Sabian O-Zone Crashes & X-Celerator Hats Reviewed!!


Sabian just released two new batches of its fab bronze pies. The first batch introduces a few more ventilated O-Zone crashes, those dark, wobbly disks stolen from the wheels of Cadillac Escalades. The second is a bunch of great AAX and HHX hi-hats with rippled edges on the bottom cymbal.

Hole-Some Crashes

Sabian has added three new crashes to the AAX O-Zone line, in 16", 18", and 20" sizes. The 20" O-Zone crash is the largest available; our review model came in a brilliant finish (available at no extra charge) punched with eight big holes. It’s thin, brother, thin. Not only does it wobble, you can grab it with your fingers and make it flex. And, punching holes in our expectations (I’ll drop the puns now) the 20" O-Zone crash sounded really cool when played at really soft volumes, emitting a trashy low growl. Go figure.

But smacking it around produced a short, deep, trash can bark with a soft, long decay echoing up as from a deep well. It doesn’t have the pointed attack of a China cymbal. It’s more like a good galvanized household trash can (albeit an expensive one) mixed with a distant gong. As a crash-ride it has lots of distortion and growl, is hard to play because of the wobble, but gives surprisingly good articulation once you get the hang of alternating between the edge and the Swiss cheese face.

The 18" AAX O-Zone crash, which came in a regular finish and sported the same eight big holes, is much more mellow and buttery, giving a warm, gong-like tone with strong mid-range attack and a body that subsides rapidly. It is reminiscent of an 18" crash with a perfect crack in it, wounded but still dangerous, noticeably different but still strong and interesting. The gong tone becomes more apparent the further you move away from the cymbal.

The 16" AAX O-Zone crash (regular finish) has only six holes in it. This cymbal made all our preconceptions slip away like water through a perforated drain guard. First we tapped it lightly, and as a small ride cymbal it sounded great standing at arm’s length. But at room’s length, the dominant note was that of rough, flexing sheet metal. Pushed moderately, the 16" gave nice attack, and provided good accents when we laid into the slightly flattened edge. It sounded like a cross between a gong hit and a splash cymbal — short, dry, and coarse with instant decay. It offered both sonic individuality and a good blend of volume and decay for integration into the “regular” pantheon of cymbals.


Hole-y Splashes

The 10" and 12" O-Zone splashes remind us, in a good way, of toy cymbals all grown up. With six big holes they are frighteningly thin and wobbly, but they bark with the brassy roughness and gruff projection of a short drill sergeant. Both cymbals have low-pitched undertones beneath their salty attacks. All the regular sweetness of AAX splashes has been leached out of these. They are brassy but still very musical, and don’t sound as much like a “specialty” cymbal as the crashes do.

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Squiggly Hats

The new hats, which gave us ripples of excitement (I lied, I can’t help myself), are called X-Celerator Hats and include 13", 14", and 15" sizes in both AAX and HHX models. The bottom cymbal of these models has a wavy pattern along its edge.

This is a design approach started by one of the other Big Three cymbal makers back in the ’70s, when there were only two “Big” cymbal makers to speak of, and then adopted by a second, and now, finally, available as part of Sabian’s hi-hat selection. Hallelujah.

It’s safe to generalize a few points about paired hi-hats featuring ripple-edged bottom cymbals. The chick sound is clear and crisp. As a result, it’s nearly impossible to make the foot-chick small. Playing the pair with the shoulder of a stick makes a big sound, but so does playing on the face with the tip of the stick, because the ripple edged bottom cymbal helps activate the whole top cymbal whenever and wherever you play it. Opening the hats slightly gives a very slithery, sizzly sound. These points can be good or bad depending on what you want, but they are strong points, and they are added, so to speak, to the characteristics of each particular cymbal pairing.

13" Beenies

The 13" AAX X-Celerator hats include a heavy bottom and medium top. Their small diameter keeps the pitch on the high side, but they remain buttery and funky, with the clean, bright, classic sound that distinguishes the AAX line. These cymbals boast full dynamic representation.

The same 13" diameter in HHX X-Celerator, on the other hand, has a dark, dry sound that is helpfully articulated by the rippled bottom cymbal. The thin top cymbal, with its un-lathed bell, contrasts with the quite heavy bottom cymbal to make a very clean foot-chick that complements the old-school, darker and drier tone.

And don’t think we didn’t try swapping around a bit; putting the 13" HHX top on the 13" AAX bottom for instance. All the meat, with a little less sweet. Super!

14" Fedoras

The 14" HHX X-Celerator hats are low and dark, like a wise old mule coming down the road. The foot-chick had a surprisingly mellow attack with a hint of a low pitch-bend overtone (audible up close but you’d never hear it in a band setting). These would be formidable cymbals bashed in a setting of dark music or stroked within the setting of an old-school big band.

The 14" AAX X-Celerator hats we played were by far the prettiest in the bunch but also the loudest and least articulate. Foot-chick was clean and strong, but playing the medium-heavy top and heavy bottom cymbals produced scant clarity of stroke, creating instead a very wide attack sound with an abundance of mush. They were a bit uncontrollable. Maybe that would work well in a really loud setting. We found this particular pair disappointing because Sabian’s brilliant finish looks hot and we think we would love it on a better-matched pair of cymbals.

15" Sombreros

Speaking of love, the 15" AAX X-Celerator cymbals we played were as sweet as those AAX 14"s were clunky. These are big cymbals, and they’re low-pitched, glassy, and smooth. We had a little trouble getting these big suckas to sit flat on the hi-hat stand’s felt (with ripple bottom hats, flat is best, not tilted), so there was some chunkiness in the foot-chick until they settled in. On the bandstand, they idled as powerfully as any Cadillac, and when spanked they spoke right up.

In the HHX line, the 15" size didn’t fare as well. The basic tone of these hats is dry and dark, and that part was fine. But there were some odd overtones to the foot-chick (when we pumped our foot real fast we got sort of a didgeridoo effect). Playing “pea soup” or a Basie hat pattern produced low, unwanted wah-wah notes every time the hats came open. Regular half-open sizzle was great, though, and we’re not ready to give up on this model or size — just this particular pair.


We are delighted to see Sabian offering hats with rippled bottoms. We are reminded, though, that hi-hat selection takes a bit of hands-on work, and that not every pair is a winner. This batch came out in a ratio of 1:3 dogs and darlings, but hey, your experience may differ. And we remind you to be adventurous when shopping, and to try mixing AAX tops with HHX bottoms and vice versa, ad infinitum. The O-Zone crashes surprised us with the variety of sounds within the line. The 20" is not just the 16" pumped up, nor is the 18" just the same thing but “in the middle.” We enjoyed them all, not as “regular” crashes but as viable add-on extras or specialty items. We do think the O-Zone splashes should be considered alongside “regular” splashes and will do fine as an expanded choice of voice.