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Artisan Elite Series Cymbals

A limited range of dry, low-pitched rides and hi-hats from Canada’s top cymbalmaker.

Sabian has spent the past few years refining its manufacturing process to incorporate more traditional old-world-style techniques. First it released a slew of nasty, gnarly Big & Ugly raw-looking and dry-sounding rides. Then came the sophisticated and tasteful Vanguard series, which is an adaptation of designs that Sabian acquired after purchasing the Turkish-made Crescent brand. The original Sabian HH series also got remastered, and now the company is adding a small selection of hi-hats (14″ and 16″) and rides (20″ and 22″) to its high-end Artisan range, called Artisan Elite, that integrates some of the dry, dark qualities it unearthed when developing the Big & Ugly line.

14 and 16 Hi-Hats

The objective with the Artisan Elite hi-hats was to create something that’s “deeper, darker, and dirtier,” as explained on To achieve that, the cymbals are processed with extensive multi-peen, high-density hammering. The lathing technique leaves traces of raw, oxidized bronze on the surface of the top and bottom sides of the cymbals, which is said to add complexity to the tone while also making the foot chick stronger.

All Artisan Elite cymbals are made from B20 bronze, which is a highly musical alloy that’s eighty percent copper and twenty percent tin. The 14″ hi-hats ($609) have a medium-light top and a medium-heavy bottom. They have a great combination of crispy articulation, medium-low tone, and quick, controlled sustain. The foot chick is strong and clear, and the stick sound carries a bit of chunky metallic bite without sounding clunky or heavy. These hi-hats responded great to light, delicate dynamics, yet they had plenty of volume and projection for more aggressive styles. I foresee many Sabian artists, across a multitude of genres, flocking to the 14″ Artisan Elites for their great versatility, both live and in the studio.

The 16″ Artisan Elite hi-hats ($739) have bigger, flatter bells than the 14″ pair, and they’re weighted differently. The top cymbal is light, and the bottom is medium. The flatter bells help lower the pitch, and the lighter weight gives them a softer feel without going so far as to make them sound hollow or fluffy. The sparse lathing helps add complexity and control, which is helpful for keeping these oversized hi-hats from becoming unruly when played open. I’m a fan of combining 16″ crash cymbals to create deep-sounding/soft-feeling hi-hats. The 16″ Artisan Elites provide a similarly breathy, low-pitched tone while also having more clarity, power, and presence.

20 and 22 Rides

Like the 16″ hi-hats, the 20″ ($449) and 22″ ($589) Artisan Elite rides have wide, low-profile bells, which produce rich, deep tones that are well-integrated within the overall cymbal sound. The stick sound on both cymbals is deep and woody, and the sustain is dark but dry. The medium-light 20″ Artisan Elite ride produced a full, breathy crash with a fairly muted sustain, which is great for situations where you want to be able to punch accents without obliterating the mix with tons of wash.

The medium-light 22″ Artisan Elite ride had a lower pitch and a bit more wash than the 20″, but the sustain and decay remained controlled and quick. I felt that the 22″ was more versatile than the 20″ because of its more open tone, fuller crash, and richer stick click.

The bells on both Artisan Elite rides are incredibly musical, and there’s not a huge volume spike when going from riding on the bow to striking the bell. The rides also have a fair amount of flex and wobble. They excel when played at low to moderate volumes, and they’d be a great choice for studio situations where you need to minimize cymbal bleed into the drum mics.

The Artisan Elite lineup is gorgeous looking and sophisticated sounding. The cymbals incorporate some of the dry, complex qualities created by employing old-world manufacturing techniques while maintaining the full-frequency and focused tones that have made Sabian a favored brand among many types of drummers.

Michael Dawson