Zildjian Project 391 Limited Edition Cymbals — Splashes and Chinas
By Dendy Jarrett |
ZILDJIAN Project 391 – An limited SoundLab offering.
In this installment, we’ll groove the Avedis Zildjian Project 391 Splash and China 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, what makes these cymbals different?
For the answers, we turned to Paul Francis, Director of R&D at Avedis ZIldjian. He explains that in their pursuit of developing new sounds and new alloys, they decided to work with 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 different frequency range than the ZBT, ZHT, and 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, and 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.” As the reviewer, I can state that this shallow bell allows this cymbal a very glassy, quick response.
Filling a sound palate void
Soundlab is the “code name” for anything that Zildjian offers that revolves around prototype cymbals, and this Project 391 falls under that blanket. So what cymbals are offered in the series?
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 palate 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.
Big Sound-Small Package
In this third installment, we will look specifically at the splash cymbal offering for Project 391. Splash cymbals are certainly one of those cymbals that comes down to personal taste. You either use them … or you don’t. You see a place for them … or you don’t. Many traditional style splash cymbals can be so “papery” sounding that they can become lost in the music. Not the case with these splash cymbals!
Project 391 8” Splash Cymbal:
Who says size doesn’t matter? It certainly does with this splash. This little 8” splash delivers a 1-2 knock out punch. It is a shrill and cutting effect that is quick as lightening but cuts right though. There will be no missing this splash while you are playing it. I mounted it both in the traditional manner as well as sitting atop a cymbal felt and inverted on the bell of another cymbal. Both ways were most effective. Like the crash cymbals, this splash has a bottle-breaking quality. In the context of music, there is no decay whatsoever; but when it speaks, people will listen.
VIDEO: 8" Splash-
Project 391 10” Splash Cymbal:
This splash can be described as, well … a splash. The sound is literally a great “splash.” It has a nice cutting attack and a very quick decay (in the context of music). I preferred this splash mounted in the traditional suspended sense, but I did try it in the inverted position. While it was effective in both configurations, I found 10” to be too large (for my taste) in the inverted set-up.
VIDEO: 10" Splash-
Either of these splash cymbals would be a fantastic effect addition to any set-up, but be prepared, as big sound comes in these small packages.
Heart Stopping Effect
China cymbals are probably one of the most diverse cymbals you can add as an effect cymbal to your kit. They can be mounted with the outer lip up or the outer lip inverted. You can drop an inverted crash on top of the china so that it lies perfectly within the bow of the cymbal, and it will produce a “white noise” effect. And you can add a rivet or two, which allows you to produce a “swish knocker” effect, adding sustain with the sizzle of the rivets.
I am a sucker for a good china cymbal. I love them so much that I have been accused of abusing them at times. I even temporarily deafened a bass player once by playing a china cymbal as he stood a little too close. (Sorry, James!)
But you have to decide if the china is the right cymbal to add to your mix. Let’s explore what is available in the 391 mix.
Project 391 18” China Cymbal:
The 18” is the smallest of the cymbal offering of Project 391. The best description of this china is that it is tight. It offers an explosive attack but it is a quick decay. The result is a “kang” sound that will wake the dead but is quick to get out of the way in the music. It is not overbearing, but you’ll certainly know it is there. Everyone will!
Video: 18" China-
Project 391 19” China Cymbal:
The 19” china is one bad-boy cymbal.
I typically really like the odd cymbals in this Project 391 line up, but in the case of this 19” China, I prefer the 18” and 20” cymbals (personal taste, mind you). This china produces more of a “kaw” sound. The pitch bends a little more than the “kang” of the 18”. The great part of this 19” is that you can actually ride on the interior of the cymbal and it produces a pretty nice “nasty” ride sound.
Project 391 20” China Cymbal:
The 20” china is one bad-boy cymbal. It’s “nasty” in a Janet Jackson kind of way. (“Ms. Jackson if you’re nasty.”) I loved this cymbal. It is explosive and epitomizes what a china cymbal should be. I played it both lip up and lip down, and it performed great either way. I don’t want to beat this into the ground, but the sound was just an explosive nasty and then it has a great quick decay.
Video: 20" China-
If there was one disappointment in this group, it was be the absence of a 22” china. I know … it may have been overkill, but morbid curiosity was egging me on to hear a 22”.
In recent years drummers have trended toward a more simplistic set up of 2 crashes, a ride and hi-hats. If any effect-cymbals could lure you back to adding additional sounds to your kit, these Project 391 splashes and chinas would be the tipping factor.
Project 391— Wrap Up
391 years shines through
With a 391-year history, it’s clear that Zildjian knows what they are doing. You may first wonder if a cymbal that is a limited edition 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 fell out of the normal Zildjian sound spectrum.
What’s further cool is the fact that a 391-year-old company can still find new and innovative sounds and approaches to cymbal making.
You really owe it to yourself to give these cymbals a test drive. You’ll quickly realize why great drummers like John Tempesta are claiming the Project 391 cymbals as their new favorites.
Other Expert Reviews:
Project 391 Video:
8” MSRP $175.00 Your Price: $ 94.46
10” MSRP $205.00 Your Price: $112.46
18” MSRP $465.00 Your Price: $233.96
19” MSRP $500.00 Your Price: $251.96
20” MSRP $530.00 Your Price: $269.96
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.