Zildjian Ride Cymbal Roundup

zildjian roundup

A few days before Christmas a box arrived at my front door containing an assortment of beautiful new Zildjian rides. Did Santa read my mind and visit my house on his reindeer-powered sleigh bearing gifts I’d cherish forever? Unfortunately not, because also included in the box was a return authorization for all the precious bronze. It wasn’t a total loss — at least I didn’t have to clean reindeer droppings off my roof.

A few days later I was able to audition a bunch more Zildjians from the Midwest Clinic band and orchestra show including improved 14" Constantinople hats (awesome!), the holey and generally odd-looking Akira Jimbo–designed Trash Smash (great for rock and metal), and a bunch more, all of which were quite nice. Zildjian has been making cymbals for nearly 400 years, so I shouldn’t have been surprised by any of this. For this review we’ll focus on some new and improved rides.

19" K Constantinople Renaissance Crash/Ride

The new 19" crash/ride is one of three new crashes (also including 15" and 17") designed to fit into the existing line of Constantinople crashes that already includes 16" and 18" models. Zildjian used a new hammering technique on these cymbals, though it wasn’t immediately obvious by simply looking at our review cymbal. More noticeably, the company employed shallower and thinner pin lathing, which creates cymbals more like vintage K models from the ’60s. The smaller crashes are thin in weight but our test model was designed to be medium-thin and possibly used as a left-handed crash/ride on a small jazz setup.

Here’s a brief bit of cymbal history. You may not know that Avedis Zildjian was the first cymbal-maker to produce drum set cymbals and helpfully name them with descriptions like “ride” or “crash.” Some purists may find the descriptions printed on cymbals unnecessarily limiting since you can crash a ride or ride a splash — just watch Chris Adler. I appreciate the labels since they can get you into the ballpark when shopping but the purists have a point. Since handmade cymbals often differ from one sample to another it ultimately makes the most sense to ignore the label and just tap, hit, and ride a cymbal to figure how it’ll fit into your style of playing.

Since I often think of crash/rides as not being particularly good at either purpose, I can’t say I was disappointed that our review cymbal didn’t live up to its “crash/ride” name. This cymbal struck me like a very useful and musical 19" jazz ride cymbal. When riding, it had a defined stick sound with an understated wash that never got out of control no matter how loudly I played it. This was enhanced with a good bell and offered a higher pitch that would complement a larger jazz ride. As a crash, I found it lacking; it was too controlled and a bit clangy when struck in that manner. To really get it to crash I’d have to hit my test model harder than would probably be advisable. However, it worked fine with moderate shoulder pokes, as jazz drummers frequently employ. I liked it a lot more as a smaller ride alternative since it was easy to play and had a nice bell that would project for Latin tunes.

22" K Constantinople Renaissance Medium Thin Ride

This cymbal was developed in conjunction with jazz drummer Adam Nussbaum and features clusters of hammer marks similar to the bounce ride, but rather than have just four hammer marks per cluster, this cymbal’s four clusters have closer to 15 hammer marks each. These add what the press release describes as “a dark spread with overtones and a bit of trash” to the cymbal. That sums it up nicely, though the trash is very understated. The underside of the bell is unlathed, which adds stick definition to the cymbal. It’s designed to work in small- or medium-sized jazz groups and its low pitch and controlled nature prevent it from getting too loud or out of hand. If I laid into it I could get it to produce a deep though never overbearing roar. The bell was quite useable and I found the understated dark timbre of this cymbal quite appealing. Of these three Constantinople rides, this was my favorite. In fact, as these cymbals’ diameters increased, so did their apparent complexity. Though each is quite good in its own right, each also seems designed for a specific use. This one struck me as the most traditional-sounding “K” ride in the review.

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