The latest editions to Paiste's ever expanding Signature line are a distinctive-looking set of hi-hats and 'Thins' (crashes). These new models, named 'Crystals', find Paiste revisiting a design concept first seen on cymbals from the now defunct Sound Creation range. The original Short Crashes that inspired the Crystal cymbals were prized among owners for their Hi-fi sound qualities.
What is immediately striking about the Crystals is the shape of their bells. In place of the usual curved bell is an angled edge leading up to a flattened plateau that surrounds the centre hole. The resulting 'square bell' shape resembles a cross between a normal cymbal and a flat ride, and the cymbals all share a flattish profile, are thin and are intended for quieter musical scenarios. The idea behind the square bell is that it effectively stifles the bell, diluting its influence on the overall sound of the cymbal. Translated into a playing situation, the cymbals are intended to give smooth, silvery performances with less of the usual following swell and its accompanying overtones.
While the design has been applied to crashes before, the hi-hats are completely new. The fact that Jim Keltner liked using a pair of the old Sound Creation Short Crashes as hi-hats no doubt helped convince Paiste to make a dedicated pair. The new Crystals are included within the Signature range because Paiste concluded that the Signature alloy was the most appropriate bronze to work with for the particular sound it was seeking. The cymbals are dotted with a profusion of tidy hammer marks and are finely lathed from the centre hole to the edge, but the narrowness of the lathing bands means that the finish doesn't have same degree of brightness as regular Signature models.
Currently only four Crystal cymbals are available: a 14" pair of Crystal Hats and three Crystal Thins (16", 18" and 20"). The Crystal Hats are symmetrically matched in terms of shape, and are conventionally paired with the bottom cymbal being heavier than the top. They make a very pleasant sound, giving an extremely clean and smooth response. The top end is quite prominent but there is a silkiness to it that prevents it from grating. Loosened off they happily sizzle away, and again a velvety smoothness is present that leaves them sounding naturally EQ'd. The Crystal Thins slide into life with brilliant crashes that sparkle with high-end energy. There is a degree of warmth to them as well, but very little in the way of overtones. Instead, the crash slips away with a rapid, even fade leaving a neutral vibration where you would normally find the ebb and flow of the swell mixing with the decay. The two larger Thins give a fizzing, glassy stick sound when ridden, while subtle treatment with a mallet encourages a positively shimmering response.