BY JOHN NYMAN
A TREASURE CHEST OF BUDGET BRONZE
Just in time for all you jammers (aka pre-professionals), here’s a mixed collection of recent new releases, not a boxed set, from Zildjian, some of which you’re sure to treasure.
For professional drummers, the definition of “treasure” includes a perfect cymbal. A pro drummer will play hundreds of cymbals, searching for “the one.” The pro treasure hunter seeks specific, aggravatingly precise details in the sound of cymbals. Fortunately, I recently worked with an amateur treasure hunter, and it changed my outlook. Now I see that amateurs seek a different sort of treasure.
My amateur buddy Victor broadened my view. He asked me to piece a kit together for him so he could pound out some beats in his garage. Full disclosure: He’s actually a guitar player and doesn’t know drums from accordions. It was easy enough to make him a kit from spares and leftovers. Except for the cymbals, because I started looking for professional cymbals. I told him to wait, and that someday I would find him a good cymbal, maybe a used vintage ride, or a classic pair of hi-hats to replace the student hi-hats I’d found for him. The student hats were all I’d found for him so far.
“Dude,” he told me, “stop telling me all about cymbals. I don’t care. I’ve got a hundred bucks in my Paypal account. I just need a cymbal. I want to play some drums in my garage. Point me at it and I’ll click on ‘pay now.’”
I saw the light. Treasure is relative. He didn’t want to become a cymbal connoisseur. He just wanted to jam! So for Victor and all you other jammers out there, here’s what we’ve dug up.
ZBT 20″ CRASH/RIDE
Zildjian’s ZBT line is one of three lines — ZHT, ZBT, ZXT — aimed at the student and/or budget buyer. ZBT is a “sheet” cymbal line, which means the cymbals are punched out of a large sheet of alloy, cookie-fashion. This is common in budget cymbals. And as with cookies, this is not necessarily a bad thing.
The ZBT 20″ crash/ride would have been perfect Victor. This ride, with its evenly hammered, widely lathed surface, has a well-defined ping. The low wash under the ping is full, but not harsh. There’s a high-pitched wash too that I found to be a tiny bit shrill. However, that bit of low-budget whistle went away when I was under the headphones, jamming along to iTunes. The bell of the ZBT 20″ crash/ride gives off a great rock sound — very distinct, loud, and clear. I also experimented with a small piece of gaffer’s tape, which I successfully stuck under the cymbal for a bit of fine-tuning. Your mileage may vary.
For a budget ride, I give this one both thumbs up and a couple of toes up too.
As a crash, this puppy is more limited. It does a passing job of the old-school shoulder-spank. That is, you flick your wrist and hit the face (not the edge) of the cymbal with the shoulder of your stick. In jazzier ensemble playing (such as you may be doing in school), this is a great technique, and this cymbal handles it just fine. It also handles blunt force trauma, where you take that 5B and grandly fillet of the edge of the cymbal. The cymbals answers this stroke with a large, low, slightly slow explosion of shimmer. Not bad at all.
So, you could take this cymbal to school, play it in stage band, and then take it to your friend’s house afterward and play Slipknot songs. What it doesn’t do well is crash in the lighter, middle volumes. But we don’t expect a 20″ cymbal to do that very well anyway. Overall, this is a great student ride that can be crashed, and should cost about a hundred bucks “street price.”
ZBT 16″ CHINA
I was having so much fun playing along to Black Sabbath in headphones testing out these new Zildjians. I was so positive about the ZBT 20″ crash/ride I thought about maybe putting on a Zildjian hat or something. But then … then I put the ZBT 16″ China up on the cymbal stand. Umm … it looks cool. It’s shiny, with concentric hammering on the inside, and a very rounded transition from bow to edge. But it fell short of the fantastic bargain example set by the crash/ride.
To my ears, it had an attack that was nicely hard and metallic, but too short. The decay, what little there was, lacked any of the spreading sonic gravel that should follow the Oriental bark of a good Chinese cymbal. This just went “dong” on one side. I turned it over, got a “whoosh,” but not a very good one — still too short. With headphones on I rocked out on it a while, but it didn’t grow on me. Did I mention that I gave the Zildjian ZBT 20″ crash/ride two thumbs up?
I’m moving on now, and looking over my shoulder for irritated manufacturers. Hey, I’ve got to look out for my readers, you know? Both of you. I’m here for ya. Do you need a budget splash? You’ve come to the right place. Here’s three.
ZBT 12″ SPLASH
12″ is the large end of the spectrum for splash cymbals, and the ZBT 12″ splash is, to my ears, more of a “small crash” than a splash. Why? Because it’s a bit heavy sounding, where most splashes give just a slip of a note. A good splash cymbal should fit the drum-tag after a joke’s punchline: ba-da-pssh. The ZBT 12″ is a bit more than you need for that. But, as a small crash, it works pretty well. I played it in the bedroom for a while, and it was a ton of fun. My headphones mitigated the slight boxiness of its tone, and it wasn’t so loud that I refrained from really smacking it. If one of these turns up in your pile of birthday presents, don’t send it back!
ZHT 8″ & 10″ CHINA SPLASH
I believe Zildjian calls these two China splashes because of their sharply angular bells and the straight line of their bow in profile. They look very much like bronze miniatures of coolie hats from Southeast Asia. How do they sound? The 10″ ZHT China splash sounds great. It speaks quickly, and whatever harshness you’d expect to find from a budget alloy is sweetly camouflaged by the Oriental kah sound. The sandy attack is mixed well with a sweet, quick decay, making helping it earn the China in its name.
The 8″ ZHT China splash is more like a chime or bell sound mixed with a short splash body. Both are definitely “effects” cymbals. So if you’re looking for a regular splash cymbal, keep looking. But if you’re looking for inexpensive fun sounds to add to your kit, stop and give a listen. There’s cheap fun here.
I am able to give a wholehearted endorsement to the Zildjian ZBT 20″ crash/ride as an excellent student or amateur cymbal. It is 100-percent good bang for the roughly 100 bucks. The 8″, 10″, and 12″ splashes, both ZBT and ZHT, are worth a listen. But the 16″ ZBT China didn’t send me anywhere.
MODELS & SIZES PRICE
ZBT 20″ Crash/Ride $188
ZBT 16″ China $132
ZBT 12″ Splash $90
ZHT 8″ China Splash $101
ZHT 10″ China Splash $121
FEATURES Budget prices make the whole selection good for students and bedroom bashers; 20″ crash/ride has both a clear ping and decent crash performance; China is loud; 12″ splash is full-voiced; 8″ and 10″ China splashes are full of quirky and fun sounds.
Avedis Zildjian Company