The K designation traditionally indicates a darker and warmer sound than say Zildjian's As or Zs, and K Custom is what Zildjian terms the modern voice of jazz, a "contemporary expression" of the K sound, with drier but still complex sounds.
With this latest trio Zildjian also claims finally to introduce some 'fierce' sounds to the range. There are two rides, a 21" and a 22" K Custom Dark Complex, plus a 19" K Custom Hybrid Trash-Smash, which has been designed in collaboration with Japanese ace Akira Jimbo.
The two rides are gorgeous lookers, which have no lathing but tiny dimpled sharp hammerings all over, including the bell, completed by the K logo and 'Custom Dark Complex Ride' in sweeping italics. Both cymbals are medium-thin with a special proprietary satin finish lending a muted old-gold appearance.
This contrasts with Zildjian's Trash-Smash. The Trash-Smash is a strikingly atypical-looking cymbal - it's part lathed up to the inner 12cm, which is polished to a brilliant finish.
There are eight hammered and slightly raised 'spokes' radiating across the body and the bell has a central volcano-like crater. The cymbal is thin in weight and hand hammered all over, leaving small pin-hammer pockmarks.
When Zildjian says these two Custom Dark Complex rides are dry they're not kidding. They are not as dry as Steve Gadd's K Sessions, but there is a great 'taah' factor - the cymbals seem to breathe a cool sigh every time you tap them.
Stick enunciation is super-clear, it almost goes without saying, but that doesn't mean the sound is all surface pitter-patter and no substance. Far from it.
The stick-tip beat seems to float separately on top of an abundant, thick, warm body - a complex stew of dusky undertones giving you a varying palette to indulge whether you play nearer the edge or towards the bell. These cymbals were made for wildly expressive, passionate Brian Blade-style crash-riding.
The crash sound emerges from the inner depths of the body, but subsides quite quickly so it doesn't cloud the on-going drive of your beat. We found the 21" drier than the 22", which had rather more spread and a slightly darker tone.
The 21" is more curt, the 22" ideal for that ultimate panoramic jazzy, swinging vibe. Yet more colour comes from the bells which have that delicious nutty warm ping you only get from a big, thinnish, quality cymbal.
As mentioned earlier, Zildjian describes this trio of cymbals as 'fierce'. We're not sure how that applies to the rides, but coming to the 19" Trash-Smash we can see better what the manufacturer is getting at.
Halfway between a fast crash and a china it gives you a good dollop of both. A full-blown crash on the edge is swift-reacting with a short decay - a cheeky peak which is followed by a shimmering, trashy tail-off. Being quite a thin cymbal it reacts instantaneously and makes for a startling, fruity interjection.
To be clear, you get a fast pithy crash with a trashy vibe, but not as trashy or hard-edged as with a normal china. And when you leather it with the flat of the stick on the body there is an impressive amount of sound, a huge 'pang'.
You can also ride it the way many drummers ride chinas: by smashing it on the edge on quarter notes. Just be aware that it is fairly thin and you might need to be a little sparing/careful.
You won't get much joy playing on the bell or using the stick tip - so smash-crash it is. But this is a desirable and versatile cymbal we could see being handy in just about any musical situation and with any style of band. It's almost a new denomination.
Although the K Custom line is described by Zildjian as the modern jazz voice, these cymbals all have a wider appeal. OK, the rides are primarily jazz rides, but that could encompass big and small band, soul, funk, R'n'B, - just about any style where you favour a dry, tight and dark-sounding beat. The Trash-Smash could find a home in anyone's set up as an original, colourful add-on.