V-Classic Cymbals – Reviving That “Old K” Sound
By Kevin Sawyer
11″ hi-hat (Custom)
18″ Vintage Crash (Thin)
21” Crash/Ride (Thin)
22″ Classic Ride (Medium Thin)
19″ Crash/Ride (Thin)
20″ Crash/Ride (Thin)
8″ Vintage Splash (Paper Thin)
11″ Hexa-splash (Custom)
16″ Vintage China (Paper Thin)
In terms of origin stories, V-Classic Cymbals swings for the fences:
As a teenager, founder Torab Majlesi bought a vintage Zildjian K set for $350 from a small music shop in Istanbul. The coveted set was stolen years later. With no leads and no hope of tracking them down, Torab decided to recreate that sweet thrill of inspiration by drawing on his nearly two decades of experience as a production manager/designer with Turkish cymbals companies. The result of his exemplary efforts is V-Classic Cymbals. (The “V” stands for “Vintage.”)
If you’re drawn to that iconic dark, warm, and dry sound—but don’t have the time, patience, or budget to scour the vintage markets—you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how faithful V-Classics are to the original spirit.
Torab, a Turkish session drummer, has picked up a few tricks over his career. The fingerprints of a thoughtful, master cymbalsmith are evident in every aspect of these hand-made cymbals, from the extra tin in the cast B25 bronze alloy composition to the gorgeous patina and the dark, complex, expressive tones.
As a group, all V-Classic Cymbals consistently offer a warm, soft, buttery simmer. (You can see videos of nearly every size and weight on Torab’s YouTube page.) They’re exceptionally sensitive to soft strokes; some crashes are so thin you could easily bend them.
That said, they have a defined sweet spot. You’ll get a ton of nuance and character at this low to medium volumes, but expect to sacrifice some articulation at louder volumes. Pitch-wise, they’re also a bit limited to the lower end of the spectrum. Whether or not that matters to you depends on how far you want to stretch them beyond what they were optimally built for.
So what’s the secret to reviving “that old K sound”? At 25% tin and 75% copper, the formula has 5% more tin than the more common B20 alloy formula. This, plus the authentic Turkish origins and the combination of modern metal casting technology with traditional hammering and lathe work, recreate the smoke-filled clubs of Art, Max, Elvin, and Tony’s heyday.
The aged finish has a pleasantly smooth feel, giving the impression of a light sanding. A proprietary maturation and coating process gives them their unique antique finish, which is sure to create some divisions in the drumming community. Half of us may love the immediate mojo these bring to mind, but the other half might wonder why they’re paying high-end prices for new cymbals that look like they may have spent decades in a garage.
Regardless of what you think of the aesthetics, the vintage patina coating also clarifies and enhances the stick definition, squelching excessive overtones and cutting down sustain for an overall drier voice.
For this review, Torab graciously offered an assortment of cymbals for a full season of gigs. I tested out various combinations both live and in the studio: from basement rehearsals to cocktail hour, house parties to rock shows, and even a jazz fusion recording.
Torab supplied three sizes of hats for review: 11”, 14”, and 15”.
Starting with the conventional 14” Classic hi-hats was reassuring, exactly what I’d expected from a vintage K-inspired blueprint. I played the 14” on a jazz gig and was actually surprised that the “chick” was much lighter than with my workhorse Zildjian Ks. I found myself adding extra foot pressure to compensate and to communicate the upbeat to my bass player. But what they lacked in volume and crispness they made up for in intriguing dark tones, like ocean waves in a thunderstorm.
When played in a contemporary Christian worship service, the 15” Light hi-hats didn’t overwhelm the mix as I feared. Instead, they supplied a robust and throaty underlying roar when played loose that was an excellent counterpoint to a crackin’ backbeat. The extra width also brings hi-hat accents, ruffs, and double-strokes within easier reach.
The weakest link was the oddly sized 11” hats. Rebounds were tough because the hats were exceptionally thin. The “chick” was similarly absent, as were any overtones; it was easily obscured when put in competition with the other acoustic instruments. These hats are definitely more suited for interesting effects than as a substitute for traditional sizes.
The crashes in this series have quick bloom, short sustain, and full-bodied tone. Strike these cymbals with any amount of force, and with any stick (or even your hands), and you’re going to hear something delightful. I had great fun exploring all the different tones I could coax out of the crashes. From the bell to the bow to the edge, there wasn’t a dead spot anywhere.
The surprise delight was the 18″ Vintage Crash (Thin), because it happens to be a bit brighter than its brothers and sisters. There’s just enough hint of high-end frequency to lift up the overall cymbal sound when a big accent was needed, while still working comfortably with other cymbals.
The dual crash/rides that I tested, a 19″ Crash/Ride (Thin) and 20″ Crash/Ride (Thin), were very reminiscent of the old-school cymbals our grandfathers might have played. Woody articulation mixed in with a consistent, effortless wash was exactly the mojo I needed to set the vibe for a free-form bossa nova intro:
One potential concern with darker cymbals is that you don’t get the big, dramatic, “cue-the-house-lights” swells that you do with brighter cymbals. The drama is a bit more subdued—some would say mature. So I wouldn’t recommend V-Classics for a gig of rock covers.
Sometimes a 22” ride can be a little overpowering, like a wild horse that gets the better of you. The V-Classic 22” Classic Ride (Medium Thin) was exactly the opposite: it was more like an elegant dance partner. The wash was controllable, even at high speeds and (relatively) loud volumes.
As with the crashes, every bit of surface area on the cymbal yields pleasing tones. Exciting the shoulder of the ride creates a complex bed of undertones, and playing the bow is crisp and articulate. The “ping” is mellow but nicely echoes the wood of the stick tip. It’s an easy to play cymbal that also opens up to a roar with a solid, deep fundamental.
The bell is tightly integrated with the bow. This may not be everyone’s cup of tea if you prefer starkly contrasting tones to announce a Bridge or Chorus section.
The 8” Vintage Splash (Paper Thin) stood out from the other cymbals. The smaller size and cleaner, purer tone was probably refreshing in an onslaught of dark, dry, and washy cymbals. (An 8” splash also happens to be the perfect size for a rimshot to accentuate someone’s head-shakingly bad puns on stage.) While messing around during a pre-show jam, I placed the splash on my snare for super dry, funky, electronic effect that inspired me to totally switch up my groove into my best Jojo Mayer impersonation.
The 16” Vintage China (Paper Thin) is a guaranteed head-turner. You can’t hide behind this cymbal, so play it judiciously. There’s plenty of trash and thunder, though the smaller width doesn’t offer quite the all-consuming, oceanic swells one might expect.
I have to give Torab credit for introducing novel shapes and sizes into his classic lineup, like a 11” Hexagonal splash. Ultimately, this was a bit out of character with the predictably retro crashes and rides, but a fun cymbal to experiment with when you want some fresh sounds. (Apologies to the torch bearers of traditional jazz.)
According to the company’s website, V-Classic Cymbals “carry the warm and vivid cymbal sounds of the 60’s into the present.” It’s an apt description, and a good reminder that these aren’t built to be all-purpose, multi-genre cymbals. However, they deliver on their promise in spades for drummers looking to emulate the old K sound.
I have one minor gripe: the logo. It looks a bit faux-futuristic, compromising the otherwise pitch-perfect vintage vibe. One quick listen to any of these cymbals, though, and you’ll easily forget you’re in the 21st-century.
Rumors still swirl around the elusive mojo of old Zildjian K cymbals: Was it the Turkish coal or salt water that allowed the ancient Istanbul foundries to produce such premium alloy? Whatever it was, Torab’s firsthand experience with the centuries-old tradition of Turkish cymbal making clearly rubbed off on him. After the cymbals are cast, lathed, and hammered, Torab personally plays and inspects each one to weed out any defects, balance problems, or unwanted overtones.