From DRUM! Magazine’s April 2017 Issue | By AJ Donahue
The Meinl brand has a distinctive sound. Despite curating a loaded catalog of diverse and innovative models, the company seems to have found a very visible foothold with a particular aesthetic. By trading heavily in what were previously considered unorthodox sounds, the German cymbalsmith exploded in popularity over the last decade and became somewhat of a flag bearer for the low, dark, and dry sounds favored by so many of today’s most progressive players.
But, as mentioned above, the Meinl catalog has range. As part of its 2017 new product rollout, the company is spinning the spotlight over to another corner of the sonic spectrum with the release of the Pure Alloy series. The line is designed to offer a set of classically clean, adaptable sounds, and is targeted at drummers who need cymbals that can handle just about any gig, but don’t sacrifice character for capability.
So, how did Meinl do with its set of all-’rounders? Let’s find out.
According to the reps at Meinl, these Pure Alloy cymbals are forged from B12 bronze alloy (88-percent copper/12-percent tin), but the goal of the line is to use whatever alloy is necessary to create the sound they’re after. I couldn’t get any more definitive information out of the team, but in reading between the lines, it looks like there could be different alloy-specific sets coming to the Pure Alloy range later. The current lineup includes 14″ and 15″ hi-hats; 16″, 18″, and 20″ crashes; and 20″ and 22″ ride cymbals. Interestingly, all of them came sporting a “medium” designation. Much like the potential for different alloy experiments down the road, I think we’ll likely see some lighter or heavier versions of these cymbals in the not-too-distant future.
Visually, the cymbals have a cool and classic look and kind of split the difference between the thin, jazz-oriented pies common in the 1950s and ’60s, and the brighter, heavier plates that came to prominence with ’70s rock drummers. All of the cymbals were treated with a traditional hand-lacquer coating that imitated a very light patina and added a hint of coffee color to the finely lathed discs. Low profiles, tight bells, and pencil eraser-sized hammering throughout the bow rounded out the historically inspired look.
All three of the crashes in the Pure Alloy line are present and broad without being over-loud. The common thread of the crashes, and really the whole series, is a warm, sparkling spread that takes a while to settle down. Each of the crashes is soft and responsive enough to handle low-volume play, but able to at least hang in there when things get loud.
These crashes also have surprisingly cutting bells whose sound is pretty well separated from the edge and bow. At first, I found that bizarre, in that quick bell knocks leapt off each cymbal and sounded way louder than the rest of the instrument. But after getting more comfortable with what to expect, I found that quality to be valuable in funk and Latin grooves, especially given the sound of the ride model bells (more on that in a minute).
The 16″ Medium Crash has a bright punch up top that explodes off the edges. It was really the only cymbal in the series that has such a rapid attack. When struck firmly in an isolated setting, the silvery highs of the B12 alloy’s wash were a bit shrill, but I think they helped the cymbal cut through in louder situations.
Our 18″ and 20″ Medium crashes bear a much stronger sibling resemblance to one another than to their 16″ companion. Both are slightly slower, wider, and longer in sustain. They each have enough tension up top to offer semi-serviceable ride play, but work much better as big, breathy crashes. The 20″ in particular is a beachy breeze that feels like a perfect right-side whip for mid-volume singer-songwriter stuff.
But the most remarkable thing about the two larger crashes is the consistency of the tone at every dynamic level. They go from loud to soft and back again with such ease that they almost sound like digital samples. I think that alone helps make them much more versatile. Any kind of music that offers enough room for larger, gusty crashes — be it country, rock, R&B, jazz, or whatever — would be well-served by any of these cymbals.
Given the nature of the Pure Alloy series, I expected the Medium Rides to be tighter extensions of the crashes, but that wasn’t exactly the case. The 22″ model isn’t too far away from the rest of the family, but the 20″ really stands apart. It’s significantly stiffer than the other PAs, and as a result, produces a much brighter spread.
Tip taps across the bow are crisp and cutting with a surprising amount of “ping” and some twinkle in the initial attack. The cymbal is somewhat crashable, but not enough to be relied upon as a main crash. It could easily handle a wide variety of genres, but feels like the perfect instrument for playing heavy quarters under a country or blues band.
As mentioned earlier, the 22″ Medium Ride feels more in line with what I expected from the Pure Alloy pieces. It splits the difference between the weight and feel of the 20″ ride and the 20″ crash. It’s low, mellow, and warm with enough cutting “tink” under the stick to maintain articulation when things pick up.
The larger dish is more crashable than its 20″ partner, but again, feels better as a ride. One of the big surprises here is a hint of smokiness in the spread. I love that sound and think it meshes beautifully with the whole line’s low, sparkling character. My only gripe is that it struggles to project over very loud guitars, but I think that’s a reasonable concession given its otherwise remarkable dynamic range. On the whole, it was an excellent multi-purpose pie.
Both of the Pure Alloy rides have surprisingly mellow bells. I think they are expertly integrated with the bow and edge sounds of each cymbal, and make nice, clean complements to the main ride voices. They aren’t the kind of bells that would carve up a guitar solo, though, but thankfully that’s where the clanging cups of the crashes I mentioned earlier come in handy. When played together, the cymbals in this series offer a lot of options.
I saved the Pure Alloy hats for last because I loved them to death and I’m not sure how to explain why and I was hoping that writing the rest of the article first would give me enough time to think about it but here we are and now I’m trying to churn out the longest sentence possible to give my brain some extra — wait! I’ve got it.
I love both the 14″ and 15″ Medium hats because I almost never think about them. I don’t mean to make it sound like they were boring or forgettable — quite the opposite, in fact. Both sets are clear and full at every volume, but warm and forgiving enough to help keep things even. Played open, they give back a gorgeous, controlled wash that fills up space in a fairly low frequency range, so it never eats up other sounds.
Most bottom hi-hat cymbals are usually heavier than the top ones they’re paired with. But it feels like the bottom cymbals on both Pure Alloy pairs are only slightly heavier than the tops, which I think contributes to that low pitch and how quickly they respond at a loud volume. To my ear, the 14″ pair is an ideal set of studio hats. They are easy to manage and blend almost perfectly with everything else in the demo track I used them on.
The 15″ set has many of those same qualities, but is slightly looser and less controlled when closed. That’s not a bad thing, though. I find them to be much fatter and funkier in a way that works well under New Orleans-inspired, heavily accented eighth-note grooves. They are great rock and folk hats, too, but I like them most when I dig in with the tip of the stick.
While that low, mellow tone contributes to an outstanding stick sound, I think it does leave the foot-chick a little lacking in each pair, especially the 15″ combo. With both sizes, the “chup” sound is so deep that it blends right into the ride or crash wash. I find that nice for low-volume play, but missed the presence in louder situations.
With the Pure Alloy series, the designers at Meinl set out to create a line of modern instruments that recall the versatility and classically cool tones of cymbals from years gone by. I think they absolutely succeeded. These are some of the more capable and agile cymbals I can remember playing. I wouldn’t say they’re perfectly suited for the tight, punching sounds of speed metal or hip-hop, but they could comfortably handle just about anything else. And as a final note, I hope Meinl plans to sell matched box sets of the Pure Alloy cymbals because while they played very well with others, I think they were most effective when used together.
B12 alloy, special treatment finish, tight lathing, medium top-side hammering, medium-small cups, medium-low profiles, hi-hats have slightly thinner tops
14″ Medium Hi-hat $610
15″ Medium Hi-hat $650
16″ Medium Crash $370
18″ Medium Crash $440
20″ Medium Crash $518
20″ Medium Ride $518
22″ Medium Ride $610