Buying a cymbal at my local drum shop kills chasing deals on Amazon

shnootre

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This morning I put my Istanbul Mehmet medium sultan ride in the mail, and this afternoon I purchased its replacement. I got the Sultan back in January - one of those absolutely killer Amazon deals that was a no-lose situation . And...it wasn't a bad cymbal at all. But over time I grew less excited about it. There were some high frequencies that started grating on me... so I decided it was time to go a different direction. I managed to get just about exactly what I paid for it, and I'm confident the person who bought it from me got a really good deal. Fine cymbal, but I needed something different.

I've been looking at cymbals at my local shop for a few weeks now. But today I brought my important cymbals in w/ me (a K custom hybrid 17" crash, and a 20" Kerope), and worked my way through about 8 different 22" rides. The cymbals I was looking at were almost all in the 2500g range, and they were all pretty high end (did I mention I did better than expected on taxes this year?).

The shop was awesome - they gave me as much time as I needed, and I could A/B all of their cymbals, and also see how they jibed with mine.

Here were the contenders:

Zildjian:
22" K Constantinople Bounce Ride
22" K Constantinople Renaissance Ride
22" Custom Dark Ride

Agop:
22" Sultan Jazz Ride
22" Om ride
22" Mel Lewis

Sabian:
22" Medium Artisan Ride (the only medium ride, which weighed in at 3007g, exactly the weight of the cymbal I mailed off today!)

Paiste:
22" Signature Ride

---

Man, I spent a happy hour switching between these beautiful pies! Here are a couple of notes:

The Agops were all great cymbals. The Sultan was probably the washiest of them, with the least pronounced bell. Since I already have a Kerope, I was looking for a cymbal with a really stellar, and not entirely integrated bell. The Om was incredibly sultry - smokey and washy but with a better bell than the Sultan. And the Mel Lewis was my favorite of the three - somehow brighter, though still a dark cymbal, with a wonderful bell and a really smooth overall tone.

The Sabian was a good cymbal - but the bell was, I think, too piercing. It also felt a bit like apples to oranges, as this one was about 500g heavier than all of the others. (they didn't have an Artisan light ride in stock)

The Paiste was a beautiful cymbal. I started out on Paistes before moving on to other stuff, and I wonder if I might have felt differently about this cymbal if I could truly have done a blind test. It was a surprisingly dark sound, especially when crashed, and I think I was looking for something with a bit more explosive potential. But it was lovely all the same.

Among the Zildjians, the quickest to go for me was the Custom Dark Ride. In comparison with the others it just had an annoying lowish overtone that I couldn't seem to shake. Really punchy bell, though (in a good way).

The Bounce and Renaissance rides were quite similar. I liked the crash and the bell of the Renaissance better, though it was a subjective call - hard to describe the exact differences. The Renaissance has this great hint of trash, and of all these cymbals is probably the one that yielded the largest variety of different sounds in the small time I spent with it. The crash is really phenomenal too.

When I had narrowed it down to two cymbals, I was in there with the Mel Lewis and the Renaissance ride. I really loved both of these cymbals. The Mel Lewis was about 100g lighter (24xx) than the Renaissance (2542), and was most different when crashed - a kind of mellow, dark wave, instead of the Renaissance's relative explosion.

I ended up going with the Renaissance. In some ways, it sounds VERY familial with the 20" Kerope (the Kerope actually occasionally sounds lower in pitch) - and I think I'm going to have to reconceive where I put the Kerope in relation to the Renaissance (previously I had both in right hand ride position, with the Kerope being a bit higher and further right).

Sorry for this long blabbing story. In the end, I think a different set of ears could have fallen in love with any of these cymbals over the others - they were all really great, and I wouldn't be bummed to have any one of them. Very much psyched for the journey that begins now as I get to know this awesome disk. 9

Moral of the story is: it's a thousand times better to buy in person and support your local shop (even if the price is a bit higher!)
 

Johnny K

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Totally agree. You have to play things in person. The only things i've bought on the internet were Wuhan cymbals. All my guitars, amps, effect pedals, drum kits, kick drum pedals, Zildjian cymbals, quailty cymbal stands and hi-hat stands, etc were bought at local shops or private sellers. I applaud you choice. My drum instructor has one on the kit he has set up for his students and i keep threatening to steal it. The K Constantinoples are great. I'd have sell a guitar or two to get one.
 

shnootre

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Yeah they don’t come cheap! It’s more than I have ever spent on a cymbal - but I figure it’s also probably a lifer, and will give me (and maybe even others) joy for years to come.
 

dustjacket

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The Renaissance is an amazing cymbal. Congrats!
 

idrum4fun

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An excellent story about why NOT to buy cymbals without hearing them. I've got quite a few good Zildjians just taking up space. Each is a good cymbal in its own right, but none of them complement my other cymbals. Hate to have them sitting around, so will probably offer them up for cheap!

-Mark
 

shnootre

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Thanks for the replies! Yes, I made a real point of bringing in my cymbals for the final choice - and it really was telling. You think you know how your other cymbals sound, but I was completely surprised by how they sounded next to the cymbals I was considering.

The Renaissance is awesome. Interestingly, it's also pointing out to me limitations in my technique. It's got so many sounds in it, much more variety than my previous ride cymbal, and I feel like I need to up my game to keep up. Same old boring ride patterns just seem to want something more!
 

A.TomicMorganic

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I have one stellar cymbal that I got online. My first online cymbal purchase. An Agop20" jazz special edition. It is my very best cymbal. All the rest that I bought online turned out to be duds
 

lrod1707

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This morning I put my Istanbul Mehmet medium sultan ride in the mail, and this afternoon I purchased its replacement. I got the Sultan back in January - one of those absolutely killer Amazon deals that was a no-lose situation . And...it wasn't a bad cymbal at all. But over time I grew less excited about it. There were some high frequencies that started grating on me... so I decided it was time to go a different direction. I managed to get just about exactly what I paid for it, and I'm confident the person who bought it from me got a really good deal. Fine cymbal, but I needed something different.

I've been looking at cymbals at my local shop for a few weeks now. But today I brought my important cymbals in w/ me (a K custom hybrid 17" crash, and a 20" Kerope), and worked my way through about 8 different 22" rides. The cymbals I was looking at were almost all in the 2500g range, and they were all pretty high end (did I mention I did better than expected on taxes this year?).

The shop was awesome - they gave me as much time as I needed, and I could A/B all of their cymbals, and also see how they jibed with mine.

Here were the contenders:

Zildjian:
22" K Constantinople Bounce Ride
22" K Constantinople Renaissance Ride
22" Custom Dark Ride

Agop:
22" Sultan Jazz Ride
22" Om ride
22" Mel Lewis

Sabian:
22" Medium Artisan Ride (the only medium ride, which weighed in at 3007g, exactly the weight of the cymbal I mailed off today!)

Paiste:
22" Signature Ride

---

Man, I spent a happy hour switching between these beautiful pies! Here are a couple of notes:

The Agops were all great cymbals. The Sultan was probably the washiest of them, with the least pronounced bell. Since I already have a Kerope, I was looking for a cymbal with a really stellar, and not entirely integrated bell. The Om was incredibly sultry - smokey and washy but with a better bell than the Sultan. And the Mel Lewis was my favorite of the three - somehow brighter, though still a dark cymbal, with a wonderful bell and a really smooth overall tone.

The Sabian was a good cymbal - but the bell was, I think, too piercing. It also felt a bit like apples to oranges, as this one was about 500g heavier than all of the others. (they didn't have an Artisan light ride in stock)

The Paiste was a beautiful cymbal. I started out on Paistes before moving on to other stuff, and I wonder if I might have felt differently about this cymbal if I could truly have done a blind test. It was a surprisingly dark sound, especially when crashed, and I think I was looking for something with a bit more explosive potential. But it was lovely all the same.

Among the Zildjians, the quickest to go for me was the Custom Dark Ride. In comparison with the others it just had an annoying lowish overtone that I couldn't seem to shake. Really punchy bell, though (in a good way).

The Bounce and Renaissance rides were quite similar. I liked the crash and the bell of the Renaissance better, though it was a subjective call - hard to describe the exact differences. The Renaissance has this great hint of trash, and of all these cymbals is probably the one that yielded the largest variety of different sounds in the small time I spent with it. The crash is really phenomenal too.

When I had narrowed it down to two cymbals, I was in there with the Mel Lewis and the Renaissance ride. I really loved both of these cymbals. The Mel Lewis was about 100g lighter (24xx) than the Renaissance (2542), and was most different when crashed - a kind of mellow, dark wave, instead of the Renaissance's relative explosion.

I ended up going with the Renaissance. In some ways, it sounds VERY familial with the 20" Kerope (the Kerope actually occasionally sounds lower in pitch) - and I think I'm going to have to reconceive where I put the Kerope in relation to the Renaissance (previously I had both in right hand ride position, with the Kerope being a bit higher and further right).

Sorry for this long blabbing story. In the end, I think a different set of ears could have fallen in love with any of these cymbals over the others - they were all really great, and I wouldn't be bummed to have any one of them. Very much psyched for the journey that begins now as I get to know this awesome disk. 9

Moral of the story is: it's a thousand times better to buy in person and support your local shop (even if the price is a bit higher!)
Your lucky, I wish I had a local shop here. I have all Mehmet's from Amazon and love them and the prices as you know were unbeatable but it would be nice to support a local shop. The issue I see though is the selection is usually limited compared to Amazon and the fact that they can't match those prices. I literally saved about $2000 buying my Mehmet's from Amazon. I don't think any shop could ever do that. They might cut a couple bucks off of the price but not $200 per cymbal. By the way, I had a Sultan and hated it, Lol!!
It's the only Mehmet line that I dislike soundwise. I returned it after 1 day.
I'm happy that your local shop worked out for you.
 
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lrod1707

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An excellent story about why NOT to buy cymbals without hearing them. I've got quite a few good Zildjians just taking up space. Each is a good cymbal in its own right, but none of them complement my other cymbals. Hate to have them sitting around, so will probably offer them up for cheap!

-Mark
Now days if buying new you can hear them by researching and listening to sound files and videos. I've bought all my cymbals online and they are all exactly what I heard before I purchased them.
 

shnootre

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I hear you on all fronts. I actually did very well going the Amazon route. My current hats are Mehmet Turk 15" dark origins and I love them - got the pair for like $160. And the Mehmet I sold was a fine cymbal. When it came time to choose my ride, which I feel like is the heart of the set, it was really great to be able to play every damn cymbal in the store and bring my own set in too. I definitely paid for the privilege, but I also feel good about supporting the local shop.

I find the on-line videos helpful, but not always 100% indicative of what you'll get - especially since there's always a room and a mic etc. to consider (and usually a very good drummer, making most cymbals sound GREAT!). Ultimately it seems to be a pretty good time to be alive and playing cymbals, with lots of options out there to get you to your dream setup. All it takes is a little time and a little...well...a lot of $
 

lrod1707

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I hear you on all fronts. I actually did very well going the Amazon route. My current hats are Mehmet Turk 15" dark origins and I love them - got the pair for like $160. And the Mehmet I sold was a fine cymbal. When it came time to choose my ride, which I feel like is the heart of the set, it was really great to be able to play every damn cymbal in the store and bring my own set in too. I definitely paid for the privilege, but I also feel good about supporting the local shop.

I find the on-line videos helpful, but not always 100% indicative of what you'll get - especially since there's always a room and a mic etc. to consider (and usually a very good drummer, making most cymbals sound GREAT!). Ultimately it seems to be a pretty good time to be alive and playing cymbals, with lots of options out there to get you to your dream setup. All it takes is a little time and a little...well...a lot of $
Hey man I did fail to mention, nothing beats playing them in person. Setting aside the price thing, I'm sure it felt good to do that. Have fun!
 

shnootre

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Granted, not everyone HAS a local drum shop! If you're stuck with Guitar Center only - I feel for you. Our Guitar Center has a really bleak collection of cymbals (maybe that's because there IS a designated drum shop in town).
 

idrum4fun

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Now days if buying new you can hear them by researching and listening to sound files and videos. I've bought all my cymbals online and they are all exactly what I heard before I purchased them.
True. I remember listening to all the sound files at mycymbal.com, which was a really good resource. Still, there's nothing like hearing them up close and personal!

-Mark
 

lrod1707

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True. I remember listening to all the sound files at mycymbal.com, which was a really good resource. Still, there's nothing like hearing them up close and personal!

-Mark
Yep I agree! I just wish I had a place close to me. Guitar Center & Sam Ash don't cut it so it's 100% online for me. If buying common stuff I guess it's fine but for the more exotic cymbals it won't happen there.
 

Pounder

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Nice reviews!

I have found my cymbals to be hit and miss even with a live audition. Price matters to me, probably more than brand recognition. I do think that a blindfold test would be optimal, and I always am surprised after owning a cymbal for a while that it will either grow on me or I will get tired of it.

Smart move bringing your others in to hear with them. Another thing I've found interesting is how much different cymbals end up sounding when playing in a band setting versus playing the drums/cymbals by themselves. This can often create a situation where the cymbal that sounds great in a recording, comes up too bland in a mix. Cymbals listened to out of context are usually darker, have less prominent stick definition, etc. Cymbals that tend to sound good in a band are generally slightly higher in pitch, may be heavier, and have very strong stick definition.

Also, I've generally found Agops to be preferable over Mehmets, so there's the "apples and oranges" argument as to your purchase of a cymbal online. For instance, what if you'd purchased a Renaissance ride online in the first place? The argument is only dependent on the chance choice of a cymbal you found out later you didn't want.

In the end, though, I also prefer to give business to locally-owned stores. Nation-wide chains such as GC might work for me as long as they have their price-matching guarantee in effect.
 

shnootre

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I TOTALLY agree about "even with live audition." I am like you, it really takes me time to know if I truly love a cymbal - or basically anything. As cool as bringing my cymbals with me was, I kind of wish they let me take my top two or three home for the weekend!

Really interesting points about the stick definition/band thing. Lately I've not been playing w/ a band; just by myself, and also a biweekly jam with one killer sax player. I'm definitely concentrating on quieter genres now, so even if I do play w/ a band, it'll be towards the jazzier end of the spectrum. But we'll see how things sound then - as I've definitely veered darker, and been listening mostly in isolation!

I absolutely agree too about Agops vs. Mehmets in my limited experience. All of the Agops I tried were exquisite, but they were all light-ish jazz rides. The Mehmet I sold, which was billed as a Sultan "Medium" was 21" and weighed 3007g, which seems to be "heavy" on most recent charts I've seen. All the Agops I tried were way lighter.

One interesting thing. They had two 22" Agop Om rides, and they were like 200g apart in weight. One was 23xx and the other around 2500. And they sounded RADICALLY different. The lighter cymbal was super washy, and didn't really have much of a bell at all. The 2500g model was less washy (though still quite washy), and had a much stronger bell. Strong bell was maybe the number one thing I was looking for - as it's what's missing from my set up. But in the process of this search I think I learned that I prefer rides a bit heavier than the super light. 2400-2500g for the 22" rides seemed right to me.

I think the likelihood is that if I bought I Renaissance ride on line I would have loved it. But I don't think I would have been as secure in knowing that that was the right cymbal for me.

And... as much as I've been loving the Renny, I still do have some wistful thoughts about that 22" Mel Lewis. That was just an absolutely gorgeous instrument. In the end I suspect the Zildjian may just be a bit more versatile.... time will tell!
 

Pounder

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The Mel series were apparently Mel's own cymbals (old K Istanbul) that were turned into a cymbal line(?) I like them also! nice writeup.
 

dogmanaut

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Well, I’m not gonna lie, I’m a big fan of buying online. I know this isn’t the norm (or necessarily a good thing, even for me), but I don’t really hunt for a super specific sound. If I did, I think I’d go crazy. So instead, I know there are qualities I like — thinner, darker, trashier, etc. — which help guide my purchasing quite a bit. But mostly, I just enjoy finding new, unexpected sounds, and so buying a cymbal I’ve never heard and then getting to know it in person, in the privacy of my own drum room, is actually by far my preference these days.

Even when I meet up with someone off CL or whatever, I don’t usually test the cymbal out before I buy it, just because, from past experience, I know some of my favorite cymbals have taken a little bit to reveal themselves. 30 seconds of tapping on them in a parking lot isn’t going to be enough to really get to know an instrument, you know?

Again, I’m not really saying this is smart or that other people should buy cymbals the way I do, but it’s worked well for me. I’ve bought my share of cymbals that are just “meh” and even a few stinkers (to my ears — but one man’s trash, right?). I can usually sell those without too much trouble, though.

Honestly, it reminds me of when I was a kid and used to buy the random packs of X-Men trading cards at my local comic shop. You never know exactly what you’re going to get, and there’s a lot of redundancy, but when you find those gems... hoo.

(Also, my local drum shop when I was growing up was run by a band of thieves and con artists, so I have a lingering distrust of brick-and-mortar drum stores.)
 

dtk

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Kind of riffing off Dogmanaut's thoughts... An instrument/sound that is not what you'd expect might take you in ways you wouldn't normally go.

For me...the nearest stores...are an MGR which doesn't have anything new, I think...and a GC. For me music is more hobby than vocation so buying used, cheap on line or even cracked cymbals is how I get new sounds.
 
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