“1” Series Cymbals
Lush, rich, expressive tones carefully coaxed from rough B20 bronze blanks, made entirely with one American man’s hands.
NickyMoon is a boutique cymbal manufacturer that specializes in custom builds and modifications while also curating a unique collection of catalog models. Sounds range from dark and dry (Relic) to bright and fast (Modern Angel), and include more innovative Hybrid Alloy hi-hats (combining B20 and B8 bronze) and stainless-steel options. We reviewed a selection of the company’s Relic, Modern Angel, and limited-edition offerings in the April 2019 issue. Here we take a look at the brand-new “1” series, which craftsman Nicholas Margarite describes as “the ultimate in high-end, boutique cymbal craftsmanship.”
Meticulously hammered and lathed by hand in Margarite’s New Jersey shop, these “1” series cymbals represent the best of what the company offers. They’ve been researched, designed, tested, and refined over many months in an effort to end the hunt for the ever-elusive “holy grail” cymbal sound once and for all. With the bar being set so high for these new cymbals, we couldn’t wait to get our hands on them. We received 12″ and 14″ hi-hats, an 18″ crash, and 20″ and 22″ rides. (Also available in the “1” series are 13″ and 15″ hi-hats, 18″ and 20″ crash-rides, a 20″ crash, and 21″ and 24″ rides, as well as custom orders.)
Jacks of All Trades
In thirty-plus years of drumming and gear hunting, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s never going to be a single piece of gear that can handle literally every situation. Some have come shockingly close, however. I mean, there’s a reason why the Ludwig Supraphonic and Black Beauty have likely appeared on more recordings—across all genres—than every other snare drum model combined. But can the same be said for a singular set of cymbals? That’s a tall order.
Can one ride cymbal exist that has the sublime, nuanced, and expressive tones required to satisfy the critical ears of the most dynamic jazz drummers of today while also possessing a universally appealing warm, full, and open tone that’s equally at home in indie-rock, Americana, R&B, soul, and funk, both live and in the studio? The “1” series 22″ ride (2,497 grams) we got for review came about as close as anything we’ve ever heard. It had that super-soft feel and bittersweet tone with a clear, woody attack and a rich, balanced sustain. This is only one of a few new rides we’ve played that echoed ’60s-era Tony Williams without being overly dry, complex, or trashy, while having a touch of that dark, throaty growl that usually only exists in cymbals that have matured over decades of making music. If you’re a traditional jazzer or a jazz-inspired drummer looking for a new vintage-style ride cymbal to become “the one,” check out this 22″ “1” series. It’ll have you digging into the subtleties of touch deeper than ever before.
To contrast the dry, dark vibe of the 22″, the 20″ “1” series ride (1,886 grams) was washier and had a more sparkling sustain. It’s the ideal blend of a big, luscious crash and a highly expressive light ride. Like the 22″, the 20″ was expertly shaped to remove any overtone imbalances or harshness, making for an incredibly satisfying tone that translated beautifully acoustically or under the scrutiny of studio microphones.
The 18″ “1” series crash (1,309 grams) was textbook. It wasn’t overly dark or trashy, or exceedingly bright or pitchy. Yet it could be utilized for explosive, strong accents when smacked with a quick, firm stroke. Or you could evoke a rippling wave of color with a light, delicate flick. As far as upholding the moniker of the series in which it lives, the 18″ crash was the most universally appealing and applicable across all playing styles and genres.
The 14″ “1” series hi-hats (992 grams/1,194 grams) were also all-around winners. They comprise a thin top and a medium-weight bottom, which helped give them a stronger foot chick than that of paper-thin vintage pairs, but they weren’t as chunky under the stick as most modern-made “general purpose” hi-hats are. They just sound great, whether played light and delicately or hard and aggressively. I would feel completely confident using these hi-hats for all of my gigs, which range from loud modern rock to loop-based electronic pop to super-quiet acoustic jazz. On the other hand, the 12″ “1” series hi-hats (644 grams/854 grams) offer a more niche voice with a slightly breathier tone and wispier attack that’s a touch closer to the thin, fast timbre of 1920s jazz and swing. They also were a bit more expressive and controllable at super-low volumes, while still robust enough to speak clearly at medium and medium-loud dynamics.
These “1” series cymbals are the most laborious in NickyMoon’s catalog, requiring multiple runs of extensive hand hammering across the entire top and bottom surfaces, from bell to edge. And while his chiropractor might argue otherwise, we feel the rich and balanced tones Margarite has achieved with these beautifully crafted instruments is well worth the effort.