Bob Henrit bashes out a few ballsy numbers
The Sabian Company have come up with half a dozen new designs for cymbals from their Canadian factory. These new products were meant to be under wraps until the Frankfurt show but I've managed to have a sneak preview of them and had the opportunity to use them in the recording studio.
I suppose the most striking of them is the 'Roctagon'. As its name suggests it has eight sides and is based on a 20" 'crash' cymbal with a traditional profile, selling at £125. Since it's a Rock crash it's quite thick, and at first I was concerned about excessive stick wear from the flat edges. I must say that I didn't actually notice anything untoward. (Of course if you were to play the cymbal edge-on you would definitely end up with a lot of wood shavings on the floor!) 'Roctagon' has a very heavy, and consequently rather slow sound, but with a lot of balls.
Included with these test instruments was a 12" 'Rock Splash' (£60). It's meant for those of you who like the idea and sound of a small punctuation cymbal but can't be doing with the hassle of breaking them and buying more. So, with you in mind, Sabian have really strengthened and thickened their brilliant splash. It speaks quickly enough and has a good deal of middle and sizzle; it should stand up to wear and tear. However it still needs to be respected and must be struck properly; never hit through it. Always return the stick immediately after the stroke. This is a very strident cymbal and you really know when it's been hit.
Sabian's medium 20" 'Flange Ride' (£125) is also based on an ordinary cymbal with a brilliant finish. What they've done (under Ed Thigpen's guidance), is to hand-hammer the edge (or rather the last ¾") to thin it out and flatten the tone. This has produced a flange, (albeit a very slight one) and given the cymbal a Chinese-type dirty tone, but still allowed the sound of each beat to remain audible. There's a degree of sibilance but no Chinese build up; altogether it's mellower and somehow more respectable. It is, it must be said, very Jazzy but this is hardly surprising since Ed Thigpen had a hand in its creation.
I think I'm right in saying that Zildjian's Earth ride cymbals were originally made in Canada, but Sabian's version has taken the artform just a little further forward. Instead of just casting and rolling their 20" 'Leopard Ride' £180, they hammer it too, and give it a 'brilliant'finish. (All Sabian cymbals, by the way, are available with brilliant finish at no extra cost.) The one I saw was an HH 20 and I found it very articulate and with a few more overtones than the Earth. I suppose you could describe it as more usable in general terms, even though they are both very much specialist instruments. As far as the 'Leopard Ride' itself goes it has more or less the same sound all over although it is slightly higher pitched at the bell and harder too. The bell itself is really strident and there is some build up of sound if you play on the very outside.
Two different pairs of hi hat cymbals were sent along for me to play. The 'Rock Sizzle' ones (£157) I had actually seen a couple of years ago but in a slightly different form. They are normally shaped but with a pair of holes drilled into the bell to let the air out, and four pairs of rivets fitted to the bottom cymbal to give some more sustain. These rivets are in twos about an inch apart and 1½ inches in from the edge, spaced equidistantly around the circumference. They contribute a little 'zing' to the tone, but you don't really notice them until you begin to hit hard. I really liked the effect they had on the 'bark' of the hi hat; they really made it easy to get a very long 'tear' sound.
The other pair of hi hat cymbals are 10" in diameter, £107 in price and reasonably thick. I have to say that I was really surprised by them. They had a very very contained sound but still had a deal of volume and you could hit them hard. They recorded really well without too much splash and were perfect for double handed playing; they also sounded authentic when half open. Very 'Ringo like'. They won't be every drummer's cup of tea, but they were very good.
All these new Sabians will be on sale by the time you read this and I suggest you get yourself along to your friendly drum shop and listen to them. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
RRP: SEE COPY