Hello! Before we dive into today’s review, I wanted to remind everyone that there’s still time to enter our Booty Shakers giveaway. Read the review, watch the video and enter before 11:59 PM EST on September 9, 2013.
Let’s get to it.
Sabian XS20 dB Control 16” and 18” Brilliant Finish Crashes
Brilliant finish; fine lathing; small, integrated bell; medium-low profile
16” dB Control Crash $129.00 at Amazon.com
18” dB Control Crash $149.00 at Amazon.com
Ten years ago, Sabian created a revolution of sorts in the budget cymbal market with the introduction of the XS20 line. Offering a B20 bronze base (the same formula used high-end pies) with professional hammering and high-quality lathing at near-entry level prices, the XS20 series presented drummers with an affordable alternative to top-of-the-line selections.
Truthfully, it’s a little difficult to call cymbals from the XS20 line “budget”. I’ve had the opportunity to check out several models in the years since their release, and they’ve always proved themselves to be surprisingly musical and dynamic.
In 2013, Sabian expanded the line with five new models designed to make the series even more versatile. Among those new additions were the two Decibel (dB) Control crashes we received for this review.
Right away, I was struck by how thin and light each cymbal was. Most crashes I’ve encountered with this kind of appearance (brilliant finish, fine lathing) were significantly heavier – even those designated as “thin”. The dB Control crashes were so flexible, though, they felt almost plastic. Based on feel in hand alone, I was a little worried about how they might sound.
Those fears went out the window when I put them on the stand, however. I was immediately impressed by the semi-dark, full tone and crystalline shimmer of each cymbal. At every dynamic level, the dB Control crashes responded with a warm, rich explosion followed by a brief, sparkling decay.
At first, it was a little difficult to hear an actual difference in volume between these crashes and others I had around. They didn’t have as many of the piercing highs heard in similarly sized crashes, but that trademarked lower volume wasn’t so obvious. To the naked ear, the decibel reduction just wasn’t as apparent as I’d imaged it would be (but we’ll get back to that).
When I brought them into a full kit, the crashes blended very evenly with each of the dark Turkish rides I had set up. Conversely, they did sound a little out of place when sharing time with heavier, brighter rides, but not so much that they couldn’t be used together.
While the crashes performed well when I was playing them alone at home, the real benefits of their dB Control design paid off when used in a musical context.
I brought the dB Control crashes to a very loud rehearsal to see how they performed when the volume was on the way up. I assumed they would simply not project as much as my regular crashes, but the results really surprised me.
The initial attack was certainly audible above the din of guitar and bass, but all of the crisp wash was entirely lost. After each stroke, the crashes popped out of the mix just enough to make a quick impression, then disappeared right away. In this setting, the difference in volume was very, very clear.
Later, I brought the 18” dish to a much lower-volume rehearsal, and as advertised, this was where the concept really shined. I was able to comfortably accent passages without overwhelming the other musicians. Both shoulder and edge crashes gave me the full sound I wanted with just enough volume and sustain to make the point.
The only time it got in the way was when I tried to really lay into edge with the stick shoulder. That was enough to fill up a lot of space, although it was still relatively soft. I’d hardly call that a criticism though. Instead, it simply proved that the cymbals were capable of opening up just enough when needed.
My only real problem with the dB Control crashes was that each produced just a hint of shrill overtone at the end of the explosion. In particular, the 16” had a slightly aggressive high-end tone that poked into my ear more than I would have preferred. It wasn’t bad enough to ruin their recording appeal, but it was a little bothersome.
I’m not going to try and convince you that these cymbals are completely on par with Sabian’s upper echelon. That would be a disservice to the company’s high-end instruments. However, they are far more professional in sound and feel than other “budget” lines.
The dB Control crashes offer a unique sound that would blend easily in jazz, R&B, worship, pop and country settings. Despite their brilliant finish and bright look, both crashes had a dark character that sat comfortably with thin cymbals and other instruments. Even heavy crashing produced a cool, glassy sound that fit smoothly into a number of different settings.
The dB Control concept didn’t pop off the page in the practice room, but it really made sense in a musical context. After bringing them to a pair of very different rehearsals, I could easily see how they could be extremely helpful for lots of different players.
These cymbals may not be perfect, but they’re remarkably well made especially when considering the price. At less than $150 each, the dB Control crashes offer a unique, very useful instrument at an absolutely ludicrous price. Hats off to the R&D team at Sabian.
Additional Demos from Sabian