Avedis Series Cymbals
by Michael Dawson
A retro refit of classic ’50s designs for today’s applications.
Given the great success of the vintage-style Kerope line, which was launched at the 2014 Winter NAMM Show as a tribute to highly coveted Turkish-made K cymbals, it comes as no surprise that Zildjian would do a similar reworking of its seminal brighter-sounding A series.
The A series was Zildjian’s initial offering when it opened shop in Massachusetts in 1929, and those clean, bright, breathy tones can be heard on many landmark pop, R&B, jazz, and rock ’n’ roll records throughout the twentieth century. The Avedis series pays tribute to those original cymbals and is named in honor of Zildjian USA founder Avedis Zildjian III. These new old-school cymbals are available in limited sizes (14″, 15″, and 16″ hi-hats and 18″, 19″, 20″, 21″, and 22″ crash/rides). All Avedis cymbals feature a special aged-patina finish, a hollow late-’70s-style Zildjian logo on the underside, a ’50s-era trademark stamp, and a small logo on top that was generated from Avedis’s passport signature. The bell shape and bow curvature used on the Avedis series is similar to those of cymbals made in the ’50s. We were sent a complete setup to review, so let’s check them out.
14″, 15″, and 16″ Hi-Hats
Zildjian’s original hi-hats featured a pair of identical, thin-weight cymbals. It wasn’t until the advent of the New Beat model, which was designed with legendary big band drummer Louie Bellson to achieve a stronger foot “chick,” that matching a lighter top with a heavier bottom became commonplace. The Avedis hi-hats split the difference and come with a slightly heavier medium-weight bottom. The tops are thin, but not as paper-thin as their ’50s predecessors. All three sizes feature identical small, steep bells, and the bow curvature is significantly flatter than that of a New Beat or other contemporary designs.
The 14″ Avedis hi-hats ($449.95) we reviewed had a 970-gram top and a 1,192-gram bottom. They have a clean, high-pitched sound with a bit more emphasis on the lower-mid tones and slightly attenuated highs. They’re still crisp and articulate, and they have plenty of brightness and presence to serve as all-purpose hi-hats for most playing situations. They recorded very well, thanks to their softer overtones and shorter sustain helping to minimize bleed into the snare mics. I’d feel confident using the 14″ Avedis hi-hats in any application where I would typically grab a trusty set of New Beats. They can rock, they can swing, and your soundman will love them.
The 15″ Avedis hi-hats ($489.95) had a 1,122-gram top and a 1,370-gram bottom. They have a deeper sound than the 14″ cymbals, with a chunkier attack, a throatier open voice, and a wider foot “chick.” They have a balanced tone that’s expressive at soft and loud dynamics. But I felt they sounded most at home when playing big, bombastic rock beats that required a more bellowing wash and a denser attack.
The 16″ Avedis hi-hats ($519.95) come with a 1,244-gram top and a 1,590-gram bottom. These oversized timekeepers turned out to be my favorite of the series. Whereas some 16″ hi-hats sound more like a pair of crash cymbals and thus lack clarity, the larger Avedis 16″ hi-hats provided a great balance of brightness and depth. They had a clean, crisp attack that sat atop a mature medium-low sustain. They also recorded very well, responded great at all dynamics, and provided plenty of volume and power when needed. The 16″ Avedis hi-hats would be a great go-to choice for singer-songwriter, roots rock, and modern country gigs, as well as any other situation requiring something with a bit more vibe than traditional 14″s.
18″, 19″, 20″, 21″, and 22″
The Avedis crash/rides are thin and have a bell shape that’s wider and more gradually sloped than it is on the hi-hats. The 18″ cymbal ($329.95) weighs 1,338 grams, the 19″ ($349.95) is 1,564 grams, the 20″ ($369.95) is 1,900 grams, the 21″ ($389.95) is 2,242 grams, and the 22″ ($409.95) is 2,648 grams. They’re designed to have a loose, played-in feel with a balance of bright and dark overtones.
The 18″ and 19″ models had a bright and flashy crash sound that opened up easily but had a shorter sustain and punchier attack than that of a regular A Thin or A Custom. The shorter sustain of the Avedis cymbals also helped increase the articulation for lighter ride patterns.
In the studio, the 18″ and 19″ Avedis crash/rides were great for songs that called for clean and bright-yet-warm accents that hit strong without obliterating the rest of the mix. They also worked well on a few club gigs in rooms where standard crashes would have sounded too harsh. On the flipside, I found myself overplaying the 18″ and 19″ Avedis crash/rides on a louder rock gig; they didn’t have quite enough wash to create the big, sloshy sounds that that situation required.
The 20″, 21″, and 22″ Avedis crash/rides possess more traditional ride characteristics than the 18″ and 19″ models. They also have nice crash potential, with more emphasis on the lower-mid overtones. The 20″ had a throaty sustain and a clear, glassy attack, which reminded me of the distinctive ride sounds used by post-bop greats Mickey Roker and Joe Chambers on various Blue Note recordings from the 1960s. The 21″ also had a clean and glassy attack, but the sustain was deeper. To my ears, the 21″ was the “jazziest” of the Avedis crash/rides, evoking shades of bebop legends Max Roach and Philly Joe Jones with every stroke of the stick or brush.
The 22″ Avedis was my favorite crash/ride in this review. It had the most all-purpose sound, whether struck repeatedly at the edge for the warm, enveloping sounds of the British Invasion, tipped delicately on the bow for lighter jazz patterns, or shanked with authority on the bell for extra drive and power.
The bell of the 22″ was the most balanced sounding of the bunch, but they all produced bright but integrated tones that sat comfortably within the wash instead of jutting out on top of it. While I don’t know if these new Avedis cymbals will be replacing vintage cymbal lovers’ coveted classics, they do an excellent job of replicating those mellower tones and aged aesthetics within a more consistent and sturdy modern-day design.