Adam Savage sifts through an array of crashes, rides and hi-hats
Drummers tend to get very finicky about their arrangement, with the choice of cymbals often being as important as the kit itself. Adam Savage dons his earplugs and assembles this roundup of the market…
The obsessive nature of drummers makes them a fussy bunch. Perhaps it’s due to the amount of gear required to make up a drum kit and the customisable potential of the equipment, but anyone who’s spent time around drummers will know that everything has to be perfect before they can be truly happy with their set up.
To these hard-to-please individuals, cymbals are among the most crucial elements of a kit to get right. Although other musicians may struggle to distinguish the noise that these objects create from one another, the percussionist will happily spend hours banging away on these discs until they find that impeccable sound that will make their kit complete. With that in mind, let’s take a look at what the current cymbal market has to offer.
German cymbal giant Meinl has made several additions to its Byzance traditional series. The new 16” Medium Hi-hat offers a broad dynamic spectrum and a soft,
warm sound. Capable of producing an unobtrusive and controlled open hi-hat sound, these new Byzances are also available in 13”, 14” and 15” sizes.
Available as a 20” only, the Extra Thin Hammered Crash is also new to the series. Extremely light weight and extensively hammered, this model gives off a trashy sound with a wide spread and long sustain.
The final newcomer to the Byzantine range is the 16” Vintage Trash Crash. The unusual cutouts don’t just give this cymbal a unique look, they also result in a trashy, noisy sound, which is perfect for quick accents.
The manufacturer has also released a Classics Custom cymbal set, comprised of several models and a free professional cymbal case. Part of this package are the new 14” Medium Hi-hats, which deliver a versatile range, bright and warm stick response, as well as a smooth, crisp, open hi-hat sound. A crash for multiple applications, the Classics Custom Medium Crash provides a full frequency range and a smooth attack with warm, shimmering fade.
The new 16” and 18” Chinas offer a smooth attack and a clear, swelling sound with warm undertone. Finally, there’s the Medium Ride – another good all-rounder – which provides a medium sustain and balanced feel, along with a strong, defined bell.
Distributed in the UK by SVM Percussion, Dream cymbals have been attracting the attentions of drummers for the uniqueness of every cymbal – each one is hand-hammered by a cymbal smith with at least five years of experience as an apprentice – as well as their generous pricing.
Aside from the flagship Bliss models (pictured), Dream has the Energy range, designed to cut through a loud live mix with ease. With a heavy weight and unfinished bell, these models offer more volume, higher pitch and longer decays.
Going back to Bliss, the prototypes for this line were originally micro-lathed, hand-hammered options, with a soft bell shape that grew gradually from the bell. These pieces – now collectors’ items – can now be purchased as the Vintage Bliss range.
If it’s a brighter stick presence or livelier response you’re after, then the Dream Contact series would be a good choice. With a deeper profile and larger bell, their pitch is higher, but remains rich and warm.
Zildjian – a brand that needs no introduction in this sector – has several new cymbal sets on the market, starting with the A20300 Inspiration Pack. Originally developed for use in gospel, praise and worship music, this bundle consists of a 12” Splash, 16” Custom Fast Crash, 20” K Custom Ride and a free 18” Custom Fast Crash. It is also the only way to get hold of the manufacturer’s new 13” Pocket Hi-hats.
Developed with the help of drumming icon Vinnie Colaiuta, the Zildjian A Customs are now available in a four-pack matched set. Made using rotary hammering techniques, these cymbals produce a crisp, sweet and sophisticated sound that is just right for all forms of modern music.
One other attractive package from the firm is the Z30400 Z3 Promo Set. The new Z3s combine power, projection and playability and utilise new hammer and lathing technology.
The latest news from Sabian – another leader in this sector – is the enhancement of the Vault Artisan Crash cymbal. A number of improvements have been made to this thin, high-density, hand-hammered model, leading to a richer, fuller and faster response. Hand crafted from Sabian B20 bronze, this cymbal comes in 16”, 17”, 18”, 19” and 20” sizes and is protected by a two-year warranty.
Described as ‘revolutionary’ by its manufacturer, the AAX Omni was designed to provide an outstanding sonic contrast, either on its own or when combined with other cymbals. With a medium-weight centre, the AAX Omni has a highly musical tone structure and careful frequency balance.
A new addition to the company’s Vault collection, the Holy China – developed with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith – offers a higher profile for increased pitch, holes for extra volume and sustain and a large, unfinished bell for enhanced durability.
After sealing the deal at this year’s Musikmesse, the Turkish Impression brand of cymbals has now come to the UK via Percussion Plus.
Categories from the Impression lineup include Dark, which offer good stick definition, Rock, a logical choice for those seeking a clean and crisp sound for added cutting power, Smooth, a range with wide lathing patterns that give it a soft, controlled sound and Hard, a high-pitched alternative that is great for rock and metal drummers that like to give their cymbals a severe thrashing.
The popularity of Stagg cymbals has been increasing steadily over the last decade and the brand now enjoys a reputation in this sector for providing surprising quality – that can even be compared to the leading brands – for a fraction of the price.
The Single Hammered Series is a classically cast range of cymbals suitable for drummers of all styles and levels of ability. Based on older Turkish models, the Classic Series deliver a faster response and can generate extremely low frequencies.
Stagg’s Furia Series features a two-toned surface, which is obtained using a pinpoint lathing process on the outer edge and the manufacturer’s Myra Series – capable of cutting through even the densest mix – is tailor-made for the modern rock drummer.
Combining modern production techniques with traditional cymbal making processes, the Istanbul Agop Xist series is a range of professional quality, cast B20 cymbals at an affordable price point.
On average, one of the regular Istanbul Agops will receive 4,500 hammer hits from the cymbal smith, giving it exactly the right shape, profile and sound qualities. However, the Xist models are already partially formed when they reach the smith, meaning only around 1,500 hits are required. This time saving approach has allowed the company to take this range to market at a much more competitive price category.
The Xist cymbals can be bought as part of a box set, which includes a 20” Ride, 14” Hi-hats, 16” Crash and a free 18” Crash and cymbal bag. They are also available individually from as little as £75.
Paiste, another major name in the cymbal world, recently introduced the Twenty Masters Collection, a range of hand-manufactured models forged from CuSn20 bronze that makes them ideal for various genres.
The Dark Rides are designed to meet the requirements of Jazz drummers after a vintage sound, the Dark Crisp Rides are heavier, meaning they excel in medium-loud settings and the Dark Dry Ride, a cymbal that offers a dark, warm stick sound, features a raw surface with numerous hammering marks and wide lathing.
Supplied in the UK by JHS, Performance Percussion has also introduced a high value package in the form of the PPCYM01 Cymbal Pack.
Impression Dry Jazz Crash – From £174
The Impression Dry Jazz Series is a range of extra thin cymbals with a raw surface, giving it a dark, raw and ‘jazzy’ sound. A darker tone can also be obtained from the bestselling Dry Jazz Hihats, which produce a nice ‘chick’ sound.
Istanbul Agop Xist – From £76.65
Also available in 21”, 22” and 24” sizes, these rides deliver a definitive ‘ping’ with a balanced, musical spread.
Stagg Dual Hammered Series – £25-£300
With its dynamic overtones, optimal projection and character, this series is particularly suited to the more demanding player.
Performance Percussion PPCYM01 Cymbal Pack – £99
This set consists of two 14” Hihats, a 16” Crash, 18” Ride and free cymbal bag.
Meinl Classics Custom Cymbal Sets – £560
A bumper collection of cymbals that includes a 14” Medium HiHat, 16” Medium Crash and 20” Medium Ride.
Dream 16" Bliss Crash – £75
These traditionally made cymbals are hand-forged and hand-hammered, resulting in warm, rich and dark undertones.
Zilldjian Z30400 Z3 Promo Set – £885
This package is comprised of the 14” Mastersound Hats, 17” Medium Crash, 21” Mega Bell Ride and you even get a 19” Thrash Ride thrown in free of charge.
Sabian Holy China – From £315
A total of 51 holes in the 19” version and 64 in the 21”, along with a large raw bell and wide lip, make this a very loud, cutting model indeed.