Sabian HH & AA Series Cymbals
The story of Sabian Cymbals could make a small book, but one fact in particular is worth knowing - especially as there is some confusion about the relationship and similarity with that other well-known company with the initials A.K!
In simple terms, Armand Zildjian fell out with his brother, Robert, following their father's death in 1979. Only they know the details, but it's beyond doubt that Robert Zildjian, who now runs Sabian, comes from one of the most established and successful cymbal-making families of all time.
Cymbals are among history's oldest instruments. Archaeologists have found cymbals in the tombs of ancient Egyptians, but modern Turkish cymbals as we know them date from around the early 1600s, when a metal-worker named Avedis (what else?) discovered a method for treating an alloy of copper and tin in the casting process to produce instruments of remarkable power, sonority and strength. The so-called 'secret formula' is in fact bronze; B20 as it's known in the industry, which means it's composed of eighty per cent copper and twenty per cent tin (there are also traces of silver in it). Sabian use other alloys, basically of bronze, for their B8s and B20s (the cheaper budget lines).
B20 bronze is extremely brittle, especially with all that tin in it, but the larger proportion of tin is what contributes to the brilliance and sonority of the sound. If, for example, you put together a B20 alloy just any which way, then heated and rolled it, the cymbal would break very easily. Mr. Avedis the 1st found a formula for treating the alloy of copper and tin to make a casting that could be heated and rolled repeatedly without breaking because the structure of this alloy was so malleable and ductile. The quality and power of these cymbals were unique, and local craftsmen dubbed him 'Zildjian', which in Turkish means 'cymbal-smith' (didn't know you spoke Turkish! - Ed.)
Anyway, back to Sabian. Sabian HH (hand hammered) cymbals are, for me, the most impressive of the range, and are a little similar to the Zildjian K range in tone and response. 'Character more than function' is a phrase used to describe this range, and I used to recommend this type to Jazz players only - but today it seems that a lot of Rock players are changing over to this kind of cymbal in a search for different sounds and timbres.
HH have a 'low profile' dark sound, with the distinctive hand hammered surface that looks like the dark side of the Moon. Ominous and oriental in aspect, the HH is richer and warmer than any machine 'hand hammered' cymbal I've yet to encounter. Where AA cymbals go ting, HH go tah, more of a vowel sound than a consonant. When playing these cymbals, they feel softer, almost as if the stick is melting into them, different from the normal Paiste, Zildjian or whatever else; and it's this, combined with the sound, that makes them one of the nicest cymbals to play. All the sizes are available, from small splashes to 24" rides, and there are heavy/medium weights within this range. My personal favourites are the 20" and 22" medium ride and the 18" crash ride, which is one of the best rides I've ever played and is truly a crash ride, not a poor ride and a heavy crash as are so many others of this classification.
The 13" hi-hats are really rather unique. Unlike the Zildjian Ks (which always seem mushy to me), these have warmth, cut and tone, and anybody looking for a cross between, say, an A Zildjian and a K Zildjian would be well advised to check these out. The 14" hi-hats are also good, but slightly on the heavy side.
If you require cymbals of quality that are totally functional in the best sense of the word, then these could be for you. I find these Sabians conventional and predictable, but of a very good quality and well finished. AAs generally have a higher profile and a harder, more metallic feel; their pitch is brighter, with a sharper, more immediate attack. The sustain is longer, and at best the character of AAs tends to be fairly even. These are 'safe' cymbals that won't rattle the sound engineer or lead singer! They're not designed to get in the way, and are pitched so as to be very separate from the drum sound. This doesn't mean that the AAs are to be avoided, because, as I said, they are the norm in cymbal sounds, and if you play in situations where revolutionary sounds are neither called for nor appreciated, then they're worth checking out. Of course, the full range is very comprehensive, and Sabian also do a brilliant finish on most sizes if required. Sabian's 'budget' range of B8s and B20s have just been delivered to me, but I've not yet had the chance to give them a thorough inspection. I'll do this as soon as I return from my hols. (Hols? HOLS? Are we over-paying this man?! - Ed.) and report back in due course.
Price range: HH Series from £64.17 to £278.07. AA Series from £44.56 to £160.43
More details from Sonor (U.K) Ltd., (Contact Details).
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Review by Pete Randall
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