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Zildjian S Family Cymbals

by Michael Dawson

A new B12-bronze lineup with broader musical scope.

After two years of research and development, Zildjian has released a new series of B12 (12% tin and 88% copper) cymbals, the S Family, to replace its mid-level ZHT line. While retaining the bright, explosive tonal qualities and competitive price point that its predecessor was known for, the S Family is designed to offer a more balanced frequency response and expressivity for use in a variety of musical situations.

We were sent a sampling of Zildjian’s top sellers in this new S series, which included a 10″ splash, 14″ regular and Mastersound hi-hats, 16″, 18″, and 20″ Thin crashes, 18″ and 20″ Medium-Thin crashes, an 18″ Rock crash, 18″ and 20″ Trash crashes, an 18″ China, 20″ Medium and Rock rides, and 22″ and 24″ Medium rides. All of the cymbals are fully lathed top and bottom, heavily hammered, and polished to a brilliant finish.

Zildjian S Family Splash cymbal10″ Splash
This little effects cymbal is paper-thin and possesses a glassy, high-pitched tone with a fast, bright attack and short sustain. It sounds best when smacked at medium or higher dynamics, as softer strikes didn’t get all of the overtones to speak evenly. Even though it’s quite thin, this S Family splash has a fairly firm feel—one that gives the sense that it will be quite durable for harder-hitting gigs. List price is $79.95.

14″ Hi-Hats
Josh Dun of the alt-rock/pop duo Twenty One Pilots is currently using several S Family cymbals on the road, including the 14″ hi-hats. When interviewed about them for a video on Zildjian’s YouTube channel, Dun stated that the S series is easier for their sound engineer to control, and they don’t obliterate his bandmate Tyler Joseph’s ears. The first things that I noticed about the 14″ S hi-hats was their slightly muted sustain (which makes them less harsh when played at high volumes), firm feel, and bright, clear tone. The top cymbal is medium weight and the bottom is heavy. Like the splash, the 14″ S Family hi-hats sound best when played at medium to loud dynamics. The closed sound allows for great articulation, the open sound is bright yet controlled, and the foot chick is clean and crisp.

Zildjian S Family Mastersound Hi-Hats

The 14″ Mastersound S Family hi-hats feature a hammered-edge bottom, which is designed to prevent airlock and to provide a faster chick sound and more balanced presence. I noticed that they had a deeper tone than the regular hi-hats, and they had a more shimmery open voice. Closed stick hits sounded a bit broader while remaining crisp and quick. Both sets of S Family hi-hats would be good for modern rock, electronica, metal, contemporary R&B, and other heavily amplified playing situations. List price
is $199.95.

Thin, Medium-Thin, and Rock Crashes
The 16″, 18″, and 20″ S Family Thin crashes had a quick attack, bright and high-pitched sustain, and moderately short decay. They pack a lot of punch, which makes them great for situations where you need clear definition. Matt Greiner of August Burns Red states in a Zildjian promo video that he prefers the S Family Thin crashes because with them he’s able to articulate different dynamics easily, even when striking the same cymbal multiple times in a row. The 16″ S crash has the brightest attack and the most shimmer ($119.95), the 18″ is more focused and full-bodied ($139.95), and the 20″ has the broadest and most balanced wash ($169.95).

The Medium-Thin versions—we had 18″ and 20″ crashes—sounded similar to the Thins but with less shimmer, more focus and power, and longer sustain. The 18″ Medium-Thin had the most all-purpose sound of all the crashes, while the 20″ Medium-Thin was more explosive and had a deeper and more billowing sustain.

The 18″ Rock crash is designed to cut through the mix, and it does so with a strong and punchy attack, a bright and high-pitched sustain, and a long decay. You really need to smack this crash to get it to speak fully, but when you do you get rewarded with a full, powerful, and well-balanced sound.

Zildjian S Family Trash Crash Cymbals18″ and 20″ Trash Crashes and 18″ China
Trash crashes are thin cymbals with rows of different-sized holes cut into them to add distortion to the tone. The S Family Trash crashes have a high pitch, but the sustain is shorter and less glassy than that of the regular S crashes. The 18″ Trash crash had a papery attack and a nice amount of trashiness that dirtied up the tone without going so far as to turn it into a special-effects cymbal. To my ears, the 18″ Trash crash had a nice, complex character that was reminiscent of what you get from a heavily hammered B20 crash. List price is $149.95.

The 20″ Trash crash had a grittier, nastier sound with very little sustain. This cymbal bridged the gap between the all-impact smack of the 18″ China and the overdriven tone of the 18″ Trash crash. List price is $179.95.

The 18″ S Family China, which is a favorite of metal great Jason Bittner, is a thin cymbal with a medium-bright tone, short sustain, and sharp, explosive attack. The cup is flattened on top to allow for easy upside-down positioning. It delivers everything you need from a China, meaning it hits fast and hard, has a gnarly tone, and gets out of the way quickly. You’ll no doubt see this cymbal in use by many of the metal drummers on Zildjian’s roster. List price is $139.95.

20″, 22″, and 24″ Medium and 20″ Rock Rides
The S Family Medium rides have a bright and even sustain, clean attack, and moderate crash potential. The 20″ version ($169.95) was the most all-purpose of the three. It provided clear articulation and has a bright bell and moderate wash. The 22″ ($189.95), which was my favorite of the three, has a mellower wash, a richer ping, and a deeper-sounding bell. The 24″ Medium ride ($209.95) has the most defined ping, the lowest pitch, and the strongest bell. The 20″ Rock ride ($189.95) is medium-heavy and has long sustain, super-clean articulation, and a very powerful bell.

While they may lack some of the nuance necessary to be fully satisfying in low-volume, acoustic situations, the S Family cymbals excel in contemporary, full-volume applications where punch, power, and precision are the name of the game.