NAMM 2005 Review Part 2 - Cymbals
|Part 2 of our coverage of the 2005 Namm Show looks at all the Cymbals on offer. See part 1 of our series of reviews here. Click on image names in brackets to go straight to our photo gallery for that item. Alternatively, you can browse the gallery in its entirety when you''ve read the whole feature.|
Bosphorus were displaying the new Stanton Moore Signature range. (Bosphorus 07) These are like heavy Traditional Series cymbals but with less lathing on the bottom and with err... interesting names – Trash Crash, Pang Thang, Wide Ride and Fat Hats. Names not withstanding, they sounded just like you would imagine – dark, jazzy but with a hint of out-of-control-ness and something exotic and wild. They also had racks of their other cymbals. I don’t know what it is, but they certainly make very aesthetic cymbals.
Here’s a bit of a scoop. Bosphorus will make you (pretty much) any cymbal you want. If you know the size, weight, lathing and rough profile, they will make it for you and will not cost any more than their standard ranges. These can be copies of existing cymbals or something completely custom. Obviously, you need to know something about cymbals – they wont take kindly to you going there and saying ‘I want something a bit like a china, mixed with a flat ride, mixed with a 32” gong sound but no bigger than 14”’. But if you know about weights and profiles etc, it could be great. Sounds like a bargain and the start of more companies offering totally custom cymbals? Could be interesting. www.bosphoruscymbals.com
Oh dear…where to start? Meinl had loads on display this year. The MB20 range (Meinl 18) are top of the line cymbals aimed more at the heavier end of the market, but are sensitive enough to cater for most. They are hand hammered (so Meinl claim) but seemed very consistent if they are.
I know Meinl have some cutting edge automated hammering machines so I would be surprised, but it would explain the price. Bright and loud, many people were looking a bit surprised after they had played them. The range is pretty extensive but I can see it being extended very soon;
Heavy Soundwave Hi Hats 14, 15” (15” especially musical)
Can you spot the common thread? They are definitely aimed at the louder player but I really hope that Meinl bring in some medium weight models as it would be a shame just to let louder players have them all to themselves! There are lovely cymbals and are certainly worth investigating next time you’re in your local drum shop.
Thomas Lang’s new Byzance Fast hats were also on display. Thomas actually used the prototypes of these cymbals on his mikedolbear.com clinic tour last year but the final versions have now been released. Available in 13 and 14”, they have 8 rivet sized holes drilled in to the outside edge of both cymbals about 1cm from the edge and have a Dark bottom and normal top in the style of other mis-matched hihats. Very crisp and ‘sticky’ they are very ‘current’ and I can see them being used by players of all styles.
Thomas also used the new Filter Chinas which come in 8, 10, 12” as well as the original 16” (opposite). Almost melodic, these cut without intruding in a brief china/white noise burst. This is a complete contradiction but they seem quietly aggressive and would fit in to dance grooves very nicely. They have a etched pattern on their underside which I am assuming is purely aesthetic, and two lines of holes like the Fast Hats, one just in from the chinas lip and one half way between that and the outside of the bell.
Next to them were the Electro Stacks which are Johnny Rabb''s new babies. These are two cymbal stacks which sound almost like hand claps and have adjustable sustain by using the wingnut on the stand to squeeze them together and dampen them. They are available in 8/10” and 10/12” pairings. Typically Rabb, I can see these being used in percussion set-ups all over the place.
The Byzance range has really come of age and is now a really complete range. There are 11 new cymbals; (Meinl 21)
10” Dry Splash. This has the sandblasted matte finish which kills the initial burst of the cymbal but leaves a nice undertone. They feel thin and sound thin but the splash sound is lovely and musical. Very good.
8” Dark Splash. This has Meinl’s Dark finish (i.e. unlathed with deep hammer marks and the look of a cymbal that has just been taken out of the oven). The lack of lathing dries it out with a bit more stick sound and less high end. Very jazz.
10+12” Mini Hats. Great. Just what mini hats should be. Crisp and not clunky unlike some other mini hats.
14+15+16” Dry Crashes. These again have the sandblasted finish and would make lovely jazz crashes. Short and thin with a dark wash and bright attack. Would be great in the studio.
17” Dark Crash. One for the fusion player? Dark attack with low short wash.
19+20” Jazz Rides. Light rides with a smallish bell and a nice mix of stick and wash. These are not copies of old Turkish cymbals; they are more a modern take on them. Will Meinl be a serious choice for jazz players?
22” Ping Ride. Everything you would expect. Bright and cutting but it still managed to have nice low overtones (well, in as much as I could hear in the noisy NAMM halls).
I haven’t really seen the Sound Caster Range before. They are made of B12 which is a slightly cheaper alloy but these did not sound like cheaper cymbals. I’d heard about them but this was the first chance I had had to put stick to cymbal. The range consists of the standard Sound Caster cymbals (which has the usual thin, medium and heavy crashes and rides and hats along with 4 splashes and 3 chinas) and the Sound Caster Custom which has lots of new and interesting cymbals. The Customs are a little more expensive.
There are 20 new cymbals in the Sound Caster Custom range including a ridiculous Mega Bell Ride which appears to have a 9” bell. It’s like taking a stick to Big Ben. Now, I am not sure how musical this is (it did just have the one sound) but I am sure it will be very popular amongst the younger loud players. We have seen these before but this one takes the prize. Not for the faint hearted or anyone who values their hearing. Mad. The rest of the range seemed good all-rounders but as I only have the dollar prices in front of me (and they have further to go from Germany to the US) I can’t get a good idea of the UK price.
At the cheaper end of the market Meinl had the MCS range and I can see on my notes that I thought the hi hats were particularly good.
With all these new pro end cymbals, Meinl should be firmly counted into the ‘Big Four’ of cymbals (previously it was the ‘Big Three’ but I really think this should be extended) as they really are bringing out some superb products and everyone I talked to had good things to say about them. Well done Meinl. www.meinlcymbals.com
Here’s a company that most European drummers will have heard of. Orion are a Brazilian cymbal manufacturer (what is it with the Brazilians this year?) who make a number of ranges of cymbals and whose gear is going to be available in the UK very soon. I think it is fair to say that Orion won’t be troubling Zildjian or Sabian, but they do seem to make good, everyday type cymbals at a price that won’t break the bank. In fact, their cymbals remind me of cheaper Paistes or Meinls of a few years back. There are nine ranges – Twister (basic brass range for beginners, 7 models in total), Solo Pro (17 models in various weights and sizes, bronze), Solo Master Pro (beginning to look a bit more serious here – 26 models including the interestingly named Dark Bass Hi Hat). Next up is the Viziuss (which are recommended for studio use and have interesting looking markings on them, similar to the Sabian Radia), Exotica (gongs and gong plates), Rage Bass (designed for louder players), Revolution Pro (loads of models and sizes, probably the most all round), Strondo (hand hammered for loud players) and finally Serie Personalidade (Personal Series) which covers endorsee specific models and has some really interesting stuff. Interestingly, Orion cymbals look unique as the really heavy hammering (the stuff which looks like it’s been done by a Howitzer) has been done from the underside which makes the cymbals look like they have interesting skin diseases or have been on the space ship in ‘Alien’.
At the moment we are not sure which ranges are going to be bought into the UK but we know it will be the cheaper end. For details, contact www.musicshipping.co.uk or look at Orion’s site at www.orioncymbals.com
Switzerland’s favourite drummer’s exports have completely redone their starter cymbal lines and have ditched all their old lines to be replaced by their new German manufactured ones. The 101 Brass range are a very simple, basic set of cymbals with 13/14” hats, 14/16” crashes, 12” splash and 20” ride. Up from here, the 201 Bronze range adds an 18” crash, and 18” crash/ride and has a 10” splash rather than a 12”. The PST 3 and 5 ranges take a big leap up and are really full ranges and sound much more expensive than the 101/201s.
The PST (Paiste Sound Technology)3 (Paiste 01) range is fairly basic in that it has a single 20” ride, 18” crash/ride, 18” china and 10” splash but has a choice of 14 and 16” crashes and 13 and 14” hats. These all do exactly what you would expect but thing get more interesting with the PST5 range (Paiste 02). Here you get the same models but a choice of Medium, Groove and Rock ride (the Groove ride being a favourite), Thin, Medium AND Rock crashes, Medium and Rock hats, a choice of 8 or 10” splash and 16 or 18” chinas. They all come as a variety of sets and should do well.
Also new were the Rude Thin Crashes (Paiste 11) which sound much more musical than the original crash/rides. They were on the stand next to the originals and managed to make them sound a little gongy. As everyone was saying, surely it’s a contradiction to have Thin Rudes? Especially as the Rudes started the whole ‘special range for heavy drummers’ thing. Whatever, they sounded good.
The Dark Energy range which was released last year was only augmented by 8 and 10” splashes (Paiste 15) which did sound very nice. I was sort of expecting this range to be extended following on from the interest it has had amongst players of all styles, but it was not to be. It’s such an interesting range, it deserves to have lots of funky products, but I guess you can’t rush something that needs time. Sounds like an advert… www.paiste.com
As is becoming usual, Sabian hosted a press conference as the show opened at 10am on the first day of NAMM. All the Sabian hierarchy were present to reveal the new products – the Vault range. Now, I know they are very proud of their new babies, but I think they could have done even more to hype it up. I actually felt like they under played the launch. It wasn’t until after I had talked to people (including Mark Love, Sabian’s chief designer/ hammerer/ creator) that I really understood the potential size of the launch. For instance, Sabian players and customers on the Vault tour (see later) were asking for an ‘Old School’ ride which reflected the old Turkish sound.
Sabian decided that the only way to create that sound was to completely hand hammer a new range of rides from scratch just as would have been done in ‘the old days’ and call it the Vault Artisan ride (Sabian 03) (even HH cymbals have their bell pressed – the man hours used to hammer the bell are massive compared to the speed of machine pressing just the bell). Now, I know you are thinking that these rides should have gone into the HH range but Sabian have launched the Vault range to encompass all these ‘extra’ special lines. They also launched the Vault crashes which are more like AAX crashes but the requests were for something a bit more similar to other models available on the market. So these two models are the first in what will hopefully become a much larger range. Don’t think that all the models in the Vault range are going to be massively expensive; the Vault crashes come in a little over the AAX prices. Anyway, what are the cymbals like?
The Vault Artisan rides come in 20 and 22” (Sabian 04) and in Light and Medium weights. They do sound and feel very much like an old Turkish ride but with more consistency and evenness across the bow. The Lights are your archetypal ‘Old School’ sound and really are the business. The Mediums are a little more contemporary but still with the wash and roar of the old Turkish sound. It very hard to write this without referring to another cymbal – I’m sure you know which one I am on about – but I wont (!), so I will leave it to your imagination. The prices are still TBC in the UK but the US dollar price puts them around 35% higher than the equivalent HH cymbals. This would appear to be a lot but consider how much an original 22” old Turkish ride in perfect condition would cost nowadays (oh, and one which comes with a 2 year guarantee!)
The Vault crashes come in 16, 17, 18, 19, 20” sizes and have a fairly flat profile with a smallish bell and a brilliant finish. It is designed for maximum cut even though it is fairly thin and sounds bright and splashy. Apparently the launch of these cymbals was prioritised after the reaction they got on the Vault tour where members of the public played unmarked prototypes of them, and they became the first ‘official’ cymbals in the Vault range.
So what was this Vault tour? Well, Mark Love allowed me a chunk of his precious time to have a chat about the Vaults and so I asked him. Last year, Sabian embarked on a tour of drum shops in the US. All the shops are independent but belong to the "Five Star" partnership. The partnership started when a load of drum dealers got together to discuss business and trends. However, the group grew and there are now 35 members who can all call themselves a "Five Star Drum Dealer" across the US. All the members must meet some requirements – exclusively a drum shop, must own a store (not exclusively internet sales), must have been in existence for over 5 years, must meet a specific minimum turnover etc. The partnership allows for ideas to swap and better buying power from the manufacturers. Anyhow, it seemed logical for Sabian to take a tour out to 7 of these shops and hear "from the horses mouth" what was thought of the gear, which directions they ought to be looking in and what could be improved.
The Tour itself was completely self contained. At each store, a truck would turn up with generators, cymbal hammering equipment, staff and rack loads of prototypes from Sabian’s vault (hence the name). At each store customers could talk with the Sabian staff, try out and purchase Sabian prototypes and try hammering cymbals. I get the feeling that the prototypes went down best (one lucky guy bought 18 of them), and these cymbals represented Sabian’s research and development over the past few years. Every time Sabian creates a new model cymbal, various versions are made to try and hone down the ideas to get closer to the finished product. When an artist can hear a sound in their heads, there can be quite a few prototypes. All these prototypes can logged and stored in the vault along with notes about their manufacture, hammering and lathing so each cymbal can be recreated in the future if needed. Now, what one person might hear as a not-quite-what-they-wanted super heavy crash could be another person’s perfect ride (for instance) as the cymbals are not named. These prototypes were the cymbals that Sabian took with them on the tour and that the lucky tour visitors could buy.
Another major part of the tour was to find out what the visitors thought Sabian cymbals were covering sound-wise and which areas were under represented. This partly led to the Artisan rides in the Vault series (though Sabian had been looking at the "ultimate" ride area for a while). So, as you can see, everyone ended up happy – the visitor to the tour (who were normal customers like you and I) got to hammer cymbals and buy complete one-off cymbals and Sabian got loads of information about customer requirements. It must be said, a fabulous bit of PR. I did ask Mark if the Vault Tour would ever come over to Europe. The answer was after a long pause was “…Never say never”. www.sabian.com
Now, there has been a lot of interest in Stagg so we thought we ought to pay them a visit. Stagg cymbals are made in China to basic Turkish cymbal patterns and shapes and each one is hand made - and we mean HAND MADE. (Stagg 16) There is NO machinery involved except to spin the cymbal so it can be lathed. Therefore, each cymbal is entirely individual.
There are six ranges – SH (Single Hammer in Brilliant and Regular finish), DH (Double Hammer with a darker sound and more complex hammering), Furia and Myra (which are one step up and wider ranges), the new VB (Vintage Bronze, aimed at a more vintage sound) and BM (Black Metal aimed at more rocky, dark sounds). Now, this all may be well and fine, you say, another cymbal company. However, the prices are unbelievable, decent cymbals at a beginner price. Stagg also win the top prize for most oversized instrument – a 30” ride. Believe it or not, it actually sounded quite usable.
Now one thing to bear in mind is that as they are all hand made in quite basic ways (no computer automatic hammering and scanning of perfect master models), there will be big variations in sound and quality as I think that Stagg sell all their products rather than throw back any which may sound different to what is expected. (Stagg 14) For this reason, buyers should be prepared to try a few of each model to select the ‘best’ to their ears. I should say that all the cymbals on their stand sounded great – exactly what you would expect – but then they probably had a few thousand to pick through to select the best. This is not a criticism, it just means that if you want to get the ‘perfect’ cymbal for you, you may need to look for it. It’s the price you pay for cymbals of this quality at this price.
I know it’s not cymbals, but Stagg were also showing there case range. (Stagg 04) Now this has not been confirmed for the UK and prices are still to be hammered out but these look serious and should be incredible reasonable if Stagg have anything to do with it. These cases are vaguely triangular; they interlock, have areas for tom blocks and RIMS mounts and are padded. However, the stands case deserves a mention as it is modular. You buy it at one size, but if you get more gear, you simply buy sections which attach with butterfly clips and make the case deeper. Or, if you are only using a small kit, remove some sections and take a smaller, lighter case. (Stagg 06) Ingenious. www.staggmusic.com
New from Zildjian are the A Custom Medium Crashes which are heavier than the standard crashes. They’re a little less splashy and a bit more focussed and will probably find favour among the heavier hitters who still want brightness but don’t want the all out power of the Z’s. They do come in a good range of sizes from 14”-20” so I guess they will suit most styles.
The K Custom Special Dry Hats (Pictured) have a smaller 13” brother to join the 14” from last year. These are sticky, dry (doh!) and short and fit in well with the rest of the Special Dry range. I find them all a little quiet, which I suppose is the point – they are hardly going to be aimed at the metaller, more the sensitive lighter pop and jazz scene.
Steve Gadd’s Session cymbals now have a 20” ride to join the 18” which was launched last year, (Zildjian 05) which should appeal to the masses. People seem to have a hang up about 18” rides though I cant really see why, it could be an issue of people hearing with their eyes. The 18” was about as musical as you could ask for, but for those who did worry, the 20” is just a little more of the same, just a little lower in pitch, though in my heart, it will always be the 18” which is ‘the’ Gadd ride.
The new Z Customs deserve a mention as we have a 14” splash… yes… 14” and a 19” Thrash ride… yes… THRASH! We think these are aimed at the louder players… but we may be wrong! (Zildjian 09) The Thrash sounded like a washy Z Custom heavy crash i.e. exactly what it should do. Zildjian describe it as being a second ride though I can see it being bought as a main. However, I have some issues with the splash. (Zildjian 08) I can see this escalating to the point where we have rival companies bringing out 15” splashes and then 16” splashes and so on. However, the 14” splash did sort of sound like a splash – short and barking but lower pitched than your usual ‘tish’ (it actually reminded me of the K Custom Dry 14” Crash in its decay). I can imagine in loud, live setups, it would sound like a splash through mikes and hit hard but don’t think about taking it on your jazz trio gig…unless you were after a particularly small ride.
Lastly from the Z range is the 20” Z Custom Projection Crash. This is being touted as the loudest crash that Zildjian make, and I can believe it. I didn’t get a chance to really swing at it with a 2B, but from what I could determine, I’m confident that Mark Richardson from Feeder will have one…or more.
ZBT cymbals now come in Rock weights and a boxed Rock set. The Rock weights come in 20” ride, 16+18” crashes and 14” hats. Travis Barker has a new double ended stick with a cymbal mallet on the butt end. Maybe I missed something but I wasn’t aware that he was getting into timpani now(!?) He also has a new cymbal bag in the chequer board and red pattern to match the stick bag from last year. Adrian Young also has a new cymbal bag to match his stick bag in his usual ‘plaid’ (what’s wrong with the word ‘tartan’?). Coolest item at Zildjian was the Zildjian pillow slips… think I’m joking? Wait ‘til you see it. They’re great! All covered in ‘Zzzzz’. They should be in the UK in around 2 months as will all the rest of the new stuff. www.zildjian.com
That''s it for cymbals. In the next part we''re going to get stuck into the drums!
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