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Zildjian K Constantinople Hi Bell Cymbals

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Zildjian recently sent me a slew of new Hi Bell K Constantinople cymbals to audition–flat rides, thin rides, medium thin rides and a dry ride–plus a pair of hi-hats. These cymbals have a bell modeled after a 100-year-old pair of Zildjian orchestral cymbals, and provide a wider range of frequencies than cymbals with smaller bells. Each of the 20-inch cymbals reviewed here list at $612; the 22-inch cymbals retail for $723 each.

Flat rides are known for their excellent stick sound and reduced sustain and overtones. Zildjian’s new 20- and 22-inch Hi Bell Flat rides live up to those expectations and make for an easy time playing of up-tempo patterns while clearly defining every hit of the stick. Both of these cymbals have noticeable hammering dimples and a slight taper with the main difference between the two being the 22-inch cymbal’s slightly lower pitch and greater sustain. They are excellent overall, with a nice, dry sound and just enough character to keep them from sounding generic.

The new Hi Bell series also includes Thin High, Thin Low and Medium Thin Low rides in 20-inch and 22-inch sizes. The most identifiable difference between the 20-inch versions is pitch. Each cymbal has a tall bell that emits a decent ping with overtones. The surface of each cymbal features Zildjian’s half Spiral lathing toward the bell, and in an effort to keep the cymbals from getting too washy, each cymbal has been buffed and polished only on its outer six inches.

These cymbals also offer two playing areas with a noticeably drier tone nearer the center. Toward the edge they have more wash and less stick definition. The Hi Bell Thin cymbals can double as crashes if you like, emitting a medium high-pitched or medium low-pitched sound, and both cymbals are, naturally, good rides. The Hi Bell Medium Thin Low was a bit gonglike when used as a crash, but its darker tonality, louder bell and drier wash made it my favorite of the three.

The 22-inch Thin High and Thin Low rides have the same appearance as the 20-inch models but with a wider polished area. They remind me of the 20-inch Hi Bell Medium Thin Low cymbal I like, but with even more wash and projection. Neither will work well as a crash, but shoulder pokes will get the cymbal to complain nicely. The pitch difference between these cymbals isn’t huge and either will work well for all-around ride duties, but I preferred the thicker High model due to its better stick definition and slightly drier sound.

The Hi Bell Medium Thin ride has a nice amount of wash and great bell with subtle yet complex overtones. You can control the amount of wash from the cymbal depending where you play on its surface. I found this cymbal to have a more gradual tonal transition from polished zone to unpolished zone than the other cymbals from the series have. The bell will do your mambos proud and can cut through even a large band. This cymbal has a lower pitch than the other two and sounds good when crashed.

The Hi Bell Dry ride comes only in a 22-inch size and has a very different look than the other Hi Bell cymbals. It has no polished area, and carries lathing across its entire surface, resulting in a striped look–it’s an unconventional but very striking appearance. Tonally, this cymbal is controlled and dry but not at all dead, with excellent stick definition. While it excels in louder situations that need projection without excessive roar, it still sounds good at lower dynamic levels. The pitch is deeper and darker than all the other cymbals reviewed here. Surprisingly, this cymbal’s weak spot is its bell, which had lots of overtones but not enough of the defined ping I prefer.

Zildjian also sent me a pair of 13-inch K Constantinople hi-hats ($648) to play along with all their fine rides. These are a nice set of hi-hats with a good “chick” sound and the complex overtones I’d expect from a set of Ks when splashed. The pitch was medium-high. I deliberately tried them with the bottom cymbal on top and actually thought they might work better on a pop-rock gig used that way. Regardless, the good news is they sound good mounted either way; it’s almost like getting two sets of hi-hats in one. Not surprisingly they offer a bit less sustain and volume than larger hi-hats, which makes them ideal for recording studios or other applications where a controlled sound is desired.

Originally Published