Got an email from Zildjian today. They finally updated their site with pictures and sound samples. The rides sound the same, but the crashes are nicer and the hats are fine , like you said, crashes were the problems, not the rides or hihats.When the original Z line was out, it was a mixed bag of hot and cold.
The ride sold OK (I still have one of the original 20" Heavy Power rides), and was used by a number of top players.
The Hi-hats were the star of the line, as guys like Lars Ulrich used them, and then Dave Weckl took sales to a new level with mixing the K and Z lines.
But the crashes were thick and clunky, and sounded more like manhole covers. No one bought them, and very few endorsers used them. Even the guys who swore by the rides and hi-hats didn't use the crashes. They were just too thick to be musical.
So Zildjian re-did the line with Z-Customs by making the crashes less manhole cover like, and adding a touch more lathing, which allowed the crashes to open up more and sounded much more musical. Sales went through the roof. I used them myself for a number of years.
What I never understood was why Zildjian also re-did the hi-hat and rides, when they weren't the problem. In my opinion, it made the rides and hats a little less special.
I'm not sure what's up with the Z3. Other than Sabian keeps coming out with something new every year, and Zildjian is always trying to prove they can be innovative too.