Amedia Kommagene Series Cymbals
Dark-finish cymbals with appropriately dark yet cutting tones.
by Michael Dawson
Commagene is the name of an ancient civilization that existed from 163 BC to 72 AD in a region of Europe that now comprises south-central Turkey. Amedia, whose factory is based in Turkey, with a U.S. office in New Jersey, recently designed a line of cymbals to pay tribute to the historic kingdom, calling it Kommagene to reflect the Turkish spelling.
These new cymbals are distinctly old-world in appearance, featuring flat profiles, unhammered bells, light and wide lathing, hand-hammered bows, and a proprietary aged finish, but they’re built for modern strength and stability. We were sent a set that included 15″ hi-hats, an 18″ crash, a 22″ ride, and a 20″ flat ride. Let’s check them out.
Kommagene hi-hats were firmer and heavier than I expected, given that most vintage or vintage-style pairs I’ve played have been very light and papery. These have a medium-thin top and a medium bottom with high, round bells and relatively flat profiles, which translated into a crisp foot chick, low-pitched and metallic splashes, and chunky, clean stick articulation. The finish helped to tamp sustain, so these hi-hats didn’t get overly washy when played partially or fully open. On a low-volume gig in a rather cavernous room, they ended up having a bit too much presence. (I probably should’ve opted for a pair of the aforementioned light, thin vintage hats for that particular gig.) But they produced strong, musical, and expressive tones that were dark yet evenly balanced, and they blended well with the other cymbals in the series. Think more Jack DeJohnette than Papa Jo Jones.
Like the hi-hats, the Kommagene 18″ crash had a firmer feel than I expected, given its relatively light weight, with a controlled sustain, which would come in handy in lighter situations where you don’t want accents to obliterate the band with excessive wash. You could lay into it pretty heavily and get back down to a very soft pianissimo dynamic almost immediately. The crash tone was evenly balanced and slightly shimmery. It wasn’t overly dark, so it didn’t disappear in a dense mix, which is sometimes the case with paper-thin, trashy, vintage-style crashes. You could also get plenty of articulation by playing on the bow if you want to use the crash as an alternate ride source for a breathy timbre, and the round, non-hammered bell offered a nicely integrated but clear tone.
Softer and more expansive than the hi-hats and crash, the medium-thin 22″ Kommagene ride features a wider, flatter, non-hammered bell and had a more complex and smokier tone that recalled the expressive and multi-textural sounds heard on classic bebop records of the ’50s and ’60s. Again, the finish helped to control some of the wash so that the ride had a lot of clarity, but there was a longer sustain and a bit more rumble lingering in the dark overtones. The wide bell had a fully integrated tone, so you could go to it in the middle of ride sections for bursts of color without sounding jarring. I ended up adding a small strip of tape to the underside of the bow to get the sustain to match better with that of the crash and hi-hats.
20″ Flat Ride
The medium-thin 20″ Kommagene flat ride provided a cooling contrast to the washier, smokier timbre of the 22″, while remaining consistent with the dark yet crisp vibe of the entire series. As expected, this ride had little sustain (because of the bell-less design), controlled volume, and a sparkling, woody stick click. It didn’t have as many high-end overtones as the flat ride that modern jazz legend Roy Haynes made famous on Chick Corea’s classic album Now He Sings, Now He Sobs, but it’s a close cousin to that archetype.
Sizes: 15″ hi-hats, 18″ crash, 20″ flat ride, 22″ ride
Finish: proprietary process to darken
Hammering: wide, deep, asymmetrical