If there's a better drum product name than Zildjian's Armand 'Beautiful Baby' ride, then we've yet to hear it. At once the name is both a fond nod to the man who inspired its creation and stirs an image of carefree '60s abandon. And since its introduction in 2004, the ride has won itself a dedicated little niche of fans.
Its 19" size and three rivets mean it's hardly the most mainstream offering in the current Zildjian catalogue, but it was good enough for Armand, and the recreation of the man's favourite ride has caught the imagination of many.
So much so that Zildjian has pushed the button and developed a complete range of Armand cymbals, taking their lead from the Beautiful Baby blueprint. A couple more rides, four crashes, two pairs of hats and a 10" splash now bear the great man's name, and while there's still only one Beautiful Baby, the rest of the family don't seem to shape up too badly at all.
Given that a flavour of the '60s runs through each of the new Armand cymbals, it's fitting that they're unadorned by a flashy modern finish and accoutrements. Instead, this lot sport a traditional finish plus the understated Avedis-style logo and model description. It's the perfect way to turn out instruments like these - they already look slightly vintage-y, and the lack of mirror finish means they should develop a glorious 'hard life of rock'n'soul' patina after a few years of sweat-soaked gigs.
The range is also characterised by relatively light weights across the board. Each instrument is either thin or mediumthin, again perfectly reflecting the retro nature of the collection. There are certainly no XXL Meathead Death ride types to be found bearing the Armand moniker. And lathing and hammering is subtle too; small, even hammer marks are evident on all cymbals (except the splash) and the precise lathing is similar to that found elsewhere in the Avedis line-up.
In terms of sizes, the Armand range is conservative, with 13" and 14" hats, 10" splash, 16" and 18" crashes and 20" and 21" rides now joining the original 19" Beautiful Baby ride. It's a good choice of dimensions, and one that allows you to put together a full Armand setup without leaving any obvious gaps in your cymbal array. Unless, of course, you're from the Mike Portnoy school of 'one of every size from 6" to 22", with a couple of gongs for good measure please'.
If you're more of a trad cat, however, these are going to be right up your street. And we don't just mean trad in the jazz sense. For anyone playing Moon-inspired rock, dirty funk, grownup pop or, indeed, electric jazz, there's something here for you. That's down to a great blend of warm, vintage body tone and crisp articulation that each of the series delivers in one form or another.
Clearly, each cymbal is designed to sound different from the rest of the line, but that sweet, round, classic tone is always present.
The thinness of the crashes means that they explode quickly when struck with conviction, springing into action and subsiding without getting in the way of the groove itself. We have to admit to a real fondness for the medium thin 16" and 18", which strike us as fab multi-purpose types.
The rides are perhaps the most obviously classic-oriented elements of the Armand series; there's something wonderfully evocative about the way they serve up a mix of pronounced 'ping' supported by a lovely murmur of wash. And once you really lay into them they roar into a crash-ride noise beautifully. Very Who-like indeed, perfect for Moonie fans.
Hats are stunningly good too, and capable of dealing with slightly more aggressive forearms than some of the others in the line. The 13"s are focused and super-crisp, with a rewardingly crisp chick tone when pedalled, while the 14"s deliver a richer mid-range, more crunch and volume and are better suited to louder applications.