Cymbal Reviews with Spectral Analysis

J

JEJ

Guest
Hi - I am new to this forum. I am Editor-in-Chief of Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity at http://www.hometheaterhifi.com. In the course of reviewing products, I was measuring the frequency spectrum of cymbals (I am also a drummer) using laboratory-grade microphones calibrated to plus or minus 0.5 dB, 20 Hz - 30 kHz. I discovered that cymbals produce frequencies out to 60 kHz in some cases, far beyond what is recorded on CDs. It was also very interesting to see the differences in the spectra for various cymbal types and their rates of decay. So, I decided to start reviewing cymbals, but in far greater detail than you will find in any drum magazine. The reviews will have my overall impression of the sound, accompanied by a full spectrum analysis and a loudness vs time spectrum which shows the decay over time.

I record the cymbals in my test lab, which has absorption panels on the walls and ceiling. There is also wall-to-wall carpet. I have to use a computer to record the samples, so I bought some sound damping panels to place in front of the computer. I place a cymbal stand at the other end of the room as far away from the computer as possible. I use two microphone stands, one on either side of the test cymbal, with the two microphones (Earthworks M30BX) pointed down at a 45 degree angle, at about 40% in from the edge of the cymbal, and about 5 inches distance from the surface of the cymbal. The microphones are highly directional, so their major sensitivity is to sound in front of them, on-axis.

I record the cymbal sounds, either crash or ride, using a 5B hickory drumstick with a nylon tip. For crash cymbals, I strike the cymbal from the front, at a 45 degree angle to the cymbal, perpendicular to the direction that the microphones are pointing in towards the cymbal. I strike it at a strength that one would use when performing (relatively hard). For ride cymbals, I strike the front of the cymbal (one strike) using the nylon tip, with the strength that one would use when riding the cymbal during a performance, again perpendicular to the microphones, at about 40% in from the edge.

I record the cymbal sounds at 176.4 kHz sampling frequency (CDs use 44.1 kHz) and 24 bit depth (CDs have a 16 bit depth). I normalize each sample to 0 dB, which is the upper limit of digital recording. Then, I edit the sample so that the beginning of the sample is at the front edge of the sound (when the stick struck the cymbal) and trim it so that the length of the sample is 2 seconds.

I play the samples in SpectraPlus software, which uses FFT analysis to produce the spectra. The sound card is a Lynx L22, which records and plays digital samples up to 200 kHz sampling frequency and 24 bit depth. In analog audio terms, this means it will record sounds as high as 100 kHz. The microphones are connected to the Lynx card input via XLR so they are balanced, which helps to eliminate any noise picked up by the microphone cable.

In the spectra for the cymbal, you will see two graph lines. The magenta one is the peak sound, i.e., right at the beginning of the cymbal sound. The yellow line is the sound at the end of the sample, i.e., 2 seconds, and it illustrates the decay.

You will also see a graph that shows the sound level over a 1 second time period, from the initial contact of the stick with the cymbal.

I will be loading the reviews one at a time as individual posts in the thread. Feel free to comment and to request reviews of any cymbal you would like to see reviewed here.

John E. Johnson, Jr.
 
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J

JEJ

Guest
ZILDJIAN 20" A CUSTOM REZO CRASH CYMBAL

The ReZo line for Zildjian is relatively new, and there are about a half dozen models ranging from a 12" Splash up to a 21" Ride. They are beautiful cymbals to look at, and in my opinion, one of the best sounding models they have ever created. The ReZo has a combination of hammering and lathing, but the lathing is spaced with regions of non-lathed surface and lathed, with the 20" version having a non-lathed edge near the bell, followed by lathed, then non-lathed, lathed, lathed, and a final non-lathed ring at the outer edge.

The sound is bright, but with a tinge of trashiness that gives it a totally unique sound. Spectral analysis shows that the frequencies are highest in the 6 kHz range, but extend out to 60 kHz. The magenta spectral line is the peak volume at the initial crash, and the yellow line is the sound level 2 seconds afterward, so the yellow line shows the decay. As you can see, this cymbal produces sound as low as 30 Hz, and you can watch the cymbal shimmy after striking it. And, even after 2 seconds, it is still producing those low frequencies at almost the same volume as it did when it was initially crashed. Notice that the frequencies produced by this cymbal extend out to 60 kHz.

The third graph shows the recording level vs. time, in 10ths of a second. The peak level of sound is reached at 0.15 - 0.2 seconds, followed by the decay.
 

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MikeM

Platinum Member
Re: Cymbal Reviews

That is awesome stuff. Can you do that with a similar Sabian and a Paiste (and some Turks and Meinls if you can)?
 

Secrets

Senior Member
PAISTE 24" RUDE MEGA POWER RIDE CYMBAL

For those of you who need a ride cymbal for big venues where the other instruments are playing so loud, you have a hard time cutting through, this ride cymbal will have them turning their volume control dials up to compete with you.

It is a massive cymbal, whose basic metallurgy goes back several decades when the RUDE line was introduced. Manufacture was stopped for awhile, and then Paiste re-introduced it. The RUDE line is made for the power drummer. Its burnished unique looks will have other drummers staring. The sound will drop their jaws.

The ping is loud, crystal clear, and very intense.

You can see from the spectrum that the frequencies are pretty level out to about 9 kHz, followed by a sharp drop-off by about 30 dB, where the level stays the same out to 40 kHz, with some material out to 60 kHz. Even after 2 seconds, the main ping frequencies up to 8 kHz are almost at the original level, but above 8 kHz, the frequencies have decayed, so you can ride it hard without worrying about the ping getting lost in the cymbal's wash.

Level vs. Time shows the very short intense attack.

Click here to go to the cymbal sounds page.

John E. Johnson, Jr.
 

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Secrets

Senior Member
PAISTE 17" SIGNATURE FAST CRASH CYMBAL

When I tried the Paiste Signature line, it was love at first crash. This particular one is a 17" Fast Crash, so it responds quickly.

The frequencies are pretty level out to almost 20 kHz, with a significant amount of frequency material out to about 50 kHz.

The sound is much different than your average crash. I would say actually that it is unique among all the crash cymbals I have listened to at the local music store. Although it is thin, it is quite stiff, and I consider the sound to be on the bright side.

You can see from the spectrum that the sound decays quite a bit after 2 seconds. Most of the energy goes into that first 0.4 second.

The Level vs. Time graph illustrates that the peak of the crash is at 0.1 second. This thing is really fast.

Click here to go to the cymbal sounds page.

John E. Johnson, Jr.
 

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Secrets

Senior Member
PHOTOS OF CYMBALS

Some of the photographs of the cymbals were taken from the manufacturer's websites and are copyright with the respective manufacturers. The other cymbal photographs, spectrum graphs, and review text are copyright John E. Johnson, Jr., and may not be published elsewhere, including other websites, without written permission from the author.
 
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chathamight

Senior Member
no human can possibly hear 80KHz. you'd be hard pressed to find anyone be able to hear 20KHz+.

what an awesome thread! i will be paying close attention!
keep up the great analysis, JEJjr/Secrets!
 

Les Ismore

Platinum Member
no human can possibly hear 80KHz. you'd be hard pressed to find anyone be able to hear 20KHz+.

Ear plugs are about 'not' hearing those frequencies. 20K @ 100+ db with some 80K @ 20 db sprinkled on top all night can easily cause hearing loss over time, just ask Alex Van Halen and others.
 
A

audiotech

Guest
I'm just wondering, am I incorrect in saying that the M30 series of Earthwork microphone's frequency response is typically flat (-3 db down) up to about 30 kHz. I believe you are seeing some artifacts above 30 or 40 K that might not be coming from the microphone or at least it's definitely down from what a flat response should look like. At those upper frequencies there are two way radio harmonics, and who knows what else these days, that pose serious problems unless you're located in a shielded building doing these tests. Even the test equipment itself can cause false readings because of internal oscillations at the upper frequency plots. I appreciate your involvement in these projects and they do visually show what most people are hearing, at least up to about 18,000 cycles for people with good hearing, but I really doubt that there is any electrical energy coming through the reference microphone at 80 kHz.

Thanks and don't stop your evaluations,
Dennis
 
J

JEJ

Guest
All of the signal shown in the spectra is from the microphone. It is calibrated out to 30 kHz but there is a version of the mic that is calibrated out to 50 kHz. So, the data are accurate out to 30 kHz, and the information beyond that is sound, but it is just not calibrated.

Look, for example, at the Paiste 17" Signature Fast Crash. The magenta line (the peak initial crash signal) is at 30 to 40 dB at 40 kHz and above, then drops to 10 dB after 2 seconds (10 dB is the background level in the room). This is not electrical noise behavior. It is the sound. If the high frequency content were electrical noise, it would remain at a constant level. I know all of this is surprising. It surprised the heck out of me too.

For those of you who are producing CDs of your band, you might request that a high resolution version of your album be uploaded to one of the websites that are now offering high resolution versions of music albums for download (such as hdtracks.com). SACD and DVD-A have not been successful, and it is expensive for studios to release high resolution discs only to have just a few albums sold. But it does not cost them anything to put the two-channel master that is still in its original high sampling rate (usually 88.2 kHz, 24 bit) on one of these websites. The consumer selects an album, pays by credit card, downloads the album, and plays it on his computer or burns it to a DVD-A and plays it on a universal Blu-ray player. The bottom line is that only about 1/3 of our cymbal sound is ending up on the CD. We can't really "hear" those ultra-high frequencies, but there is research that indicates we can sense them by other means, including bone conduction.
 

Secrets

Senior Member
SABIAN 22" APX RIDE CYMBAL

One of Sabian's more economical lines of cymbals (mid-priced) is called APX. They are made from sheet metal rather than cast, but they still use a bronze alloy (not brass).

This particular one is the 22" APX ride cymbal, and I have to say that the ping from this cymbal cuts through like a razor. It has a very sharp and lightning fast attack, with very little wash. So, all the energy goes into the ping. You can ride the heck out of it without developing a wash that buries the ping. So, don't overlook this moderately inexpensive series. It might have what you need.

Spectral analysis shows a level response out to 10 kHz, then dropping off by 40 dB at 12 kHz, with a gradual decline out to 60 kHz. After 2 seconds (yellow graph line) the energy up to 10 kHz is mostly still there, but above 10 kHz, the energy has completely dissipated.

The Level vs. Time graph illustrates the very fast attack.

Click here to go to the cymbal sounds page.

John E. Johnson, Jr.
 

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chathamight

Senior Member
Ear plugs are about 'not' hearing those frequencies. 20K @ 100+ db with some 80K @ 20 db sprinkled on top all night can easily cause hearing loss over time, just ask Alex Van Halen and others.
any frequency at 100dB for an extended amount of time can cause hearing loss. alex van halen played thousands of concerts at about 2-3 hours each. even if there were no 80K sprinkles, he'd still be deaf.
 

drumtechdad

Gold Member
As a fellow audio dweeb, I applaud your efforts.

If we're evaluating things that make cymbals sound different from each other, there's no need to go out beyond 20k--in fact, 20k is pushing it for most folks. (It's not like amps, where response beyond the audio band indicates greater linearity within the audio band.)

Some nits to pick:

No doubt you selected a nylon tip stick for consistency. But it remains true that most professional drummers use wood tips, of varying shapes, because they prefer the sound. That makes your graphs comparable, but not indicative of "how it sounds."

Being a drummer you no doubt know that where you strike a cymbal (either riding or crashing) makes a difference in how it sounds--or should. One reason I like the K Custom Hybrid ride is the variety of sounds you can get from the bow. I think it was Elvin who said "never buy a cymbal you can't get 20 different sounds from." It's good advice, and unfortunately a huge complicating factor in comparisons such as this.

It's also true that how hard you strike a cymbal has an effect on the sound. Another complicating factor.

Nonetheless, it's a great start!

Now, if you really want to do the world of drumming a service, get somebody to make 10 identical 12" toms from maple, birch, oak, bubinga, ash, beech, poplar, cherry, walnut, and mahogany, all with identical construction, number of plies, shell thickness, glue, joinery, bearing edges, inside and outside finish, hardware, hoops, heads, and tuning--and apply spectrum analysis to them. It will finally answer the drum question of the ages! ;-)
 

Secrets

Senior Member
You forgot alder, basswood, blackwood, acrylic, and stainless steel. I do plan to get some spectra from drums down the road. Cymbals are all I can handle at the moment. However, your point about the stick tip is well taken. For a future cymbal test, I will gather a spectrum using a nylon tip as well as a spectrum using a stick with a wooden tip. That will be very interesting. By the way, I also discovered that if you wrap tape around the stick where your hands grip the stick, that results in a different sound from the cymbal. It must have something to do with the resonance of the stick as it strikes the cymbal. I will show some graphs after I get around to performing that particular test.

John E. Johnson, Jr.
 
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Les Ismore

Platinum Member
No doubt you selected a nylon tip stick for consistency. But it remains true that most professional drummers use wood tips, of varying shapes, because they prefer the sound. That makes your graphs comparable, but not indicative of "how it sounds."

Although it'll be mildly interesting to see the differences between the same wood and nylon tip stick, adding different tip shapes and stick materials will turn this into a stick comparison. Nylon tip being harder transfers the most energy, brings the most out of a cymbal and 'it is' the most consistent control.



any frequency at 100dB for an extended amount of time can cause hearing loss. alex van halen played thousands of concerts at about 2-3 hours each. even if there were no 80K sprinkles, he'd still be deaf.



Since the concern is hearing loss and most drummers won't play thousands of concert level gigs, its clear they will be exposed to 20K and beyond from hitting cymbals.

It didn't take Alex Van Halen and others that long to become deaf. High frequencies do the most damage the quickest, even at low volumes. Wear ear protection.
 

Secrets

Senior Member
Here is a little more information about me (John E. Johnson, Jr.), why I am obsessed with cymbals, and why I started this thread.

I have been a drummer for a very long time. I just turned 65 (August 21, 2010), and I started drumming in college when I was 20. At first, it was just four of us, one of my fraternity brothers played bass, I was on the drums, a singer, and a lead guitarist who had happened to live a few blocks from Jimi Hendrix. He was heavily influenced by Hendrix – of course – and he was only 15 when he joined our band. That’s him on the far right in the first photo. I think this photo was somewhere around early 1968.

At that age, I certainly did not have the money to invest in a big kit, not even a new kit. I had to rent one. I finally saved enough money to buy one cymbal, as seen in the photo. I continued to rent used drum kits for the two remaining years I was an undergraduate at the University of Washington, in Seattle. After about a year, an organist joined us, with his Hammond B3 and Leslie speaker, as well as a 12 string rhythm guitarist. He was skilled enough to play lead solo as well as rhythm backup, so we got to be pretty good. We played night clubs and bars, and if you wanted to know if we classified ourselves as a garage band, well, let’s put it this way. One weekend, we had to use Friday night’s wages to bail the rhythm guitarist out of jail so we could play on Saturday night.

Obviously, we didn’t make a lot of money at this, but it was fun. Because I had enough money to rent the used drums, but never seemed to acquire enough funds to get a few more cymbals, that lack of having a full cymbal set stuck with me over the years in the back of my brain. I graduated in 1968, got married, and moved to New Orleans for graduate school. That was the end of the band, for the time being.

During graduate school and for years afterward, I didn’t have the time to play drums with a group, and didn’t have enough room to set them up in our apartment, so active playing just wasn’t in the cards for me at that time.

I ended up in Baltimore, Maryland, doing research at NIH. I became disenchanted with bench science, left NIH, and started my own company, focusing on editing medical journals for John Wiley & Sons. Now, all of a sudden, I did have the space because we had purchased a house, and I had the time.

However, I still didn’t have a lot of money, so I bought (a step up from renting) a used set of Rogers drums for $150. I starting taking lessons, and bit by bit, I satisfied that old thing in the back of my head about never having a full set of cymbals.

There was a local music store that had all their cymbals on a 30 foot long rack, and you could swing a cymbal out, use a stick to play a ride pattern, or crash it, swing it back in and try another one.

This was like a candy store for me. I found that I had a craving for cymbals. As you can see in the second photo, taken in 1987, I ended up in a short time with all the cymbals that I could handle.

Then we moved to California, and ding dang it, I didn’t have the room for a drum kit. So, I sold the drums, but kept the cymbals.

Jump forward to 2002. By then, I not only was editing the medical journals, but I had started a hi-fi magazine called Secrets of Home Theater and High Fidelity on the Internet. I converted the garage to a test lab where I could test CD players, amplifiers, speakers, etc. I purchased a snare drum to practice rudiments, but that was about it.

Then, in 2009, during a visit to our local music store, which happened to have a huge drum department, I sat down at a Roland electronic drum kit, and it was love at first sight (and sound). Here was something that I could fit in the lab. So, I purchased it piece by piece and ended up with four drum pads for toms, and a pad for the kick, paired with a double bass pedal. The drum module is a Roland TD-4, which stores numerous drum as well as cymbal sounds in digital sample format. The third photo, shown below, was taken in May, 2010.

I had originally used three pads for toms and one for the snare, but I found that I could not get the dynamics from snare drum samples that I could with an acoustic snare, so I moved that fourth pad to being tom number 4 and purchased an acoustic snare (Tama, Stewart Copeland model). As you see in the photo, I also got five cymbal pads. Why five? I realized and accepted the fact that I was obsessed with cymbals, dating back to when I couldn’t afford to purchase them, and I decided to just let my obsession express itself. I bought Roland CY-8 cymbal pads because they were small and I could fit all five in a close arrangement to my sitting position. The kick pad is a Roland KD-8, again, small so it would not take up much space.

I ended up with a high hat stand (DW 9000) and three cymbal stands, and I tied everything together with Gibraltar clamps and chrome tubing, forming a U-shaped setup. To move the kit when I am just listening to music, using those big ribbon speakers you see in the background, all I have to do is loosen the clamps that attach each stand, and move the stands to the rear of the room, as all of the drums and cymbals are attached to the three cymbal stands.

Besides being obsessed with buying cymbals, I was also obsessed with the sound of the cymbals, and for a few months, I was happy with the sound from the cymbal pads (which are electronic triggers for the cymbal digital sound samples). I not only used the samples in the Roland TD-4 drum module, I also recorded my own cymbal samples using laboratory grade calibrated microphones, and triggered them through BFD version 2 drum software. You can see the computer in the background of the photo, where I boot BFD. The computer is connected to the Roland TD-4 drum module via a MIDI/USB cable. (MIDI stands for Musical Instrument Digital Interface.)

I used real ride cymbals and hi hat cymbals because I didn’t like the feel of ride cymbal pads or hi hat pads, but I was also beginning to notice something, and now we are coming to the point of this dissertation. The sounds of the crash cymbals seemed incomplete. They didn’t have the brightness or clarity that real cymbals have. There was a distinct difference between the real crash cymbals that I had and the samples of those exact same cymbals that I was triggering from the cymbal pads.

Now, keep in mind that I was (and still am) using my reference audio system to play the drum samples through. This consists of a Pure Class A tube preamplifier, two 1,200 watt McIntosh monoblock power amplifiers, and the those two ribbon speakers, each of which has a 60” ribbon and four 12” woofers. So, I could not only hear everything in the samples, but also, what was missing (not to mention that I can blow the walls out with all that power).

The cymbal samples were recorded at 44.1 kHz, 16 bit, which is the same quality as found on a CD, and is the sample rate supported by the drum triggering module.

So, I expanded my horizons and began recording cymbal sounds at higher sampling frequencies, and discovered that cymbals produce frequencies well above 20 kHz (the limit on a CD is 22 kHz), and in fact, above 30 kHz all the way out to 60 kHz, maybe even a bit further. The samples recorded at 44.1 kHz also sounded mushy, and when I looked at the spectrum of the recorded samples, I realized why. Cymbals produce what is probably the most complex sound of any musical instrument. When you hit a crash cymbal, the frequencies it is making all at the same time span 30 Hz up to well beyond 30 kHz. That is very tough to reproduce with basic CD quality sampling.

I began recording and analyzing the spectra of all kinds of cymbals and noted that each one has its own distinct “fingerprint” that one could use to characterize the sound. I decided to share that information, because there is nothing like it out there anywhere that I can find, and so, here we are.

Now, I purchase about one new cymbal per month (I really am trying to satisfy that cymbal lust buried in my brain 40 years ago), so I have a nice array to test, for the time being. I hope to obtain additional cymbals directly from all the manufacturers to add to this database of spectra. Feel free to make suggestions as to cymbals you would like to have tested by spectral analysis, in a post in this thread, if you wish. I also have set up a directory so that you can download the high resolution samples and play them for yourself - http://www.hometheaterhifi.com/images/stories/audio/cymbal-samples/cymbal-reviews-index.html. The spectra can only convey only so much information. The final analysis is in the listening. The only thing you will need is a sound card that can play digital audio files (*.wav) recorded at 176.4 kHz and 24 bits. They are the highest resolution cymbal audio sample files ever offered as downloads. I would hope that someday, drum control modules will be able to store and trigger samples at high sampling frequencies and 24 bit depth.

My late 2010 setup is shown in the fourth photo. I rotate the crash cymbals through my collection about once every three months. I still have one cymbal pad that I use for special effects, but have taken it out for awhile. The fifth photo is current at February, 2011, and it has cymbals from Zildjian, Sabian, Paiste, Bosphorus, and Meinl. The last photo was taken in 1968, in one of the night clubs we played in, called "The Door". Like many bands, we changed our name several times. I used matched grip, and I placed my left leg such that I could bring my left hand down with the drumstick so that every stroke was a rimshot. I placed a single strip of tape along the middle of the bottom of the drum, crosswise, to hold the snares against the drum. This made the snare drum sound like a 12 gauge shotgun when we were cranking some Hendrix or Cream. It was about that time that I noticed my ears would ring all night long after a gig, so I began placing a small wad of toilet paper in each ear before we played. I suggest that for those of you playing venues where you have the volume up, definitely wear ear plugs. I get them in a jar from a QVC drugstore containing several hundred ear plugs for about $10.

There was one night at The Door where I was shredding so hard - and I didn't have a drum rug - that the bass drum with its attached tom fell off the front of the stage onto the back of our lead guitarist. We kept on playing, and I kept the bass drum pedal going even with no bass drum, while the club staff put the bass drum back on the stage in front of me, and they nailed a 2x4 in front of the bass drum to keep it from moving. Ah, those were the days!


John E. Johnson, Jr.
 

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bobdadruma

Platinum Member
Most interesting thread indeed.
As a cymbal bug I am intrigued by all of this info about cymbals.
I can't wait to see future reviews of some of my fav pies.
 

Secrets

Senior Member
Yes, the Roland cymbal pads are backwards from their normal position. I found that the soft part of the pad where you normally hit the cymbal pad was less sensitive than the hard part on the other side, not to mention that it does not feel anything like a cymbal. So, all I had to do was just tap the hard part to get it to trigger instead of having to strike the cymbal pad rather hard as you would with a normal cymbal. This produces less stress in the arm joints, which at my age, is a concern. It also gives me increased speed, as I can crash several cymbals within 1 second, because I only have to move the stick sideways, tap the cymbal, and move to the next one, rather than having to raise my arm each time I crash the cymbal. This is the beauty of electronic drums. You can set the sensitivity to whatever you like, and play effortlessly. Too bad the cymbal samples didn't sound as good as the real thing. The electronic toms sound fantastic on the other hand. No extreme high frequencies to worry about, and I can tune the set of four toms to different keys with the different kits that are stored in the module, so that they are in tune with the key that the music is being played, such as G or B-flat major, etc. Then, the toms compliment the soloist and melody rather than clash with it. When the next song on the disc (I only play along with classic jazz LPs and CDs these days - no more bands) is in a different key, I just push a button on the Roland TD-4 to set it on a kit with the toms tuned in that key. You can't do that with an acoustic set of toms.

Phil Collins announced a few months ago that he can no longer play the drums because of all the intense arm movements he has made over the years. It caused deterioration of the discs in his spine. Just as we musicians have to be careful with our ears, we have to take care of the joints that we stress so much when we play hard. I played hard when I was young. Now, at age 65, I am a lot more careful. Since I had to go back to real crash cymbals, I select ones that crash easily (thin to medium thin, and no larger than 18"). That way, I don't have to use a lot of force to crash the cymbal. Zildjian ReZo's are an exception, as they are rather thin at the outer 30% and crash easily. If I find some others like that, I will make additional exceptions. Maybe I should change my user name on this forum to Cymbal-Quest.

John E. Johnson, Jr.
 
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