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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…

Cympad Moderator.jpg


What You Need To Know

  • The Cympad Moderator pads are made from a dense, relatively tough cellular foam. They feel somewhat similar to a really thick piece of wetsuit neoprene; they're firm, but if pressed hard, there's some compressibility there - certainly more than you have with traditional felt cymbal washers. All six of the Cympads in the package I purchased had a similar feel that was consistent from washer to washer.  
  • Cympads come in a variety of models, thicknesses and diameters. The three main series of pads are called Chromatics, Optimizers and Moderators.
  • Optimizers are intended to be used like traditional cymbal washers, and as a replacement for the more common felt washers. Chromatics similar, but instead of being black like the Optimizers and Moderators, Chromatics come in various colors.
  • Cympad says that the Moderators are designed to have a dampening effect. This lowers the volume of the cymbal a bit, and helps tame some of the overtones.
  • Moderators come in 50mm, 60mm, 70mm, 80mm, 90mm and 100mm sizes; all of which are 15mm thick. I checked out one of each. What size should you use? Cympad has a chart on their website that gives you their recommendations for use with various cymbal sizes and types. Larger Cympad washer sizes tend to provide more dampening and result in less overtones and more volume reduction than the smaller sized washers do.  


Recommended Sizes and Cymbal Applications.png

  • Moderators are designed to be mounted on the bottom side of the cymbal cup. The cellular foam material conforms itself to the underside of the cymbal and supports it better than felt, while the foam also acts as an effective shock mount of sorts, and helps isolate the stand from the cymbal. This results in a subjectively better "feel" when playing.
  • Cympad recommends using domed washers with their products to help protect them.



Limitations

  • If you're expecting Cympad Moderators to attenuate the volume level of your cymbals drastically all by themselves while you continue to strike your cymbals as hard as ever, you're going to be disappointed. I noticed a few decibels of reduction in volume when using them - enough to be obviously noticeable, but nothing like a halving of perceived volume or anything of that nature. However, used in conjunction with other quieting methods (playing softer, thinner cymbals, room acoustic treatment, etc.) they can be helpful and useful tool in your efforts to retain real cymbal sound at attenuated volume levels.
  • There's no instructions included with the Cympad Moderator Cube pack - just one each of the 50mm, 60mm, 70mm, 80mm, 90mm and 100mm sized washer pads, and a couple of Cympad stickers. Finding the information on Cympad's website could  be easier, but at least it is there.

 

Conclusions

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.  


Resources

Cympad products at Musician's Friend

Cympad's website

 

Phil\_OKeefe HC Bio Image.jpgPhil 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. 

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