Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Those sub-pro cymbals

Let's talk about an aspect of that recent cheap cymbals post: mid-line cymbals— sub-pro, "intermediate", whatever, from the last 50-60 years. Real or almost-real cymbals, not complete dog food, where we may stand a chance of finding some bargains. Some of these could be playable for professionals, or would maybe good for a rehearsal set, or good for teachers to get to resell to students.  

Before getting too pumped up about it: Shop with caution,  hold out for bargains, hit them whenever you see them in person. Learn to recognize a cast, hammered cymbal, vs. a piece of dog food stamped out of sheet brass.

I'll say that again, hold out for bargains— if these cymbals are worthwhile, it's usually only because they're a good value— they're cheap and OK. When people get it in their heads that they're pretty good so they must be worth more money... the market goes to hell, prices go up, and they become a very bad value. See the Paiste 505s below. If you're not going to insist on bargain prices, you may as well just look for deals on Zildjians and Sabians. 

Alejian / Zilco / Kashian 
I talked about these recently— 50s-70s Alejian and Zilco cymbals were basically Zildjians that were judged to have the wrong sound for the company's regular product line, branded and sold by other companies. 

Alejian were manufactured in Massachusetts and sold by the Slingerland company. There are some older Alejians of unknown quality (to me), going back to the 1930s— those older ones appear to be mainly splash cymbals. 

Zilco were manufactured in Canada and sold by Ludwig. Some also carried a Rogers stamp— made at the Canadian plant, I assume it's the same basic thing. Some later Zilcos were made as a dedicated product line, eliminating the hammering step. I don't know what their quality is; I would be looking for Zilcos that clearly were hammered. 

Rogers SS is another another one, manufactured in Canada, sold by the Rogers drum company. Should be stamped Rogers by AZCO. 

Kashian cymbals were manufactured in Italy by Ufip, for Slingerland, and are apparently similarly decent cymbals— I've never seen or played one, and I don't know how they arrived at being Kashian products rather than the regular UFIP brands. I've never been thrilled by the few Italian cymbals I've played since the 80s, but they should be acceptable. They seem to sell a little cheaper than the Zildjian-sourced cymbals. 

Any of these could be decent cymbals, but I would want to play them or hear them before buying them— like any Zildjian, but more so. They're usually priced the same, or a little higher than ordinary used Zildjians of the same vintage. If the sound is there, these should be basically as good as normal pro quality Zildjians. If a cymbal has aged well, you may well get a more interesting, idiosyncratic cymbal than a normal Zildjian/Sabian. 

Zildjian seconds
You can also find Zildjian seconds, stamped with an S, that were sold at the Zildjian factory up to about 1981. I assume they were sold as seconds for having cosmetic flaws, or, again, for not having the right sound for Zildjian's regular product line. They're not real common, and have apparently acquired some caché, because the few I see online are priced higher than regular Zildjians the same age. 

These may also carry a stamp from Manny's Drum Shop in New York. A big capital MANNY'S. 

Ludwig Standard / Stambul 
Mid-line cymbals sold by Paiste with Ludwig's brand, and their own, in the 60s. Good enough that some people might consider them to be "poor man's 602s." They are not. I played a set of the hihats on some rehearsal drums, and they were fine for that. Sort of a weak, thin, tinny sound— I believe due to high nickel content in the alloy.

They're probably better than the Ajax brand cymbals here, but it's this kind of sound— don't get excited, this is the best this kind of cymbal will sound anywhere, ever: 

I might this kind of thing if I found them for $5-25 at a garage sale. Beyond that... just get some real cymbals. Every example I see on Reverb is overpriced by a factor of 100-300%— 22s going for $300-400. Forget it. Stambuls were produced for a longer time than Ludwig Standards, and manufacturing style and quality is said to vary over the years. 

These are not to be confused with Ludwig Paiste, which are substantially crappier, and are no good for any normal purpose. They're thin and crummy, so they would be good if you're looking for a toy cymbal effect— better than new cheap cymbals for that purpose. 

No way in h***, are you insane

Paiste 505

Paiste B8 line from the 70s-80s, the best sub-pro B8 bronze cymbals I am aware of, but that's not really good enough. I used one from about 1982-85, and I never felt like it sounded like a real ride cymbal, even to my young ears at the time. And they're wildly overpriced right now, selling(?) for at least 50-100% more than they deserve to cost. The cheapest used 2002s only cost ~$20 more, and are vastly better cymbals. 

That goes double for the crummy 404 line— that's one of those junk products people like to pretend are good. 

Sabian XS20
I hit one of these once and filed it away as “pretty good cheap cast cymbal.” They're often listed as XS, I'm unaware if that's a different line. Used, they're pretty well budget priced, and seem to be a good option for students. I would want to play more of them before giving them a full recommendation.   

Agop Xist
Almost real K-type cymbals at a budget price? I guess, maybe. They're cheaper than regular Agops, but not cheap enough to quite qualify as “budget.” And they don't quite make it as real “jazz” cymbals, in my opinion. I find the sound to be a little thin— as in weak, tinny. Good for schools, I suppose, or for people who need to own new things. 

The “dark dry” Xist line are priced like new A. Zildjians. I hit some once, and they were fun to play in the store. Not sure how I would use them in real life. 

Dream cymbals, made in China, were real exciting when they first appeared, because they were a dark, complex sound, and they were really cheap. A lot of them were also really weird and bad— hard to control, weirdly exotic, too trashy. But if you find a good one, they're fine. Buying them used now, they're not particularly cheaper than used A. Zildjians. I personally would never trust one I didn't play in person.  

I believe these are a Chinese brand, and they seem to produce a lot of different cymbals. The ones stamped "hand made" are the most intriguing— or the ones that are obviously traditionally cast cymbals; they're legit bargain-priced used, and sound enough like real cymbals for student drummers to use, and get a more or less real cymbal experience. Most cymbals kids ever get to play on are such junk that they're really a different instrument— I'm thinking of those cheap Sabians and Meinls. They can never make a real crash sound, for example— just this strident metallic clang. Even if the Staggs don't sound great, they are cymbals. 

Used prices are good, and Stagg may be the most attractive option here for school age students, taking care to get their better cast cymbals, and not their crappy sheet metal cymbals. 

Off-brand cast cymbals

I have seen other off-brands of decent, cheap, apparently cast cymbals, probably Chinese made, possibly Turkish made. Looking online right now, I see them with the names Groove Percussion, Agazarian, Pulse, Radian. Those should be very cheap used, and like the Staggs, they should be good for younger students to get the experience of playing real cymbals, even if they don't always sound great. 

1 comment:

Jeffrey said...

I have a Zildjian second, a thin 20" cymbal I found at an antiques market in Pawtucket, RI, so seems likely the cymbal stayed in the area after being purchased directly from the factory. It was always pretty good, but I had Jesse Simpson hammer it a bit to break up some of the harsher undertones that would build up, then put four rivets on it, and it's something that draws attention now. Something I will hold on to.