(mtebaldi | Posted 2011-03-31)
Purchasing cymbals can be a complicated task. They come in a wide variety of options and with prices that can put quite a dent in a drummer’s pocket. Finding the cymbals that perfectly match one’s music style and taste will certainly take some intense research. Although the cymbal market is mostly dominated by three very recognizable names (Zildjian, Sabian and Paiste), in the last few years we have seen the emerging of new companies that starting to share a piece of this pie. Brands like Meinl, Bosphorus and Istambul have cymbal lines that are now used by many renowned drummers and percussionists around the world. The uprising of new cymbal companies hasn’t stop yet. Recently, a new cymbal brand started to show up in every drum magazine and website I usually read. They were called TRX Cymbals and they were announcing the release of a new cymbal line, The ICON Series. Being the cymbal lover that I am, my ears started to beg to find out more about them. What I found out? It wasn’t only a fresh company with passion towards the craft of cymbal making, but also a company that boasts a very interesting cymbal catalogue that includes a wide variety of cymbal sizes and type, certainly able to satisfy drummers of all styles.
What grabbed my attention about the ICON Series was its description about how it aims to “…combine the warmth and body of vintage cymbals with the brightness and projection…” These adjectives are always great to be seen together in a quote about cymbals. Fortunately I had the chance to see for myself if these qualities were really to be found by trying a set of the most popular models of the ICON series, including the 14” hi hats, 16” & 17” thin crashes, 18” medium crash, 20” heavy crash, 21” ride, 10” splash, 18” stacker/trash and 19” china.
As for first impressions, the ICON Series’ look and weight is comparable to many other brilliant lathed cymbals found on the market. In a deeper view of its construction, one very important characteristic of the Icons shines on, putting this series apart from its counterparts; traditional hand hammering. Although many companies claim their cymbals are hand crafted and hand hammered, many times the hammering is done by use of hydraulic mechanical devices, instead of being accomplished by the employ of human arms and sweat. This sometimes unnoticed detail contributes heavily to the overall tone and sound result of a cymbal. By applying such technique to the ICON Series, TRX is able to deliver the warmth and vintage sound promised with these cymbals. Their brilliant finishes, on the other hand, takes care of making them responsive, with a sharp and defined attack.
After playing with the ICON Series for several hours at my studio, I was able to identify a hand full of positive qualities throughout the set. The 14” hi hat has a very nice response and high pitch, making it sound very clear in a mix. I was very surprised with that since I find only smaller hats had such characteristics. The beauty of the ICON hats is also the smooth and not-too-overpowering sizzling sound when you play them open. It gives power and definition without producing an overpowering or uncontrolled presence.
The ICON Crashes have a smooth attack, not being too piercing to the ears, or too overwhelming. They best define the vintage sound TRX was looking to give the ICON Series. The warmth definitely is present on them although still projecting just enough brightness. To me, these characteristics make them feel “distant” in the mix, but in a good way. They play their part without grabbing all the attention. Their decay is also sweet. Nice tone, smooth, not too short or too long. I particularly liked the 20” heavy crash as it can act as a ride cymbal too, with nice response when soft playing it and with a great bell sound.
Both of these qualities are also present on the 21” ride cymbal. Smooth and define attack, projecting sweet background tonalities when ridden. The bell follows that formula and its sound matches nicely with the hats. The ride also gives the drummer great dynamic control, sounding extremely clear during both loud and soft playing.
Now, moving to the “Sound Effect” type of cymbals. The 10” splash has rich sizzling attack quality with short decay. Although that’s generally how a splash sounds, once again, the smooth and not too overbearing response is what makes this cymbal sit great in the mix, making it very nice for beat riding as well. The 19” Stacker (vented cymbal with trash sound characteristics that can be stacked on top of other crash cymbals for further sound effect exploration) is one of my favorites in this series. With a bold and dark attack, it’s perfect for making your beat a statement. I guess I don’t need to mention that the stacker goes great with a double bass type of groove, do I? I also enjoyed riding it a lot, since it can create an unusual and dark type of mood to a groove. Last but certainly not least, the ICON china. With its traditional open and vivid sound quality, like the other ICON Series, it differentiates itself from other china cymbals by projecting a more controlled and smooth ring attack, with a held-back decay, making its presence defined and never too powerful, which I find as one of the biggest issues with most china cymbals on the market.
I could easily see myself using the ICON Series in many drumming style applications. The 14” hi hat + 20” heavy crash makes nice combo for a Jazz set. Medium and thin crashes + hi hat + ride is a great combination for pop/rock. Add the ICON splash to that and you’ve got cool and sweet set for funk and hip-hop. Of course you can go all the way for the whole series and have a great metal/hard rock cymbal set, with china and trash/stacker giving that extra cymbal power to your beats.
Firstly I must say that TRX Cymbals’ ICON Series definitely accomplish their purpose of offering a blend of vintage sound with modern response. The cymbal industry, as in the music industry, can be a tough market to make a name in and especially to be prosperous in. If the product doesn’t satisfy from the first time is used, chances are there won’t be a second chance. The ICON Series left me with satisfied ears and a hunger for what else TRX Cymbals has to offer. Clear, controlled, defined; such qualities I found on these cymbals can certainly lead the ICON Series living up to its name and becoming an iconic line.
For more information please visit www.trxcymbals.com
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