This installment of Industry Standards is one for the drummers. We are going to be taking a look at the snare that is often heralded as being the ‘most recorded drum of all time’. We present to you, the Ludwig LM400 (aka, the Supraphonic).
Thought to have been first used around 1961, the Ludwig Supra-Phonic has become a true work-horse and the go-to snare drum for professional players and recording studio engineers. The early, and much sought after, chrome plated brass models were soon replaced with chrome plated aluminium shells (that are still being used today) giving a noticeably lighter weight and slightly higher pitch. Although very little else has changed since the change to aluminium in 1961, it didn’t officially get called the Supra-Phonic 400 until 1963.
Although various other custom versions and limited editions have come and gone, the size of the drum has remained constant throughout, sticking with the 5x14 dimensions and has been used for pretty much every recording genre you can imagine thanks to its famous bright and crisp tone. It is also recognisable by its elegant and classic looks from its chrome plating, imperial lugs and the P85 throw-off that superseded the P83 in 1968.The upgrade to the throw-off also meant that the ‘baseball bat’ muffler was removed.
Although this is mostly about the Ludwig 400, it would probably be a bit rude if we didn’t give a nod to the 400’s bigger brother, the Ludwig 402. Keeping many of the same attributes as the 400, the 402 is slightly deeper at 6.5 inches and has been used on almost as many records thanks to a certain John Bonham using one with a band called Led Zeppelin. These two snares rocketed Ludwig’s popularity and although various manufacturers have created similar aluminium snares, they have never been matched.
The Brass-Shelled Ludwig Black Beauty
One of the other variations that has proved to be very popular is the ‘Black Beauty’ which boasts a single piece of black anodised brass as the shell, which gives it a warmer, rounder sound than the 400. These are produced by Ludwig in very limited numbers due to their unique and complex construction.
If you read a stack of reviews of the Ludwig LM400 snare, it will become apparent that it only has one downfall. After years of service they can start to lose their dashing good looks and become ‘pitted’, which is probably more down to science rather than poor build quality. Despite this, they still keep their signature sound and reliability for many, many years. These snares have become legendary and are the most recorded drum in the world for a reason, they have yet to be matched!