gear

Zildjian Cymbal Round-Up

A WEIRD BATCH OF WONDERFUL

Here’s a closer look at the new pies that the Big Z has rolled out. It’s quite a mixed bag of noisy toys and joys. For pure sonic fun there’s two new ZXT Trashformer cymbals in small sizes, two new Sound Effects Oriental China “Trash” cymbals, and three new A Custom and K EFX Cymbals with the industrial cutouts. The student end of things gets a boost from 15” ZHT Mastersound hats and a strong ZHT 22” ride. And the expensive branch of the family tree sprouted three new jazz rides from K and K Constantinople.

Take Out the Trash — and Hit It!
For small but mighty fun I was really impressed by the new 8" and 10" ZXT Trashformer cymbals. These are oddly bent, oddly colored “splash” cymbals that seem to have been run over by just the right truck. They speak quickly, with lots of dirt. Attack is pronounced, weirdness is included, and they are a lot of fun.

There’s no sweet wispiness of splash, which is what I usually long for. I’m partial to splash cymbals that take me to mellow Jamaica or carry me away on a racing Stewart Copeland–punctuated beat. But these Trashformers are hubcaps from a Cylonese cruiser headed to Zion. They sound harshly different but still remain “splashes.” I recommend them as they are, but Zildjian also suggests using them in “stacks” with other cymbals. The idea has much potential.

THERE’S MORE TO THE HOLE STORY
The EFX cymbals, with their holes and slots cut through and through, are surprisingly musical for such odd-looking cymbals. With all the EFX designs, initial attack is nearly absent. There’s not much of an introductory whump. The cymbal sound is just suddenly there, like the leading edge of the sound had been smoothly edited off.

The A Custom EFXs have plenty of spank and bright metal tones, rather Terminator-ish — all bright and intrusive. The 14" A Custom EFX, is short and bright, with a strong bit of clang and a beautiful, hissing decay. The new 20" A Custom EFX is loud and full. 20" is big, and this one will displace whatever is in its way. Kind of like dropping a gong.

The K EFXs are like dark miniature gongs. In fact, every time I took a swipe at the new 16" and 18" K EFX cymbals I was reminded of Billy Cobham’s gong from the ’70s — only in miniature. The 16" K EFX cymbal is like a shimmering brass plate being waved by a singing choir — in an elevator shaft. The 18" produces a sudden, full blanket of dark gong-like roar. Very cool.

All the EFX I’ve played add a new and interesting sound to the cymbal bag. I’m not at all surprised to see them in the cymbal bags of pro players.

ORIENTAL IMPULSE BUYS
The 15" and 13" Oriental “Trash” cymbals are handsome, shiny, attractive to gear sluts, but not very versatile. Though they each speak with a clear, hard Asian roar, there’s little more to coax out. Call them accessory cymbals, equivalent to leather pillows on a sofa. They look great, are quite affordable, and will add a nice spark of sound to fills and beats, but these are not versatile go-to cymbals for every gig. They will provide clean, bright, well-spiced punctuation marks for your flourishes and flashes, and their tone, while bright and hard, is not harsh or icky. And yes, they’ll look fabulous hanging from long cymbal booms.

KEEP TIME BRIGHTLY, GRASSHOPPER
The students did pretty well with the newest Zildjian “budget” cymbals. The 15" ZHT Mastersound hats are crisp, articulate, and powerful. But, as with all student-priced cymbals, the frequency range is limited. With Z or any company, if you want all the frequencies, you have to give them all your money! The challenge in minting student pies is to keep the good while still cutting the budget. Cut the wrong stuff out and you get a trash-can lid, not a cymbal.

These 15" ZHT have a good portion of useful tone. They have nice, crisp high end (almost too much) and their larger size contributes some nice meat and power. The middle frequencies are slightly muddled (compared to high-end hats), but as least as good as the status quo of student hats. The rippled, Mastersound bottom cymbal further clarifies the voice of this pair. Those ripples add lots of crispy snap and sizzle — which is why Bonham liked them on his Paiste hats back in the day. And that’s why, when Paiste’s patent timed out, several other manufacturers, including Zildjian, brought out their own ripple-bottomed hats.

Foot chick of these ZHTs is crisp, foot splash is full, controllable, and nicely balanced. Half-opened, they are slightly stodgy on the low end but nicely compensated by the very crisp high end. Closed playing on the shoulder, which is the bread and butter job of rock hats, will satisfy any newbie in a loud rock band. The bigger question is: are 15" hats too big for you (or too big to fail)?

Right next to them in use and in catalog is the 22" ZHT ride. Once again there’s slightly overdone high-end crispness (good for cutting through loud guitars) and solid lows from the large, heavy size. What’s lacking is the interesting family of frequencies that should be bubbling underneath the ping. There’s just not much in the wash save a dominant hum-thrum of budget brass. On the plus side, the bell is terrific! Clear and bright, it has pleasant aggression. In rock, much ride cymbal time is spent on the bell. Overall, this cymbal is not bad at all, and well worth a listen.

AGRESSIVELY JAZZY
All three new Zildjian jazz rides are beautiful and pricey. The 22" K Constantinople Bounce Ride is going to be a very exciting cymbal for some players. It’s loaded with wash — fiery, hissing, roaring wash. Atop that wave of aggressive foment is a woody click of stick. But the stick attack is always fighting tooth and nail with that wash. Within that fire pit of sound, the very good bell is full, integrated, open, and sonorous.

With the 22" K Constantinople Bounce Ride, it’s as if you were trying to have a conversation and all the while someone was waving a thin plate of (expensive) metal in your face, roaring in competition with your conversation. That’s what the 22 Bounce is like, a competitive, roaring conversation. It has deep roots in modern, aggressive jazz. Loud enough for amplified bands, and nicely crashable, it is nonetheless incapable of polite conversation. It speaks radical poetry or nothing at all. The “12-gauge test pattern” hammering on its face adds appearance appeal as well as sound.

The 22” K Constantinople Thin — Overhammered is a good stable mate to the Bounce. The Overhammered has a pronounced and woody stick-attack sound. The copious wash spreads out like ripples in deep pools of water but dies quickly after each stroke, almost like a small balloon of sound that deflates from large to medium with every hit. Overall the cymbal is very washy but the wash is living, breathing, and changing in size as you play. The bell is completely integrated in sound, dark in voice, and more majestic than articulate. The Overhammered is crashable, but it opens up rather slowly. If you like the K Constantinoples, check out this interesting variation.

The 20" K Light Flat Ride (not Constantinople, just K Zildjian) is crazy quiet. Flat rides by nature are more controlled, less prone to washing out. But this K … I took it on some jazz gigs — it wasn’t loud enough! If there’s anybody or anything with an amp on the bandstand, you’ll be overruled. However, on those truly acoustic gigs where cymbals are hard to control, this could be a dream. That piano-trio gig you played brushes on all night? You could try to use the K Light Flat Ride on that gig. It’s round, woody stick sound is sweet and clear. There’s a sweet, high wash underneath, always subdued no matter how much or how hard you play. This is a great cymbal that just cannot be made to lose its cool! The bell sounds — hey, there is no bell! It’s a flat ride. Get it? This is a great cymbal in a very small niche.

VERDICT
Zildjian has come up with good new additions to specific niches. The Trashformers are a hoot, the Oriental Trash Chinas look cool, the ZHT additions help the students, the K and A Custom EFX cymbals are a must-hear new sound, and the three new K Constantinople and K jazz ride cymbals will add more mania to the lives of ride-cymbal fanatics worldwide.

DETAILS

MODELS & SIZES LIST PRICE

  • ZXT 8" Trashformer $90
  • ZXT 10" Trashformer $108
  • Sound Effects 13" Oriental China “Trash” $286
  • Sound Effects 15" Oriental China “Trash” $329
  • ZHT 15" Mastersound Hi-Hats $344
  • ZHT 22" Ride $296
  • A Custom EFX 14" $303
  • A Custom EFX 20" $512
  • K Zildjian EFX 16" $419
  • K Zildjian EFX 18" $495
  • K Zildjian 20” Light Flat Ride $566
  • K Constantinople 22" Thin Ride — Overhammered $868
  • K Constantinople 22" “Bounce” Ride $868

FEATURES Something for everyone, especially if you are looking to fill a specific sound craving or budget goal.

Avedis Zildjian Company
Zildjian.com
781-871-2200

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