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Paper-Thin Crashes, TriHats, and Libor Hadrava Stacks

Musical, affordable, and versatile options from Canada’s twelve-year-old “newcomer.”

Since 2005, Dream Cymbals and Gongs has been providing competitively priced handcrafted instruments that are designed by professional Canadian percussionists and manufactured by expert metalsmiths in China. The company’s product line includes traditional Chinese effects (Lion, Han, and Jing), interesting contemporary designs (Re-Fx), and five different drumset cymbal categories. These include thin Bliss and Vintage Bliss lines, the medium-weight Contact series, the heavier Energy models, and the raw Dark Matter cymbals.

This month we’re reviewing a few cool additions to Dream’s catalog: Paper-Thin Bliss crashes (14″–19″), two sets of 14″ TriHats, which come with three different cymbals to allow for a wide range of sonic options, and the equally versatile 10″ and 14″ Libor Hadrava signature stack packs, which include a Bliss series pang and a Contact series splash/crash. Let’s dig in.

Paper-Thin Bliss Crashes

Bliss series cymbals have earned a solid reputation for providing a warm, dark, and complex vintage-type tone and soft stick feel at an extremely competitive price point. (For example, a 16″ Bliss crash sells for $131.) The surface is micro-lathed by hand, and the bow has a low, gentle slope. The small bell helps increase articulation, and the entire surface is hammered before and after lathing. The new Paper-Thin crashes, which are available in 14″–20″ and 22″ sizes, are incredibly lightweight and pliable. I could easily bend each of the ones we were sent to review (14″–19″), and the bows could be partially inverted with a little pressure. The resulting sound is super-fast, flashy, and responsive.

The 14″ ($152) and 15″ ($176) had a cool combination of splashy attack and complex sustain, while the 16″ ($201) and 17″ ($224) offered a more complete crash sound with a fuller and warmer attack, a fairly clean midrange pitch, and a long, rich decay. The 18″ ($229) and 19″ ($283) Paper-Thins had a deeper, darker, and trashier tone, which made them excellent choices for swells and sustaining crash-ride effects. The 16″ and 17″ functioned great as all-purpose crashes; they provided a full crash from all dynamics. The 14″ and 15″ sizes would be best for fast accents that cry for a sound that falls in between a splash and a crash.

All of the Paper-Thin crashes have a soft feel and responsive voice. They really excel at lower volumes, but they can stand their ground in moderate to moderately loud applications. The bells have a highly integrated sound, which could be cool for bursts of quiet color, but they won’t produce a clear enough tone for most applications. If you need a crash with a more substantial ride and bell sound, check out the Bliss 18″–22″ crash-rides. Those are pretty killer too.

TriHat Elements and Diversity Sets

Consistent with Dream’s mission to give drummers more for less, the new TriHat sets come with three different 14″ hi-hat cymbals, each of which can be swapped out for use either on top or on the bottom, resulting in six unique sounds. The sets, which come with a free clutch and zip-up gig bag, are available with a Bliss bottom, Contact top, and Energy top (Elements set) or with a Bliss top, Contact bottom, and Energy bottom (Diversity set). Both sets sell for $481.50.

We began our test with the Elements series, starting with the medium-thin Contact top over the medium Energy top. This pair had fast, splashy open barks, á la Bernard Purdie, a soft and wide closed tone, and a complex and sloshy half-open sound. Using the medium-heavy Bliss bottom over the Energy top gave us a clearer stick sound, a brighter and purer open bark, and a more metallic and aggressive slosh. The Energy top over the Bliss bottom had a more conventional hi-hat sound, with cleaner stick articulation, a crisp foot chick, and a glassier open tone. The Contact top over the Bliss bottom had a breathier, old-school vibe that responded great at lower volumes. The Bliss bottom over the Contact top had increased presence and stick clarity while retaining a responsive feel. And the Energy top over the Contact top had a cool combination of woody attack, complexity, and controllability.

For the Diversity set, we began with the thin Bliss top over the heavy Energy bottom, which provided a fun fusion of brightness and richness. Open barks were very quick and flashy, while the closed stick sound was clear and chunky and the foot chick was strong and crisp. Swapping out the Bliss top with the medium-heavy Contact bottom upped the power, brightness, and clarity for more aggressive playing. Putting the Energy bottom over the Contact bottom introduced a drier and more metallic flavor, while the Bliss top over the Contact bottom offered a more expressive and dark jazz-type tone. (This was my favorite TriHat setup among both sets.) Reversing the setup and putting the Contact bottom over the Bliss top added a touch of attack and brightness. Finally, placing the Energy bottom over the Bliss top gave off a dry, earthy, and expressive Jack DeJohnette–type hi-hat tone. Both TriHat sets were quite impressive for the wide range of useable sounds they provided.


Libor Hadrava Stacks

Boston-based Dream endorser Libor Hadrava designed two sets of stacks that pair a thin Bliss pang with a medium-thin Contact crash/splash to produce an interesting array of special-effects sounds. The 10″ pair sells for $200 and the 14″ combo is $296. Sonically, the two pairs offer the same range of tones, with the 10″ cymbals having a higher pitch and shorter sustain while the 14″ models sound more aggressive and trashy. You can set them up with the pang on top of the splash/crash for a sharp attack, trashy burst, and a short, warm sustain. Flipping that configuration upside down (with an inverted splash/crash over an inverted pang) delivers a slightly darker sound with a bit more attack and wash.

Placing an inverted pang over an inverted splash gives off a fast, articulate hi-hat–type sound with a little bit of wash. This was my favorite setup, as it recalls some of the super-cool hi-hat stacker sounds used by top fusion/electronica drummers like Jojo Mayer, Benny Greb, and Mark Guiliana. Flipping the setup so the splash/crash is over the pang provided a brighter attack and a more choked texture.

The four previous configurations can be set up on a regular cymbal stand without any modifications to the felts or washers. If you have an x-hat, you can also explore two additional combinations. Placing the pang over an inverted crash/splash gives off a very tight electronic-like “chip” tone with a short sustain, while the inverse (splash/crash over inverted pang) sounds very trashy and defined with a varying amount of wash, depending on how tightly the cymbals are held together with the x-hat clutch. Like the TriHats, the Hadrava stacks are incredibly versatile for players looking to get unique, customizable tones out of small cymbal combos.

Michael Dawson