How reliable are cymbal sound files/ video files?

Fess

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What annoys me is when a site puts up a demo of a drum kit and the guy demoing it feels a need to show that he can fly around the kit at 500bpm the whole time with cymbals constantly crashing
 

Fibes

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I’d like to say that I’m not calling out any one business in particular. These are just some observations I have made and I have some existential/ethical questions.

Should cymbal retailers that provide sound files be using any EQ/ Compression/plug ins or other forms of sound manipulation? I can hear the compression (and I get it) but how honest of a representation of the cymbal am I getting? At what point is it a disservice to the consumer? How true to life are the sounds we are getting? Yes, there are a lot of other factors at play for that last one but you get my point.

At what point does production value and content creation supersede what this service was originally intended for? Should there be a disclaimer if the sound was edited/manipulated?

If I use Photoshop to edit a a picture of the sparkle wrap on my Gretsch so there is more saturation of color for a sale on Reverb that wouldn’t go over very well. Right?

I’ve ordered a few new cymbals online since Covid and they are not even close to the sound files. Now, by no means are They bad sounding cymbals, but for me to attempt to recreate the soundfile from in the video there would (without a doubt) have to be certain frequencies boosted and others eliminated in post.

I am genuinely curious what you think. Should retailers pull the curtain back a bit on their audio editing process? Maybe offer up the unedited dry file too? Do any retailers state on their websites that they don’t edit their files? Heck, a lot of sound files listed here on DFO will even state that no compression or eq was used.

Am I way off base here with my $0.02?

I think this is a great topic. What I am typing is to be only taken as my experience being shared...: I have purchased probably at least 15 cymbals based on video/sound files over the last 5 years - to set a baseline. None of them were cheap. Many were from Cymbalhouse.com and years ago, his files were poor quality, but honest - no editing at all. In fact, I found most of those cymbals better than the soundfiles because the soundfiles (to me) tended to over exaggerate the odd harmonic. I have never sent anything back or felt that I got something that was misrepresented by the soundfile. Now that said, Did every purchase perfectly end up being a perfect fit with my existing setup? Nope. But I don't judge that as being the issue with the soundfile. I have learned through this process that there is no substitution for bringing your current setup, playing the cymbal you are considering buying WITH your existing setup and listen to see if they are a good musical fit. You can have the best ride (to your ears) and best crash (again, to your ears) but the may sound like garbage when playing them as a set. Tough to work through all that, no matter how perfect the soundfile. I think it's because what you hear from the soundfile also is reliant on the room, the mic, the preamp, etc. Everything it goes through will alter it somewhat, even with no eq or compression. I've also bought from Memphis Drum shop (though I have ended shopping with them over a non-cymbal purchase), and Drugan's Drum Shop (on Reverb) and a load from Gerry at Hazelshould. Every one of these guys sells fantastic quality stuff, and I bought based on a soundfile thinking there would be a good chance that what I'm buying will be a great addition to my existing setup. I even play the soundfile while I'm playing the setup I'm hoping to add the prospective cymbal to. Then I'll put on headphones, play some nice '50's bebop, and play the soundfile with that to see if it has a chance of blending and sounding "period." If all that is a go, I'll make the purchase.

So the final step is getting the vetted purchase home, on a stand, with my existing setup. Does it enhance? I have to say, I doubt that 10% of the time it does. It doesn't mean that the soundfile misrepresented the cymbal at all. It just means (to me) that I am lucky if 10% of the time the purchase - after vetting it via soundfile every way I can think of - actually sonically " fits " with the existing setup I want to pull it in to. Are they bad cymbals? Hell no - they are wonderful cymbals! And I have too many.

The other side of this - try selling a cymbal without a soundfile. Your inbox will be FILLED with requests for a soundfile.

Again, this is my experience. If any of it is useful to you, cool.
 

Fibes

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Excellent post! Now you know why I love my dad's home-turned laminated 18-inch 7B hickory sticks on my improv jazz cymbals! Got some white ash 7A too. Outstanding post, dude. The room is everything. I've gone through tons of different microphones from AKG to Sennheiser's and many in between of all budgets. Acoustic treatment mods galore. I made my bones with two decades in the TV and film-audio industry, half in the foley studio. In MY living room where I do all my recording, Audix and Rode give me closest to what I hear on my YMCAs. They reproduce the entire tuning range without going south. My final selection will suck in your place. The room decides what recipe will be used. My living room is on two complete different circuits from the rest of the house and the budget for clean juice was massive. The two Rode ribbons were a Godsend as room-mics. Added a third above the Audix ADX51 overheads, WOW!! Rode NT-5's on the snare and hats and Audix D-2 series on the rack-toms with D-4's on the floor-tom bottoms. For the non-ported bass a D-6 with a Rode NTG-4 shotgun with hi cut up front and an Audix D-4 on the reso side. You pointed on a very ignored aspect. Drum on!

I own a few Rode mics, really like them. Pair of NT5 with the Michael Joley "Roadster" capsules through a 1st gen BLA Auteur is actually a wonderful setup for spaced pair OH. Not for selling cymbals, but really lovely for recording in general. Also an NTK and K2 with upgraded tubes (not currently in use but they are magnificent).
 

Tornado

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This is really difficult on both ends, the seller's and the buyer's. Sounding completely different in your hands, in your room, sitting directly behind the kit doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't the best, truest recording in the world. The sound files definitely aren't worthless; they can at least be worth ensuring it's not a terrible cymbal. I think at some point, you end up choosing something and loving it because 1) you got used to it, and 2) you eventually learned how to make a great sound with it. And in no small part are you a huge factor in how the cymbal sounds.
 

Bronzepie

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I have an online cymbal shop and recording cymbals faithfully is not easy without high quality gear, which arguably I don’t have. I’ve gone the route of keeping it simple and not trying to go beyond mic placement, a flat EQ and type of mic. My thinking is that an experienced drummer can extrapolate from a flat recording the general sound of the cymbal. Those that ask the what and how of my recording process seem to appreciate the fact that it’s a simple flat recording. So I base my process on that feedback.

My recordings are, I feel, adequate but definitely not at studio quality. I view the video or sound file as an invitation for an inquiry, rather than a direct attempt at an online sale. Usually someone will inquire about a cymbal(s) with questions and I’ll give my personal assessment after some discussion. I ask about their playing style and needs, what cymbals they currently play, what drummer’s they like, what’s lacking in their current cymbals etc. this way we establish some reference points. Then I’ll do further recordings if they would like them, close mic, room mic, A B several cymbals together, play harder or softer. Whatever they need to feel confident about their purchase. It can take a lot of time, but definitely far less hassle and vibe kill than returns, or another poke at a different cymbal choice. Multiple shippings totally eat up my already narrow margin and everybody’s time. Its absolutely the last thing I want. So, ultimately I rely on getting to know the buyer and let customer service clinch the deal, not my recording equipment. I haven’t had any returns once I started doing the above.

I have purchased online and it’s hit or miss. The best or truest recording was from Matt Bettis 10 years ago. I compared when it arrived.
 

makinao

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That's not compression as far as I know. The gain control is just to lower the volume so the audio isn't blown out. Once the audio is lowered, I hear no evidence of compression.
But it also raises the level if the signal falls below a given threshold. These two actions are exactly what constitutes dynamics compression.
 
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DonS

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Hi,
I’ve bought at least a half dozen cymbals, new and used based on soundfiles; DCP, Mycymbal, Memphis and Hazelshould. All six have been very close to or exactly as the files sounded. One once played actually surpassed the file. I would never buy a cymbal without a file and appreciate dealers that take the time and effort to provide them.
Regards,
Don
 

Cliff DeArment

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I have an online cymbal shop and recording cymbals faithfully is not easy without high quality gear, which arguably I don’t have. I’ve gone the route of keeping it simple and not trying to go beyond mic placement, a flat EQ and type of mic. My thinking is that an experienced drummer can extrapolate from a flat recording the general sound of the cymbal. Those that ask the what and how of my recording process seem to appreciate the fact that it’s a simple flat recording. So I base my process on that feedback.

My recordings are, I feel, adequate but definitely not at studio quality. I view the video or sound file as an invitation for an inquiry, rather than a direct attempt at an online sale. Usually someone will inquire about a cymbal(s) with questions and I’ll give my personal assessment after some discussion. I ask about their playing style and needs, what cymbals they currently play, what drummer’s they like, what’s lacking in their current cymbals etc. this way we establish some reference points. Then I’ll do further recordings if they would like them, close mic, room mic, A B several cymbals together, play harder or softer. Whatever they need to feel confident about their purchase. It can take a lot of time, but definitely far less hassle and vibe kill than returns, or another poke at a different cymbal choice. Multiple shippings totally eat up my already narrow margin and everybody’s time. Its absolutely the last thing I want. So, ultimately I rely on getting to know the buyer and let customer service clinch the deal, not my recording equipment. I haven’t had any returns once I started doing the above.

I have purchased online and it’s hit or miss. The best or truest recording was from Matt Bettis 10 years ago. I compared when it arrived.
Well said. A recording can get you in the ballpark. The rest is trust.
 
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scaramanga

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Sometimes EQ and compression actually make recordings sound more realistic. Bare wire means nothing if your mic sucks, and even if your mic is awesome, there's a big difference between awesome mic A and awesome mic B. You use different mics for different reasons.

Furthermore, the smallest changes in mic choice, mic position, post processing, and mix adjustments will radically effect cymbal sounds. And that's not even considering the player technique and the sticks they're using.

I have made a commitment (very hard to honor) not to buy a cymbal I haven't already put a stick to. I never bought a cymbal online, even from the best sources, that accurately represented the sound I then made with that cymbal.

Drums are a little easier, but when was the last time you listened to a record made in the last 50 years on which the drums weren't represented by a microphone an inch away from each drum?
 

tbird8450

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I think a lot of this topic has to do with expectations. No matter how true to life a soundfile may be, there are always going to be subtleties and nuances that will be lost over a recording mechanism and speakers / headphones.

However, if you're experienced enough to know what to listen for, they can be extremely helpful, particularly when comparing different examples of the same cymbal.

The My Cymbal videos have yet to steer me wrong from a sound standpoint. However, as mentioned, there's no substitute for actually striking a cymbal yourself. I bought one in particular through there that sounded very close to the recording, which was great, but it had a clunky feel and was not pleasant to hit. I was disappointed with this, but that's simply something a video isn't going to bring across.

As long as you keep their limitations in mind, soundfiles can be extremely valuable. Obviously it's not practical, but I really wish they were available for every online purchase.
 

Seb77

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I'm glad I went with a mycymbal video cymbal a few months ago. That way I got to pick up one of the last Paul Francis custom Zildjian cymbal, a bygone era it seems by now. Does it sound like in the video? Depends on how I record it!
I had one bad experience with them before where they apparently shipped a different cymbal than what was played in the soundfile (2 cymbals on one setup; they mixed up the bags imo), that was a disappointment, but they made for it with the last one, certificate of authenticity and all.
 

Pounder

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Cymbal sound files aren't a necessary element in my purchase of a cymbal. I don't believe a seller should be obligated to include cymbal files, for the reasons stated above, different sellers use different gear and some use processing, some cell phone compression, etc.. That's not to say they aren't somewhat helpful.. I try to look at the pictures and based on past experience hearing cymbals, as well as armed with weight info etc. one can get close, depending on the type of cymbal. Some cymbals are easier to guess what they'd sound like others could be a complete crapshoot, and any of them could be helped or hindered with the addition of sound files. It's a personal experience thing. Actually that's the variable. Personal experience. A person who has dabbled in buying cymbals online and has taken note of their experience with the look of cymbals and their sound based on owning similar cymbals, is going to have a much better ability to have a better "batting average" with buying online.

Therefore, buyer beware, good luck and if you don't want to get burned don't go into the kitchen. If however you're willing to break a few eggs to learn how to cook an omelet, maybe you'll get better over time at it, and even get fairly good at finding gems out there..
 

Sinclair

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Your recording sounds great, what mic are you using on solo cymbals?
Thanks much Bronzepie. On the older files (Matt Bettis) I used two Shure KSM27's. I've since upgraded to two Shure KSM44's overhead. More better.

For the record I've bought some very nice cymbals with no sound files or very crappy files. There's a learning curve for sure.
 


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