Can these cymbal felt replacements reduce volume without killing tone?
By Phil O'Keefe
When I first heard about Cympad Moderators, I was intrigued. I have run into enough drummers on enough recording sessions who bash the brass while tickling the skins that I'm always on the lookout for anything that will give me great sounding natural cymbals, but at attenuated levels.
Cympad claims their products are designed to "protect your cymbals, improve your feel and, most importantly, optimize your sound," and that their Moderator series cymbal washers "reduce cymbal volume and unwanted overtones, moderate sustain and increase articulation", all of which sounds good to me. Let's see how well they do all of that…
What You Need To Know
While they're not quite as effective at volume reduction as I was hoping they would be, Cympads are actually a really cool product, and much better than traditional felts in many respects.
Overall, I liked the effect they had on the sound of the cymbals - especially crashes. They improve articulation just as Cympad claims, and the harsher sounding overtones of my mid-range Zildjians were tamed a bit too, as well as the overall volume. They also modestly reduce the decay time, while simultaneously smoothing it out a bit, and all without having a drastic negative effect on the basic sound of the cymbal. I was less satisfied with the sound of them on my 20" Zildjian ride, and I had some trouble finding the optimum size washer for that cymbal. Using a large 90 or 100mm washer sounded better when playing near the edge of the cymbal, but it muted the bell a little too much for my tastes. Smaller (60-80mm) pads made the bell sound much better, but they were less effective at taming the ride's wash.
Still, the overall effect of Cympads is impressive enough, and their cost is reasonable enough that I can't see myself ever going back to regular felt washers. While it works great on drum heads, on cymbals, Cympad Moderators are more effective than Moongel at taming excessive sustain and overtones, and they are less damaging to your tone than tape is, and they support, protect and isolate the cymbal better than felt washers do. And yes, they also knock a few decibels off the levels as well… all of which makes them worth your consideration, whether you're a drummer, recording engineer or studio owner.
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.