RE­VIEW sabian

From £247 Fed up of be­ing asked to keep your cymbals down? Sabian’s new Fre­quency Re­duced FRX cymbals may be just the ticket

Rhythm - - NEW GEAR - Words: Ge­off Ni­cholls

frx se­ries cymbals

FRX is an en­tirely new con­cept from Sabian’s Vault. These are top-qual­ity pro­fes­sional level cymbals that have nu­mer­ous pin holes drilled into them. They ap­pear to be softer in vol­ume, but ac­cord­ing to Sabian, they sim­ply have cer­tain fre­quen­cies re­moved. FR stands for Fre­quency Re­duced. They are de­signed for use in en­vi­ron­ments where other ‘nor­mal’ cymbals might be over­bear­ing. It’s an in­trigu­ing de­vel­op­ment and we have the first bunch for re­view – 20" and 21" rides, 16", 17" and 18" crashes, and a pair of 14" hi-hats.


The painstak­ing pro­cesses in­volved in cre­at­ing a top-qual­ity cym­bal in­clude the in­di­vid­ual hand-poured cast­ing of B20 in­gots, re­moval of im­pu­ri­ties and rolling a dozen times un­der in­tense heat. This is fol­lowed by shap­ing and trim­ming, lath­ing and buff­ing, fol­lowed by age­ing, which al­lows time for the molec­u­lar struc­ture to sta­bilise.

In the case of FRX, the cymbals are fine-lathed top and bot­tom, with the exception of the bells, which are left raw. Sub­tle ham­mer­ing cre­ates gen­tle dips. Then there are the all-im­por­tant holes, which cre­ate a com­pletely new look. The ma­chine-ac­cu­rate holes are nu­mer­ous, tiny and reg­u­lar. Crashes have a sin­gle band of them, clus­tered around the edge of the bell and on top of the shoulde,r while rides have a sec­ond band to­wards the perime­ter. The hats have the fewest, with the bot­tom cym­bal in­tact and the top with a sin­gle line of holes around the bell.

Hands On

The im­me­di­ate im­pres­sion is that the FRXs are not so much del­i­cate as re­strained and well-man­nered. If that sounds a tri­fle prissy for a cym­bal, it’s not that they are in­ca­pable of driv­ing ro­bust mu­sic – you don’t sense the lack of body you get with cheap cymbals. It’s a tricky con­cept to con­vey and each cym­bal ar­rives adorned with a roundel bear­ing the leg­end, ‘Don’t Hold Back’. Sabian is at pains to ex­plain the true na­ture of the in­stru­ment, you see. The mes­sage is to go at them as you would your nor­mal set and the cymbals will take care of the dy­nam­ics.

And that is ex­actly what hap­pens. You play as nor­mal and the sound is less oblit­er­at­ing than with an ev­ery­day set. The clue is in the ti­tle – Fre­quency Re­duced Ef­fects (FRX). There’s a sort of EQ’ing ef­fect go­ing on, al­though Sabian in­sists the mod­er­ated vol­ume is more of a per­cep­tion than re­al­ity.

We’re used to holes in crash cymbals – Sabian’s O-Zones have large holes re­sult­ing in trashy light­ning strikes. The FRX’s tiny holes have a dif­fer­ent ef­fect. All three: 16", 17" and 18" – crash cymbals are light­weight and the holes pro­duce only the slight­est of trashi­ness, more of a hissi­ness that trans­lates as swift, smooth and clean. The three make a per­fectly bal­anced set, de­li­ciously sweet.

The mess age is to go at them as you would your nor­mal set and the cymbals will take care of the dy­nam­ics

The bells are ex­tra lively too and be­cause there are holes in them, if you strike over the holes you get an in­ter­est­ingly airy, bright and jan­gly clang – a fresh sound that is, frankly, pretty cool in it­self.

This leads us to the 20" and 21" rides. Their ac­tual qual­ity of sound and tone is difer­ent from other Sabian rides. Play them in the de­fault (un-drilled) cen­tral area and you get a bright, yet full body with pre­cise, stab­bing stick re­sponse. It’s more metal­lic with a tin­kly top end. You can in­deed lay into them, when they open up with­out ei­ther wash­ing out or be­com­ing over­bear­ing. And as with the crashes, there’s a con­trast­ing ef­fect to be had if you play them over the cen­tral pin­holes (which again over­lap into the bells). Here the air seep­ing through the holes seems to open up the sound to a vivid jin­gle, a proper ding-dong bell. Def­i­nitely some­thing dif­fer­ent and new.

The 14" hi-hats cou­ple a light­weight top cym­bal over a medium-weight bot­tom. They seem the clos­est to nor­mal in the set. That light top cym­bal dark­ens the tone and soft­ens the at­tack to a smooth and sub­tle tim­bre. They re­ally shouldn’t dom­i­nate, yet this is some­thing that of­ten hap­pens when hats are miked. Hats do some­times cut through at the ex­pense of your snare, so the slight over­all re­duc­tion could def­i­nitely help with any record­ing.

To sum up, the FRXs are pretty much as you’d ex­pect from the de­scrip­tion – a rather softer, more di­rected ver­sion of se­ri­ous qual­ity cymbals. Stu­dios are an ob­vi­ous set­ting for these cymbals. But also any mu­si­cal set­ting that might call for a de­gree of re­straint.

Hi-hats The 14" hi-hat pair have the fewest holes, just a sparse band around the shoul­der of the top cym­bal and none in the bot­tom cym­bal

Set and match Three care­fully graded light­weight crashes have a smooth sweet tone and con­trast­ing, par­tially-holed raw bells, which add an­other di­men­sion The re­duced fre­quency spec­trum of the en­tire FRX range al­lows drum­mers to play any gig with­out...

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