FROM DRUM! MAGAZINE’S APRIL 2018 ISSUE | BY AJ DONAHUE
Zildjian’s series of A Sweet rides hold a special place in many a drummer’s heart. Their balance of clear and robust stick attack, generous spread, and serviceable crashing make them uniquely versatile in a world of increasingly specialized cymbals. It’s no wonder they’ve been among the most popular pieces in Zildjian’s catalog for many years. But, because we can never get enough of a good thing, drummers have been clamoring for K Series editions of those Sweet things for years.
As expected, the crew at Big Z came through in a big way. The company is not only rolling out K Sweet rides in 2018, but also introducing an expanded line that includes Sweet crashes and two pairs of luxuriously large Sweet hats.
Let’s jump right in with the rides, since that’s where this whole thing got started. Zildjian anchored the K Sweet series with 21″ and 23″ rides, mirroring the A sizes that sweet-talked so many drummers in the first place. Like the rest of the line, Sweet rides are cut from B20 bronze, feature a polished top and bottom, and are shaped with a heavy application of small-bead, K-style hammering. They share shallow-ish profiles, as well as lathed and polished bells that look just a hair wider than their A counterparts. They’re listed as medium thin, and while both are pretty slim near the edge, they feel firmer and heavier near the bell than other cymbals in this weight range.
These things sound exactly the way I thought they would — and that’s great. Both of the rides are vibrant, defined, and clear like their A predecessors, but they sit a little lower in register and feel more contained. The result is about as clear a marriage of K and A as I could have imagined.
Taps throughout the bow deliver a sort of mellowed ping with hint of sparkle in the wash. Both the 21″ and 23″ models are articulate enough to keep that ping afloat through fast, heavy-handed patterns without washing out. In fact, the spread rarely takes over the attack. Each one plays with a surprisingly controlled response that suggests the subtlest hint of dryness at the edge.
Both cymbals produce a bed of warm, somewhat deep wash, but I didn’t hear much in the way of the trashy or smoky undertones I normally associate with rides that lean into the dark side. That bed is a little bigger under the 23″ unit, but otherwise they play very similarly. The bells are warmer and not quite as cutting as I was expecting, but each has a rich, compact note that blends beautifully into the bow sound.
The K Sweet rides can hang in a super-loud setting with no problems, but they feel most comfortable in mid to low-volume situations. Their beautifully rich character has a little bit more room to breathe when the volume comes down, making it easier to hear how well they complement other instruments. Zildjian calls these “workhorse rides.” For drummers who aren’t looking for extreme volume or cut from their cymbals, I’d say this is a perfect description.
K Sweet crashes share many of the same features found on the rides, but their broad, unlathed, and unpolished bells really pop against the shining gold of their bows and edges. Zildjian classifies these as extra thin, but that doesn’t tell the full story. The cymbals feel thin in hand, but play a little more like medium-weight models.
I received 18″, 19″, and 20″ crashes for this review. All three offer up gorgeously full sounds that bloom quickly out of a tight initial punch. I hear some of the glassiness of the A Custom line, but sitting in a slightly lower timbre supported by a dusting of gong-y wah. They’re expectedly dark and lush, but don’t explode like other cymbals I’ve played with similar weights. They settle fairly quickly after the notes hit their apex, due in large part to those big, unfinished bells.
Speaking of bells, these are some real stunners. Each one responds with a dry, dirty note that cuts like mad and sits pretty far away from the edge crash tonally. They have a huge sound that’s great for big accents in lieu of a ride bell.
The attack of the K Sweet crashes is slightly slower at low volumes. The 20″ model in particular feels just a few grams heavier than I’m used to, so I had to strike it more firmly than my normal extra thin 20″ crash to get it to really open up. The 18″ and 19″ models are rich and versatile enough to handle just about anything, while the 20″ is most comfortable in medium-loud and louder settings.
Currently offered in only 15″ and 16″ sizes, the K Sweet hats stray the farthest away from the traditional Sweet sound but still work well with the rest of the series. Both are paired in the New Beat style with a thin top and a much heavier bottom. Fully lathed surfaces are balanced by unfinished bells like the crashes, and that heavy top-side hammering keeps the playing surface feeling taut and controlled.
Both sets share a similar sort of dry, tick-y quality when played closed. As they open up, the response is mostly mellow and warm, but with the slightest suggestion of poking trashiness that helps them stay afloat through the otherwise dark and controlled spread. That Sweet-ness starts to show up when the hats are played wide open, as each cymbal is freed up to let out more shimmer and sparkle. Foot chicks are surprisingly dry, but cut through even in louder settings.
The 15s remind me of Zildjian K Light hats, but with significantly less complexity and bark. They are agile and offer a lot of dynamic range without sacrificing character. The 16s are similar, but chunkier when closed. I compared them to another set of Zildjian 16s in a similar weight range and found them to be lacking some of the clicking clarity I heard in the other pair. They really excel when played slightly open, and supporting big-boned rock or country grooves. They’re rowdy and exciting, but, like the rest of the line, not overwhelming.
Marrying the rare versatility of Zildjian’s celebrated A Sweet rides and the warmer, darker tones of the K line is no easy feat. The team at Big Z not only pulled it off, but flexed those coveted characteristics out to a collection of crashes and hats, to boot. From top to bottom, the cymbals in the new K Sweet series are deep, robust, and expressive, without coming across as overbearing.
For the most part, they excel in low- to medium-volume settings with a singer-friendly register, making them an excellent choice for working drummers who play a wide variety of musical styles. The K Sweet series is an excellent addition to Zildjian’s Sweet legacy.