Paiste launched the Masters series in 2011 as a collection of twelve unique, high-end ride cymbals made from traditional b20 bronze. The series was expanded in 2014 to include three crashes and two sets of hi-hats. This year Paiste introduced Masters Thin models, including 14″, 15″, and 16″ hi-hats; 20″, 22″, and 24″ crash-rides; and a 22″ Swish. Let’s check them out.
Masters Thin cymbals are designed for quiet to medium-loud live and studio situations that call for highly expressive and musical tones. They feature swelling, broad crash sounds; smooth, rich wash; silvery, crystalline attack; and subtle, integrated bells.
The 20″, 22″, and 24″ multifunctional crash-rides are the focal points of the line. They provided luscious, full crashes as well as refined, expressive articulation. The 20″ is the most crash-like of the three, and the 24″ had the strongest ride potential. The 22″ was a great marriage of the two, delivering sparkling stick attack and dynamic, explosive crashes. Minimalist drummers looking to create a small setup incorporating a single cymbal will find everything they need in the 22″ Masters Thin. It had a warm, classic tone that’s not as complex or trashy as some vintage-style hand-hammered cymbals, plus it had extra high-end clarity that gave it a touch more articulation. I preferred using the 20″ as a large crash and an alternative washy ride, while the 24″ was best suited for massive accents and Bonham-style ride grooves. In fact, the Masters Thin crash-rides were reminiscent of the Giant Beat cymbals Bonham used in the early days with Led Zeppelin, only in a much darker, lower-pitched color.
The 14″, 15″, and 16″ Masters Thin hi-hats comprise a thin top and a medium-thin bottom. They have a vintage-like feel that’s softer than most contemporary hi-hats, and the stick sound is wide and airy. These cymbals had a very wide dynamic range. They responded well to different stroke types (tip, shoulder, etc.), producing smooth, warm sounds that had more high-end clarity than papery vintage hi-hats. Very few metallic overtones were present, which made them ideal for recording situations where heavier, brighter hi-hats often bleed into other mics on the drumkit.
The Masters Thin hi-hats could be hit hard, either closed or open, without fear of them becoming overwhelming. The 16″s were perfect for midtempo tracks, while the 14″s were super-expressive at lower dynamics—Think Papa Jo Jones’ smooth open-closed swing beat with the Count Basie big band. The 15″ Master Thins were a happy medium between the big, swooshing voice of the 16″s and the quick, airy vibe of the 14″s. As such, they were the most all-purpose of the three.
The 22″ Swish is the most musically satisfying China-type cymbal I’ve every played. It’s very thin, so it has a quick response, and the sustain is smooth and balanced. While it has a complex and trashy attack, the tone is more exotic and smoky than harsh and abrasive. You can play on the bow for sizzling, simmering ride patterns, or you can smack the edge for hissing accents. Mallet swells are cinematic, and bell strikes produce a swathe of unique overtones. If you’d like to add a large effects cymbal that’s more sophisticated sounding than a typical China, give the more subtly toned 22″ Masters Swish a try. It’s as good as it gets.