There's two things that drummers will constantly be on the hunt for- the perfect snare drum and the perfect cymbal. Ride cymbals definitely included in that collection of "wants".
I've been a Sabian artist now going on a year and am really in love with the sounds they create. When I ordered my set of cymbals last year upon signing on as an artist I think that the choices made were all pretty much spot-on in regards to "what will work for me" being that I'm oftentimes called to play so many various types of music and in many different settings. I got a set of 13" AAX Xcellerator hats, 19", 17" 15" Vault crashes, a 17" AAX Xplosion crash, 7", 9" and 11" Maxx splashes and a 21" HH Vintage ride. Out of all those cymbals there's definitely something that I can use for nearly any gig.
But the need for a ride cymbal with a bit drier tambre and stick definition was something I felt my arsenal needed, being that the 21" HH Vintage ride is just so shimmery, washy and explosive. So at NAMM this year I fell in love with the 22" Phoenix ride from Sabian's "Big & Ugly" line and bought one straight away.
About the cymbal
This ride cymbal has a unique voice. Rather than a "ping" sound it's got more of a "tah" with a strong sense of stick definition but bracketed in a short wash of said "tah" sound. It's very articulate and can handle faster sticking patterns and deliver the line being played with clarity and accuracy (depending upon who is playing it). It's very dark, pitch-wise. The bell is large and pronounced with a quick and warm sound; not a "clang" but more of a "doink". The bow of the cymbal is slightly pronounced and that presents a level of control to where it won't start "getting all wobbly" like a larger cymbal with a lesser-pronounced bow will when you're riding it.
The first time I played it was in my practice hall, just dinking around with it. I did several demo videos and sent them out to my Facebook Audience.
Normally when I record in my studio I don't mess with any settings on the board because Raymond our guitarist handles all the mixing and levels so all I have to do is just "hit record" and away I go. The verdict on those early videos was "Can you turn up the ride cymbal so we can hear it better?" Being a tonally darker cymbal means a lower frequency and the cut of a 21" HH Vintage ride it does not possess so I moved the mic in closer to the ride, redid the video and it turned out way better.
On the Gig
The first gig I did was with a top 40-ish type band at a club with a mirrored back wall, wood ceiling and walls and just a bit on the dry side. To my ear the cymbal was just a bit too dark and dry for this environment but the singer absolutely loved it. I was about to switch back to my 21" Vintage ride and she told me how much she loves the Phoenix so I just kept it on all night and chalked it up to "I'm not yet used to it".
The next evening I did a gig playing classic rock in a convention hall with big high ceilings and a lively sound. Very "active" room. It was in this environment that the cymbal really stood out and showed its character. It blended well with the band and with the kit as well. The following night I did an outdoor gig and again it really loved the acoustics of our stage and it sounded great. When there's room for it to spread it certainly will.
When I went to try it at rehearsal with my band RDG, an instrumental guitar rock trio playing original music the cymbal completely got lost. You just cannot even hear it on the recordings (we record everything). Granted the band is a high energy crunchy guitar affair so the distorted guitars coupled with thunderous bass lines… poor Phoenix couldn't even get off the ground, much less rise!
I really, really love this ride. It's got something in it that I've not really heard in a long time and it's a sound that I'll always go back to in my arsenal. Will it make a great "main ride cymbal?" I'm afraid it's a bit too "specialized" of a sound to call it that, but for something different and cool that will flesh out a jazz trio or something with acoustic guitar instruments or a piano trio, this would be the cymbal I took to the gig and set up straight away.
For a "rock" ride it leaves a lot to be desired, but rather caters to the fusion/jazz/acoustic genres where a ride cymbal that gets in and out of the way quickly and not dominate the sonic space will frame that instrumentation rather nicely. And yes I'm gonna keep it! And I'm also going to get a 22" Apollo Ride, which is currently pinging my pinger. :D
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