Do I Have Bad Cymbal Ears?

mmulcahy1

Platinum Member
I have been trying to add a new cymbal to my kit for the last year. So far, I've gone through four. Every one I buy (and eventually sell or trade) ends up sounding like crap when I get to my kit - and these have all been high revered cymbals. My latest acquisition is an 18" Sabian thin crash.

With the exception of a Zildjian K dark crash (it was a gift), the other three cymbals I have tried I listened to first and liked the sound of them... even with my other cymbals. But get back home and set them all up on my kit, and the new one(s) sound bad to my ear.

I know there is a period of "getting used" to the new cymbal, but shouldn't it get my juices flowing from the get-go?? I want to be in love with the sounds of a new cymbal, not hating to hit it for fear of the sound I'm getting.

Help!
 

Bigdumbdrums

Senior Member
It could be that the room in which your drums reside at home has bad acoustics. I gig just about every weekend and in different clubs/bars and my drums will sound different in each and every one of them.

Real world example:
I bring 2 snares to every gig (one for backup). As to which one I play depends on the acoustics. During setup I test both snares to see which one sounds better. I have 2 Tama snares that I usually bring;

Starclassic Bubinga
Chrome over brass Starphonic

One weekend I played in a bar where the acoustics were bad - very open, wood and tile surfaces where the sound bounced in all the wrong ways. The bubinga snare sounded horrible – dead, dark, no brightness at all whereas the brass one sounded fine (brighter and punchier).

The following week the gig was outside at a wedding under a huge tent. The bubinga sounded amazing! Even my bassist said the same thing after the show.

Acoustics makes a huge difference. Try setting your kit up in a different room or if you can't - try a different location in the same room at a different angle. See if that changes the sound of your setup.

Also - bring in your existing symbols to wherever you shop for drum gear and set them alongside the cymbals you are thinking of getting to compare.
 

mmulcahy1

Platinum Member
Also - bring in your existing symbols to wherever you shop for drum gear and set them alongside the cymbals you are thinking of getting to compare.
I do this all the time. In the shop the cymbals sound great - why, I don't know. But at home, at practice, or playing live, only my regular cymbals sound good to me... not the new one(s).

Why the discrepancy??
 

larryace

"Uncle Larry"
Actually I'm thinking you have good cymbal ears. You aren't afraid to say that it's not doing it for you. Always trust your gut.

That's a common occurrence, taking something home and it not working. I returned many cymbals because I didn't like what they sounded like at home.

Drum shops are a bad place to evaluate stuff. All the sympathetic vibrations of all the instruments in there color the sound you hear.

Hmm, maybe setting stuff up outside the store would be easier to evaluate. You wouldn't have the contributions from all the other instruments.

Music stores should have a soundproof room with no other instruments in it for evaluation purposes.
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
How long did you give these new cymbals before giving up on them? Did you play them in a band context?

No doubt there are some duds out there, but it shouldn't be that hard to find a pleasing crash to go with what you already have.

Honestly, it sounds to me like you're experiencing a tough break-in period, though in this case, it's your ears that need the break-in period. We've all experienced the new cymbal wtf first moments, and it's quite normal even for "good" cymbals.

What cymbals are you trying to fit this new crash into? If you know you like those, find something complimentary in terms of thickness and alloy. Maybe same brand/series.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
I had no cymbal ear what so ever. I was 63 years old and I had never purchased a cymbal. I had been using my 1963 set of Zildjian's since day one.

Here is what I did. I got my great sounding ride cymbal and a really great sounding crash cymbal that a friend had and I took them with me to four local Guitar Centers. I found some cymbals that sounding as close to them as possible.

I purchased two cymbals and tried them out at a gig. One of them I kept, the other I exchanged for my number two choice. Guitar center has a no questions asked 30 day return policy.

I would have never found good cymbals without comparing them to the good cymbals that I brought with me to the store. And without trying them out live on stage. There are way too many different sounding cymbals.

Note: I also had someone else play my drum set live at the gig, with the band, while I listened from several different places in the room.


.
 

Dr_Watso

Platinum Member
I have several cymbals that I'm not super keen on the sound when I'm playing them alone with no context, but in a band situation, the "ugly" overtones that I'm not digging as much literally disappear, and all that's left is that classic cutting cymbal sound. Usually it's the huge loud cymbals that feel this way, but I've had the same feeling on other people's stuff too.

To my ear, proper drum and cymbal sounds aren't that great until you mix em in with music.
 

Hollywood Jim

Platinum Member
To my ear, proper drum and cymbal sounds aren't that great until you mix em in with music.
So very true !!!

I purchased a new Zildjian K crash that sounded so so nice.
When I played it live on stage with the rock and roll band, it would not cut through the sound of the band.
It was completely washed out by the sound of the guitars.


.
 

mmulcahy1

Platinum Member
What cymbals are you trying to fit this new crash into? If you know you like those, find something complimentary in terms of thickness and alloy. Maybe same brand/series.
My other crashes are 16" & 18" Xs20s. They have a balanced crescendo type of wash to them with no trashy overtones what-so-ever. I really thought the Sabian AA Thin would blend really well.

I have always thought that I needed to replace the Xs20s because they were not really "pro" cymbals. It turns out that I haven't found anything else I like though.

Note: I also had someone else play my drum set live at the gig, with the band, while I listened from several different places in the room.
Good idea. I usually hear my drums and cymbals form the driver's seat only. But hell, I'm the closest set of ears to the cymbals... I want them to sound good!
 

MikeM

Platinum Member
I only have limited experience with Xs20s but they seemed a little heavier than thin to me, though I agree that they're much better than your typical entry level cymbal. Seem pretty pro level to me.

I imagine an AA medium-thin or medium would be right in there. A 17" or 19" would be cool. Even a Paragon should be pretty close to an acceptable match. I can see where putting a thin in the mix might feel a little odd at first since they're so much quicker, a little trashier. and with less body.

Go a touch heavier with the next one and see how that goes.
 

makinao

Silver Member
I have always thought that I needed to replace the Xs20s because they were not really "pro" cymbals. It turns out that I haven't found anything else I like though.
Don't mess with success. If it aint broke, don't fix it. If it works for your ears, then use it.

Oh, and if you still can't wrap your ears around your K Dark Thin Crash, gift it to me :)
 

Stroman

Platinum Member
I find the Xs20s have a very smooth, plain, generic sound, and as MikeM said they are a little on the heavy side. They seem a little quieter (or at least slow to open up) compared to my thinner trashier sounding cymbals. I think you are just accustomed to their unobtrusive sound.

That said, I don't think there is any reason to change if you don't want to, or if you don't like what you're hearing from the new cymbals. I've heard those Xs20s sound perfectly fine onstage.
 

Mark_S

Silver Member
I second the motion that it is probably acoustics. Is your room at home quite small and have hard walls? That makes cymbals sound brittle (and brutal!) to me, like I want to put my fingers in my ears.

I'd at least try and gig it first at least once.. hearing it in a musical settings can make quite a difference in my experience.

Or if you have some isolation headphones, mic yourself up (you'll need overhead mics, cardioid pattern so you avoid some of the room acoustics), mix yourself with some music (this is how I practise, partly to save my ears) and see how it sounds then.
 

No Way Jose

Silver Member
When I read that the sound varies from room to room I wonder why I even concern myself about what the drum kit sounds like. Why buy high priced drums and cymbals when the sound changes everywhere that I play?
 

gdmoore28

Gold Member
My other crashes are 16" & 18" Xs20s.
I have always thought that I needed to replace the Xs20s because they were not really "pro" cymbals.
It's a shame that cymbals such as Xs20s tend to get a bad rep, and mostly due to the relatively low selling prices. The Xs20s, especially the newer versions, certainly fall into the "pro" category when sound quality alone is the deciding factor. Remove the label and mix the Xs20s in with more expensive cymbals, and their quality becomes instantly apparent. Their sound qualities may not be to everybody's liking, but that is true of all cymbal lines.

GeeDeeEmm
 

Morrisman

Platinum Member
I agree with the point about hearing cymbals from the audience's point of view. I've just bought a heavy-ish ride cymbal, and it sounds a bit tingy and pointy, almost harsh, when I play it loud. At a rehearsal last night our singer jammed on the kit for a while, and from across the room this cymbal sounded sweet, pleasant, just enough clarity, not harsh at all. It was surprising.

(But I don't know what a mic will pick up though.)
 

Mark_S

Silver Member
When I read that the sound varies from room to room I wonder why I even concern myself about what the drum kit sounds like. Why buy high priced drums and cymbals when the sound changes everywhere that I play?
It's what it sounds like with microphones though, i.e. on a recording or out front through the PA ...

To be honest though, I don't think most of the audience cares, as long as it sounds like drums and cymbals! Depends on the music too of course ..
 

bonerpizza

Silver Member
Picking out a cymbal based on how it sounds in the cymbal room of a drum shop or music store rarely goes well for me either, half the time I end up choosing a cymbal and thinking it's going to be exactly what I want then when I put it on my kit it sounds like garbage.

One thing I've recently started doing that has been beneficial is to find a cymbal from the selection that I'm familiar with or that I have and play other cymbals and that one back and forth, that way I have a point of reference for what sound I want and so far I haven't had to return a cymbal in a the last 8 months or so.
 
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