Buying cymbals

Cymbalise

Senior Member
It's been a week short of a year since we started Cymbalise. Being on the other side of the retail fence has been a very eye-opening experience for me but there's one particular topic I'd like to share some insight on and that is the ideal way to buy cymbals.

Just to preface this with an idea of how the setup works this end: despite being an online retailer we are fortunate to have a large, purpose built soundproof studio and so I encourage as many prospective customers as possible to come down to Reading, sit behind the kit and play with as many cymbals as they can/want for as long as they want to in order to find what works for them. I similarly encourage customers to bring with them their preferred snare, sticks and any cymbals they currently play/prefer as a point of comparison.

And so to my point. I've had many, many instances of customers coming down having listened to the video clips online with a fixed idea of what they want. Case in point being one drummer who was fixed on 15" Bionic Hats, 21" Bionic Crash and 22" Bionic Medium Ride. The second crash requirement was a bit up in the air but was likely to be another large Bionic. Having had the opportunity to play with lots of stock the only cymbal from this list that he went home with was the ride: everything else changed.

What I've noticed is that there's a difference between buying one cymbal and putting together a set, and it is this second idea that is by far and away the most important. I'm not suggesting that when you go cymbal buying you purchase en entirely new set of cymbals, all of which work with each other. Rather, take your current setup with you and see what works with them. In the case of the drummer mentioned above, the bionic hats are amazing but in the context of the sounds he was after they just didn't work. Similarly the 21" crash. What did work was a 20" crash and a 20" ride used as a crash, together with some 14" hats from a different series. Admittedly he put together an entirely new UFIP set that day but he did have his old cymbals with him to work into the set if he wanted to.

There's a massive difference between appreciating what one cymbal can do in isolation and it fitting in with the palette of sounds on your kit. We've all been there - buying a cymbal in a shop because it's the best one to your ear in there, then getting home and being utterly crestfallen when it just doesn't work with what you already have.

Again, I appreciate that here at Cymbalise we're a little bit spoilt in this regard due to our facilities, but I see no reason why you couldn't take your cymbal bag into a drum shop and stick your favourite crash (for instance) on a stand next to the cymbal wall and incorporate that into your cymbal selection.

Don't just buy a cymbal unheard because you think it'll work. Don't base your cymbal choices on a written review, no matter how eloquent, or on a video clip, no matter how well it's recorded. Take your time and try as many as you possibly can in the shop. Take your current setup and see if you can play the new choice next to them before handing over your cash.

It'll take longer and it may even get up the noses of the shop employees, but you'll be a much happier drummer for it.
 

alparrott

Platinum Member
It's been a week short of a year since we started Cymbalise. Being on the other side of the retail fence has been a very eye-opening experience for me but there's one particular topic I'd like to share some insight on and that is the ideal way to buy cymbals.

Just to preface this with an idea of how the setup works this end: despite being an online retailer we are fortunate to have a large, purpose built soundproof studio and so I encourage as many prospective customers as possible to come down to Reading, sit behind the kit and play with as many cymbals as they can/want for as long as they want to in order to find what works for them. I similarly encourage customers to bring with them their preferred snare, sticks and any cymbals they currently play/prefer as a point of comparison.

And so to my point. I've had many, many instances of customers coming down having listened to the video clips online with a fixed idea of what they want. Case in point being one drummer who was fixed on 15" Bionic Hats, 21" Bionic Crash and 22" Bionic Medium Ride. The second crash requirement was a bit up in the air but was likely to be another large Bionic. Having had the opportunity to play with lots of stock the only cymbal from this list that he went home with was the ride: everything else changed.

What I've noticed is that there's a difference between buying one cymbal and putting together a set, and it is this second idea that is by far and away the most important. I'm not suggesting that when you go cymbal buying you purchase en entirely new set of cymbals, all of which work with each other. Rather, take your current setup with you and see what works with them. In the case of the drummer mentioned above, the bionic hats are amazing but in the context of the sounds he was after they just didn't work. Similarly the 21" crash. What did work was a 20" crash and a 20" ride used as a crash, together with some 14" hats from a different series. Admittedly he put together an entirely new UFIP set that day but he did have his old cymbals with him to work into the set if he wanted to.

There's a massive difference between appreciating what one cymbal can do in isolation and it fitting in with the palette of sounds on your kit. We've all been there - buying a cymbal in a shop because it's the best one to your ear in there, then getting home and being utterly crestfallen when it just doesn't work with what you already have.

Again, I appreciate that here at Cymbalise we're a little bit spoilt in this regard due to our facilities, but I see no reason why you couldn't take your cymbal bag into a drum shop and stick your favourite crash (for instance) on a stand next to the cymbal wall and incorporate that into your cymbal selection.

Don't just buy a cymbal unheard because you think it'll work. Don't base your cymbal choices on a written review, no matter how eloquent, or on a video clip, no matter how well it's recorded. Take your time and try as many as you possibly can in the shop. Take your current setup and see if you can play the new choice next to them before handing over your cash.

It'll take longer and it may even get up the noses of the shop employees, but you'll be a much happier drummer for it.
I'm happy to report that as long ago as 2006, I was able to bring my own pies and compare to the stock at two Guitar Centers in central California (your mileage may vary). Donn Bennett's in Bellevue has a great cymbal room and they are fantastic about letting you test and bring your own stuff. I would go so far as to say any shop that doesn't allow this to be done (1) doesn't hold proper respect for your needs as a musician and (2) probably ought not to be selling cymbals.

The one time I got any static from an employee about this, I pointed out that if he let me have my way, I was probably going to buy something upwards of $200, whereas if he didn't, he'd lose my business for a good long time, and a competitor would get it. He relented, but I didn't see him much after that.

To all the "what cymbal should I get" posters - this. Go to a shop, hear them in person, and take your own cymbals with you.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
Nice post. Cymbals are tricky enough just buying one at a time, so I think you're providing an excellent service experience. I suggest you go global with a chain of stores, and maybe a cymbal-mobile so you can hit us where we live - in our practice rooms with our bands! Haha! Just kidding, of course, but I had been jonesing for a pair of 15" AC Mastersounds and recently picked up a pair. They were great in the store, but on my kit with the rest of the band? Not so much. They were still nice, but really didn't fit. And when I say didn't fit, I mean there's how I play when it's just me (where lots of sounds will work), and there's what I expect to hear and feel in the ultimate context.

In any case, great insight and advice here. Cheers!
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
+1 on going to Donn Bennett's, Al. They're one of the really good ones. I think we're just lucky!
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Damn I thought Cymbalise was in Reading Pennsylvania. I was gonna say I'll be paying a visit, but no.
 

KelvinS1965

Junior Member
It's a very strange coincidence this thread...I've just spent the last couple of hours looking at cymbal sets and individual cymbals on line and using various clips and videos. I came on hear to read a bit more as I've got more confused by looking...

Of course it would be great to be able to go and try them all out in person, but I don't know how many of them my usual shop has for demo, so I thought I'd do some research first. I only want a basic hi-hat, crash and ride set (or individual cymbals), so I can take them with me to rehearsals and use the provided acoustic kit (saves me lugging my TD30K down there each week).

Unfortunately I'm not in budget for the gorgeous looking cymbals on the Cymbalise website (shame as I'm just down the road in Wokingham). Maybe in the future I might be in the market for something more luxurious, at least I know where to come. :) Congratulations on a full year in business, hope you have many more.

.
 

Winegums

Silver Member
I absolutely agree with Cymbalise, cymbals have to be sonically matched to a kit as well as fitting the genre you want to play. I spent 3 years building my set and out of 9 cymbals I only returned 2 of them. I bought my 17" AAxplosion and a 21" AAx Studio ride together for my first cymbal purchase not really knowing much about cymbals. Later on I found that the studio ride was just too washy and quiet for rock music. I ended up having to replace it with a AAX Stadium ride which I hit twice at the store and fell in love.

Similarly I got a 16" HHX Evolution crash but it just didn't fit in with my other cymbals. The pitch was wrong and also the decay of the cymbal was too fast. I replaced it with a 16" AAxplosion that was another perfect fit for my kit. I also got super lucky with a set of 14" Evolution hats I ordered in at a local music shop that happened to match my set.

When searching for my 9 cymbals I probably went through over 250 cymbals from every maker but Sabian always sounded best to my ears, I did find one Zildjian that I liked but it wasn't better than my current line up.

Cymbal buying is expensive, tedious and fun all at the same time. Each cymbal is an instrument in it's self tuned to one note, and you have to line up an ensemble that sounds good when they sing together.
 

MatrixClaw

Senior Member
Agreed.

I've never liked any cymbal from the Sabian AAX line that I've owned or tried and wrote off the Omni series completely. Finally got to try the 22" ride at GC the other day and was blown away. LOVED that ride, as well as the AAX Freq hats and 18" crash. Phenomenal! In fact, the HHX cymbals they had in stock, that I tend to usually prefer, didn't do anything for me.

Also tried out a bunch of Paistes and Meinls. Many I thought I'd really enjoy, others I thought I'd dislike. I was pleasantly surprised by the ones that I liked the most - as they're the cymbals that I thought wouldn't work well for me!
 

Red Menace

Platinum Member
Great post. I haven't personally brought my cymbals into a shop to try with other cymbals but I have had a good bit of luck in listening to cymbal samples online to get an idea for what I like and then trying them out in person before buying. I'm kind of a tightwad so I stick to buying used cymbals.
 

Beam Me Up Scotty

Silver Member
Thanks for taking the time to post that.
This is something I've been doing for as long as I can remember... And every time a fellow drummer asks me what cymbal he should buy, I always tell him to bring in his own cymbals, and let his ears decide. Going into a store with preconceived notions of what you want tends to not work out well, once you start hitting everything, and hearing all the different possibilities.
 

Pass.of.E.r.a.

Gold Member
I think every time I stumble across a "which cymbal is better" thread, I'm just going to link them here. Next time I'm in the UK I'll have to come check your facility out and have some fun! Thanks for the post!

-Jonathan
 

drum4fun27302

Gold Member
I always bought my cymbals per online reviews .i check out the forum and see what most people use and buy it used on eBay. Never failed me.

Here is what I got : 14 quick beat, 15 new beat , 14 k master sound, kcustom 20 ride , 18a med crash,18 k dark crash, 16 paper thin crash .
Pretty zildjian typical I would say.

So no, one can always buy stuff that "works".
 

opentune

Platinum Member
I always bought my cymbals per online reviews .i check out the forum and see what most people use and buy it used on eBay. Never failed me.
I've done the same, I spent many hours researching stuff as well. With sound files, buying online has never failed me - maybe only once with a Zildjian 22 K light ride. It never matched, kind of an impulse buy. I wish I had compared better as per this thread.
But I stay away from impulse buys now.
 

porter

Platinum Member
I've done the same, I spent many hours researching stuff as well. With sound files, buying online has never failed me - maybe only once with a Zildjian 22 K light ride. It never matched, kind of an impulse buy. I wish I had compared better as per this thread.
But I stay away from impulse buys now.
Yeah, I usually find soundfiles very useful & generally accurate. However, it is certainly preferable for most people to play cymbals in-store :)
 

TopHat

Senior Member
I came into a little money and being from a part of the country with no access to UFIP cymbals, I bought mine sight unseen from various retailers and used.

I've thrown around enough of that money that I bought complete sets of Bionic and Natural, as well as the Bell Crashes and other assorted odds and ends that I've found on a deal.

If I was being more selective and building my "one dream set", I certainly would recommend Cymbalise's approach. So I have all these UFIP cymbals, and its quite cool to see 8 Bionics in the air, or even just to listen to them played. But more and more I'm finding that I want to play a Bionic crash ride with a Natural crash and a Extatic hat, or some mix of sounds. Certainly if I were more cash restricted, that's the approach I would have initially taken.

There's certainly nothing wrong with getting a full set of cymbals, but if you have the ability to try before you buy and get dialed in exactly, its certainly worth it.
 

ncc

Silver Member
I've done the same, I spent many hours researching stuff as well. With sound files, buying online has never failed me...
Same here. While I 100% agree it is preferable to hear things in person, it is really impossible to hear every cymbal made. So I see it as a 2 sided sword --- you can be limited to what is available for you to hear in whatever mile radius you are wiling to travel, or you can do the research and take a chance. If you buy new, or buy used from a retailer that will take returns (like GC in the USA) you are pretty safe buying on-line these days, so that you wont end up with something you do not like. Worst case if you dont like it is that you *may* have to pay return shipping which is probably less then the cost of gas/petrol you would spend anyway. :) However, CG lets you return to your local store and amazon will issue pickup tags. Just my 2 cents. -)
 

drum4fun27302

Gold Member
The main thing is :you can try the cymbals at the store all you want , they won't sound like when you play them on your kit in a different room.
Even if you bring one of your cymbals with you , that one will sound different too (different location, different room, different sticks, etc...)

I just listen to a live performance and when I hear one (or more) that I like , I look into it :)
 

TopHat

Senior Member
Addressing the online issue. We used to have a great drum shop in my town that closed in the early 2000's. I haven't bought local in nearly 15 years except for the odd pair of sticks or something.

With HD audio and video, and a decent pair of headphones, you can get a pretty good idea of what a cymbal is going to sound like. For a manufacturer like Paiste who is very consistent, its pretty much balls on, for someone like Zildjian or maybe Agop, where each one is pretty unique, you can basically watch the dude play the cymbal you are buying and hear it exactly these days.

Now if one's goal is to buy cheap, ie used, you are basically buying a sound characteristic, more than an actual sound. Yours may be higher or lower pitched than the norm, or whatever, but it will trend about what the cymbal line usually performs. But that's the price of going cheap, remotely.

Having bought and sold more cymbals than the average bear, I've yet to be completely disappointed. There were some cymbals that were good, but not quite what I was looking for, but nothing outright atrocious. Homework is required. I've found that the biggest source of confusion in sound portability is, something you listen to Ben White play from overhead is possibly going to sound different than if you were on the the throne. My Mel Lewis' are like that, however out in front, they sound just like the tape.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I have two questions.

1. Suppose you have 20 of the same cymbals, same make, same model and year from the same manufacturer, in the same room; would the cymbals all sound different from each other? How much would their sounds vary?

2. If you had those same cymbals but they were made in different years, how much would their sounds vary?

.
 
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