We’ve got a special guest contributor! Big thanks to Kevin S. for submitting this outstanding review. (Editor’s Note: Kevin submitted two drafts of this review back in September of last year, and I’m just now getting around to posting it because I’m a subhuman monster. Sorry Kevin).
Sometimes we lose sight of the forest by getting lost in the trees. We can get off track by chasing down the appropriate physics/acoustical terms when talking about music, and gear especially. “This snare stand has an inverse torque ballistics ratio.” “The harmonic overtones of the vibrating air columns in this snare really excite the sound waves nicely.”
Disclaimer: I nearly failed Biology, and I made up all of the above phrases.
So sometimes we need to take a step back and just call a spade a spade. So if I had to describe the Meinl Byzance Vintage Benny Greb 22” Sand Crash/Ride, I’d say it was a cymbal that has a very rich shadow. I don’t mean that literally, although a 22” cymbal does tend to dominate whatever side of the kit you plant it on. It’s dark, complex, low-pitched, and dry. The sandblasted finish gives it a gorgeous aged appearance, and the unlathed underside is equally striking. The master drummer’s self-portrait graces the top right of the cymbal.
The light weight also gives the cymbal a wobbly, bendable character. Meinl has a video of Benny Greb literally bending the cymbal, and while it’s too expensive for me to experiment this way on my own, it’s refreshing to see a cymbal that actually has some give and take to it.
Three metal rivets add a nice bacon-on-the-frying-pan sizzle effect that lasts for days. Even a delicate tapping is like a poke at a grumpy bear. He may not bare his teeth, but he’s still going to wake up, shuffle around a bit, let out a big ol’ bear sigh and settle down again. Conversely, giving the brass a proper whack will release a waterfall of overtones with just a hint of trash.
The stick feel is truly one of the highlights. It’s warm, smooth, and woody, with clear articulation at low to medium volumes. It easily offers up beautifully varied tones, whether tapping gently with the bead of your stick or smashing the edge with the shaft. At louder volumes, the spread is wide and open, crescendoing into a sheer, explosive bombast. (For drummers who want to tone down the wash, a small application of Moongel will do wonders.)
Strike the hammered bell, and I swear you’ll hear what has to be aural illusion: the decay appears to pan left-right in a speedy zig zag, to be smoothly replaced with the ghost of a gong far off in the bamboo wilderness. And while the sound is adventurous, it’s far from overwhelming. The core note is nicely integrated with the other parts of the cymbal, so you can coax multiple sounds from the bell, bow, and edge while still retaining the fundamental fingerprint of this unique cymbal.
The Sand Crash/Ride is made from B20 bronze, the most common and versatile form of bronze. The makeup is 80% copper, 20% tin. B20 bronze can be brittle and notoriously difficult to work with. But it’s also the oldest alloy, so B20 cymbals have a character that’s been heard and cherished for a very long time.
You have to be very intentional about crashing on a 22” cymbal. Unintentional hits will definitely turn heads. Fortunately, the cymbal is pretty lightweight for a 22”, so you’ll still get a musical sound at all volume levels. That said, I’ve carelessly smacked this cymbal as a syncopated accent within a fill, and the resulting noise quickly overshadowed the ghost notes of the fill.
Another potential concern is the consistency in individual cymbals. As you might imagine, a handmade, sandblasted cymbal like this one takes an immense amount of human labor. Put two of these cymbals next to each other, and you’re likely to hear subtle differences between them. If you have a chance to test the Greb sig in person at a local drum shop, you’ll have a much better chance of finding the one that works for your ear. Sound and video clips can only give you a general gestalt of the cymbal. It’s best to try the specific cymbal you intend to buy to truly understand the sounds it can produce for you.
Overall, the Meinl Byzance Vintage Benny Greb 22” Sand Crash/Ride is a tremendous value for the high-end price tag (street price $419.99). The combined crash and ride characteristics are masterfully merged, making it more like the all-purpose cymbals of the early drumming heydays. It won’t cut through a Marshall stack the way a Paiste 2002 will, but the fascinating sonic character is sure to catch people’s eyes and ears.
Read more of Kevin’s work at www.koopasawyer.com.