Meinl Byzance Cymbals
Over the past few years Meinl has endeavored to join the likes of UFIP, Istanbul, Bosphorus and Wuhan in competing for a piece of the emerging premium-cymbal market, as drummers demonstrate a willingness to pay top dollar for instruments with a handmade feel and individuality. As such, the new Byzance line represents a significant step in the right direction for Meinl—these cymbals do indeed possess a singular personality. However, by my criteria as a jazz drummer, they still have some ways to go.
Meinl asserts that its new Byzance cymbals begin not as discs cut from milled sheets of bronze but as individually poured castings of traditional B20 bronze that are then heated and rolled repeatedly to form a bronze disc (as is the case with instruments deriving from scions of the Turkish/Armenian Zildjian family tradition, Avedis Zildjian & Co. and Sabian). Be that as it may, the quality of the cold work (pressing, hammering, lathing) is every bit as vital to the finished product, and it’s there that Meinl has made significant progress, imparting a smoky, darkly expressive character to the Byzance more in keeping with the Italian UFIP and Tosco cymbals than K. derivatives such as Istanbul and Bosphorus.
Still, what jazz drummers most covet about the original K.s is not just the depth of pitch and complexity of tonal character, but their subtle range of nuances, lively dynamics and a light, malleable feel. The Byzance ride cymbals I auditioned were too heavy and monodimensional in character. The 20-inch Medium ride lacked the kind of stick focus and distinction between crash and ride effects I cherish in a ride cymbal, while the hollow, metallic midrange character of 20-inch Thin ride and unlathed 20-inch Dry ride precluded a subtle blend with other instruments. I did not find their bell sounds to be particularly sweet or articulate either.
I was much more favorably inclined toward specialty cymbals such as the dry, sweet 20-inch Flat ride and the dark, gassy 20-inch China, while the 16-inch and 18-inch Thin crashes produced short, fast crash sounds with a warm, personable character. But I found the 16-inch and 18-inch Medium crashes clangy and lacking in transient speed, while the 14-inch Medium hi-hats were altogether too thick and clunky.
With a suggested retail list price hovering just under that of the innovative Paiste Traditionals and just above that of Sabian’s popular HH series, Meinl’s quest for serious consideration amongst retailers and the jazz cognoscenti looks rather daunting.