BY AJ DONAHUE
In barely more than three years, A&F Drums has created a huge splash in the drumming community. And now they’ve teamed up with one of the world’s largest cymbal companies to create huge hi-hats.
At the 2019 NAMM show, A&F and Sabian Cymbals released a joint statement announcing a collaboration, but did not divulge any details.(We did see an unbranded pair of prototype hats at the A&F booth, though, and speculated that they might be part of it.) Both companies have a history of handmade instruments made in North America, so it felt like a natural fit. But what would come out of this relationship between the Canadian hammer heavers and the Austin, Texas-based boutique drum shop known for it’s old-world aesthetic?
Well, we’ve finally got some answers. In a beautifully produced video (see above), Sabian and A&F announced the birth of Ankh, a collaborative effort resulting in a collection of hand-crafted instruments that are a natural extension of A&F’s history of revamping and modernizing historic sounds. The first piece is three sets of hi-hats—one bronze and two brass. The brass Ankh hi-hats are available in 14” and 16” sizes as individual cymbals in thin ($299.50) or medium ($349.50) weights. Bronze matched pairs are only offered in a 16” size ($699).
A&F has previously collaborated with U.S.-based cymbalsmith Ray Byrne on a limited run of unique hand-crafted instruments. This new partnership with Sabian, however, is clearly larger in scope. Rather than a series of one-off instruments, the Ankh instruments will be available in more significant quantities (although at this time production is limited to 25 pairs of each per month).
The first round of Ankh products comprises only these three hi-hat cymbal models, though A&F founder Ramy Antoun says more instruments are on the horizon. But make no mistake—these are no ordinary hats. All the Ankh hats feature extra large bells and a variety of hammering styles applied by hand in Sabian’s factory in Canada.
On the hammering and lathing techniques applied to each cymbal, Antoun was effusive in his praise of Mark Love, Sabian’s director of research and development. “That is all Mark’s genius,” he says. “I presented him with the idea, and as he did his magic, I would confirm if it was the sound I was hearing in my head or not. After multiple rounds of tweaking, hammering, cutting, and lathing, it finally happened. He got the sound out of my head and into the hats. He’s a cymbal magician!”
What’s more, the trio of hats only includes one set of bronze cymbals. The other two are actually forged from brass. That’s a bold decision, as brass hasn’t been used as a primary cymbal alloy, with very few exceptions, in nearly a century.
Antoun highlighted his company’s love of brass as an inspiration. “Brass is what we made our first drum ever out of, and it’s our top selling drum material,” he says. “Also, I’ve always been a huge fan of the low boy hats of the early 1900’s. They were small—10” to 12” diameter—with big bells, and they were made of brass. So, we decided to expound on those early low boy hats and bring them into a more modern application.” He describes the sound as “unique, low-fi, earthy, warm, crunchy, and dry goodness,” adding, “sonically, it widens the spectrum of the hi-hats while giving you more bell surface area to actually play,” he says. [Ed. note: Check back soon for a review at drummagazine.com.]
In the U.S., Ankh hi-hats can currently be found at Drum Center of Portsmouth, Philadelphia Drum Shop, and Boston Drum Center.