Paiste's Formula 602 line was its first B20 (CuSn20) bronze line of cymbals, introduced in 1959 and lasting through the 1990s.
The series was resurrected in 2012 and then in 2013 along came the Formula 602 Modern Essentials. This coincided with the surprise defection of Vinnie Colaiuta from Zildjian to Paiste.
Vinnie has form here, since his previous tenure with Zildjian involved the updating of the classic A Zildjians to the hugely successful A Customs. Evidently he pushed for a similar update of Paiste's Formula 602s to the modern era, taking the original jazz-orientated sound and giving it a little more of Paiste's Signature Traditional sparkle.
For review this month we have the four latest additions to the Modern Essentials line-up. These are 17", 19" and 22" crashes, plus a 24" ride.
As with the standard Formula 602s the Modern Essentials have a restrained, quality image in muted, silky B20 bronze. The black stencilling is understated and you have to look hard to find the words Modern Essentials in small letters.
The sleek impression is defined by the unusually fine top and bottom lathing and the lightly dimpled hammering to the upper surface.
The cymbals are all medium weight, but have a chunky, somewhat inflexible feel. This results from the fact there is not much of a taper so that they are still quite thick at the edges. This should add to their resilience, giving them more structural durability.
Reviewing the new 22" Formula 602 Ride back in May we felt the sound was more refined than our own original 1960s/'70s 602s. We felt this again with the Modern Essentials, although we're also looking for what Paiste says is a touch more 'pizzazz'.
Certainly all the cymbals have a bright edge, sharp and clean without being at all brash. The toppy initial voice gives way quickly to a beautiful deep, full whooshing body. The cymbals are not the loudest, but they are smooth, clean and transparent.
When we got the chance to play the cymbals live with a band the thing that hit us first about the 17" and 19" crashes was the way they have a slightly foreshortened decay. It's not that they lack in attack, but although they are a medium thick weight, they speak quickly and then get out of the way a bit sooner than you expect.
They punctuate but don't overstay their welcome. This leads to the thought that they are not quite as powerful as, say, Paiste's CuSn8 2002s. On reflection though, we'd say the 2002s are more shrill, more pushy (they have always been associated with loud amplified music) where the Modern Essentials are glassier and glossier, you could say more silver-tongued.
Our guess is that for an ultra-precise drummer like Colaiuta, who as one of today's leading session players covers umpteen musical styles, the controllable, fresh nature of the Essentials is just the ticket. He has said himself that, "Paiste's vision and my vision were completely in alignment."
Size-wise the 17" and 19" crashes fill the gaps between the already available even-sized crashes. In the old days you'd choose a 16" and 18", or an 18" and 20", and now you can get the in-betweeners, which is manna to many drummers. Both have a lush and warm tone, responding evenly from soft to medium loud.
As for the 22" crash and 24" ride, they are at the top of the size spectrum and reflect an expanding market for big cymbals. Despite its large diameter the 22" reacts nimbly, like the smaller crashes, and has a superbly rich, bountiful force.
With its smaller bell (13cm) than the 24" (15cm) it deserves its crash description, although you can profitably ride it too.
The 24" is medium weight like the rest and is initially pretty soft, dark and mellow. Tap it and you get a long sustain with pleasing overtones, the sort that never descend into grating discord. Crash it though and it screams out, loud and vivid - bright yet still warm.
Also bright is the bell, which is somewhat detached, perky and sharp, contrasting with the sumptuous ride. Good stick definition is a given, and despite the powerful crash this is not a washy ride, it retains its distinct, solid bearing at all volume levels.