Paiste has successfully melded the old-world buttery funk of the Traditionals line with the clarity and body of the Signature line into a new cymbal range they call Signature Dark Energy cymbals. These new cymbals are dark, a bit dry, and also sophisticated, strong, and beautiful.
The line so far has three Mark I hi-hat sizes (13", 14", 15"), five sizes of Mark I crashes (15", 16", 17", 18", 19"), and two different styles of ride cymbals, Mark I and Mark II, available in three sizes each (20", 21", 22"). From this first offering, DRUM! received all but the 15" crash.
In general, the line is dark, slightly dry, and mellow, but with plenty of power, substance, and volume. They are not brittle sounding — in fact they sound vaguely glossy. Put it this way: if the old Rude cymbals sounded like a mohawked psycho in a punk band, these Signature Dark Energy cymbals sound like a dark-haired, six-foot Danish model who paints with watercolors and teaches pilates to firemen.
Paiste offers two models, the Mark I and the Mark II, both in three sizes: 20", 21", and 22". The matte, sandblasted finish of the Mark I is punctuated by hammering that gives it a leopard-spotted look. The glossy bell, with its hammer-spots, rises from this arid cymbal-scape like a monument in a desert. The sound is dry, with lots of tah, instantly harkening back to the smoky jazz sounds of yesterday. But it has enough balls to work as a rock-and-roll cymbal — up to a point. Though the Mark I’s dry tah happily applies to the big rock beat, its ping is dark, not high and clear like a heavy Paiste 2002. The 21" and 22" have more volume than the 20", and a slightly bigger ping that would hold up better to guitar amps.
The lovely collection of undertones that swell up under constant sticking on the Mark I is entrancing. It’s fun to play this cymbal. It doesn’t fight you, it greets you, “Hey! Let’s play!” This cymbal always speaks “full voice” — you hear the stick meeting the face, what sounds like the stick sinking into the cymbal, and you hear the whole cymbal shudder and moan two floors below. If you want that super-clean “hammer on an anvil” sound, this is not your cymbal. But if you like truckloads of character, some wash, and a dry tah that draws the ear closer, check this out.
The Mark II ride is the noisier one, though they are definitely cousins. It has more bite, and the initial strike, though sweet, has a good deal of ping with the tah; the moan underneath is more of a song, and the wash is more than generous. The Mark II’s glossy, hammer-mottled face looks buffed from face to bell, and you could say its appearance matches its brighter voice. While the Mark I broods and states its rhythms with dry voice and mumbling rumbles that stay safely underneath, the Mark II chats loudly and clearly, and the aggressive, higher-pitched wash threatens to overtake each note (but never does).
The bells belie the cymbals. The Mark I bell is dry, focused, and clear, but separate from the cymbal’s body, just as the dry voice of the Mark I is clear and accompanied, distantly, by lovely dark undertones. The Mark II’s bell is lively, ringing, raucous, and echoed freely in the entire body of the cymbal, just as the brighter, livelier voice of the Mark II is accompanied, closely, by all the noisy voices of its wash, all talking at once.
A note about the different sizes: these ride cymbals are like mail-order shoes, “Runs small. Order half-size larger.” This reviewer, who usually plays a 20" ride cymbal, felt better matched by the 21" size. Bring your ears and trust them, and of course play them with your favorite sticks, because different weights, woods, shapes, and beads of sticks make worlds of difference on any ride cymbal.