Saluda Cymbals Review - June 2008

Saluda Cymbal Review - June, 2008

Review  by:  T. Robinson

Getting manufacturers to cough up gear to review is a very difficult thing to do when you’re a small site.  So whenever we get the opportunity to review products, or we’re pushy enough, we jump on it.

Saluda Cymbals has been around for a few years now and have made their reputation by making custom cymbals catered to the individual drummer – in other words, you tell them what you want for sound for a particular cymbal and they will craft that cymbal, or attempt to, to what you want.  This is a great way to market and sell cymbals in my opinion as the drummer is taking an active role in getting the sound he wants.  The same could be said for picking a cymbal in a local music shop however in that shop you have to sit and hit maybe 10 different cymbals, some may be the exact same models, in order to get a particular sound. 

I’d been hearing stories on and off for the last few years, both on Pearl’s drum forum (there’s an entire thread dedicated to Saluda in their Cymbal forum), and Drumrock, here courtesy of our long time forum member Smoke N’ Drums as he is a Saluda artist.

When I got it in mind that I wanted to pick up a pair of aux hats and start replacing my Wuhan china’s I started looking around at the Sabians that I thought might fit the sound I was going after.  That’s where I ran into a snag however as budget dictated I couldn’t pay $300 for a china or $350 for the hats that I was considering.  Not to mention the cost in gas these days it would have taken to drive around the Seattle metro area to find a) the models I was considering and b) the sound within those models that I was looking for.   

With that in mind I decided to go up and browse Saluda’s site to see what they had to offer. 

They have an extremely broad line of cymbals to choose from, given this is a web site, I’m not going to list them all out, just go here: http://www.saludacymbals.com/c/products.html to get an idea.  After reading the descriptions I decided that, for the type of music we were recording at the time that Black Mist hats fit the bill, and for my china a Voodoo Pre-aged would be perfect.

At this point I opened up a dialog with Jamie at Saluda.  Jamie is a great guy to work with, and I didn’t make it easy – I purposefully ran several email threads regarding both the cymbals I was looking at buying and at the same time started discussing getting something from them outside what I was buying to review.  My one complaint with him during this process is that there were times where a few days would go by before I got a response.  That being said, given the amount of work he does, I’m reluctant to fault him much for that as he is extremely busy with crafting cymbals along with fielding what I’m sure are dozens, if not hundreds of emails and phone calls a day.  I would hope however, that as his business continues to increase, that he brings on some help to get past this.

Back to the cymbal discussion we had running – after describing what I was looking for in a sound (and finish) for both the hats and the china, we decided that the Black Mist hats I’d been looking at would fit nicely and that he could do a Voodoo china with a Black Mist finish.  In the course of the discussions as well, we finally decided that along with the gear I was buying that he would send along an as then undecided crash for us to review as well.  (It’s been my intention to review both the review cymbal they sent along with what I purchased all along.)

Saluda’s prices are VERY reasonable and for both the 13” Black Mist hats and the Voodoo china with the Black Mist finish, the total with shipping, came out to $249.00.  This is about $50-$100 less than just the china from Sabian that I had been looking at.   So I ordered them just as easy as that.  I also made the payment part of the process as painful as I could – paying via money order which I had fedex’d to Saluda and requiring a signature on their end.  Needless to say, short FedEx’s laziness, it wasn’t as painful as I tried to make it.  Saluda was more than happy to accept a money order and once they got it, they started making my cymbals.

I should note here that I really have an aversion, as any drummer should, to purchasing cymbals sound unheard.  It’s rarely a winning idea.  That being said, given Saluda’s policy of returning it if you don’t like the sound, send it back and they’ll make it right.   I think this is a great business model and I hope its sustainable is Saluda’s business increases.

Less than two weeks after ordering I came home to find a box from Saluda sitting on my doorstep.  I was excited to say the least.  Upon opening it I found my 13” Black Mist hats:

And a 16” crash from their new Symbolic series:

But no china.  I was a little perplexed at that point and queried Jamie on it.  That cymbal was still being worked evidently.  This irked me a tad as I had expected everything I had paid for at once, but I decided to wait it out.  (To that note, I’m very glad I did)

The first thing I did was give the hats and crash a close inspection – there were no cracks, scratches, or keyholes in either the hats or the crash, as one would expect from a new cymbal.

The hammering pattern on the hats is very tight, close.  The bottom hat is slightly heavier than the top, with only about 70 grams separating the two in terms of weight.  The finish was a lot more black than mist on these, which I pointed out to Jamie, and he said that that’s more of the finish they were shooting for with that line.  There were some noticeable fine sandpaper marks here and there, and while I was assured that these were intentional, if they were, they look a tad sloppy to me in so far as something like this sliding past the QA process.  Since it in no way affects the sound of the hats, I’m not going to get picky over aesthetics. 

The Symbolic has a very unique pattern of lathed and raw sections on the cymbal.  The hammering pattern was a little looser than the hats.  Jamie described the sound on this crash as darker and jazzier than most cymbals.  We’ll get to sound and my thoughts on that here shortly.  

So I proceeded to set up the hats in my primary hat position, even though they’d become my aux hats, and pulled my 14” AAX Studio crash, put the 16” AAX Studio crash in its place, and put the 16” Symbolic where the 16” AAX had been for comparison purposes.  

The hats are very bright when played closed, and while it does take a little more to get it out, the “chik” is well defined when you lay into it some:

BLACK MIST HATS CLOSED CLIP                     BLACK MIST HATS "CHIK" CLIP

As you open them up the sound changes and goes from bright to very trashy rather quickly…the trashy end of the spectrum (wide open) isn’t as smooth as I originally would have thought I’d like to have but the more I play them the more the sound evens out and the sound is great.

BLACK MIST HATS OPEN CLIP                           BLACK MIST HATS MID OPEN CLIP 

Playing out a simple groove the hats sound like this:

SAMPLE GROOVE CLIP

Simply put I love these hats – they’re well suited across a broad range of music (see the torture test remarks below).  I’ve since moved these into the aux spot on my kit, right now in a mid closed position using a Gibraltar X-hat mount until I can pick up the RH2000 I’ve been lusting after forever.  

On the crash side, the cymbal is indeed darker than a lot of crashes I’ve heard, with a ring out time of about six seconds as opposed to my 16” AAX which takes about 9 seconds and is very bright on a “normal” stroke.

SYMBOLIC NORMAL HIT CLIP                         AAX STUDIO NORMAL HIT CLIP

This particular cymbal has a weak spot however, and that is on light hits.  My drum instructor at Donn Bennett Drum Studios pointed this out to me as I had not checked that aspect of the cymbal.   There is little sound past the tip of the stick hitting the cymbal, at least initially when he was demo’ing it.  I managed to coax some out of it but it’s still a very flat sound.

SYMBOLIC LIGHT HIT CLIP

Overall it’s a nice cymbal, worked very well in the torture test (see below).  It’s a dark sound, with very short sustains and sounds great when hit with normal to hard strokes.  It is weak on the light side however which given the positioning of this series I’d like to hear a bit more tone when hit with a lighter stroke.   I would imagine that if it were played out more than I had the chance to that the tone would come out more, and if it didn’t I have no doubt that were it one I owned I could send it back toSaluda and have them fix it to my tastes.  That being said, this specific cymbal isn’t one I would necessarily own in and of itself but, it does have certain sound characteristics that I will be specifying when I order my crashes.

And now the china.  I ordered an 18” Voodoo Pre-aged with a Black Mist finish.  Prior to this cymbal, I’d been working with a 12” Wuhan (absolute crap sound) and a 16” Wuhan (which ironically is a great sounding cymbal).  The finish on this one is more mist than black, which I had expected on the hats, but got the opposite.  For the china it works.

I had to wait for this cymbal.  I’m an impatient person. I know it; it’s a flaw of mine, so waiting for me is not an easy thing.  The longer it took to get it, the more impatient I got, but I held my tongue, as Jamie assured me it was coming.  

I’m glad I did.  

This china is what I was expecting and more.  The sound is, for me, incredible, and I hope that when I go to purchase the 20” version I want later on he can coax the same qualities out of that.  It’s a typical china form, thicker in the middle, but Saluda lathed it out thinner as you get closer to the edges.  If they’d have went one step further you’d be able to cut yourself on the edge, it’s that fine. 

My one beef with it is a surface flaw where the bell meets the body of the cymbal that at first glance looks like a “W” shaped crack.  After discussion with Jamie we decided that it is more than likely just a surface anomaly.  I have marked the outer tip of this flaw and throughout testing (including the torture test) it hasn’t changed.  Even with that, I’ve been given assurances that if it breaks or cracks at that point that it would be replaced.  Given the sound of this thing, I’m hoping it never changes, cracks or breaks.)

The sound of this china, for want of a better way to put it, when hit with some authority will take your head off.  I finally had to give in and buy hearing protection to play with now. 

When hit with a normal stroke this china just cuts – a trashy, fine, sound that rings out exactly where I’d expect a cymbal of this type to end up.

CHINA REGULAR STROKE CLIP

Hit this thing hard and you’ll kill any small insect within 6 feet.   

CHINA HARD STROKE CLIP

Even a light stroke produces an excellent quality sound that rings out a little longer than my Wuhan, but given the 2” size difference I would expect it too! 

CHINA LIGHT STROKE CLIP

In case you can’t tell, I love this china.  The sound is just prime, across a range of playing, and in the torture test it took a pounding and didn’t even blink.  If you want to hear it on my kit, go back up and listen to the basic groove sample as the china in that sample is the Voodoo.  

I’ve referred several times to my “Torture Test”.  I’m a fairly decent drummer but Danny Carrey I am not.  So what better way to torture a cymbal than attempt to play a few Tool songs, with great enthusiasm, to put a cymbal through its paces.   Given that I’m nowhere near Danny’s caliber of a drummer, this is true torture, both for the cymbals I’m hitting, and the ear, which is why you’ll never hear any sound clips of these tests.      The test consists of four songs, 46&2, Stinkfist, Parabola, and Lateralus.  I don’t try to play them exact or even close but I do I play them with enthusiasm.  So running through these songs is a great way for me to break in, and attempt to break, a cymbal.

All three, hats, crash, china stood up to this test well – and this is actually where I got the best sound out of the Symbolic crash.  The short sustain and the tonal quality on the harder strokes really brought out some nice sounds from the crash.  The china and the hats withstood the abuse as well.

Durability isn’t an issue here, as with any other aspect of drumming, proper technique is going to help with the longevity of any drum component, cymbal or otherwise.  

I’m very happy with Saluda overall.  The quality of the cymbals is hands down in line with the top three manufacturers out there.  Where Saluda surpasses the “big three” is the flexibility and the ability for the drummer to step in and say “This is the sound I’m looking for, this is what I want it to look like!” and get just that, and if not, simply returning it to Saluda so they can make it right.   I’d like to see a little more responsiveness out of them, and as they grow it’s going to get harder and harder for them to do.  Jamie tells me they’re expanding and with that expansion I’d like to see them add some staff to field some of the hundreds of emails they get.  All of that being said, these guys are still great to work with, produce an outstanding product at an affordable price, and I will definitely be adding more Saluda to my cymbal armory!

16” Symbolic Crash:

Quality: 

5/5

 

Sound Characteristics:

3/5 This could have been 4/5 if not for the lack of tone on the light stroke.  Given that, I gave it a “qualified” 3/5 as I know they’d fix it for me if it were my cymbal.

13” Black Mist Hats

Quality:

4/5 – A tad more QA on the finish side would have been nice, but this is cosmetic and really has no affect on sound.

 

Sound Characteristics:

5/5

18” Voodoo China:

Quality:

5/5

 

Sound Characteristics:

5/5

Saluda as a company:

 

5/5

Check out Saluda Cymbals:


Buy them here:

Thanks to Jamie and Saluda for working with us on this and more!!!


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