BY DAVID E. LIBMAN
Mid-level Top Dogs Get A New Look
Paiste Alpha 21″ Groove Ride
A BRILLIANT NEW LOOK
Paiste originally introduced its Alpha series in 1992 as a semi-professional line made from the same CuSn8 bronze the company uses for its professional 2002 and Rude lines. Over the years, Paiste has continuously improved the Alphas. The most recent innovation is the addition of a brilliant finish.
The folks at Paiste must be pretty excited about the new Alphas because they sent me over 30 cymbals to review – the most I’ve ever received for any DRUM! review. Since a review of all of them would take up half the magazine, I opted for a more manageable number that I think offers a good representation of the entire line without including, you know, the entire line. I selected the 24″ Rock ride, 21″ Groove ride, 19″ Rock crash, 18″ China, 17″ Metal crash, 14″ Sound Edge hi-hats, and a 10″ Metal splash. Here’s how they stacked up.
Out of the box, the Alphas’ new brilliant finish gives a look that’s exactly that: brilliant. The Alphas’ CuSn8 bronze (also known as B8 bronze) has a higher copper content (92 percent copper/8 percent tin) than B20 cymbals (80 percent copper/20 percent tin). The extra copper gives CuSn8 bronze a peachy/orange hue that is simply gorgeous when buffed to a mirror finish. Overall, I think this new element of shine represents a vast improvement from the Alphas’ previously dull look.
Furthermore, each Alpha cymbal sports perfectly applied, unblemished black logos. In terms of professional image, I appreciate that the “Alpha” designation appears only on the cymbal’s top playing surface. The underside of each Alpha simply says “Paiste.” Since the audience generally only sees your cymbal’s underside, the fact that the drummers in the audience will only see the “Paiste” logo may mean that they never realize you are playing anything other than fully professional cymbals.
Paiste Alpha 10″ Thin Splash
All Paiste cymbals made exclusively by hand – 2002, Rude, Giant Beat, Twenty, and Signature family cymbals – come from the main factory in Switzerland. Paiste manufactures the Alphas in its German factory using both automated and manual production techniques. Although the Alphas are made with less handwork than the 2002s or Rudes, they receive some traditional hand hammering, which is obvious from some of the randomness in the patterns of the hammer marks.
Paiste has always been known for quality control and consistency. The Alphas appear to be no exception to this rule. All cymbals that I received have incredibly even lathing, flat and smooth edges, and seem to be perfectly balanced with no heavy spots.
Paiste Alpha 18″ Rock China
The CuSn8 bronze used for the Alphas is cast, in the sense that it is a mixture of copper and tin formed together through a process of melting and cooling to ultimately produce an alloy. However, an Alpha cymbal is not individually cast into its shape. Instead, each Alpha cymbal starts the production process as a flat disk. B8 cymbals made from flat disks sometimes have a reputation of being more brittle or breakable than higher-end individually cast B20 cymbals. Perhaps that was true in the past, but that has not been my experience.
I’ve never broken a B8 cymbal, though I have cracked a few B20 crashes over the years. And believe me, I played the Alphas with all the brutality I could muster, even the 10″ splash. None of them so much as dented. Also, don’t tell anyone at Paiste, but my wife knocked over the stand holding the 21″ Groove ride, causing the cymbal’s edge hit the floor from a 5′ height. The cymbal survived unscathed. Suffice it to say, the Alphas seem sufficiently sturdy.
Paiste Alpha 14″ Sound Edge Hi-Hats
THE ALPHA SOUND
The Alphas I chose all seem to work best at medium to high volume. None of them choke or fizzle when played hard. Plus, they all have bells that cut with a clarity that is noticeably distinct from the sound of the bow and edges.
As a series, the Alphas generally project bright, lively tones with clear, focused pitch ranges. Even the large Alphas seem to emphasize mid and high frequencies, which is no surprise with B8 cymbals. The Alphas work best for their designated functions: Crashes work as crashes; rides work as rides; but I’m less inclined to crash an Alpha ride or ride an Alpha crash than I would be with more versatile cymbals.
To my ear, the brilliant finish gives the Alphas a more glassy sound than older Alphas with the non-brilliant finish. This helps give the new Alphas excellent stick articulation on ride cymbals and hi-hats. I do notice, however, that the brilliant finish tends to reduce some of the shimmer or white noise on the crashes. Essentially, you get slightly more pitch but lessswish.
Across the board, each individual Alpha cymbal seems to have a more limited overtone series than similar B8 models from Paiste’s higher-end lines. This is no surprise given that handwork does a lot to open up the sound of a cymbal. Still, even within the Alpha series, some of the cymbals are real gems.
Paiste Alpha 18″ China
BREAKING DOWN THE ABCs
A case in point is the 24″ Rock ride. To my ear, this is a great cymbal at any price. Word of warning: Once you’ve played it, every other ride in the Alpha series seems not quite as good. The 24″ Rock ride projects with piercing stick definition and a tremendously full sound – probably because of its sheer weight. It lacks annoying overtones and has enough volume to remain prominent in the sonic spectrum, even when you’re slamming your snare and crash cymbals at full volume.
Its large bell sounds somewhat like a cowbell – in a good way. Plus, it’s large so it makes for an easy target. Would I take this ride on a brush gig? No. Would I take it on a stadium tour? Absolutely.
The 21″ Groove ride sounds slightly more sophisticated than some of the other 20″ and 22″ Alphas. I used it on my left as a sort of crash/ride. It works decently as a ride, but less so as a crash. If you’re looking for a main ride, and you like to play loud, I’d go with the 24″ model.
The 19″ Rock crash and 17″ Metal crash do an excellent job at exploiting the brightness inherent in the sound of B8 bronze. Each explodes almost immediately with a bright wash of white noise that dies away rather quickly. The 19″ Rock crash has a lower pitch than the 17″ Metal crash. Sonically, I detect more abrasiveness in the sound of the Metal crashes. The Rock crashes produce a smoother, more rounded sound. Those contrasting characteristics make these models go very well together. In particular, I thought the 19″ Rock crash and 17″ Metal crash blended together quite nicely.
The 18″ China roars with a piercing kang followed by a good amount of swish. This is not a dark, brooding China, but more of a bright and exhilarating option. I like to suspend my Chinas like an ordinary crash (not upside down). In terms of volume and pitch, the 18″ China mixes well with the 17″ and 19″ crashes because it doesn’t overpower either of those.
As for the Sound Edge hi-hats, I’ve always loved the Paiste 2002 version, but the Alphas are also excellent. Air pockets are simply not a problem thanks for the wavy edge on the bottom cymbal, and foot chicks cut through crisp and clean. These hats also (somewhat surprisingly) produce a lovely foot splash that’s rather loud, with some pleasant overtones. Stick articulation on the top hat is excellent, with definition that sometimes verges on sounding brittle. However, this helps these hats cut through at any volume. Overall, I found these hi-hats to be excellent.
Finally, the 10″ Metal splash is another star performer in the newly revamped Alpha line-up. It cuts through with an immediate, stinging wash of highs and mids and then decays with the same rapidity. It’s tuned perfectly and never chokes. So far as I can tell, you can hit this splash with full force without damaging its shape.
Paiste Alpha 18″ Rock Crash
With their brilliant finish, the Alphas look totally pro. And in terms of construction, they seem to be made with a consistency that gives them the same durability you’d expect from Paiste’s higher-priced, professional CuSn8 models. Most of the Alphas sound great for the price. However, they produce tones that lack the nuance, subtleties, and shimmer of some of Paiste’s higher end CuSn8 models, like the 2002s. Still, even in their mid-range price bracket, there are some Alphas that, to my ear, could easily pass for a higher-end professional cymbal. This makes it well worth it to give these cymbals a listen. Overall, with the Alphas, Paiste offers a quality product that allows you to either keep a few extra dollars in your wallet or, better yet, spend those extra dollars on additional cymbals.
MODELS & SIZES
24″ Rock Ride
21″ Groove Ride
19″ Rock Crash
17″ Metal Crash
14″ Sound Edge Hi-Hats
10″ Metal Splash
Paiste America Inc.