Sabian 16" Artisan Elite Hi Hats
By Dendy Jarrett |
Sabian 16" Artisan Elite Hi Hats
The black sheep of big, bad, and beautiful
by Dendy Jarrett
Hi hats have varied in popularity over the years (size wise) as much as fashion trends. Traditionally, I've had 12" or 13" hats. So, when Sabian wanted to send me a set of their 16" Artisan Elite Hi Hats, I was deeply curious.
Upon receiving the box and opening it, I immediately knew this was something special. These cymbals ship in their own protective cymbal embroidered cymbal sleeve. I was immediately taken back to when Sabian made its debut, and all their cymbals were shipped in felt embroidered bags (we called them Crown Royal Bags).
When I pulled them out of the protective sleeve, I knew why they're called Artisan Elites. These cymbals are signed and numbered works of art. These may be the best-looking hi hats I've ever seen.
They are deeply lathed, but with a wide lathe path. The part between the lathes reveals a natural tin oxide that reminds me of that this was once an unlathed raw disk of B20 metal.
But you don't have hi hats simply because they look good - what about the sound? These hats take a moment to get your ear accustomed to the low dark sound. But once you get acclimated...look out!
I'll remind you that these are 16" hats - larger than your average hats, but I like them. Once I started playing them, I couldn't stop. There were so many colors to explore. I found the "chick" to be very present although dark and "trashy" — but not muddy. The cymbals themselves are dark and "trashy," but not in a bad way...rather...in a good way. The bell is much larger and flatter than on most hats and when playing the bell, it produces a higher pitch of the normal high hat sound - not necessarily what you'd expect from a typical bell-only sound, but a resonant tight bell that takes advantage of the cymbal's size to produce that particular resonant quality. As you'd expect, the bottom cymbal is the heavier of the two, and the top cymbal is pitched almost an octave higher in comparison.
So, what did I like about the sound? It's different, and since I had no point of comparison to a normal set of hand-hammered (HH or HHX) 16" hats, I am not certain which aspect to attribute to the sheer size or which to attribute to the hammer/lathe pattern. I'll venture to say that the warm, "trashy" sound comes from the style, and the pitch is due to the size. But what I can tell you is that these hats "got da funk." I just wanted to keep playing them and exploring the sounds. And to clarify the "trash" sound I keep referencing - it's really more of a dirty, earthy sound. If you're looking for a high-pitched, tight chick...these aren't for you. I could get close by applying a lot of pressure on the hi hat pedal and raising the hat's pitch, which would work to produce that high chick, but you'd not want to have to do that all the time. They develop a very dry and trashy wash when played slightly open.
Would I play out with these? Absolutely! I play a lot of blues and funk these days...and these would be a welcome part of my cymbal setup. I thought the diameter would be a little much, but I like having a large target area. It's like having a larger color palette - and I dig the dry, dirty tone.
(Like the work of art these cymbals are, each is signed an numbered by the artisan who created them, adding to these cymbals' mystique.)
The Artisan Elite series lives up to its name. These cymbals are a special kind of special, and if the price weren't a bit too much for my current planned budget (over $700 "street"), I wouldn't be sending them back. In the world of cymbals a 16" Hi Hat may be considered a black sheep, but these hi hats are big, bad and beautiful investment-worthy material.
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Dendy Jarrett is the Publisher and Executive 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.