Istanbul, Turkey, is widely recognized as the epicenter of traditional handcrafted cymbals. Master craftsman Mehmet Tamdeger founded Istanbul Mehmet in 1996, after Agop Tomarcuk, his longtime business partner at the original Istanbul factory, passed away. In the ensuing twenty-plus years, Mehmet has continued to refine his classic-style cymbals as well as innovate a wide variety of modern designs. The Hamer models we have for review, which feature large, deep hammer marks for additional trashiness and complexity, should appeal to drummers favoring the dry, dark, quick, and explosive sounds that are currently popular.

16″ Hi-Hats

Hamer hi-hats are available in 10″, 12″, 13″, 14″, 15″, and 16″ sizes. We were sent a 16″ pair. Both cymbals are fully lathed on the underside, while the tops are only lathed on the outer 2″. The rest of the surface is raw. In addition to traditional hammer patterns, both cymbals feature about sixteen larger dimples on the bow created with a wide hammer. The top cymbal is medium-thin, and the bottom is heavy.

Even though they’re oversized, these cymbals performed like a standard set of hi-hats, rather than like a pair of crash cymbals. They were extremely articulate and crisp, producing a chunky closed sound when struck with the shoulder of the stick and a defined “tick” when played on top with the tip. The larger diameter resulted in a lower-than-average pitch, and the extra hammering introduced some complexity and trashiness when I played the cymbals in a partially open position. The foot chick was strong and tight. They had a slower response to quick, open barks, but they clamped back down to the closed position with little residual sustain or overtone. These would be ideal hi-hats for players looking for a darker, deeper tone that has some of the trashiness you’d get from well-worn vintage cymbals or by pairing up some thin crashes, but with a much sturdier, chunkier, and robust tone.

Split, Classic, and Flange Crashes

Hamer crashes are available in 14″ to 20″ sizes and in three styles. The Split crashes look similar to the hi-hats, with a lathed bottom and partially lathed top. They have additional dimple hammerings, which gives the metal a looser, thinner feel and extra trashy overtones. The 17″ Split crash we checked out had an interesting sound that had a quick yet somewhat muted attack, a dark and dry tone, and a fast decay. You could potentially ride on the raw portion of the bow at low volumes and achieve a clean, woody attack with a controlled wash, and the bell produced a rich, dark tone. I would take this cymbal on low-volume gigs that also demand nuanced, complex crash/ride timbres.

The 17″ Classic crash is fully lathed on both sides and has roughly the same number of dimple marks as the Split, but its sound is a stark contrast—deeper, more defined, trashier, and with a more abrasive sustain. The attack was equally fast, but the decay was a bit longer and the tone was a bit harsher. This cymbal effectively bridges the gap between the short, explosive tone of a China and the complex, dark sound of a thin, hand-
crafted crash.

The Flange crash looks a lot like the Split crash, except that all of the extra-wide hammer marks are located only on the lathed outer portion. This pattern softens the edges considerably and gives the cymbal a lot of flex. You can hear a bit of pitch wobble when you strike the Flange crash with force at the edge. But when struck with a more delicate flick of the stick, it opens up with a complex, breathy tone without excessive volume, which sounded great when punctuating the ends of musical phrases and fills. The 18″ Flange crash that we tested was my favorite of the group, especially when paired with the ride in jazz and fusion contexts.

22″ Dry Ride

There are two types of rides in the Hamer series: Warm and Dry. Both are available in 20″ to 22″ sizes. The Warm models have the dual finished tops like the hi-hats and Split crashes. The Dry rides, including the 22″ version we reviewed, are completely raw and have large, random hammer marks across the bow. Aptly named, the 22″ Hamer Dry ride has very little sustain and a clear, dark, and woody stick response. The bell has a deep and rich sound with just a touch of overtone. The extra hammering gave the cymbal a soft, broken-in feel and introduced some complexity that gave ride patterns a touch of trashiness without excessive wash. Playing slow ride patterns on the Dry ride didn’t feel overly bare, while ultra-fast patterns spoke with supreme clarity at low and moderate volumes. It’s not often that you’ll come across a ride cymbal that strikes that delicate balance between clarity, complexity, and expressiveness. This is one of those times.