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BY AJ DONAHUE | FROM THE FALL 2018 ISSUE OF DRUM!

soundlab drum gear reviewPaiste’s Masters collection, originally launched in 2011, began as a set of 12 handcrafted, CuSn20 (B20) bronze ride cymbals designed to replicate and expand upon several beloved traditional sounds. Artist input and old-world production techniques yielded a series of cymbals that deliver musical, expressive voices with no shortage of character.

It wasn’t long before Paiste started adding to the Masters line, expanding it into a full range with hi-hats and crashes. This year, the Swiss cymbalsmiths are introducing a number of new Masters models created to suit even more specialized needs: Dry and Extra Dry rides, Extra Thin crashes, Dark splashes, and a 22″ edition of the Dark Crash Ride.

Like the rest of the Masters collection, the newly introduced cymbals are cut from CuSn20 bronze. Despite their differences, the cymbals are all fairly dark, have low-ish profiles and small bells, and speak with voices that are more complex than clean. That’s about where the similarities end, though. These are, after all, specialized instruments with unique sounds. 

We received the entire selection for review. That’s a lot of pies, so we’d better get to it.

paiste master series

DRY AND EXTRA DRY

Paiste’s new Dry and Extra Dry rides are medium-thin in weight, and have a surprisingly soft feel under the stick. All models have a heavily hammered top with wide lathing bands from bell to bow.

On top, the Dry rides look pretty close to what you might expect from cymbals with that designation. A striated blend of raw and lathed bronze bands creates an organic and foundry-fresh look. The bottoms are a different story, however.
Dry Rides feature a proprietary coating underneath with barely more than a light pass under the lathe, while the Extra Dry models are treated with a much thicker application of that same coating. 

I heard something pretty interesting in both versions of the dry Masters. Many dry cymbals tend to speak with a tight “tick” up top, and a very dusty, almost trashy spread to follow. But the Masters Dry and Extra Dry rides back that ticking attack up with a kind of musical sweetness under the stick that I haven’t encountered in this type of cymbal before.


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The Dry models have a decent amount of airy tah underneath the stick sound that can build into a controlled, yet energetic rumble. They’re balanced beautifully, although the 20″ does produce a low humming note that separates from the spread a bit. It’s not an unpleasant sound, but it was unique among the trio. Conversely, the 22″ model’s tone is much broader, but a little more even from top to bottom.

Each delivers a subdued and breathy crash when belted on the edge, but they’re at their most comfortable when handling up-tempo figures that call for clarity in every note. All bells blend easily into the bow sounds, and have just enough cutting ping to hang with low-volume blues or Latin music. The three sizes occupy natural extensions of the same core sound. Picking one is simply a matter of which pitch and feel you prefer.

Moving on, these Extra Dry rides are doozies. They share the same qualities I hear in the Dry pieces, but are so much more controlled and contained, which is surely at least in part due to those raw underbellies mentioned above. They’re ticking, dark, and focused no matter how hard you lean into them. Edge crashes elicit an extremely dry bwah that disappears almost as quickly as it arrives. Like the Drys, they’re consistent between sizes and have a clean, brief decay. I found the Extra Dry rides enjoyable when playing the dense, asymmetrical figures prevalent in modern jazz and fusion.

EXTRA THIN

Paiste refers to the Extra Thin crashes as “incomparably soft,” which I’d say is a perfect way to describe them. They’re breathy, dark, and a little complex, with a mellowness that keeps everything under control. They’re buttery and warm, and they pair beautifully with acoustic instruments.

I brought all three crashes to a low-volume rehearsal where I’m always concerned about creating too much cymbal noise. The Extra Thins proved to be a near perfect complement to the music, responding to each stroke with a low, generous wash that sounded the exact right kind of out of the way. There’s a sonic ceiling these cymbals just won’t exceed, which I found really useful.

As an added bonus, the 19″ and 20″ models are fairly articulate when played as low-volume rides despite their super-slim cut. The 20″ in particular is an expertly balanced ride option under a maple stick with a light touch.

DARK

With their thin frames, low profiles, and extremely small bells, the 8″ and 10″ Dark splashes produce a sound that’s more push than punch. Both discs are airy, light, and surprisingly deep without too many of the penetrating high frequencies common to other splashes. They don’t explode under the stick so much as quickly swell up behind it. They’re clean and smooth, offering up just enough sound to punctuate without attracting unnecessary attention.

On the other hand, the new 22″ Dark Crash Ride is a pleasing breath of hot, hot heat in this otherwise mellow assortment of new cymbals. The larger counterpart to its previously released 20″ sibling is dynamic, complex, trashy, bold, and excitable.

As a low-volume ride, it has a twinkling, articulate response on top that’s bolstered by a rich blend of smoky wash. But as soon as you start to open the Dark Crash Ride up, it responds with a tremendous bed of fiery wash that can quickly spill over into a trashy roar. This is a feisty cymbal with a big, roiling crash that has hints of China-type pang in the finish. It took me a second to get this one under control, but the payoff was excellent. I used it in a number of different settings, ranging from super loud rock to delicate singer-songwriter stuff, and it handled everything with aplomb. This is a wonderfully complex cymbal with a ton of character.

VERDICT

Paiste’s latest additions to the Masters collection are predominantly geared toward controlled, complex, and mellow sounds. Each model type offers a different take on those qualities, but shares a common richness and dynamism with the rest. I think all of the cymbals I received for review were at their best in low- to medium-volume settings where those colorful characteristics can really shine. And with the exception of the Dark Crash Ride, every cymbal in this group felt ideal for supporting other instruments without any possibility of overwhelming them. (The DCR is an excellent complementary instrument, too, but, you know, it can get real loud.) Despite the name, I don’t feel like any of these cymbals require a master’s touch to produce beautiful sounds.

MSRPs:

DARK SPLASHES: $298–$320
EXTRA THIN CRASHES: $620–$710
DRY/EXTRA DRY RIDES: $710–$846
DARK CRASH RIDE: $846

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