Dark and rich cymbals for fast, explosive attack and short, sweet sustain.
The HH series is Canadian manufacturer Sabian’s original recipe for the classic hand-hammered Turkish cymbal sound, which the company has a direct connection to via founder Robert Zildjian. All HH cymbals are handcrafted from B20 bronze and are available in natural or shiny (“brilliant”) finishes. They exhibit dark, vintage-inspired sounds that fit a wide variety of genres, dynamics, and playing styles.
The modern-leaning HHX series was introduced in 2001, displaying more intense hammering techniques to add darker and more cutting tones to the catalog. This past year, the subtler HH and more aggressive HHX hammering concepts were combined into one subseries: the HHX Complex. These new offerings comprise 16″, 17″, 18″, 19″, 20″, and 22″ Thin crashes, 14″ and 15″ Medium hi-hats, and 20″ and 22″ Medium rides. Let’s take a closer look to see how well the different production styles gel.
All of the HHX Complex models share the same basic design. The medium-sized bell is steep, raw, and heavily hammered with deep, tight markings. Conversely, the bow is more gradually sloped, lightly lathed, and extensively hammered with soft, wide markings.
The primary difference between the HHX Complex crashes, hi-hats, and rides is the weight. The crashes are very thin, soft, and flexible, while the rides and hi-hats are heavier for a firmer feel and tighter articulation.
All six HHX Complex crashes are quite thin and loose, so they open up easily at all dynamics and feel soft and supple whether smacked with a quick blow or coaxed with a gentler touch. They’re a bit breathier, darker, and more controlled than comparable HHX Thin crashes, which have more pronounced midrange overtones. The
Complexes also have a flashier attack, trashier sustain, and faster decay. The smaller 16″ ($279.99) and 17″ ($299.99) HHX Complex crashes have a tighter and shorter tone that makes them ideal for quick, punchy accents and lower-volume situations while still giving off a nuanced, complex, and musical tone. The hammered bells have a much softer and more integrated sound than standard bells that also contributes to the cymbals’ overall softer, darker timbre.
The 18″ ($329.99) and 19″ ($359.99) HHX Complex crashes are a nearly perfect blend of gritty attack, saturated sustain, and quick but smooth decay. I imagine these two models getting tons of use for all types of recording and live playing situations. They’re dry but not one-dimensional, lush but not washy.
In addition to producing massive, dramatic accents, the larger 20″ ($379.99) and 22″ ($449.99) HHX Complex crashes could double as thin, vintage-inspired rides or washy crash-rides. The 22″ requires a stronger stroke to bring to full voice, but there’s a range of useful and balanced tones to be explored at lower dynamics, too. The 20″ paired perfectly with the 18″ for situations requiring a classic two-crash cymbal setup that can cover a wide range of dynamics and musical styles.
The 14″ ($464.99) and 15″ ($509.99) HHX Complex Medium hi-hats comprise a medium-weight top over a heavy bottom. They’re designed to produce a solid, tight foot “chick,” a dark, articulate closed sound, and a fat open sizzle. They’re fairly chunky, weighty hi-hats, but they responded quickly and cleanly, and they had a more nuanced and expressive tone that I usually only get with thinner options. The extra hammering effectively removed any lingering or metallic overtones, which gave these HHX Complex hi-hats a very satisfying acoustic sound that translated to recording very well. The 14″ version would be ideal for all-purpose use, while the 15″ size had a deeper growl, denser attack, and wider spread.
Both HHX Medium Complex rides are thick enough to produce a clean, sweet “ping” while still possessing a rich and deep wash. The 20″ ($379.99) opens up a bit quicker than the 22″ ($449.99) and has a higher overall pitch. But both versions sounded expressive and nuanced at lower volumes, and both were big and bold in louder situations. The hammered bell tones were much darker and softer than they are on other HHX models, and the overtones emanating from the bow were deeper and free of midrange hum. Aside from traditional bebop or super-aggressive metal, you could cover any gig or session that comes your way with one of these two HHX Complex Medium rides.
If you’re looking for some classic yet modern–sounding hand-hammered cymbals to serve a wide variety of needs, check out these new HHX Complex models. Sabian even put together a three-piece prepack ($929.99) comprising 15″ Medium hi-hats, a 19″ Thin crash, and a 22″ Medium ride. That would be a great place to start.