A cymbal does one thing and one thing only… it makes a sound!! Whether it's a ride cymbal, crash, pair of hi-hats or an accent splash, the only reason to buy one is to dial in that perfect sound you're looking for.
It's nearly impossible to know exactly what sound you are buying when you look online. Drummers rely on everything from brand, make, description, and/or looks to predict what it will sound like in their percussion set up. Experience plays an important role as well. After all, how are you supposed to know the difference between Paiste and Zildjian if you've only ever had Sabian cymbals?
The truth is that choosing cymbals is hard and I want to make it easier! That's why I've been working on recording audio and video of my cymbals so you can hear the awesome sound of the cymbal you're buying!
But, before I go into more detail about the recordings let's go into some of the things experienced drummers consider when buying used cymbals.
How to choose cymbals: the hard parts
Choosing cymbals (or any music gear) is different for everyone. Mostly it depends on the drummer's ear and experience with cymbals in their price range. Let's face it, no one has an infinite cash, especially drummers! It can be hard to know how a Zildjian K Custom will sound in your kit unless you've actually played one for a while (and they're not cheap unless you buy them from me).
Even with personal taste included there's a few things drummers and percussionists typically look at when choosing cymbals:
- Cymbal brands, makes and lines: think Zildjian A, Zildjian K Custom, Sabian AA, Paiste Red Label, etc. including the size, finish (brilliant, natural, unfinished/raw or traditional), hammering and specifications of cymbals. There's a lot here, so I'm just going to focus on brands and lines for now.
- Cymbal sound descriptions: Online sellers (including my cymbal listings) use adjectives like clean, cutting, vintage, pure, bright, expressive, warm, powerful… you get the picture.
There's a lot that goes into a choosing cymbals and each of these areas could be it's own book, and I could definitely add more categories but this is a good starting point. Let's look more closely at what drummers are looking for in online listings.
Zildjian, Paiste, Sabian, Istanbul, AAX, K Custom, Pitch Black!? Cymbal gear in lines & brands
Most drummers develop some brand loyalty, whether they like the classic contemporary sound of Sabian and Zildjian, the brighter sound of Swiss made Paistes, or the dark, jazzy flavor of traditionally made Turkish cymbals from boutique brands (I'm talking Anatolia, Istanbul or Soultone).
Players who buy mostly from one of the majors (Paiste, Zildjian, Sabian) sometimes go for a line of cymbals in that brand. Jazz drummers love the complex and darker pitched tones found in Zildjian Ks or (if they can afford them) Zildjian K Customs over Zildjian's more modern sounding Zildjian As or A Customs. The Ks are legendary for having the tone of thinner cymbals made famous on old school jazz recordings.
A popular line with drummers who need extra volume in a heavy band is Sabian's AAX line which are louder, with a slightly higher, more focused pitch to “cut through” noisy mixes. AAXs usually have classic modern tone but with the extra edge you need to get heard over your guitarist's Marshall stack. They're awesome!!
Major brands tend to be pretty consistent, so knowing that Sabian B8s are made from a cheaper alloy than AAs can really narrow things down to your budget and give you a ballpark idea of a cymbal's sound.
So what's wrong with choosing cymbals by brand?
Nothing! But it should only be part of your decision. One major reason is that two identical used cymbals can sound completely different, even if they're about the same age and condition.
For example check out these videos (headphones recommended) I made of two different 20˝ Sabian AAX Stage Rides. They sound completely different!!
The second cymbal has a much brighter tone, partly due to the shinier brilliant finish. Ok, I know you're saying one of them has the label rubbed off more, but they're actually in very close condition.
The other problem is that lines change over time even within one brand. For example Zildjian used the Zilco name twice for two very different sounding cymbal lines from different decades.
Either way, don't always buy cymbals just by the brand and type, and even if you do there's one rule that still counts: only buy cymbals that sound good to you!
The sound of cymbals: is my hi hat jazzy, dark, shimmery, glassy, bright, warm or awesome?
I've seen cymbals sold all over the world using words like “shimmery”, “glassy”, “Ginger-ish,” even “delish” in an attempt to describe the sound of a cymbal. I use my share of cymbal sound adjectives myself, because they're the best way to describe the characteristics of the cymbal without hearing it. But even with all the information online, they can't take the place of an awesome drummer's experienced ear.
For drummers and percussionists who have played lots of different cymbals it's easy to understand how Sabian AAXs (especially the X-Plosion Fast Crash) can be “full and explosive.” They probably can compare a Paiste 2002 crash cymbal to other ones they've played and see why it's described as “shimmery”.
What's important to me is that my customers always get what they want, and buying a used cymbal “sound unheard” can involve a leap of faith. Not everyone's tonal definition of “Dark and jazzTASTIC” is the same as mine, and I don't want unhappy customers!
Well, that's enough of that… From now on, I'm working to solve drummers' problems by including video and audio of the actual cymbals I'm selling being played!
Choosing cymbals by sound: the easy part!
This video shows the actual cymbal being played, but the real value is in the audio. These recordings are made in a sound-proofed and controlled environment, with completely dry acoustics, using very fancy recording gear, professionally done by an engineer with a passion for accuracy! The cymbals are played the same way, every time.
The result is an exact audio recording that sounds identical to the way the actual cymbal sounds! Play it through your headphones or monitors in the same room as the actual cymbal, and there is NO DIFFERENCE. No story-telling, no guessing, no misinterpretation… just the ACTUAL SOUND!!
With sounds of my entire cymbal inventory at your fingertips, think of the possibilities!!
- Need Cymbals? Grab a set of legit headphones and your phone, go to your drum kit, and play every cymbal I have in stock with your existing line-up, from anywhere in the world!
- Crack some cymbals Zildjian Ks during a show? No problem. Before tearing down scroll through my Zildjian inventory, match my cymbals with yours and with a few clicks they're on their way to your next gig!
- Eyeing a rare and expensive hand hammered cymbal somewhere? Splurge! I can save you a fortune on the rest of your cymbal line-up! Don't limit your choices to what's in stock — with the audio and video on my site, you can bring my entire catalog of cymbals with you to any music store to match with that rare find!
- Wondering how my vintage Sabian cymbals sound next to ones at a nearby music shop? With the recordings on my cymbals pages, you can compare how my vintage cymbals sound with one you're looking at in the store! Muffle out that salesman with your headphones and make the right choice!!
Not buying cymbals right now? Do your homework!
Even if you're not looking right now, check out some of my cymbals. Beginning drummers can use the video and audio to get an idea of how different brands and lines sound. For a really good time, try comparing some of the “identical” cymbals… you'll be shocked!!
Or use the videos to hand-pick your ideal matching cymbal set. What I've done is EXACTLY as if I opened a location in every cymbal room, on every stage, in every studio, and next to every drum kit in the world, simultaneously!!
Believe me, nobody likes the sound of my own voice more than I do but from now on, I'll let my cymbals do the talking!