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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20" K Constantinople Renaissance Bounce Ride

This cymbal closely resembles the 19" crash/ride but has eight small clusters of hammer marks that add “dirt” to the sound. This cymbal was developed with the help of jazz drummer Kenny Washington and features a bell profile modeled from Washington’s own vintage K. The bottom of the cymbal is lathed more like an A Zildjian while the top surface features pin lathing.

If you have been looking for a good crash/ride and were disappointed to learn the previous model didn’t fit its description of crash/ride, I have good news, this Bounce Ride doesn’t really fit its description either, further indicating the limitations of cymbal nomenclature. As expected, this cymbal had a lower pitch than the 19” crash/ride, but it also was much livelier, less controlled, and just plain louder. It offers a pretty good crash sound that could work for jazz drummers or even rockers who want a washy, boisterous crash cymbal with a loud bell sound. Crashing it gave much more of a crash sound than most rides do and built up quite a bit of roar under louder riding. I prefer my ride cymbals drier and more controlled with a defined stick sound, though there are times (such as a big band shout chorus) when a cymbal like this one works perfectly. It could also work well in a contrasting partnership with a very dry ride.

21" And 22" K Custom Dark Complex Rides

Of all the cymbals in this review, these two are certainly the most unique and definitely the coolest looking. Their surfaces are unlathed yet they’re slightly bumpy and their hammer marks are sharp and almost stippled looking rather than blunter and shallower. Even the bells are hammered on these two models. There’s a unique satin finish on the surface that adds to their striking appearance. I thought my 21" model was actually a little deeper in pitch than the 22" because it’s undertone was deeper, though it had a little more of a controlled nature and slightly brighter stick definition. Both shared the same dark, controlled, and slightly trashy overtone characteristics. The stick definition was good, too. With lighter sticks the smaller cymbal’s bell didn’t speak as loudly as on the 22" model. With slightly heavier sticks it wasn’t a problem. I really liked both of these cymbals but some traditionalists might feel they are just a tad too “complex” to work as a primary ride.

zildjian roundup

21" 20th Anniversary A Custom Ride

Zildjian commemorates its A Custom line with this new 21" model that will only be available in 2012. It has a smooth surface and a brilliant finish with very shallow lathing and subtle symmetrical hammering marks. This new A Custom seemed much simpler in character than the Constantinople or the K Custom models and was fairly controlled and easy to play without ever becoming overbearing. It had a bright cutting bell that seemed like it would work perfectly for Latin drumming or as a general-purpose ride for a rock drummer more than in a jazz context. I prefer more complex rides and this one it was certainly more “vanilla” than the other cymbals in this review, but for drummers playing pop music it could fit their needs well.

Verdict

I loved several of these cymbals and could easily use them on my next jazz gig, and plan to do so. My favorites were the 22" Constantinople and the two Complex Dark rides since each is noticeably different yet would be complementary to cymbals I currently own. Depending on what you currently play and what you may need in your setup you might have other preferences.

Details

Model & List Price
19" K Constantinople Crash/Ride $724
20" K Constantinople Bounce Ride $772
22" K Constantinople Renaissance Ride $911
21" 20th Anniversary A Custom Ride $570
21" K Dark Complex Ride $671
22" K Dark Complex Ride $731