Hands-On Review:ZHT Ultimate Sheet Bronze Series
Highly musical metal
By Hal Davis
ZHT (Zildjian High Tin) cymbals are coming soon to a stage near you. In producing their ZHT Series, Zildjian chose to work with a sheet bronze alloy possessing a higher tin content (12% tin and 88% copper) than in their previous sheet bronze cymbals. The B12 alloy occupies a niche between Zildjian's B8 and B20 bronzes, which are 8% and 20% tin, respectively. Zildjian claims that their B12 bronze is "a more musical metal than used in our previous sheet metal cymbals." The B12 sound is said to have both the brilliance of B8 and the dark richness of B20 bronze. Cast hammering techniques are used to further enhance the cymbals' tonal spectrum.
ZHT cymbals are fully lathed on both the top and bottom, which brings out subtle sonic colors and gives them a finely grooved look. Elaborate computer-controlled hammering enhances their musicality and visual attractiveness. The ZHT Series includes numerous sizes of medium and medium-thin cymbals, plus a range of slightly louder and heavier ZHT Rock cymbals. Zildjian is launching the series with limited-time $15 mail-in rebates on two box sets, the ZHT Rock 4 and Pro 4.
Rock your world
I received a sample pack of various ZHT cymbal models from Zildjian for review and spent the weekend playing them along with my drum set. I began the sound test with the ZHT Rock 4-pack configuration - a 16" Rock crash, a 20" Rock ride, and 14" Rock hi-hats.
The 16" Rock crash was quite LOUD, creating clean, explosive accents that decayed quickly. Several "fast crashes" are available with even faster decay. I felt that the ZHT Rock crashes would effectively create the dramatic accents needed for music like rock and fusion.
The Rock ride's heavy body gave it an intensely focused, brilliant definition when played near the edge. The bell tone cut like a claw hammer on steel, only more musical. The definition was laser-like with dark metallic overtones.
The 14" Rock hi-hats consist of a heavy bottom/light top cymbal pair. They had brilliance and intensity with a rich mix of overtones when played partially opened and formidable projection and presence when played closed. When closed with the foot, the cymbals came together with a lively piercing chick sound, and when splashed together they produced an intense white noise burst.
Next up were the medium and medium-thin models. I set up a configuration identical to that of the ZHT Pro pack - 16" medium crash, a 20" medium ride, and a set of 14" medium hi-hats.
The 16" crash and the 14" hi-hats packed much of the powerful sonic punch of the Rock versions with a slightly darker sound. I also checked out the 18" medium and medium-thin crashes. I particularly dug the sound of the medium thin - bright with a gradual decay that simmered with subtle overtones. The 18" medium crashes also made effective secondary ride cymbals with highly focused, crisply defined ride sounds.
The 20" medium ride had slightly darker sound than the Rock with a complex brew of overtones bubbling under the surface. It reminded me in some ways of my prized '70s vintage handmade Turkish K. Zildjian ride, except brighter with a more brilliant, less murky bell sound.
The ZHT family includes several effects cymbals (16" and 18" EFX models plus 16" and 18" Chinas), adding a touch of chaos and trash to the mix. The EFX cymbals have a series of round and oblong holes in their surface that give them a UFO-like appearance. I was able to coax a range of trashy low pangs, chiming glockenspiel-like tones, and vivid, brassy bell sounds out of this unusual cymbal.
The China cymbals, mounted upside-down on the stands as is the common practice, produced armor-piercing projection when hit hard and dark and gong-like textures when played softly. Playing the ZHTs with mallets produced rich, musical swells and, on the EFX cymbals, brooding dark tones and shattering crescendos.
The Mastersound ZHT hi-hats are the first to be available in a sheet bronze model. They include the characteristic wavy-edged bottom hi-hat that provides extra volume and prevents airlock. The Mastersound ZHTs were very articulate, bright, and would be great at cutting through loud mixes.
I have no quarrel with Zildjian's claim that the ZHT 20" flat ride "produces the tightest, driest, most controlled stick sound of all ride cymbals." The flat ride is a natural for playing jazz.
Drummer extraordinaire Marco Minneman collaborated with Zildjian on the design of the 8" and 10" mini-hats, adding another dynamic to the ZHT collection. These would make an excellent choice for genres like electronica and break-beat.
ZHT Series cymbals have something for drummers and percussionists of many different strokes - aggressive projection for rockers, subtle tonal shades for jazzers, and edgy sounds for break-beat and drum 'n' bass devotees. The low prices should prove attractive to many beginning and intermediate players, but I'd bet my vacation that a lot of pros will get into the ZHT groove too.
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