Having never lived particularly close to a large, well-stocked drum shop, I was, up until recently, mostly unfamiliar with TRX cymbals. I’d seen a few reviews, and I’d certainly noticed their appearance on the drum kits of just about every up and coming monster player on Youtube, but I’d yet to see any in person. Thankfully, that’s no longer the case.
Rather than include some history about the company here, I’m going to save some space and jump right in to the review. TRX has some great info on their website, so if you’d like to learn a little more about who they are and what they do, head over and poke around.
TRX recently gave me the opportunity to check out their brand new Dark Icon line of multi-purpose cymbals. The Dark Icons combine qualities from two of the company’s most popular series – not surprisingly, the DRK and ICON lines – in an effort to re-capture the ever sought-after classic K sound and make it available to a new audience with modern needs.
The Eyes Have It
To do so, TRX produced a series of cymbals that employ a very rigid, unlathed, unfinished top with loads of heavy hammering, and a fine-lathed, brilliant bottom. Scorched and organic up top and classy clean down below, the Dark Icon line had a look that seems to embody their mission almost too literally. On a purely visual level, the whole series was very striking.
Quite the Earful
As beautiful as the Dark Icons were, most of them sounded even better. Each cymbal TRX sent over – 16, 18, 20 and 22 inch multi-purpose pies (more on that later) and a pair of 14 inch hats – had a woody, clicking attack with a gorgeous dry wash underneath. Smoky and warm enough to find a comfortable home with a jazz trio, but vibrant and mobile enough to function equally well in louder settings, they were remarkably versatile – I even used them at several rehearsals for an ultra-loud, doomy post-rock band with no problems.
With only a two inch size difference between each cymbal TRX sent over, the Dark Icon set produced a very natural “scale” that really made them stronger as a family. With such an organic progression of sounds throughout, I found myself playing some uncharacteristically melodic phrases while noodling around. Very satisfying.
One aspect of the Dark Icon’s design that really interested me was the weight. The cymbals are just a touch heavier than many other classic K tributes that I’ve seen in the past. When I asked TRX about the weight, they answered saying that they wanted the series to have all the qualities of those thin, relatively flat, hammered cymbals of yesterday, but with just a little extra weight. The company’s rep also mentioned the idea that most drummers assume that the sound in question can only be produced by cymbals so thin they can folded, but that isn’t really the case. Using a few updated production techniques, the company put together a set of slabs that produce a low, woody attack, but have a little extra body as well.
Now, I’d like to touch on each of the models TRX sent over, but referring to the function of each could be a bit tricky as none of the cymbals have model designations (only sizes). Here’s what TRX’s rep had to say about that:
“We also wanted to come up with cymbals that were versatile enough to work as rides, crashes or crash-rides. I remember hearing that in the early days of the cymbal industry, cymbals were just cymbals. They didn’t have fancy names like “Super Dark Projection Hybrid Crash”. A lot of times they weren’t even marked as to type at all.”
I found that very interesting, and it prompted me to spend some time using each and every cymbal they sent as a ride. The 14s were clearly meant to be hats or crashes, so they were a little less effective as rides, but all four of the other cymbals were equally capable of handling double duty.
Both the 16 and 18 inch models were warm and lush when crashed, and produced a static-y click when played as a ride. I used them as crashes most of the time and really enjoyed the low, mellow swell of each. Truthfully, they crashed like most ride cymbals, but with a slightly higher pitch. Really nice.
The 22” cymbal had many of the same qualities, but felt most comfortable as a crashable ride. At low volumes, the 22 gave up a beautifully dark click over a bed of low, dancing wash. Push the volume up a little bit, however, and some of the definition begins to disappear. The 22 could handle louder situations, but probably wouldn’t make a perfect ride for a loud rock band.
Of all the cymbals TRX sent over, the 20” was far and away the star. A perfect combination of all the qualities mentioned above, but with plenty of dynamic range and versatility. If I was forced to pick one cymbal from the Dark Icon line to take home, this would certainly be the one. Really special.
Last but not least were the 14” hats. I really enjoyed the dark, washy play of the 14”s, but found myself wishing there was just a bit more definition. Big, sloshy patterns on open hats felt great, but tight, funky figures got a little lost in the spread.
To be clear, the shape and design of the 14s likely had less to do with the excessive wash than the nine holes drilled into each cymbal – which leads me to one last interesting element of the Dark Icon line.
Every cymbal in TRX’s Dark Icon line comes pre-drilled with three clusters of three holes around the cymbals edge. At first, I thought the addition of nine holes to every cymbal was a little excessive, but it wasn’t long before I warmed up to it.
First, the holes surely helped dry out the cymbals tone a bit, helping to better recapture that vintage sound. Second , the cymbals simply sounded spectacular with a few rivets.
Along with the cymbals, TRX sent over three packages of their Removable Rivets for use with the Dark Icons, and I was very happy they did. Available in classic brass, as well as both raw and black aluminum, the Removable Rivets use one threaded piece and one receiving piece to make installation (and removal) only a few seconds work. They’re a little heavier than regular split brass rivets, so the cymbals settle just a bit faster than I expected, but the overall affect was really excellent. As soon as I installed a few rivets into each cymbal, the addition of the hole clusters made complete sense. Again, the Dark Icons just sounded great with a few rivets.
With that, I do have to point out one minor issue I ran into with the rivets TRX sent over. Convenient as they may have been, I found that if I didn’t really tighten them as hard as I could, they would quickly separate and fall out after only a few minutes of play. Per the manufacturer’s instructions, they do need to be tightened with a wrench and flat head screwdriver, so it’s easily rectifiable. Not a huge issue as it only took a little extra attention to solve it, but a little surprising at first.
I really had no idea what to expect while waiting for the package from TRX to arrive. I felt confident that I’d see a set of well-crafted cymbals, but I wasn’t sure if I was going to be that thrilled with the sound (by no means a slight to TRX; only a symptom of the recent rash of upstart companies distributing largely generic and forgettable Turkish-style cymbals).
What I got was a series of truly beautiful instruments with a unique, defined sound that was very impressive. The Dark Icon line proved to be a very strong family of versatile, playable pies that would easily benefit drummers who spend a lot of time genre hopping. Highly recommended.
Watch the video and let me know what you think. I was really knocked out by the Dark Icons, and I’d love to hear your opinions.