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Istanbul Agop Sultan Cymbals

Istanbul Agop Sultan Hi Hats

I’m not sure if these cymbals are actually new or not, so I’m going to avoid saying they are just to be on the safe side. What I will say is that they are really nice, handcrafted instruments which both look and sound first-rate.

These cymbals all share common design traits. They all have tops that are lathed and hammered, but not together – in other words, as you’ll see from the photos from the Istanbul website, they are lathed and hammered in concentric circles on top and all have unlathed, hammered bells. The bottoms are all fully lathed. All the lathing is fairly evenly spaced both top and bottom and overall they’re quite thin and light in weight. Due to the way they’ve been crafted, there is an inherent dryness and control to the sound.

There are more models available in the series than I was given to review and you can find the full rundown on what’s available on the Istanbul Agop website.

14" hihats –

The website describes these as "Warm and focused sound with a clean stick definition" and from having spent a few hours playing them, I’d say that wasn’t an inaccurate description. They are fairly articulate, however, they won’t be winning any prizes for cutting power against loud guitars; I doubt that was a design consideration though. I guess subtle would be a good place to start when describing where they might fall in the overall mix of things.

Weight-wise, the individual cymbals in the pair I had weren’t too far apart and neither were overly heavy.

Istanbul Agop Sultan Splash

12" splash –

This was a splash that didn’t die-off straight away. It proved to be explosive and sharp when struck fairly hard, but thin, dark and more splashy when played more softly. It was quite versatile on that basis and arguably filled with character.

14" crash –

This was quite splashy given that it’s designated a crash.

When struck without much force, you can hear that deeper, splashy tone which is very reminiscent of the 12" and the overall residual dry darkness of hand hammered cymbals in general. Just like its smaller companion, when played a bit more forcefully, the sound explodes to quite a piercing level, however, I think on comparative terms the 12" was slightly more piercing while this one is a little more full bodied.

I would think of this one as more of a large splash rather than a small crash, but at the same time, something that had a little more versatility.

Istanbul Agop Sultan Crash

16" Crash –

Ok, we’re definitely in full-on crash mode now.

This cymbal has a fundamental darkness to it when struck either hard or soft; the main difference between the two extremes is just the level of attack involved at the initial striking. I was a little surprised as to the brightness/attack of the initial note when played hard given the cymbal is thin and so would have a deeper pitch to begin with. This is a very quick sound which died away to leave those darker tones I mentioned.

17" crash –

Oddly, given that this crash was only 1" larger than the previous model, it was noticeably different sound-wise to some degree. It shared the fundamental dark overtones, although to a lesser extent, but it was a lot more dry and clean tonally. It actually sounded heavier than the 16" which probably lead to the cleaner sound.

18" crash –

This was much more like the 16" model. Being a larger crash it had more of the overall darkness to it than any of the others I tried, and whereas the 17" had a quite a clean, defined sound, this one was almost the opposite. It was full, loud and dark with a very wide spread.

Istanbul Agop Sultan Ride

21" ride -

The tip sound over the surface of the cymbal was fairly uniform in that there wasn’t a lot of tonal difference between playing on the edge and right up near the bell. Obviously, there is more wash on the edge than higher up the bow, but not as much as you may think. Again, there seemed to be a lot of control built in to the sound, something which I’m sure would work well in the studio, as would probably the whole line.

The bell was quite piercing and clangy, but not overly so.

You may have gathered that these are not really cymbals for heavier playing and they are definitely aimed more at the acoustic/lower volume players and situations, and on that basis I think they will work well.

These are very traditional cymbals, both in their appearance and sound, and in their crafting, and this should be an appealing reason to want to use them. Personally, I delight in playing cymbals like this for this reason – they’re ‘proper’ cymbals made in a traditional manner and they definitely have an old school-type feel to them.

These are lovely, crafted cymbals and you can tell that just by the way they look I think. If you want cymbals that stand out visually and meet the sonic descriptions above, then you should check these out; if you are a bit more heavy-handed, and like a more solid feel under your stick, these are definitely not for you.

More info at

David Bateman

June 2007

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