BY JOHN NYMAN
Innovation and expansion rule the cymbal world today, and Meinl is no slouch. The new Soundcaster Fusion cymbals are but the latest confirmation. Bold to behold with ear and eye, they have a two-tone look, with the outside portion lathed and hammered and the inner diameter hammered, not lathed at all, and polished to a gleam. Though this is not exactly a new design, it is a good one that works well in Meinl’s hands. The Soundcaster Fusion cymbals are successful within a range that will appeal to many drummers. Here’s how the bash session with them went.
MEET THE FAMILY
The eight new Soundcaster Fusion cymbals include the 20″ Medium ride, the 20″ Powerful ride, and the jumbo 22″ Powerful ride. There are two crashes, 16″ and 18″. The Soundcaster Fusion China cymbal population stands at one, an 18″, and a notable one at that. There are also a pair of 14″ hats and a 10″ splash to round things out. These are cast-sheet cymbals, cut from large sheets of alloy and then pressed, hammered, lathed, polished, blessed, kissed for luck, and all the other secret things cymbal manufacturers do. Meinl describes the alloy as B12, meaning 12 percent tin and 88 percent copper, give or take a secret formula item or two. This is Meinl’s twist on the two popular formulas of B8 and B20.
These are clean, bright, focused cymbals, suitable for rock and pop, including the various sub-genres. The clean focus of their tone left me itching to take them on a loud gig, where they could challenge the Marshall stacks.
The two-tone “fusion” look is cool, though there is a reason for it beyond mere aesthetics. As with other cymbals (including other brands) that employ this two-tone effect, the Meinl Soundcaster Fusion cymbals have a solid attack, a pronounced, beefy core of sound, all surrounded by a shimmer of high frequencies.
The two Soundcaster Fusion crash cymbals are great. If they are of a price you like, and if you like the generally clean sound of cast-sheet cymbals, I would recommend you put these on your “to-listen” list. But the two-tone design does alter the sound. The cymbals have an emphasis on the middle-high frequencies – the whump factor – and they give less high, shimmer-y spread than “regular” sheet cymbals of fine alloy.
The 18″ crash, for example, doesn’t just raise its hand in the air when you hit it. It pokes you in the chest a bit and waves some high-frequency bling in your face. For rock, I think this could be a plus, helping to keep the high volumes from washing out the attack of the cymbal.
The 16″ crash, like its larger stable mate, does not give up a full spectrum when struck lightly. But a gentle touch on the 16″ does show the lower high frequencies that dominate its spectrum and give it such good muscle when crashed fully. With cymbals, there seems to be a necessary compromise between soft dynamic response and loud dynamic response. I haven’t met a cymbal yet that is wonderful across the entire gamut from soft brushwork to nuclear holocaust. This 16″, even more so than the 18″, gives good response at levels ranging from geezer rock in the afternoon to late-night metal with your pals.
The Soundcaster Fusion crashes have a cymbal personality that succeeds and fails in different applications. They don’t have the smooth, even frequency spread for jazz or Broadway, for example. But for rock, well – they rock!
RIDING HOME IN THREE DIRECTIONS
Two out of three of the Soundcaster Fusion rides are really cool, and one is cool but bugged my ear. The 20″ Medium ride has a surprisingly high-pitched ping. With the sonic mid-range punch of the Soundcaster Fusion crashes being as they are, I expected a low, manly ping. But no, the 20″ Medium has a clear, bright ping, medium-full wash, several dominant overtones (as opposed to an even, broad spectrum of overtones), and a great bell. I love this bell. Crisp, bright, and clean, it is a terrific rock bell. It would also be good for Latin tunes. This is a very “medium” ride cymbal, with a clear, high-pitched ping.
The 20″ Powerful ride cymbal, heavyweight cousin to the Medium, is really thick and really heavy. You’ll use two hands putting this sucker on the stand. It, too, has a surprisingly high-pitched ping, but it is quite definite and present. This ping will cut through lots of guitar volume. The question is merely whether or not the pitch of the attack appeals to you. And its bell is on par with the 20″ Medium’s bell, but even more macho. It’s a solid, slightly anvil-like, crisp bell, and I think it would be great for rock and roll articulations. The Achilles’ heel of this cymbal is the dominant pitch of its wash, which is a constant thrum of a tone. It bugged me. Your mileage may vary.
The enjoyable clarity and strength of the 20″ Powerful ride is cranked up a full notch for the 22″ Powerful ride. It’s a draft horse of a rock ride, a clear, medium-pitched, round, and full ride that would cut through most any music. And being as it is also very heavy, I think that if you dropped it on your shoe it would cut through the leather too. This is a “rock-only” cymbal, but a good one. I predict great popularity for its clarity among the metal players.
All three of these rides have dual surfaces, and they do emit different sounds from each surface, lathed and unlathed. But I suspect that such sonic versatility is not as musically poignant in a rock setting as it might be in other settings. I don’t believe Meinl is selling a rock and a jazz cymbal in one, no. These are good rock rides with some versatility available, but not much.
ENJOYING SOME ASIAN FUSION
The Soundcaster Fusion 18″ China is a cool cymbal, but I’m not too sure about the name. It has a flat outer perimeter and a vaguely China-style profile, but it is not shaped like most China cymbals. And it doesn’t work well upside down. I like to think of it more as a trash crash, or effects crash, or doomsday crash, or whatever, and I’d compare it to other effects cymbals with holes, or slots, or weird dents. It sounds great, roaring and punching with a delicious, tinny, garbage-can explosion that fills the frequencies nicely, and can be used as punctuation or as a great, aggressive crash/ride with a bad attitude. I recommend it highly.
PUNCTUATING THE SMALL STUFF
I’m quite happy to report that the Soundcaster Fusion 10″ splash is crisp, clean, robust, and short. It does require a bit of muscle to get it moving, but once in action it sounds like a good splash from a reggae song, or at the punch line of a joke. I like it. It is too robust for light work, but strong enough for loud environs, and still thin enough to avoid sounding like a small crash. Thumbs up.
CHIPPING AWAY AT THE GLUE
Holding the entire collection together (and the band, too, naturally) is the fine pair of 14″ Soundcaster Fusion Medium hi-hats. Hi-hat rhythms are the “glue” that holds beats together, and these hats speak very crisply, with a dominant mid-high frequency, lots of good body, and modest high-end frequencies that increase when you open the cymbals. The foot chick is firm, if a bit old-school in its understated clarity. I enjoyed the responsiveness of these hats, getting a good Bonham impersonation out of them when bashing them half-opened, but without the extra-crisp closing sound of ripple-bottomed hats.
The Meinl Soundcaster Fusion cymbal line is a winner with very few bugs. The particular frequency emphasis they all share makes them especially punchy and good for loud rock. They look cool and the ubershiny finish could be a great way to store your fingerprints for posterity.
MODELS, SIZES & LIST PRICES
Soundcaster Fusion Crashes
20″ Medium $510
20″ Powerful $510
22″ Powerful $640
Two-tone, mirror-bright finish; strong attack is good for rock; rides have strong, articulate bells; volume is full across the series.