Sunday, September 11, 2011

Still loving Sabian AA's

I continue to be very impressed and excited by what Sabian is doing with their AA line. I've long felt the A. line of Zildjian cymbals- and by association, the AA's- to be in decline, with product development stagnating and the quality of the cymbals as musical instruments going a little bit to hell- I haven't made a systematic study of this, I've just come across many too-heavy, bright, and unrefined examples in the past 20+ years.

The addition of Zildjian's A Custom line did little to change that impression, though I have come across a few better cymbals. I had heard and played fewer Sabians, but since the manufacturing process is similar, I lumped them in with the A.'s.

No more- the first Sabian AA that got my attention a few years ago was the fast and very mellow El Sabor crash. More recently I picked up a Raw ride, after seeing them at, and I love it- thin, somewhat dry, and incredibly musical. Then just this week a student picked up one of the new Memphis rides, and I'm blown away even further. This is the perfect medium ride- an old fashioned medium- that is to say, lighter than has been standard since about the 80's. The pitch is high, with nice definition and a lovely harmonious cushion underneath- the sound made me think of the slamming bar bands of the 70's. I actually can't give you a detailed review because I was only able to play it for a few moments in a lesson, but it made a tremendous impression- I wanted to own one instantly.

All of these cymbals all have the classic A. sound- which I can't describe for you; you just have to have heard and played a lot of them- but much more refined than in the past, and much more controllable dynamically. These don't have the darkness or complexity of the hand-hammered K-types, but are fully their equal as musical instruments- using my Raw ride in a jazz setting is no compromise. Think Irish whiskey or a great British session beer compared to Scotch or a Trappist ale. I'm very eager to play another one of these, and to see what else Sabian is up to.

There are a number of YouTube clips of varying sound quality demonstrating this cymbal- one of the better ones is after the break. But I'd really recommend seeking one out and playing it.

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