8" Cool Bell
For 2008 Paiste expands its offerings for heavy hitters. Yes, it added some new Wild stuff last year, but this is different. There’s even some new cymbals designed for low-volume work. The unmistakably shiny ones are the Signature Reflector Heavy Full crashes, two Bell rides, and Heavy Full hi-hats. Over in the quieter corner are the Signature Crystal Thin crashes and hi-hats, all with rather squared bells. Also from the Signature Reflector batch, but not heavy, are a couple of splash cymbals and the Signature Cool Bell.
Signature series cymbals, as you may know, are made from the “special” Paiste Signature alloy, which is neither entirely B20 nor entirely B8. Like other cagey cymbal makers, Paiste chooses not to divulge the formulaic details, so this is the best we can surmise. The Signature Full crash cymbals have been quite popular for years, but in super loud situations they can be easily overtaxed and fall short of the mark. The next step up in the line above the Full used to be the Signature Power crash. These new Signature Reflector Heavy Full crashes were designed to fill the vacancy between the Full crash and the Power crash. And, with the Reflector finish, which is almost too shiny, they add a dose of show biz glitz to your kit.
Available in 16", 17", 18", 19", powerful 20", and also frighteningly massive 22" sizes, the Signature Reflector Heavy Full crashes have a low profile, dense and shallow, small-diameter hammering, shallow lathing, and they can all double as shaving mirrors – for a while, at least. Did someone say fingerprints? Get your red-hot fingerprints right here on this shiny new Paiste cymbal! Okay, so these smudge-collectors demand you exercise some caution in handling. But rest assured, you don’t need to exercise any caution while playing them.
The 16" Signature Reflector Heavy Full crash speaks in a short burst, as a 16" should, but the sound is instantly full and robust, and a bit dry. The 17" is also dry, but quite punchy and strong, with a moderately quick, musical taper. The 18" is muscular but not beefy and has a full, long tail, great body, and shimmer. The 19" is beefy as well, with a lower tone, full spread, and good punch (the guitarist turns up, and you just smile: “Bring it”). The 20" gets us into a specialized sound, with more spread than attack, but it’s still strong and very glassy. Like the 19", it works nice up against a guitar. The 22", which seemed, um, ridiculous when I took it out of the box, actually sounds pretty cool. It’s thin for its size, so it doesn’t work at all as a ride cymbal, and it quickly erupts into a long, wide, glassy explosion. It ripples brutally out into the sound realm. Sort of like the ripples you’d get if you tied a church bell to the roof of a Volkswagen Beetle and dropped it into a pond. Big ripples.
14" Signature Reflector Heavy Full Hi-Hats
RIDING LIKE A ROCK STAR
Iron Maiden drummer Nicko McBrain had a hand in developing the new Signature Reflector Bell ride. In fact, the 22" version has a cute little cartoon “Eddie” on it, just like the Iron Maiden swag your uncle wears. It also has “Powerslave” stenciled on it in that familiar Iron Maiden font. Up close, the 22" Signature Reflector Bell ride has a powerful, large bell, a near-rumbling of an undertone, and a loud, distinct ping. Now that’s all well and good, but I was anxious to hear it from the audience. So I took it to jam night.
Wow. Jam night is loud! And so many (ugh!) guitars! Where do these guitar players come from? How do we stop them? Well, the 22" Bell ride cut through them with a bold, glassy ping, like a fat, shiny ball bearing on a sheet of vibrating ice. It was close to overpowering, but also clean and effortlessly full. That bell is loud, clear, and macho, but still sounded like a cymbal bell, not a leftover auto part. And the drummer was just playing, he wasn’t, you know, putting the pedal to the metal. After a rousing set of blues (some of it even in tune), several positive comments were dropped at my table, including some from guitar players!
I preferred the 20" Signature Reflector Bell ride, but it may just be that the little Eddie stencil scared me. I mean, that 22" cymbal could hurt somebody. The 20" is a bit more manageable, and projected clearly through the mush of jam night and other gigs with a distinct ping. But again, this is not the anvil-like ping that is still popular in rock rides. This is a ping with a tail, more of a large ting, actually – hey, it’s a really big ting with a nice tail. And the bell, same as on the 22", is distinct, loud, and macho, but not throaty.
The Signature Reflector Heavy Full hi-hats, 14", are thick and shiny. But on the bandstand they proved to be surprisingly chip-y, not slosh-y. They cut through well, and when half-open they are (like the 22" ride) very dominant. Pea soup on these hats is dry, almost raspy, with a throaty, aggressive sound. Articulation is very clean; foot chick is strong and dry. Like most of the Reflector Heavy cymbals, these hats are like a full-bodied cymbal beefed-up in all frequencies. Versatile? Um, no. Muscular? Oh yeah.
16" Signature Crystal Thin Crash
THIN SWISS CRYSTAL
At the opposite end of the user spectrum sit the Signature Crystal Thin crashes and hats with their unique, “square” bell profile. The first time I tried to play and accent on one of these square bells, my stick glanced right off. After so many years of round, I tell you square is weird! But it sure sounds good.
These are thin, easily activated cymbals. Slapping them with your hand will bring out a good crash. Play on their faces with just the tip of the stick and bring out dry, small-but-full, nearly soothing punctuations. Go ahead and hit them for real and get a brief, sharp attack that immediately ducks away, as well as a vaguely Asian, dry decay that’s long and mellow.
The 16", played in a landscape of modest volume, speaks quickly and retreats slowly. The 18", so easily tapped into delicate response, gives a surprisingly robust answer when you really smack it (the 18" went on rock gigs as a main crash and did fine, but I don’t think it would have a very long life in such service). The 20" can fake it as a ride, though it’s really too thin for the job, and when you smack it, pools of low-pitched sibilance roar out and then fade away in a hint of gong-tone. The 14" Signature Crystal Thin hi-hats are dry but slippery-sounding, with a high-pitched pea soup voice and a gentle foot chick. They play great at low volumes and also hold their own just fine at rock volumes.
I spent some time playing drums and the Signature Crystal Thin cymbals in my office – not bashing, just working things out at a medium-low volume. I can’t remember a set of cymbals that sounded as good as these do in that setting. Killer for small gigs.
SPLASH OF FLASH
There’s also two new Signature Reflector Splash cymbals. The 8", as diminutive and shiny as a walleye lure, gives a small, high, clean splash voice. I really like it, but this cymbal is so small and so thin I fear for it. It’s a Reflector, right? Looks right at home next to the Reflector Heavy crashes. But in that environment, I’d give it a week to live. Maybe Paiste will start selling them in bulk packs at Costco. The 10" Signature Reflector splash is a bit more robust but still a high, clean, short splash, not one of the shrunken crash cymbals with a splash stamp on it. No gong sound, no dirt, just the clean punctuation of paper, air, and mist wrapped in shiny bronze. Both rate high on the rather short list of splash cymbals I like. But then, I like Stewart Copeland, and he’s certainly loading up by the dozen on these shiny little pike-catchers.
Resembling a splash, but so not, and also not a Reflector, is the re-vamped 8" Cool Bell. This thick little disc makes a fabulously icy and high-pitched bell sound, like your own private little church bell, or meditation bell, or whatever. I dare you to play this thing for five minutes and not come up with at least one new weird, fruity beat. I don’t know that I will ever use it on a gig, but I know now I must have one. I have heard the peal of the bell, have you? Orange you going to follow it?
Industry-wide, loud cymbals are all the rage, and it takes some attention to keep the scorecard straight. Paiste, for example, gave us Wild and Wild Rude cymbals last year (I loved the punchy sweet attack of the Wild Rude). In contrast to the Wild Rude, the Signature Heavy Full crash cymbals are more full, less synthetic, have a much better taper, and a full range of high frequencies. The series as a whole is strong, with plenty of sonic displacement power for very loud situations. They’re bright and sweet, with glistening taper. At the soft end of the spectrum, the Signature Crystal Thin series is highly recommended for players seeking punctuation at lower volumes. The Reflector Splash cymbals and Cool Bell are excellent for their obvious/mysterious applications, but please don’t mash them to pieces.
20" Signature Reflector Bell Ride