HH Remastered Cymbals
by Michael Dawson
A few thousand extra hammer strokes later, and the line that launched the brand is better than ever.
For the past couple years, Canadian cymbal company Sabian has been revamping its manufacturing to put greater focus on the old-world hand-hammered stage of its process. We saw the initial results of those efforts with the introduction of the gnarly, funky Big & Ugly series early last year. For 2016, Sabian decided to give a similar treatment to the line that the company made its initial launch with in 1982, the Hand-Hammered (HH) series. Each HH model is now hammered—by a human being—at least 3,000 times in an effort to bring out more complexity and tone. These new “remastered” HH cymbals feature thinner and more musical crashes, broader and richer rides, and warmer, faster hi-hats.
The sampling of HH Remastered cymbals we received for review consisted of a 22″ Medium ride ($439); 21″ Raw Bell Dry and Vintage rides ($405); 16″ ($269), 18″ ($319), and 22″ ($439) Thin crashes; 16″ ($269) and 18″ ($319) O-Zone crashes; and 14″ X-Celerator hi-hats ($449).
The Remastered HH 22″ Medium ride is a solid all-purpose cymbal that has an excellent balance of clear stick articulation and warm, smooth wash. The sustain has a touch of complexity to it, but it’s still clean and even. The bell sounds strong and rich, but it’s not overly piercing. The crash is big and washy. I imagine this cymbal will become a workhorse for many drummers who have to jump genres from gig to gig or from session to session. It’s dark and expressive enough to handle big band and modern jazz, but it also has the power to withstand more aggressive styles.
The 21″ Vintage ride is for players who want a thinner, quieter, and more Turkish-style ride sound without losing Sabian’s trademark clean and even tone. The stick ping is less pronounced than on the Medium, while the wash is more prominent. The Vintage bell has a more integrated sound that blends with the sustain rather then jutting above it. You can also crash the 21″ Vintage ride very easily, making it an ideal option for players looking to get a wide variety of timbres from a single cymbal.
On the other side of the spectrum sits the 21″ Raw Bell Dry ride, which has the most articulate stick tone of the three, as well as the loudest and clearest bell sound. The sustain is controlled and clean. Crashes are a bit gongy, but you can still get this cymbal to open up a bit for louder applications by striking the edge with the shoulder of the stick. I’d pull up this ride if I needed to cut through dense mixes or high stage volumes.
The Remastered HH crashes are my personal favorites of the group we sampled. They each have a smooth, warm tone with a touch of complexity, which makes them sound older than they are—like they’ve already been broken in from a few hundred hours of play. The 16″ and 18″ crashes hit fast and quick with a flashy, dark, and explosive attack, and then they get out of the way with a short but balanced decay.
The 22″ Thin crash falls in line with the warm, broken-in vibe of the 16″ and 18″, but it has broader sustain and slower attack. It also doubles nicely as a thin jazz ride, with decent articulation, breathy wash, and a very integrated, vintage-sounding bell. Like the 22″ Medium ride, the Remastered HH crashes are tailor-made for jack-of-all-trades drummers who need great-sounding crashes that will work in any genre.
The 16″ and 18″ HH Remastered O-Zone crashes feature 2″ holes cut at the center of the bow (six on the 16″ and eight on the 18″), which make the cymbals sound trashier, with a shorter sustain and less discernable pitch. They are both very fast and explosive, yet they still sound rich and musical. They’re nowhere as noisy as a China, but they offer a bit more bite than you’ll get in the more refined and rich flavors of the Thin crashes. The 18″ was my favorite because of its slightly deeper tone and wider wash.
The 14″ HH Remastered X-Celerator hi-hats feature a heavy, rippled Air Wave bottom cymbal that’s designed to eliminate airlock and to offer a strong, crisp foot “chick.” The top cymbal is medium-weight. Together the pair provides great clarity and cutting power while remaining expressive and musical at all volumes. Faster double strokes speak easily, and open barks are quick and easy to control. Shoulder strikes sound broad and chunky, and the open sound has a big and throaty tone. They’ll certainly hold up in the loudest of situations, and they’re designed more for that application, but you can get a variety of light, expressive sounds as well.
Alloy: B20 bronze
Sound: dark and smooth