Apparently Sabian Really Believes in "Give the People What They Want"
by Dendy Jarrett
For the past few years, Sabian has launched their new models each year by letting drummers vote for their favorite model(s). There are usually 12 new models (or series names), although some models can have two sizes (or more). This year, there are a total of 12 "vote cymbals" and 18 variations total.
It's certainly a departure from the typical marketing method of producing something and then hoping it becomes popular.
Sabian is tapping into social media methodology to allow everyone to have a voice in what they bring to market each year. The cymbals are previewed at Summer NAMM and then in September they start a tour of drum shops and music stores like Guitar Center all over the U.S. Drummers can come try them out and then vote. They also release a series of videos of great drummers playing with the prototype cymbals so that you can even vote if you cant get to a location to try them personally. The votes are cast, and then the cymbals that win become the new models for the following year. The winners are announced the first day of the next Winter NAMM.
I was honored to get a call from Sabian asking if I would like to review the Sabian Vote Cymbals for 2013. I would be the first civilian to actually have these in my private possession. I was thrilled and a little freaked at the same time. Luckily they informed me when I took delivery at Summer NAMM of the cymbals that these “were not the only prototypes” … so I could relax! Let’s face it, I didn’t want to be the guy calling Sabian and trying to explain that um, these cymbals turned up damaged or missing!
So I met Sabian’s Greg Zeller at the close of Summer NAMM ’13 and he loaded my Land Rover with 250lbs of brass!
As there are 12 cymbal vote cymbals, but 18 cymbals in total, I'm going to break this review into two parts by analyzing six vote cymbals for this review and six for the next. But before I start, I wanted a little insight into the genesis of these cymbals, so I turned to Sabian’s VP of Marketing, Stacy Montgomery. She explained: “these cymbals are not some grand scheme of conference room planning, rather a consortium of collaborations between artists and cymbal craftsmen — some from experimentation for artists seeking a specific sound, and some from sheer happenstance.” I actually respected that answer and appreciate the cymbals that much more, because it means each is a like a work of art, and many great pieces of art happen by accident.
I've given a 1 to 10 “star rating” to each cymbal, with 10 being the best. Please keep in mind that pricing will be established once the winning cymbals are announced!.
Here’s the first round of cymbals —
10” HHX ATTACK SPLASH
This 10” splash called the “ATTACK SPLASH” is part of the HHX series and is a highly hammered brilliant finish cymbal. It also has a slight iridescence to the finish. While I could easily flex this cymbal, it's a heavy weighted cymbal; hence there's a quick “attack” of the splash in an “in your face” kinda way, but then quick out as well. Almost no sustain. Cuts like a knife! 7 STARS
18” AA SICK HATS
The 18” Sick Hats get my vote for the best-named cymbals in the batch. These hi hats truly are sick (in the teen hip hop enthusiast sense of the word), and are an AA series set of cymbals that are completely raw.That raw finish is matte on both cymbals and the finish is the same on both sides of the cymbals. These are a very heavy set of Hats with one of the cymbals being solid, and the other having 28 silver dollar-sized (or slightly larger) holes distributed equally around two rows of the entire cymbal. (Note: The edges of these holes were quite sharp on the set I had - don’t cut yourself!)
These were displayed and played at Summer NAMM 2013 with the cymbals that had the holes in it as the top cymbal, although I suspect you could play them either way.
While these are probably not a practical “everyday” use set of hi hats, they were killer “sick” effect hats (think very Bozzio-esque). They were one of my favorite cymbals of the lot, and made me long for an aux hi hat added to my mix! 9 STARS
21” HHX SMOKY RIDE
This is the best-looking cymbal of the vote - in my opinion, it's beautiful. And again, the name is appropriate.This ride falls in the HHX Series and features a very highly configured lathing where one turn is left raw, and the next is cut. It has a tiger stripe appearance and then has large hammering over the entire lathe job. The bell is relatively small at 4.5” and the cymbal creates a nice ‘dance’ at the outer edge where it's turned to a thinner thickness. Overall, however, this is a fairly heavy cymbal.
True to its name, this cymbal is a very smoky experience. It's perfect for the blues or jazz, or even funk, but would work well in just about any genre.
I do wish that Sabian would release an entire cymbal series with this look. It's a killer look, and I'm quite certain that based on the tenor of this cymbal, they would sound super. 9.5 STARS
Now, let me explain what's happening below before you read further. The following two cymbals count as 1 vote; Sabian comes up with the type of cymbal and in some cases, it warrants multiple sizes of the same ‘type’ of cymbal. But the ‘style’ counts as only one vote.
16” B8 PRO AERO CRASH
Some mistake the B8 Pro for a lesser-value cymbal due to the price point, but indeed there are some great B8 Pros played by touring drummers in major acts.
This cymbal is a finely lathed brilliant finish cymbal with a twist: 18 rows of 4 holes each (72 holes total) around the circumference of the bow or the cymbal. The holes are small half-inch holes. The bell on this cymbal is tiny compared to most cymbals — only three and a half inches across..
I loved this crash. It's light and airy, with a nice sweet spot sound and sustain that's not particularly long-lasting or over-bearing. In this sound category it's actually a heavier-weight cymbal, and even with all those holes drilled in it, had very little flex.
18” B8 PRO AERO CRASH
The 18” version has all the physical makeup of the smaller sibling 16”. It did, however have a different sound characteristic to my ears, as it possessed a more oriental or China-type-meets-crash-cymbal flavor to it. I did like this cymbal quite a bit.
I'm rating the AERO Crashes at 7.5 STARS
12”/14” B8 PRO ASSAULT HATS
Here we have another brilliantly named set of effect hats!
The top cymbal is a twelve inch pyramid saucer (think inverted funnel top or teepee) that is unique if used alone. While this may sound kind of crazy, it reminds me of when I was an enthusiastic young drummer and drummed on anything and everything. There was this one thin hupcap we had on the farm that I loved. This cymbal reminds me of that, but of course, with superior tone quality! The lathing on this is quite close and the outer half-inch is smooth.
The bottom cymbal is a 14” B8 Pro Brilliant china. The lathing on this is quite close as well, and it has an aggressive small-machine hammering. This cymbal also has three quarter-sized holes in the body's bow. It's a heavy cymbal, but actually sounds great alone. (I would use it alone)
This is a fine effect set of hi hats when joined together, but highly unlikely to be practical. The name is befitting, as I found them an assault on my ears, and so did my yellow lab, who became that cartoon character dog running in place for the door because this scared him so badly! No other cymbal had that affect on him, so in the spirit of the contest, I let Charlie the dog vote. 4 STARS
20” AAX X-PLOSION RIDE
This 20” AAX brilliant finish cymbal certainly does explode! It almost has a 20” Crash characteristic. The attack just rockets to a full swell wash. The bell is much more tame, as it's a larger six inch raw bell. The texture of this cymbal is a fine lathed (tight grooved) finish. This cymbal ‘speaks’ well with the ISO crashes, which we'll cover in part 2 of this review.
Well, that covers the first part of the 2013 vote cymbals.
I hear lots of drummers complain that as players, we have manufacturers who force product upon the market. Yet here we have a company taking an innovative approach by letting the drummer — and anyone else that cares to vote — decide what they bring to the market.
So, do your part and vote Today! Voting opened on September 1st 2013. Then, check back next week as we wrap up the 2013 Sabian Cymbal Vote Cymbal line up.
Vote here: www.cymbalvote.com
Cymbal Vote - Chad Smith - Demo - 10” HHX Attack Splash:
Cymbal Vote - Todd Sucherman - Demo - 18” AA Sick Hats:
Cymbal Vote - Todd Sucherman - Demo - 21” HHX Smoky Ride:
Cymbal Vote - Todd Sucherman - Demo - 16” 17" 18" B8 Pro Aero Crash:
Cymbal Vote - Todd Sucherman - Demo - 14” B8 Pro Assault Hats:
Cymbal Vote - Chad Smith - Demo - 20” AAX X-Plosion Ride:
Dendy Jarrett is the Editorial Director and Director of Communities for Harmony Central. He has been heavily involved at the executive level in many aspects of the drum and percussion industry for over 25 years and has been a professional player since he was 16. His articles and product reviews have been featured in InTune Monthly, Gig Magazine, DRUM! and Modern Drummer Magazines.