Published on August 27th, 2013 | by Wade Hunter
Paiste Signature Cymbal Line Overview
Paiste has long been considered by many to offer some of the absolute best cymbals in the world. The likes of John Bonham, Danny Carey, and Stewart Copeland — just to name a few — have chosen the Swiss master craftsmen to supply their signature cymbal sounds over the years. While all of the big cymbal manufacturers today have their loyal followers, it seems like Paiste supporters — while probably not the biggest group — always seem to be ones that yell the loudest. Of the “big four”, Paiste has what is closest to a cult-like following despite the fact that Paiste cymbals are generally more expensive than their competitors’ products. In this article we will take a look at the flagship Signature line and will tell you exactly why that is the case.
“Supreme Sound for Musical Excellence”
The entire Signature cymbal line is completely hand-made by Swiss craftsmen from Paiste’s “Proprietary Signature Bronze”; a patented cymbal alloy that consists of a tin content of approximately 15% (B15). The exact formula is kept under tight lock-and-key and is the equivalent of being Paiste’s signature chicken recipe. According to a statement from Paiste representatives, this signature bronze alloy was the first alloy specifically researched and developed for use in cymbal manufacturing. Production methods for these cymbals include hand hammering, hand lathing and additional proprietary manufacturing methods that, like the specific bronze alloy formula, are not readily accessible to the prying public or competitors. The result of these somewhat clandestine manufacturing principles is nothing short of excellence. Since it’s inception in 1989, the Paiste Signature line has become the high-water mark for cymbal production. These cymbals are generally thought of as the best overall sounding cymbals on the market today. Of course everyone has their own preference and brand loyalties, and some will likely not find their voice within this line of cymbals, but generally speaking these are some of the most respected cymbals that have been made to date.
One of the strengths of the Signature line is the versatility that it offers. It is not uncommon for a cymbal line to be genre or volume specific, but the Signatures have a cymbal for almost any application. The only time where you probably would not find the right cymbal for the job would be for jazz, in which case you would head over to the Signature Dark Energy line which is specifically made for the darker, dryer and softer applications of jazz. Let’s take a look some at the different cymbals that make up the Signature line.
Currently there are three rides in the Signature line: the Blue Bell Ride, the Full Ride and the Reflector Bell Ride. Paiste recently discontinued what was one of the better ride cymbals available in the Dry Heavy Ride, which was a bright, dry, heavy ride cymbal that was great for articulate playing and had a minimal wash. If you can get your hands on one of these used, get it and keep it. The Blue Bell Ride is nicknamed the Rhythmatist and was co-developed by The Police drummer Stewart Copeland. It features a blue ColorSound coating that covers most of the top of the cymbal and all of the bottom. The cymbal, which is based on the Dark Metal Ride is dry and heavy, and produces a very glassy sound with subtle, controllable wash. The 22″ Blue Bell Ride would be an option for people who play intricate ride patterns and appreciate a clear, distinct ride with little wash.
The Paiste Signature Blue Bell Ride, co-developed by The Police’s Stewart Copeland.
For those looking for more wash in a ride cymbal, the Full Ride would be a better option. The Full Ride is a totally balanced ride cymbal that can be used in any application and any genre. The name of the cymbal describes it well as this ride produces a full stick sound with a full wash. This 20″ middle of the road cymbal would be a good choice for anyone who values versatility and a ride cymbal that will not be out of place in any playing scenario.
The final ride cymbal in the Signature line is the 22″ Reflector Bell Ride — the “Powerslave” — which was developed in co-operation with Iron Maiden’s Nicko McBrain. This cymbal would be more comparable to the Blue Bell Ride than the Full Ride, as it is also produces a heavy, glassy sound with a controllable wash. The Reflector finish on this cymbal creates a stick sound that is incredibly glassy and vibrant. Paiste uses the word shimmering when describing the stick sound and this really is a worthy adjective. Like the Blue Bell Ride, this cymbal is best suited for intricate ride patterns that will not get overpowered by a strong wash.
There are six types of crash cymbals in the Signature line; two of which feature the Reflector finish. The Full Crash is the staple model and is the jack-of-all-trades cymbal. It is medium thickness and produces a well balanced sound that is somewhat of the quintessential cymbal sound. This cymbal, which comes in sizes ranging from 14″-20″ is well suited to all genres and musical styles. These cymbals are used by many artists including Brad Wilk of Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. The Mellow Crash and Fast Crash are on the lighter end of the spectrum and feature a quicker decay and washier sound. Both of these cymbals are actually quite versatile as well but would be suited to lower volume applications. The Fast Crash would be better suited to louder applications than the Mellow, as it produces a more lively sound but with a very quick decay.
The Power Crash comes in sizes 16″-20″ and is a heavier weight than the previous cymbals. The Power Crash claim to fame is a very bright, high-pitched cutting sound. These are excellent cymbals in their specific application, but they are not near as versatile as the other models. To really open up the sound of this cymbal you need to hit very hard, so the application of these cymbals is limited to high volume situations. You simply can’t ride this cymbal and using it in a low volume environment would produce a poor, clunky result. Power Crashes have been used extensively in Danny Carey’s work in Tool and Volto.
The final two crash models are the Reflector Full Crash and the Reflector Heavy Full Crash. These cymbals can be compared to the Full Crash and Power Crash respectively. The Reflector finish will create a washier, glassier, more open sound than the hand lathed finish that comes standard on Signature line cymbals. If you are looking for those characteristics in a crash cymbal sound, then you would likely want to consider these two Reflector finished cymbals. In addition to the slight tonal differences, the Reflector finished cymbals look absolutely stunning with their shimmering reflective finish and larger “signature” logo.
One of the unique hi-hat features that was developed by Paiste is Sound Edge technology. Sound Edge hi-hat cymbals feature a corrugated bottom hi-hat which let the cymbals breathe and the sound escape much better than standard hi-hats. The Signature Sound Edge Hi-Hats are a great example of this, as intricate closed hi-hat playing will sound almost amplified compared to other hi-hats. These cymbals absolutely shine when put in loud rock environments. The Heavy Hi-Hats are even heavier and will produce a slightly higher pitched sound that is has a wider range of frequency than the Sound Edge hats. These hats are specifically made for loud, heavy playing and would be miscast in predominately low volume environments.
The Paiste Sound Edge Hi-Hats that feature the corrugated bottom cymbal for enhanced closed stick sound.
The Medium Hi-Hats are the all-purpose hats — they feature a full, balanced sound that will work for most musical applications. The one area where they might lack would be in high volume settings, where either of the two previously discussed hi-hats would be a better suited option. The Dark Crisp Hi-Hats are another versatile hi-hat that has a darker character than the Mediums. From the name of these hi-hats you would think they have a very “specialized” sound that will not be well suited to a wide range of applications, but that is not the case. These are actually some of the more versatile hi-hats in the Signature line. The dark character is balanced by the pronounced stick sound that makes these well suited for intricate playing, while still giving you the flavour of the darker character.
The final hi-hats in the Signature line are the Reflector Heavy Full Hi-Hats. These hats are actually some of the darker sounding hi-hats in the Signature line. Strong high frequencies round out the sound with a full, balanced character. The dark characteristics mixed with the bright frequencies give these cymbals a slightly dirty sound. They are a powerful hat and are surprisingly versatile.
Chinas and Splashes
Paiste offers two china cymbals in the Signature line; the Heavy China and the Thin China. Both of these cymbals are very musical in relation to other china cymbals on the market. The Heavy China has a quicker attack and comes across with more of an aggressive, trashy sound. The Thin China is the more musical of the two and produces a slower attack and more subtle harmonics. Paiste recently discontinued the 20″ models of these chinas, which is too bad because they sounded absolutely fantastic in that size. Like the Dry Heavy Ride, if you can get your hands on a used 20″ Signature Thin China, grab it up and take good care of it!
The Signature splashes are very bright and musical, much more so than other splashes in the Paiste lineup. They give off a character that is almost similar to that of Christmas bells. These splash cymbals, like the rest of the Signature line, do not come cheap so it is important to discern whether it is worth the increased cost for loading up on expensive splashes. If your playing involves a lot of splash cymbal work then these will no doubt be worth their cost as these are probably the best sounding splashes you can buy. However, if splash cymbals are not an integral voice in your playing then you might want to look at cheaper splash options.
The Paiste Signature line is one of, if not the top cymbal lines on the market. Paiste has long been considered to be the top cymbal maker in terms of pure sound quality, and this line is their crème de la crème. The top lines from the other big cymbal makers will no doubt compare, but for many drummers there simply is no substitute. Paiste seems to have covered the bases fairly well in this line so no matter what sound you are looking for, you should be able to find a Signature that will produce it for you. However, these cymbals are not cheap… in fact they are downright expensive. But if you are looking for that quintessential professional cymbal that will take your sound to the next level, the Signatures are no doubt worth a good, long look.