz club gigs in Graz, Austria, to outdoor alt-rock festivals in Austin, Texas. I can add my testimony to the legacy that the Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum is one of the best snare drums I’ve played and owned. 

My favorite aspect of the drum is its versatility. I have cranked it up super tight for specific jazz and pop gigs, and I have tuned it down as low as it goes with moon gels and tape all over it. I have always been able to achieve whatever tone I am searching for. 

What Size Snare Drum Should I Use?   

These days you have many options for snare sizes and builds. I have owned and played three different sizes and makes of the Black Beauty snare. I have a 6.5″ x14″ deeper version, a standard 5″ x14″, and a hammered shell 6.5″ x14″ version with tube lugs. Here are my thoughts on those three drums:

  • 5×14 – My personal favorite has been the 5″x14″ version. I have found that my 5″x14″ deep version sounds good in just about any tuning range. Even though it’s only five inches deep, it always has a deep and rich tone while still providing a clear, strong crack for the backbeat. I also love how it responds when I tune it up and keep my snares reasonably tight. 
  • 6.5×14 – The 6.5″ deep versions are great drums as well, but I haven’t been as satisfied with the drum in the medium-high to higher tuning ranges. It always feels a little choked and stiff in that range. When I am looking for a classic deep snare sound, wide-open rock snare, or a lower and deadened snare sound, I usually go with the 6.5″ deep snare and then muffle to taste. (Lately, I’ve been loving using Drum Tortillas)
  • 6.5×14 Hammered Shell – The hand-hammered shell with tube lugs looks incredible, but I have found that the tube lugs lose their tuning quickly, and the drum itself is quite dry for my taste. This is probably because of the reduced reflections with the hammered shell. I feel it doesn’t have as much resonance and body as the smooth shells. I absolutely love the look of tube lugs. Still, in my experience, they lose their tuning too quickly and loosen much quicker than the imperial lugs. 

The Ludwig Black Beauty typically features:

  • P85 snare throw-off
  • Black chrome finish over seamless brass shell
  • Smooth shell with Imperial lugs
  • Triple-flanged hoop

Die-Cast Hoops or Triple Flanged Hoops?

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of drummers experimenting with die-cast hoops on their Ludwig snares. The die-cast hoop provides a heavier hoop that can take a beating if you really need a slamming rimshot. 

If you need your snare to cut and want more volume out of it, you might prefer the die-cast hoops. They have been known to help focus your snare drum sound and keep the drum sounding drier without needing too much additional muffling. The die-cast hoop also is really great for sidestick backbeats. 

That said, I personally have preferred triple-flanged hoops (at least on my snares). I think die-cast hoops choke the drums too much and are too heavy and stiff for my taste. I’ve always liked my rimshot backbeat snare sound on triple-flange hoops more than a die-cast hoop. Triple-flanged hoops just breathe more and have more give since they’re not as heavy. 

Any Cons?

My only complaint about most Ludwig snares, including the black beauty snares, is the P85 snare throw-off. If you’ve ever used one, then you probably know what I am talking about. 

It is virtually impossible to turn the snares back on solely by lifting the lever alone. You almost always have to raise the base of the throw-off to help it up and then lift the lever. Otherwise, the lever gets stuck and will bend when you try to force it up. 

It always seemed odd to me that this high quality $700 snare drum came with this cheap throw-off. That said, one thing I do like about it is that I can twist and fine-tune the snare wire tightness while the snares are up, but overall I’d say it’s a pretty weak throw-off. 

Some of the newer snares come with the P88 throw-off, which is an improvement, but not my favorite either. I’ve learned to like the P85 and get by with it, but If you really dislike the P85 throw-off, I suggest trying the P86 Millenium throw-off. It’s more expensive but worth it. 

There’s a reason why the Ludwig Black Beauty snare drum has been a staple for working drummers worldwide. It really does have an iconic classic sound that has been heard on some of the most timeless records. 

It’s more expensive than your beginner snare drum, but it’s worth the investment since your snare and cymbals really define your sound as a drummer. I own Craviotto, Gretsch, and various Ludwig snares, and the Black Beauty never lets me down. It really is a versatile and great sounding drum. 

Nick Cesarz

Nick is a drummer, percussionist, and blogger from Milwaukee, WI. He toured extensively with Vinyl Theatre, opening up for acts like twenty one pilots, Panic! at the Disco, and more. Now no longer touring, his passion lies in gear and playing the kit as much as time allows.


  1. Thank you for your article!
    I have been on the search for the sound in my head and the feel in my hands for many years. I own and have owned some very respected snares from a variety of great drum makers, small and large. I hadn’t owned a Black Beauty and sincerely dismissed them as over blown. I found Columbus Percussion on ebay selling B stock 10 lug 5×14 Black Beauties at a great price. I was on the fence on the purchase but moved forward. I couldn’t agree with you more. The snare sounds great at all tunings and for a 5″, has SO much more bottom end than I expected. I currently have a Gretsch Phosphorus bronze and a Sonor sq2 and I have been repeatedly setting them aside to play this thing. I love it. It’s the sound I had in my head…

  2. 55 years old been playing drums since I was 13. I had pearl, yamaha, slingerland, gretsch, ludwig, DW, as well as experimented with custom drum manufactures. All good drums. Since I was 16 I owned an 8×14 ludwig maple coliseum snare and it served me well but I had to work a little to get the sound out of it that I wanted.
    Then I met my first Ludwig black beauty. 5 x 14, Brass tube lugs. Even with the stock ludwig branded remo heads on it with little more than my ear to tune the heads, I could easily get the sound that I was looking for. High pitch, low, medium, snares loose, tight, medium. Didn’t matter. What ever I was looking for it always produced that sound that increased my serotonin levels. Beauty is in it’s name for a reason. But it was so pretty I hardly wanted it to tour with me and get beat up. So I bought a 6.5 x 14 black beauty with imperial lugs and again, even with the stock heads, I could get that sound. I am a child of the 80s so “that sound” is that fat, dry, snare sound used by JR Robinson and just about every drummer in the 80s. I have heard some stave snares and some really top end snares like DWs but even their version of chrome over brass didn’t touch that Black Beauty sound with little effort. Sure I could get those snares to sound great, and with some work I could get them to sound similar to the black beauty. But the BB took no effort to always produce a wonderful sound, ring, buzz, etc.. My band Spin Cycle ( would flinch if I hit a snare that didn’t sound like mine. Once in a while I will use an electronic or hybrid and they will say “did you get a new drum?” They don’t know it but even my guitarists, keys, and bass all agree, the tone of my snare is untouchable.

  3. Never used anything else but Ludwig Metal Snares! (Although I was very satisfied using the original “wooden” snare, 14X5, that came with my 1968, 4 piece, Blue Tiger Stripe, Pearl drum set changed over to play Left-hand ed. Still wish I had it, it was stolen.) I currently use a “Chrome Concert Snare” (rare?) from the 60’s, with my vintage 60’s 5 piece!

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