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Masters Dark Crashes and Hi-Hats

Rich, warm, mix-ready tones from Switzerland’s super-consistent cymbalsmiths.

The Masters series started in 2011 as a dozen ride cymbals, made from Paiste’s CuSn20-formula bronze and designed for use in a variety of genres. Models included, among others, Medium, Dark Dry, and Dark Crisp. In 2014, the company fleshed out the series with three crashes (16″, 18″, and 20″) and two sets of hi-hats (14″ and 15″). We were sent a sample of each of the new offerings for review. Let’s start with the crashes.


16, 18, and 20 Crashes

All three Masters Dark crashes are medium-thin and are designed for low to medium-loud playing situations. They had a quick response and opened up easily at all dynamic levels, including super-delicate strokes. They also had a great combination of warm, smooth tones with just enough complexity that they sat within the texture of the music rather than jutting over the top of it. While the Masters Dark crashes were trashier than some of Paiste’s other offerings, such as 2002s or Giant Beats, they are in no way niche cymbals. In fact, they were about as all-purpose as any crashes I’ve ever played. They had a pleasing “broken in” sound (no harsh overtones or frequency imbalances) and felt very satisfying to hit. They also recorded beautifully.

The 20″ Masters Dark crash doubled very well as a light ride or a crash/ride. Its crash was big and lush, the bell sounds were clear but integrated, and the ride remained clean and articulate at low to moderate dynamics. This was a very versatile cymbal that I would use often as a left-side crash/ride in conjunction with one of the other Masters rides on the right side of my kit.


14 and 15 Hi-Hats

Both sets of Masters Dark hi-hats come with a medium-thin top and a medium-heavy bottom. They are also designed for low to medium-loud playing applications. Whereas I felt that the crashes in this series had widespread universal appeal, the hi-hats were a little more specialized. They had a complex tone, whether struck closed, open, or with the foot, so they didn’t offer ultra-crisp, clean articulation. They occupied a bit more sonic space, with a touch of sizzle beneath every stroke. They weren’t papery like some old hi-hats, but they did bring to mind more of a vintage vibe. The 14″ models were more controllable, so they fared better in situations where I needed to jump genres, from straight-ahead swing to classic rock.

The 15″ hi-hats had a lot more growl and rumble, and they produced a wider, deeper, trashier, and more expansive sound—almost like what you get when you use two crash cymbals as hi-hats, only with a more full-bodied tone. These hats paired well with the 20″ crash for grooves on a big, deep-tuned mahogany kit. They threw out an awesomely dark, rich bark and had a very commanding open sound for playing fast 8th-note beats, like Tom Petty’s “You Wreck Me.” Jazz players who prefer a super-low, “crashy” hi-hat sound would also dig these. Just be sure to have a second pair of more general-use hi-hats (like the 14″ Masters Darks) in your cymbal bag in case these are a bit too much for the gig.

Michael Dawson