Perhaps a lesser known brand on these shores, UFIP’s Tuscan craftsmen have in fact been producing cymbals since the 1930s.
With a now steady distribution in the UK thanks to The Music Shipping Company, the brand could become a more common sight on drum kits around the country.
For review we have an interesting assortment of effects-style cymbals. These include a 12" Samba splash, 18" Blast crash and a 20" Flat ride which are all part of UFIP’s Experience Series. The black sheep of the collection is the rather unusual and intriguing Ximbao FX which is part of the Percussion Series.
The Experience Series was designed as an experimental range “from new sound research and cooperation with endorsees”. The range also includes Bell crashes, Real Chinas, Hand cymbals, Collector rides and Blast hi-hats.
The 18" Blast crash (also available in 17", 19" and 20") is treated to a double hammering process, using both traditional and machine-hammering procedures. The highly buffed, brilliant finish makes the cymbal’s surface outrageously shiny and the massive hammering marks reflect the light beautifully.
Designed to “fit into all modern music styles”, UFIP says Blast cymbals are perfect for jungle, drum’n’bass and electro. The 20" Flat ride (also available as an 18"), as the name suggests, is bell-less but also has an extremely low profile.
Like all UFIP cymbals, it has been forged using a unique rotocasting process. This involves the B20 bronze being spun at around 1,000rpm, casting the metal by means of centrifugal force. This results in a thicker bell than that of a normally cast cymbal. Not quite so relevant in the case of this flat ride of course!
The rides are available in Class (as review) or Natural finishes. The 12" Samba splash has curved back edges, essentially making it a mini-China, and is also available in 10", 13" and 14". Designed in collaboration with Italian percussionist Luis Agudo, these hand-made special effects cymbals were created with Latin styles in mind.
Last but not least we have the Ximbao cymbal from the Percussion Series. Available in small, medium or large sizes, these quirky effects cymbals are like nothing we’ve seen before. The large Ximbao, which very much resembles a massive slice of pepperoni pizza, was once a 16" cymbal that has been cut back leaving the bell intact and then liberally peppered with over-sized rivets.
These rivets also have thick metal washers top and bottom which will no doubt dry the cymbal out and make the note super-short. The medium and small models use tambourine jingles rather than rivets.
The Blast crash does exactly what you’d expect. Not only does it have the ability to completely explode when struck but it also builds and swells perfectly. Fantastically responsive, it opens up straight away with a brash, white-noise infused darkness that quite quickly fades from the mix.
There are some rather gong-like overtones in there too and the dryness is definitely an acquired taste. The bell is mighty and has a slightly dryer tonal characteristic due to its contrasting, traditional patina. This soon became our favourite cymbal from the collection and has been taken out on a lot of gigs. It works fantastically for accents but doesn’t fare so well as a main crash due to its specialist nature. Also, don’t forget your earplugs with this one!
The Flat ride has a sweetness to it and a fantastic stick definition - particularly with small-tipped jazz sticks in hand. It’s dryer than initially expected, partly due to the deep spiral lathing pattern swirling around its surface. When crashed there is a lot of attack which doesn’t allow for much wash.
In fact, the Flat ride seems to react more like a crash than a ride. The cymbal is surprisingly quick and doesn’t linger when we make the switch back to the hi-hats. It’s also relatively quiet which could be useful to some. It’s probably not best suited as a main ride but certainly has some potential to squeeze into a funk or jazz set-up as a second ride or crash/ride.
The Samba splash is not quite as subtle as one might expect and possesses the versatility to fit into much more than just the Latin styles it was intended for. Like most China-type cymbals, the splash is pangy in nature but also has a wide dynamic range, working well for stabs and accented hits. It becomes downright fierce at higher velocities and can cut through with the intensity of a much larger cymbal whilst possessing a higher pitch due to its modest size.
The Ximbao sounds as unusual as it looks. The thickness of the cymbal gives it aggressive and, quite frankly, unpleasant overtones which, when combined with the 15 large rivets, create a sound akin to an 808 open electronic hi-hat. The Ximbao would be best suited to electronic music or perhaps even part of a hybrid set-up.