A modernized approach to entry-level bronze.
Released earlier this year, Zildjian’s new I Family of cymbals was designed to provide bright and expressive sounds at ultra-affordable prices. These traditionally finished B8 bronze additions replace the discontinued ZBT series and comprise a full range of models, from a paper-thin 10″ splash up to a 22″ medium ride. The I Family is also fleshed out with a few modern effects, including 16″ and 18″ Chinas, a 17″ Trash crash, and a 14″ Trash crash that can also double as an alternative hi-hat top. We were sent a 10″ splash, 14″ regular and Mastersound hi-hats, 14″ and 17″ Trash crashes, 16″ and 18″ crashes, and a 20″ ride.
All of the I Family crashes are medium thin and have a bright tone with a fast attack, shimmery sustain, and fairly fast decay. The bells are slightly flattened, and the hammering marks are wide and prominent and are perfectly spaced around the bow. The 16″ model ($79.95) has a very high pitch and splashy attack. There’s not a lot of body to the tone, so it’s best relegated to quick accents. The 18″ version ($94.95) delivers a broader, wider tone while retaining a bright, glassy attack and crystalline wash. If you can only use one crash in your setup, I’d go with the 18″; it’s a richer and more versatile option. But for a compact setup for teaching, practice, or rehearsal, the 16″ and 18″ paired together nicely while providing a decent amount of sonic contrast.
Regular and Mastersound Hi-Hats
The 14″ I Family hi-hats were my favorites of the series. They provide a classic, bright hi-hat sound with great stick clarity, a well-defined foot “chick,” and full but controllable wash. The top cymbal is medium thin, and the bottom is medium. While not as rich and warm-sounding as their B20 New Beat brethren, the I Family B8 hi-hats were shockingly musical. And they’re only $125.95.
The 14″ Mastersound hi-hats pair the same medium-thin top with a medium-weight bottom that features additional hammering on the outer edge. The edge hammering is meant to help the cymbals produce a more defined chick while also increasing stick definition. They have a brighter and more focused tone that worked well for articulating faster patterns and for cutting through louder styles of music. They lacked some of the subtlety and versatility of the regular models, but they were impressive nonetheless. The 14″ Mastersound hi-hats also sell for $125.95.
The 20″ I Family ride is medium weight and high-pitched with clean stick definition and a balanced, even wash. The pitch of the bell is lower than expected and provides a strong, cutting tone. This would make for an excellent general-use ride for beginners or for practice/teaching studios. It has much more musicality and expressiveness than I expected. The price is $114.95.
The effects models in the I Family are designed to flesh out the series with more modern, aggressive, and trashy tones. The paper-thin 10″ splash sounds exactly as you would expect: bright, quick, and glassy, with a touch of gong-like pitch bend. The 16″ China ($79.95) is the nastiest of the bunch, producing a bright, punchy attack with a lot of projection and explosiveness. The 17″ Trash crash ($84.95) sounds more like the 18″ crash than the 16″ China, but it has a trashy, overdriven flavor, thanks to all of the dime-sized perforations punched through the bow.
The 14″ Trash crash ($62.95) can be used as a medium-sized accent cymbal or as an alternative hi-hat top. As a crash, it functioned more like a distorted splash. When used as a hi-hat top, it introduced a more saturated and, ironically, warmer and more nuanced tone. For softer playing, I preferred the sound of the I Family hi-hats using the 14″ Trash crash in place of the regular hi-hat top. If you’re looking to flesh out a basic I Family setup, I would start with the 14″ Trash crash.
All I Family cymbals are available separately or as part of different pre-packs. One option, the Pro Gig Pack, comes with 14″ hi-hats, 16″ and 18″ crashes, and a 20″ ride, at a cost of $339.95.
By Michael Dawson