November 2004

Paiste Dimensions Cymbals

Although advertised as hand-hammered, Paiste Dimensions' production is clearly a scientific process that leaves no room for the odd, irregular cymbal. This also of course leaves no room for the odd, irregular and interesting, one-of-a-kind cymbal that you might find in a pile of Bosphorus, Istanbul, Zildjian Constantinople and of course old Zildjian A and K cymbals. Personally, I'm more than willing to wade through a couple dozen cymbals to find one of those sweet, quirky oddballs.

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Paiste Dimensions Cymbals

Obviously, Paiste doesn't stay in business depending on drummers like myself.

And as with all Paiste cymbals, the Dimensions Series is impressive in its sound consistency and clarity. There is little variance in thickness or tone within a single cymbal.

However, I do keep an open mind and ear and I really try to ignore the brand name and type marking on a given cymbal when I'm listening. In fact, even though I've been a lifelong player and lover of Zildjians, and now Bosphorus, one of the most beautiful cymbal sounds I've ever heard was the great Billy Higgins' stick dancing on that great early '70s Paiste 602 that he played for many years.

The first cymbal I played in the Dimensions series was the 20-inch Cool ride. When I picked it up I guessed that it was probably too heavy to be an effective acoustic/straightahead jazz cymbal. In the Paiste literature it's touted as fairly dark, silvery, cool, having a layered warm wash and well suited for very precise, articulate playing. To my ears it's far from being dark unless it's compared only with other Paistes. I hear no warm wash. In fact, when I'm playing it with my small bead wood-tip stick, it produced a fairly heavy "ting" sound, so maybe it would be well-suited for articulate playing, but there is no spread to blend with the sound of a string bass, quiet piano or guitar.

The next was a 20-inch Medium Crush ride, which is similar to the Medium Cool. Again, it's too heavy for the dynamic range required in an acoustic jazz setting. When playing quietly on this cymbal, you hear the same heavyish "ting" as with the Medium Cool, and instead of a wash there is a drone. When you lay into it, there is just a louder drone and ting, which might work well in an R&B setting where you need clarity and projection at a higher volume. Another reason these rides may be more well suited for styles other than jazz is that they cannot effectively be used as crashes. Any great ride I've played or heard, with the exception of the occasional flat or mini-bell, can double as a crash. The weight of these cymbals makes it impossible to use them for both riding and crashing. One thing both of these rides have is a clear, resounding bell. Paiste describes the bell character on both of these cymbals as "separated," which is certainly true.

If you're looking for a bright, quick crash, the 16-inch Medium Thin Full crash is a fine cymbal. Paiste accurately describes this one as shimmering, explosive and very responsive. The company calls it a versatile crash for all-purpose playing to be used at medium-soft to loud volumes. I think "medium-soft" and "all-purpose" need to be taken as relative terms, meaning within pop and R&B settings. This crash would never be confused with some of the older, 16-inch Turkish cymbals that can be used as a ride in a trio or even sound nice with a rivet or two, and then turn around and give you an explosive crash when you need it. But this new Paiste does its one job very well. It's very crisp and bright.

I was very pleasantly surprised by the hi-hats. They were the first of these cymbals I played that can be described as dark. As I picked them up, I thought again, "Too heavy to sound good." I was wrong. The Dimensions Medium Heavy Crunch hats have a very musical sound. While the top cymbal is a bit on the heavy side, these are the closest of the Dimensions to being right for jazz playing. They have a nice chomp when played with the foot and the stick sound is clean and fairly dark. They also have a bottomy, slushy, almost Chinese cymbal quality when played half open. Oddly, when I played the hi-hats with a brush, a distracting low-pitched overtone came through as much as the attack. I should also mention that in playing the two rides with a brush the drone was way too prominent.

While I don't think a lot of straightahead jazz drummers are going to gravitate toward these cymbals, they are well made and may contain the perfect colors and definition for other situations.

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