Compact, specially crafted pairings for bright and cutting textures.

Many modern drummers still favor trashy-sounding cymbals and stacks in their setups. Zildjian initially fulfilled that need a few years ago by revamping and reintroducing its legendary K Special Dry series. This past year, the company created a unique offering in its special-effects series, the FX Stack, which provides pre-packed stackers in 8, 10, 12, 14, and 16sizes designed to produce bright, fast, and cutting tones. We were sent samples of each size to review, so let’s check them out.

What Are They?
Each FX Stack comprises a rolled-steel bottom cymbal that’s lathed, hammered, and then finished to a sandblasted-like texture. The outer lip has been flattened slightly to create a perfect fit when paired with the proprietary Zildjian alloy top, either in a stack or hi-hat setup. The top cymbal has a bronze finish and has been punched with holes throughout the entire bow. The bells and bow curvature are identical, allowing for a perfectly flush and tight stack.

Every FX Stack also includes an exclusive mount made for Zildjian by Cymbolt. This mount replaces the wing nuts, felts, and washers on any existing stand so that you can quickly add, remove, or adjust the tension of the FX Stack. The Cymbolt comprises a 3.5threaded rod affixed to an upper wing nut, four black felts, and a second, removable wing nut that screws onto the bottom of the bolt to hold the cymbals at your desired tension. The bottom wing nut fits very tightly, so it will never loosen up during play. But it’s also easy enough to adjust when you want to tighten or loosen the cymbals. The bolt is long enough to accommodate a hi-hat setup, but you’ll have to remove most of the felts to use the FX Stack with the Cymbolt in that manner. When used in a standard stack position, all four felts can be left in place.

You don’t have to use the Cymbolt in order to play the FX Stack; they’ll fit onto any standard or auxiliary hi-hat stand just fine, and they can be used in a stack configuration with regular cymbal stand hardware. But the convenience of having the Cymbolt preset to your preferred tightness before sliding the FX Stack onto a stand is really slick, especially if you’d like to swap out one of your regular cymbals for an FX Stack quickly during a gig or session.

How Do They Sound?
The FX Stacks are designed to produce bright, fast, cutting tones that are ideal for staccato accents, quick articulate licks, and noisy electronic-inspired smacks. With all five sizes, there’s a sweet spot for the tension of the Cymbolt where the cymbals are loose enough to give you a touch of trashiness without sacrificing articulation. If the tension is too tight, the cymbals choke and you start to get a bit of overtone that might not be ideal. If the tension is too loose, you start to lose definition. I found the sweet spot by tightening the FX Stack as tightly as possible and then backing off the thumbscrew about one full rotation.

The 8and 10FX Stacks are excellent for quick timekeeping patterns and phrases that jump between the hi-hat, snare, and stack, à la electronica/jazz drummers Nate Wood, Mark Guiliana, and Zach Danziger. The larger pairs (12, 14, and 16) have slightly broader tones that match well with the chunkier timbre of medium-weight 13and 14hi-hats. And when loosened a bit, they provide a nice, wide electronic handclap-type attack. The larger models also have wider sonic palettes, where you can get drier, sharper tones by playing on the bell or bow and wider, trashier tones by focusing your strokes on the edge. While it’s not a sound for every drummer or every situation, having a couple of these FX Stacks in your gig bag will no doubt inspire you to go for some unexpected ideas when the time is right. And the best part is that they won’t cost you a fortune. The starting price is just $99.95 for the 8pair, while the 16 version is $169.95.

Michael Dawson