BY DAVID E. LIBMAN
My recent review of Bosphorus Samba series cymbals (January 2013) mentioned that Cymbals Masters, LLC had, for several years, distributed Bosphorus in the U.S., but now Direct Music Supply is Bosphorus’ U.S. distributor. This status change occurred in 2012, when Cymbal Masters, LLC and Bosphorus had a parting of the ways. Despite the split, Cymbal Masters, LLC – a partnership consisting of Michael Vosbein, Bill Norman, Jeff Hamilton, and Stanton Moore – has not gone away. Instead, Cymbal Masters, LLC has introduced a new brand of handmade Turkish cymbals to the U.S. market, Crescent Cymbals. In the process, Cymbals Masters, LLC claims most of its former U.S. Bosphorus endorsers and dealers have also made the switch to Crescent. The artists with new Crescent cymbals in their bags include big names like Jeff Hamilton and Stanton Moore (not surprising, since they’re member/partners of Cymbal Masters, LLC) and other well-known players like Ali Jackson (Wynton Marsalis) and Daniel Glass (famed educator and current drummer for Brian Setzer).
With this en masse endorser/dealer switch, you might assume Crescent Cymbals are simply rebranded Bosphorus cymbals. (I confess I did before this review.) But that’s not the case. Although both Bosphorus and Crescent are handmade Turkish cymbals from B20 bronze, the similarities end there. Crescent Cymbals are made in a different factory by different cymbal artisans. Cymbal Masters, LLC dictates Crescent’s design specifications and controls all aspects of production. Michael Vosbein of Cymbal Masters says the philosophy with Crescent Cymbals is to provide a “certain palette of sounds,” in particular, a “dark complex resonance with lighting quick responsiveness.”
How does all this advertising speak translate into actual cymbals? Crescent currently offers seven series: Vanguard, Vintage, Classic, Eon, Primal, Hammertone (Jeff Hamilton’s signature line), and the Stanton Moore Signature line. I received a sampling of five 20″ rides from the non-signature lines. Actually, these five rides derive from two cymbal templates. That is, the Vanguard and Vintage rides, Crescent’s thinnest rides, are almost the same cymbal. The difference is that the Vanguard is fully lathed; the Vintage is unlathed. Similarly, the Classic, Eon and Primal rides derive from the same medium weight template. The difference is that the Classic is fully lathed; the Eon is partially lathed with unlathed stripes on top and a fully lathed bottom; and the Primal is not lathed. The thinner Vanguard and Vintage models have smaller bells than the medium Classic, Eon, and Primal models.
All Crescent Cymbals are handmade from B20 bronze (80 percent copper, 20 percent tin, traces of silver) based on a propriety process. I asked what that “proprietary process” entails. I suppose this question is something akin to Plankton asking Mr. Krabs for the secret recipe for Krabby Patties. (See Sponge Bob if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) I got the answer one would expect: a rather elusive combination of words that did not tell me much. From what I can tell, like other handmade Turkish cymbals, Crescent has a similar main ingredient, B20 bronze. What is proprietary to Crescent is the manner in which its B20 cymbals are cast, rolled, lathed, hammered, etc. Enough windup: on to the actual cymbals.
OUT OF THE BOX
Although Crescent is a new brand, the five rides I received exhibited excellent consistency and quality control. Each ride has smooth edges, even lathing, and expertly applied logos and stamps. Each is well balanced with no heavy spots. The lathed and partially lathed Vanguard, Classic, and Eon models have black Crescent logos, while white logos adorn the darker unlathed Vintage and Primal models. The design of the Crescent logo is non-offensive with its crescent-moon shape, but a bit plain for my taste. That minor nit aside, these cymbals look totally professional.
THE BIGGER THE CUSHION, THE BETTER THE RIDE
Crescent has an interesting approach of applying different lathing patterns to the same cymbal template. As a reviewer, it was fun to have the opportunity to easily compare how lathing affects (and does not affect) the sound of essentially the same cymbal.
Despite their differences, these rides all have certain similarities. Each ride emanates a sonic range of overtones that is clean and focused. None of these rides is particularly quirky. None exhibited any trashy or clangy qualities, yet none sounded quite as pristine as some of the Euro-style cymbals. Each ride responds to the stick with a cushioned, comfortable feel. The response in the thinner models has more padding, while the medium models are a bit more bouncy. Still, each ride – even the thinner models – had enough springiness to allow me to easily play faster patterns. I found that as my speed increased with faster patterns on the thin models, the wash eventually overwhelmed stick definition.
Sonically, the Vanguard and Vintage rides both speak with a lower pitched, washy quality. The lathed Vanguard has more sonic sparkle, while the unlathed Vintage sounds more aged and slightly muted. Each of these rides has more breath than articulation, although stick definition is acceptable from soft to medium volumes. As volume increases, the thin rides evolve toward muted crash-like sounds, and stick articulation “washes” away. The smaller bells on the Vanguard and Vintage rides produce a pleasant tingy sound that is distinct from the cymbal bow (main playing surface) but not separate. These small bells approximate the same volume level as the rest of the cymbal, giving the entire cymbal an integrated sound. When crashed, these thin rides chime with a contained swell that is not explosive enough to sound like a crash cymbal, but sufficiently dynamic to give a crash-like emphasis.
Crescent’s medium-weight Classic (lathed), Eon (partially lathed), and Primal (unlathed) models produce a higher pitch, a more articulate stick sound and sit in a slightly louder volume range than the thinner Vanguard and Vintage models. Not surprisingly, the larger bells on these rides sound fuller and more cutting than the smaller bells on the Vantage and Vanguard models. Although all three of these rides have similar sound characteristics, the Classic is my personal favorite. For soft to medium volume settings, this cymbal has the sort of evenly balanced combination of overtones and articulation that make it extremely versatile for use in most musical styles.
The partially lathed Eon ride sounds similar to the fully lathed Classic model. However, I don’t like it as much because it has slightly less shimmer. Plus, the Eon ride I received has a particular high-pitched overtone that I find distracting.
The Primal ride has more stick articulation than the Classic or Eon models but almost no shimmer. This cymbal is easily controlled at any speed or volume, if that’s your goal.
I experimented with different sticks and brushes; as expected, they produce distinct sounds from these cymbals. Anything with a small to medium tip up to the 5A range gives acceptable stick articulation on all five rides. I tend to prefer sticks in the 5B or larger range. With these bigger sticks, I had difficulty getting decent stick articulation on the thinner Vanguard and Vintage models but was still able to get the stick definition I crave on the medium-weight models.
With brushes, the lathed Vanguard, Classic and Eon models have enough shimmer to carry through the brush sound in a dynamically responsive way. On the other hand, brushes on the unlathed models – because those cymbals lack shimmer – sound soft and could easily go unheard in anything other than low-volume settings. Still, if you play a lot of low-volume gigs, that may be exactly what you’re looking for.
Based on the sampling of rides I received, Crescent has hit the ground running with a line of professional-quality, handmade Turkish cymbals that sound, feel, and look good. If the Crescent splashes, crashes, hi-hats, and Chinas meet similar standards as the rides (I suspect they do), Crescent deserves to find its segment of the market for a professional, handmade Turkish cymbal. The question that remains unanswered, at least for me, is whether Crescent can distinguish its sonic palette from the many other handmade Turkish cymbals already available. Perhaps, that question need not be answered if Cymbal Masters, LLC does a good job at promotion and distribution. If the cymbals are available for purchase, the main considerations for me (and I assume most drummers) are whether the particular cymbal that is available sounds and feels good, and whether the price is right. The Crescent rides I received demonstrate Cymbal Masters, LLC made a serious and successful effort to offer a well made, well thought out range of cymbals that deserve any Turkish cymbal enthusiast’s consideration.
Models/Sizes MSRP (Street Price is 40 percent off)
20″ Vanguard Ride $655
20″ Vintage Ride $655
20″ Classic Ride $572
20″ Eon Ride $572
20″ Primal Ride $572
Other than lathing differences: 1) The Vanguard (fully lathed) and Vintage (unlathed) are the same thinner cymbals with smaller bells; and (2) the Classic (fully lathed), Eon (partially lathed), and Primal series (unlathed) are the same medium-weight models with normal-size bells. All cymbals are handmade from a proprietary process utilizing B20 bronze.