ZILDJIAN Project 391
— A Limited Edition SoundLab offering
In this installment, we’ll groove on the Avedis Zildjian Project 391 crash cymbals.
by Dendy Jarrett
The history behind the project
Zildjian has been building cymbals for 391 years. In the musical instrument world, the Zildjian logo is as recognizable as Coca-Cola is to the rest of the world. After 391 years, you might think that there would be nothing left to discover — yet these cymbals are indeed different, and we had to find out why.
We asked Paul Francis, Director of R&D at Avedis ZIldjian, for the answers. He explained that in their pursuit of developing new sounds and new alloys, they decided to try a totally new copper/tin combination never used by Zildjian. “As this alloy is 85% copper and 15% tin, it allowed us to use 391 years of cymbal making know-how and apply it to an alloy that had a different frequency range than the ZBT, ZHT, or Zildjian Secret alloy.” Paul further explains: “The manipulation of the metal is much like that of an ‘A’ series, but where it starts to really differentiate is the two-step lathing process. We called upon our knowledge of how we lathe A Customs, and then we went back and lathed the bottom and top again to take advantage of the smooth glossy sound of a brilliant finish cymbal, with the bite and cut of a regular finish cymbal.” The result is a stunningly beautiful finish that is different from any other Zildjian you’ve experienced. The unique lathing pattern creates grooves in a non-conforming pattern of glossy lathes and regular finish lathes. It is quite striking. In addition to the lathing, they also have a hammer pattern. It appears to be more of a machine hammer pattern but adds to the distinctive appearance.
Other than the look, I wanted to know what else sets them apart. Paul states that the bells are a little shallower on some models compared to an “A Zildjian model.” I immediately noticed that the shallow bell provides a very glassy, quick response.
Filling a sound palette void
Soundlab is the “code name” for anything Zildjian offers that revolves around prototype cymbals, and the Project 391 series falls under that blanket. Cymbals offered in the series include:
Splash — 8”, 10”
Hi-Hats — 14”, 15”
Crash — 16”, 17”, 18”, 19”, 20”
China — 18”, 19”, 20”
Ride — 20”, 21”, 22”
Besides the distinctive look due to the lathing and the shallower bell, the sound is quite different for Zildjian. In the sound spectrum of Zildjian’s offering, these cymbals sit right below the sound of an “A” or “K” and right above that of the ZHT. In the course of development, Zildjian realized that these cymbals fill a void in the sound palette they were offering prior to this development.
These cymbals are best suited for pop, rock and heavier styles of playing. The alloy has a really nice mix of high and low frequencies without favoring one over the other.
In this first installment, we will look specifically at the crash cymbal offering for Project 391. I already mentioned their glass-shattering characteristic, but it's noteworthy that the shallow bell allows for a fierce attack and a very immediate dip to a slow decay.
Let’s "strike" up a relationship with the crashes ...
Project 391 16” Crash Cymbal:
The 16” crash is the more traditional (staple) cymbal in most drummers’ mix; however, lately the trend toward bigger crashes has been on the rise.
This 16” has a nice bright shattering crash, with a quick rolloff on the post-attack sustain. The overtones that remain are a mix of ultra high and ultra low, and in live settings are hardly noticeable. What you're left with is an explosion of sound that gets out of the way quickly.
Project 391 17” Crash Cymbal:
The 17” crash is (for many) an “odd man out” size. I really liked this cymbal though. It was rich and full: I truly enjoyed “crashing” it. It possesses all the same shattering characteristics of the 16” but offersmore body to the attack and decay. And not to be confusing (since we use the word brilliant to describe finishes on cymbals), but the crash sound on this cymbal is simply brilliant. I definitely want one of these.
The 16” and 17” are the soprano voice of the crash cymbals in this line.
Project 391 18” Crash Cymbal:
The 18” crash is historically the second “staple” cymbal in most drummers’ cymbal bag. This cymbal starts to show the “tenor” voice of the crash cymbals in this 391 line. The attack has a rich, full-bodied tone yet still possesses the same initial attack qualities of the 16” and 17”. You can definitely identify the more mid-voice range in the decay.
Project 391 19” Crash Cymbal:
The 19” crash is in keeping with the “odd man out” size of the 17”. I am not sure what it is about the 17” and the 19” odd-sized cymbals, but they are my two favorites of the five available sizes. The biggest difference with the 19” is that it starts to possess some ride cymbal characteristics. Even with the shallow bell, you can get a nice ping and the “wash” doesn’t get overbearing. The actual crash is still a great attack (again, think shattering glass) but really sings out in a strong tenor voice. I’ll have one of these as well.
Project 391 20” Crash Cymbal:
The 20” crash is one bad-boy cymbal. It is the bass voice of the crash cymbal collection. This crash means business, and can definitely double as a crash/ride. The bell has a nice ping and develops a controlled wash, but as a crash, it is big, bold and beautiful. While I typically use smaller cymbals on my set-ups, this 20” has pulled me over the line.
391 years shines through
With a 391-year history, it’s clear that Zildjian knows what they're doing. You may first wonder if a limited edition cymbal offering is a professional quality cymbal, and the answer is emphatically yes! These unique Zildjians have a very European flavor, and I really enjoyed them. The crash cymbals cover the sound spectrum quite nicely. It was a great to play Zildjians that complemented and supplemented the traditional Zildjian sound spectrum.
What’s even cooler is the fact that a 391-year-old company can still find new and innovative sounds combined with new approaches to cymbal making.
You really owe it to yourself to audition these cymbals. You’ll quickly realize why great drummers like John Tempesta are claiming the Project 391 cymbals as their new favorites.
Project 391 Video:
16” Zildjian Project 391 Crash MSRP $375.00 Your Price: $209.95
17” Zildjian Project 391 Crash MSRP $415.00 Your Price: $229.95
18” Zildjian Project 391 Crash MSRP $445.00 Your Price: $249.95
19” Zildjian Project 391 Crash MSRP $475.00 Your Price: $269.95
20” Zildjian Project 391 Crash MSRP $505.00 Your Price: $289.95
Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Director of 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.