Hands-On Review: Zildjian K Series Cymbals

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Redefining a legend to make the best even better

By Johnny Powell

It’s good, even exciting news if you’re a drummer. The Avedis Zildjian Company, the world’s leading cymbal manufacturer, has just announced an updating and radical improvement in their K Zildjian Series cymbals. Why is this such big news you ask? All companies, after all, are continually upgrading their products. Few companies, however, offer a product line that has been established for well over a century, and that has set the standard of excellence over many decades. Just the fact that Zildjian has dared to tinker with such an established and respected product line as their K Zildjians is indeed big news.

Zildjian K Crash Ride Cymbal

What are K Zildjians?

Steeped in legend. Carriers of the Zildjian legacy. K Zildjians were the original cast cymbals developed by Kerope Zildjian (hence the K) in 19th century Turkey. When the company established itself in the U.S. in 1929 at the start of the Great Depression, the times were tough but the music was swinging. It was the dawn of jazz and the modern music era and K Zildjians immediately began finding favor with the musicians who were developing the diverse forms and new sounds of this American genre.

It didn’t take long before K Zildjians had become firmly established as the leading favorite with jazz drummers. Nor has this position been challenged. A sweeping majority of top players over many decades have relied on K Zildjians to create their sounds. Just listen to Art Blakey’s driving, powerful ride, or Elvin Jones’ explosive playing, or the rollicking, joyful ride work of Tony Williams on such recordings as Miles’ Four & More. With all, you are hearing the Zildjian sound and the range of tonalities and expressiveness the K Zildjians offer.

Like any good musical instrument, it all depends on how you play them. Nor has their use been restricted to jazz only. Artists in all fields of music have chosen Ks. Carter Beauford of the Dave Matthews Band, Dave Weckl, and Steve Gadd, the studio legend who’s currently on tour with Eric Clapton. These are just a few of the top-name drummers who depend on K Zildjians for creating their sounds.

Trying out the new Ks

Nothing can dress up your kit faster than a complete shining set of brand new cymbals, especially when they are Zildjians. The logo itself carries a certain status. The new Ks have the Zildjian logo on top, and also have the block K on the bottom, the designation used when the Ks were first introduced in the ’80s.

I chose a set with the brilliant finish. For one thing, these provide more flash with their reflective, high-luster appearance. But they also offer a difference in sound. They are finished using a high-speed buffing process that smooths out the tonal grooves to a tiny degree, resulting in a warmer, smoother tonality.

I didn’t need to play more than a few bars before I was thoroughly jazzed by the sound I was getting. I have spent many hours checking out cymbals, listening to the subtle differences among them, and up until this moment considered the ones I had acquired so carefully and painstakingly to be about unbeatable. I cherished them but, ah, fickle me. Here I was, playing on a set I had just met, hadn’t specifically chosen, and I knew right away that I would be willing to trade without hesitation.

Zildjian K Hi-Hats

Not just for jazz

The cool thing about the new K Zildjians is that they have a clarity and projection that makes them ideal for all kinds of music, not just jazz. The hi-hats have a great wash and an articulate, but not overstated chick sound. The crash is dark, rich, yet warm, and the crash doesn’t get at all muddied. The ride has a subdued ping that is not too bright and has a lot of substance. In all, these are cymbals that live up beautifully to the Zildjian name and the K legend. Whether you play jazz, rock, country, or blues, they’ll do you just fine.

Zildjian Drumsticks

No one knows drummers or the art and experience of playing better than Zildjian, so it just made sense that they apply their expertise and innovative thinking to drumsticks as well as to cymbals. Though Zildjian has offered a full line of sticks for a decade, recent research and development with top percussionist Marc Quinones has led Zildjian to begin using a new coating for its most popular wood and nylon tip models. It’s called DIP™ technology, which provides you with a soft, tacky grip for unbeatable comfort and control. It lets you hold on and let loose.

Tags: Cymbals Acoustic Drums

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