Every so often, you come across a musical instrument that is so inspiring it affects the way you play. Occasionally, these rare gems can even change the way you look at the instrument entirely. While this kind of experience has become increasingly elusive in an era defined by global accessibility, it’s far from extinct – as Paiste has proven in spades with its new Twenty Masters Collection.
I should preface the rest of this review by saying that I really wanted to offer a more balanced criticism of these cymbals. I’m very particular about rides, but after a few weeks with the Masters Collection, there just wasn’t much bad to say about them. Rarely have I been so impressed by one cymbal, let alone 11, and magnifying any minor negatives felt like a disservice to this exquisitely designed series of instruments.
Comprised of 11 handcrafted ride cymbals, the Twenty Masters Collection is an extension of Paiste’s widely successful Twenty series, through which the Swiss cymbal maker expanded its decidely shimmery standard palette with an alloy that incorporates those darker voices more commonly attributed to Turkish cymbals.
That alloy, called CuSn20, forms the familial glue that brings these very diverse units together under the same umbrella. Though each could be seen as a highly specialized instrument, the underlying similarities help create a group of rides that works well in almost any combination, while also blending nicely with virtually anything else I had on the stand.
Before we dig into the nitty-gritty, I have to mention the serious eye candy that came out of the big Paiste box. Simply put, the Masters Collection just looks awesome. From the clean and mellow Mediums to the scorched and spiraled Dark Drys to the stunningly hammered Dark Crisps, these cymbals have something for every eye. In every setting, their appearance elicited compliments from drummers and non-drummers alike. Fortunately, cymbals like these don’t get by on looks alone.
With seven of eleven models in the Masters Collection sporting the “dark” tag in their names, it seems as if the line might be geared toward a pretty specific market. Not the case, however, as these cymbals proved time and again how versatile they could be. In particular, five of the similarly monikered set shared a few common traits that made them feel a little like a family within the family.
The Dark Crash Ride did an excellent job pulling double duty. Under a light stick with a small bead, it made an excellent, trashy second ride with a long, low spread perfectly suited to supporting acoustic guitar and piano. Surprisingly, those same qualities were even more apparent with brushes, where the wash was never in any danger of overtaking the attack.
At 20", the Dark Crash Ride also hit all the high marks of an effective large crash, in my opinion. With a sharp attack and a lengthy decay that got bigger before it trailed off, this multifaceted little unit really shined in a loud rock setting.
Similar to their papery thin cousin, the 20" and 22" Dark Rides were smoky and warm with a big, cozy bed of low tones rounding out the spread. However, their meaty, clicking attack made them much more capable as centerpiece rides.
Because each of the Dark Rides has a mellow yet present bell and a comfortable crash, they worked very well together in low- to mid-volume settings. Paired with my favorite set of heavily patinaed 15" hats, these cymbals gave me everything I needed for a guitar trio rehearsal that called for a lot of dynamic sensitivity.
Rounding out the dark, lightweight group are the 20" and 22" Dark Crisp Rides. Slightly heavier than the Dark Rides, these middleweight beauties were really exciting on their own, and each paired beautifully with every single cymbal I had access to.
Both models had a clear, cutting stick that didn’t betray their dark roots; a strong, smoky bell; and a wash that brought my ears back to my favorite Blue Note recordings. They never got out of control, even when crashed or spanked across the bow. Musical through and through, either size would find a welcome home in any genre, with the possible exception of super high-volume settings.