Although it’s only existed since May of 2017, Legado Cymbals has captured the attention of many drummers looking for musically rich, inspiring sounds that won’t break the bank. The company is based in California, but the instruments are handmade by top artisans in Turkey. We were sent samples from four of the manufacturer’s six series in order to get an idea of what Legado cymbals are all about. Let’s dig in.
The Heritage series is Legado’s most versatile, diverse, and classic Turkish-style range. Sizes include 8″, 10″, and 12″ splashes; 13″–16″ hi-hats; 16″–20″ crashes; 20″–24″ rides; and 14″ and 16″–20″ Chinas. Each model is available in different weights and tones (bright or dark), and FX versions of the crashes, which feature 1″ and 5″ holes, are optional. These cymbals are hand hammered and lathed from the base of the bell to the edge. They have a fairly flat profile, and the bells are left raw.
We received an oversized setup comprising 16″ Bright hi-hats, a 20″ Paper-Thin crash, a 22″ Paper-Thin FX crash (with holes), and a 22″ Thin ride. The hi-hats have a medium-thin top and a medium bottom. The 20″ and 22″ crashes and 22″ ride are very flexible, so they have a soft feel with a lot of give and wobble.
All four models have consistent sonic qualities that include the warm, expressive, and complex tonality that’s made Turkish cymbals so highly coveted, yet they have a distinctly modern flavor as well. The 16″ hi-hats combine a soft, papery attack and deep, breathy sustain with more clarity and crispness than you’d usually get from such a large, thin pairing. I was also impressed by the lack of murky low-mid overtones, especially when playing the hi-hats partially or fully open. While I often prefer to use large hi-hats like these when playing drums by themselves, rarely can I find a comfortable spot for them within a mix with other instruments. These 16″ Heritage hi-hats sounded clear and cozy in a variety of styles, from jazz to hip-hop to classic rock.
The 20″ Paper-Thin crash had a clean, warm sound with a hint of trashiness and a slightly controlled decay. The 22″ Thin ride had a bit more sparkle, and the wash was breathier and more complex. The bells on both cymbals were highly musical, with just enough high overtones to cut above the wash without sounding too abrupt.
The 22″ FX crash had alternating stripes of .5″ and 1″ holes radiating out from the bell. The holes shortened the decay and added a powerful, trashy attack, but the cymbal still had a deep and musical tone. I could use it for single accents to punctuate figures and fills, or I could crash on it repeatedly for a washy white-noise effect that was aggressive but not overwhelming.
The 79V series comprises quicker, darker, and tighter sounds for drummers looking for drier and more stylized options. Like the Heritage series, a full range of 79V splashes, hi-hats, crashes, rides, and Chinas are available. The bells are raw and heavily hammered, and the bows are widely lathed, giving these cymbals a more unusual appearance. These cymbals have a slightly steeper profile and a firmer feel.
Our review samples included 15″ Bright hi-hats, a 19″ Paper-Thin crash, and a 24″ Paper-Thin ride. The bells on the hi-hats are smaller than those on the Heritage series, increasing control. The 79V hi-hats also have more high-end shimmer and a smooth, silvery tone, which gives them a brighter overall sound while retaining a soft and buttery feel.
The crash and ride had smoother and focused overtones and a slightly muted attack. The 19″ crash opened up with a nice, flashy attack when hit hard, but it decayed quickly, as if a piece of tape had been applied to the underside of the bow. The 24″ Paper-Thin ride had a nice mix of high-end detail, breathy sustain, and smooth, controlled decay. Most thin 24″ rides I’ve come across are super fun to play but can get overbearing at higher dynamics. The 79V 24″ Paper-Thin ride, however, provided a nice bed of warmth and wash while leaving plenty of sonic space in the low and middle registers for the rest of the kit.
Luxo Raw and Caspian Series
Some of the most unusual pieces in Legado’s catalog are in the Luxo Raw and Caspian series. The Luxo Raw models are only lathed on the bottom and are described as being “trashy, dry, and defined with a fast decay.” The Caspian series are raw on both sides and have a dark, earthy tone.
From these two series we were only sent a few choice models, including a 20″ Luxo Raw Paper-Thin crash, a 16″ Luxo Raw FX hi-hat bottom, and a pair of 16″ Caspian Dark FX hi-hats. The 20″ Luxo Raw crash has a deep tone, smooth decay, and punchy attack. It’s a bit more controlled than a typical 20″ thin crash, so you can get nice definition from the bow and bell for riding without the sustain sounding stifled or choked. This was my favorite cymbal of the samples we reviewed because it produced a big and powerful crash that was also focused and contained, making it ideal for recording.
The 16″ Luxo Raw FX hi-hat, featuring 1″ holes in the bow, was sent as an alternative bottom cymbal with the Heritage top. In that application, the Luxo Raw created a stronger foot chick and a denser and crisper stick sound, which translated into better articulation and tighter sustain.
The 16″ Caspian Dark FX hi-hats feature 1″ holes in the bottom cymbal and a mix of 1″ and .5″ holes in the top arranged in a bowtie pattern to allow for imperforated playing areas in opposing quadrants. The top cymbal is medium, and the bottom is medium-heavy. These hi-hats have a very dark, tight, and trashy sound that could be used as a secondary ride source for tight, stack-like sounds or as a primary sound when going for a distorted, lo-fi vibe. I was surprised by how responsive they were; there’s quite a bit of nuance to be explored via foot tension, playing dynamics, and where the cymbals are struck (edge versus bow or bell). I can see many of today’s modern jazz explorers, like Chris Dave, Eric Harland, Marcus Gilmore, and Justin Brown, getting a lot of mileage out of these odd yet highly expressive instruments.
Prices range from $72 for an 8″ splash to $280 for a 24″ ride. Check out more of what Legado offers, including the bright and crisp Royalty line, at legadocymbals.com.