Strategically hammered for more explosive, trashy tones without veering all the way into special effects.

The Zildjian cymbal catalog can be split into two lanes: A and K. The A lane comprises all the subseries that were born from the original Zildjian USA “Avedis” sound. These series (A, Avedis, A Custom) provide clean, bright, and expressive tones and can be heard on recordings dating back to the big band era of the ’30s and through the peak of Motown, the birth of rock ’n’ roll, and much of today’s modern genres.

The sounds within the K lane (Constantinople, K Custom, K, and Kerope) date back much further, to the company’s origins in 19th-century Turkey, and feature warmer, lighter, and lower-pitched tones. Recently the standard K series was expanded with the introduction of the K Sweet line of extra-thin, raw-bell hi-hats, crashes, and rides. The latest addition is the K Cluster crash, which starts as a 16, 18, or 20K Sweet crash but features eight tight pockets of deep under-hammering to give the cymbals a shorter, trashier tone. (Zildjian aficionados might recall that the cluster hammering technique was first employed on the 22Constantinople Bounce ride to replicate the smokier, grittier tone of a well-worn Turkishera K ride owned by jazz great Kenny Washington.) We were sent a sample of all three K Cluster crashes to review, so let’s check them out.

The Specs

The K Cluster crashes are categorized as being “paper-thin,” which is the lightest demarcation in Zildjian’s catalog. They bend pretty easily in the hands while retaining a fairly firm, stable feel. Their large bells are unlathed and feature a multicolored patina finish. The rest of the cymbal is lathed lightly and tightly and is hammered extensively from the base of the cup to .5″ from the edge. The eight pockets of additional hammering are strategically positioned so that there’s an inner group of four clusters placed evenly around the cymbal and close to the bell and an outer group located nearer the edge and off set from the inner clusters. Off setting the clusters in this way provides maximum sonic effect with minimal impact on the integrity of the cymbal itself.

The Sounds

If you were to categorize the sounds of different types of crash cymbals on a sliding scale from ultraclean and lush to super fast and trashy, the K Cluster crashes would be positioned just one step to the right of the K Sweet models. They’re not nearly as explosive, aggressive, and trashy as an Oriental China Trash or even a perforated K EFX cymbal. Rather, they sound much more like a beautiful, rich K paper-thin crash that’s been perfectly broken in after years of use.

The attack of the K Cluster crashes is a bit quicker and flashier than that of a brand-new K Sweet crash, and the decay is a bit shorter. Likewise, the body of the tone has more complexity and “dirt” but not so much as to overshadow the warm, lush overtones. Imagine that bittersweet sound of your favorite, well-worn crash cymbal when it’s right on the verge of giving out and cracking…yet it never does. That’s the sound of these new K Cluster crashes.

As expected, the 16″ K Cluster crash had the fastest attack and quickest decay, while the 18″ and 20″ had more robust impact and longer and more saturated sustain. All three sizes have taken over as my first-choice crash options for all recording sessions and live dates. List prices are $274.95 for the 16″, $324.95 for the 18″, and $364.95 for the 20″.