The Chinese cymbal company, Stagg, first surprised us back in 2001. We always thought of 'proper' cymbals being of Turkish origin, most often via the USA and Europe. But the Chinese have worked with B20 bronze bell/cymbal alloy for 2,000 years! So once the Chinese started to assert their now familiar manufacturing prowess, Staggs could only go on getting better.
Stagg is still seen by many as a budget line, but don't be fooled by the price. Stagg continues to improve and progress, gradually adapting to the western market. So we arrive at these latest offerings, the Sensa series, which was introduced in June '14, the first complete new series since 2005.
Sensas are attractive-looking cymbals with a distinctively classic, up-market image. Each cymbal is completely etched - top and bottom, bell-and-all - with extremely fine lathing. Into this are struck innumerable newly developed tiny pin-point hammerings, all over again but this time excepting the bell. The whole cymbal is then polished to a brilliant finish.
We were sent most of the current offering, including an 18" China Sizzle which has a flattened bell and flanged rim with eight paper clip rivets.
Stagg has six cymbal series in its B20 Pro Custom ranges. These extend from the jazzy VB and dark CS on one side through to the bright Furia and 'explosive' Myra on the rocky side. In between there is the dry BM and now the Sensa. This puts the Sensa just marginally on the bright and sweet rather than the dark side of the continuum.
Having taken a few of them out on several gigs we would go along with that assessment.
They are grown-up cymbals for situations where you want to be musical in the not-too-loud or brash, warm but still sparkling sense. If you are playing any style of soft to medium-loud music these cymbals should tinkle your bells.
They do not project as well as the best, most expensive cymbals, and when the band starts to wind up and get properly loud the ride and hats lack some of the presence, cut and power of more HM-oriented, or simply more expensive, cymbals. But the tone is uniformly agreeable. You won't offend anyone with these.
Starting with the three splashes, we found the 8" a bit clangy, like those small old-fashioned boarding house dinner gongs; the 10" is 'tissiest' and sweetest, while the 12" borders on a crash with a bit more tonal ding under the 'tiss'.
Moving up to the 14" crash this feels more dense and rounded, while the 16" crash is again satisfyingly crisp, thinner-sounding and fast.
Our two favourites were the the 18" Crash-Ride and the 18" China Sizzle. We've found myself in acoustic situations recently where a 20" ride is too much and an 18" has more subtlety, easier to control.
This Crash-Ride is just the ticket. It has the right balance, the crash is full but doesn't over-sustain and the ride is sticky with a pingy bell. The latter doesn't jar but is nonetheless distinct.
The 18" China Sizzle with its eight rivets provides a suitably colourful 'pahsssh', a quite soft, white noise tone, more electro-effect than a full-on china-type hard smash. The initial crash is quite short and the rivets too light to sustain long. So the overall impact is of a tight punctuation with a crunchy after-glow. I found it different and colourful in a grungy sort of way.
Similar to the 18" Crash-Ride but deeper and more powerful, the 20" Medium ride is a decent and versatile all-rounder. It's not that powerful though and will struggle if the band is too loud, but in most moderate situations provides a sweet tone with a touch of sparkle.
What characterises the two pairs of hi-hats, 13" and 14", is again a sweet but clean tone. The closed sound and pedalled chip are both fairly soft and smooth, but open them up a little and you are rewarded with a good sizzle and cutting 'shooop'.
Overall then, Sensa is a subtle series, sufficiently colourful and crisp to be versatile in all but the loudest situations where you'd need the more strident edge of Stagg's Furia or Myra series.