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Sabian HH Vanguard

Sabian HH Vanguard Series Cymbals

A more expressive expansion pack for the original hand-hammered line.


by Michael Dawson


Canadian cymbal maker Sabian has spent the past couple years revisiting its roots in an effort to bring back some of the classic handcrafted approaches the company employed in its early days in the 1980s. First was the raw and funky Big and Ugly line. Then the HH (“hand hammered”) series got remastered. (We reviewed those in March 2016.)

Sabian recently introduced the first expansion of the HH series, the Vanguard, which is based on a design from the acquired Crescent brand. The HH Vanguard lineup comprises 14″ hi-hats, 16″ and 18″ crashes, and 20″, 21″, and 22″ crash/rides. (None of the cymbals are labeled as a crash or ride, so it’s up to the player to determine the application.) The cymbals have smaller bells than the regular HH models, and they feature pinpoint lathing. Both features help provide a more controlled attack. Let’s check them out!

16″ and 18″ Crashes
In our review of the remastered HH line, we were very impressed with how expressive and all-purpose the cymbals sounded, especially the crashes. The 16″ and 18″ Vanguard crashes are also major standouts. They are a bit thinner than the HH Thin crashes, but they have similar warm, clean, and expressive tones. The pitches of the Vanguard crashes are lower, and they open up a bit faster and easier. While they might not have enough cutting power or durability to withstand extra-hard-hitting environments, for most general applications, including delicate cocktail jazz, multi-track recording sessions, and full-volume club dates, the HH Vanguards earn very high marks.

20″, 21″, and 22″ Crash/Rides
I reviewed Crescent’s Vanguard rides a few years back, and I remember them having a silky sustain, breathy wash, and a sparkling attack. Sabian’s Vanguards aren’t as complex sounding as the originals, and they have a cleaner and slightly brighter tone. All three crash/rides open up nicely for big, full crashes, yet they don’t wash out when you play fast ride patterns. The bells sound rich and integrated. The 22″ had my favorite crash sound; it was the most complex, but it also was the washiest when ridden. The 21″ had my favorite ride voice for a classic jazz sound, and the 20″ had the most shimmer. None of the Vanguard crash/rides are heavy enough to serve as a main ride for rock or other aggressive genres, but they would make excellent large crashes. And they offer an expressive, balanced sound for all types of lighter playing.

HH Vanguard hi-hats

14″ Hi-Hats
The Vanguard hi-hats are designed differently from the rest of the series. They’re unlathed on the bottom, and they’re lathed on the edge of the top, to thin it out. Sabian defines the top as being light and the bottom as medium, but they are more controlled and dry than those weights would suggest due to the unlathed bottoms. I recall the Crescent Vanguard hi-hats as having a dry yet breathy tone, which made them great for classic swing-style playing. The Sabian Vanguard hi-hats offer a chunkier stick sound, a stronger foot chick, and a drier sustain. If you use a hi-hat primarily for foot playing, then you will appreciate the extra power and clarity of these new Vanguards. These aren’t the hi-hats you’d want if you’re looking for a papery, vintage-style sound, but they are a great choice for all-purpose applications requiring a touch of classic complexity within a more modern context.