DREAM GOES TO CHINA FOR IGNITION CYMBALS

Hello, new drummer, young drummer, drummer on a budget. Dream’s Ignition Cymbals are being offered in a package: 20″ Ride, 16″ Crash, and a pair of 14″ hi-hats, plus a nice 22″ nylon cymbal bag with the Dream logo for a list price of just over $700, which translates into a street price of about $350- ish. That’s a swell little package, yes, and that’s a crazy good price, but as Frank Zappa said, “Is that a real poncho or is that a Sears poncho?” What’s the story on these cymbals?How To Bake A Pie

There are two ways to make a great cymbal: cast each cymbal out of a lump of metal, or roll out a big sheet of metal and cookie-cut cymbals from it. Two things influence the quality of the finished product: The metal and the labor. All great cymbals, be they cast or sheet, are lovingly pounded, lathed, and hammered in a variety of specific ways to produce great instruments. High-quality cymbals can easily price at four or five hundred dollars each.

Most companies also make budget cymbals, and in keeping with the budget design, they use less expensive alloys. Single-cast methods usually lose out to the less laborious, more expedient sheet-cymbal manufacture method. Also, less labor is invested into a budget cymbal as it approaches the finish line. Fancy metal costs money and fancy labor costs money. For a cheaper cymbal, you have to reduce one or both.The Biz

But Dream (and frankly, a few others) went to China, land of the iPhone, and cut their labor costs. The Chinese have been making cymbals longer than the Turks, only with different shapes. In China, you can afford to cast each cymbal individually. Wow! Can you also have the Chinese cymbal smiths do all the modern detail work? I’m talking about the hand hammering with multiple hammer sizes, the multiple layers of lathing, the varied levels of thickness? Heck no! Ain’t nobody got time for that! I mean, you could, if they knew or were taught how we Westerners like our ultra-dry-dark-special shiny cymbals, but it misses the point. The point is decent cast cymbals of good metal for cheap. Once you get the Chinese manufacture into the mix, you can get a whole set of cast cymbals, in a bag, for less than four hundred bucks. Dream Ignition cymbals. Let’s open the bag.Casting Around For A Look

The Ignition cymbals look exactly like expensive cast cymbals. That’s a plus, because your band- mates hear with their eyes. These Dream Ignition cymbals do not look cheap. There’s a particular dull, flat, unfinished look to cheap cymbals (you may already be familiar with it), and Ignition cymbals circumvent that. That’s a plus. Ignition cymbals have the old-school look. They’re shiny (though not polished “brilliant”), and the surfaces are finely lathed, top and bottom. This was standard for, say, all Zildjian cymbals up through the ’70s. The multi-surface, brutally hammered type of cymbal wasn’t invented yet. A cymbal was just a cymbal. These look like that. Call it retro, if you must.Listening To Compromises

loved the 16″ crash — it’s thin, not clunky, with a clean decay and full, slightly whispery body. I heard it from both sides of the kit on a Jam Night gig. You know what it sounded like? A crash cymbal! It didn’t sound like cheapness, or a pie tin. None of the guest drummers asked about it or questioned it. I’ve heard cymbals of such joyous tone that I was forced to drop to my knees in tears (more or less), and the Ignition 16″ crash wasn’t one of those. But it did give me a chuckle, because, dang It, I said to myself, that cheap cymbal sounds good!

The 14″ hi-hats went to several gigs. They seemed bright to me at first (I play some old, dark hats), but within a couple songs I forgot all about them. Student hats have been notorious for a stodgy, unresponsive feel, like two automobile brake drums on a stand. The Ignition Hats aren’t like that. They are 100 percent decent (Listen: you can spend $400 on pair of hi-hats if you want, but, for a beginner, it would be smarter to save some money for lessons. Fancy cymbals will not save you if you are lousy). The Ignition hats are a medium bottom and a thin top — long the most popular combination. The foot- chick sound is strong and clean, pea-soup disco beats are nicely slippery, and the cymbals have a full body when played with the shoulder of the stick. They even have a musical tone when played on the top face with the tip of the sticks, and crappy cymbals famously fail there. What’s wrong with these hats? Nothing! Are they the world’s most amazing hats? No. But they work just fine.

The 20″ Ignition Ride has some extra hammer marks, or maybe the dents are from some other step in the manufacturing process. The lathing is simple and fine, like on the other cymbals. I’d describe the 20″ Ignition ride as thin, and I’d call it a large crash-ride, prone to the same fate as most crash-rides: not terrific at either job. On the plus side, as a ride, it produces a very pleasant “tah” with good definition. On the negative side, it washes out pretty badly if you play with any volume.

Ignition cymbals are kind of retro, so I tried a retro solution to the washy ride sound. I put some tape on it. A couple of strips of tape muted the wash and improved the ride. But the tape dulled the good crash sound from bright and useable to clunky. Some will prefer to skip the tape and play the bell, which is clear, slightly hollow sounding, loud, and pleasant.Balancing The Ledgers

Drummers are fatally plagued with cymbal quests. You will likely never stop looking for that ideal cymbal. Finding it only pauses the quest — there is no long-term cure. This Ignition Cymbals package isn’t ideal, but it’s not a bad deal, at all. These are totally useable cymbals that look professional. If your daddy’s rich and you’re playing music that depends on the ride cymbal, I’d suggest adding a better ride to this package. If your daddy’s not rich, I’d suggest a roll of tape and extra hours of practice. Come to think of it, a tape recorder (to hear yourself) would be a better investment than a ride cymbal upgrade, anyway. Leave dad alone and get to work.Verdict

Dream’s Ignition cymbals pack- age is designed to serve the new or budget-conscious drum- mer. They look professional and sound very workably musical. More importantly, they are not clangy, dull, one-dimensional, or crappy. These are a great value. Highly recommended.