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The Sabian Xs20 cymbals series has been released to fill the gap between Sabian's mid-level and high-level cymbals range. The idea is to give drummers a quality B20 bronze sound at a much lower price than Sabian's top-end B20 cymbals.
They can be bought seperately or in a variety of packs including a crash with hi-hats or an effects pack. Or you can by a super-set with a ride, hi-hats, 3 crash cymbals, and a splash.
For this review i'll be trying out every cymbal in the series, that's 5 crashes, 3 rides, 2 pairs of hi-hats, 2 splashes, and an 18" china in a pear tree (sorry, couldn't resist!). Let's find out how Sabian have done...
All of the Xs20 cymbals have been made out of B20 bronze which has a 20% tin content, as opposed to lesser quality B8 bronze. B20 is used to make top-end cymbals because it gives a better sound quality, and here Sabian are trying to make that quality more affordable.
The cymbals have been mass-produced without the long, labour intensive techniques most B20 cymbals are made with. Sabian has spent a long time working out how to mass-produce B20 cymbals that sound good, but don't need as much man-power to make, and that's how they can offer the xs20 range at a lower cost than other B20 quality cymbals.
Checking the cymbals over, there aren't any dinks, flaws, or anything else that'd effect the sound badly. They actually look pretty good with the AA style lathing giving them a cool circular pattern.
Ok, on to the sound. Overall, the Xs20 series have a good tone, but nothing all that special. They are definately better than cheaper B8 cymbals that often have nasty overtones, but they aren't as good as more expensive B20 cymbals. There's just not the same amount of character or depth to the sound. That being said, both the rock and medium versions are musical when you first hit them, they just lack body and spread.
The crashes come in 14", 16", and 18" sizes and are available in either rock or medium-thin versions. The medium-thin crashes are dark, smooth, and don't have any of those horrible overtones. They're pretty quick to respond too, but the sound doesn't open up or develop before it decays away quite quickly. It's probably got something to do with the way they're produced - you can't get the same quailty of sound without putting more effort into the production.
The rock versions are much heavier and therefore not as quick to respond, but they do give a clean, musical sound at first. It's just a shame that the sound fades out even quicker than the medium-thin crashes and leaves you wondering - where'd it go?
For ride cymbals, you have the choice of a 20" rock or medium cymbal, or an 18" crash/ride. The 20" medium is pretty nice with a sweet, soft, and smooth sound that's got a thick stick response. Hitting the small bell with the shoulder of the stick gives a good, bright note too.
The 20" rock version is quite a bit heavier though, and gives a much higher pitch and harder sound. Unfortunately, it's fairly one-dimensional with a plain 'ting' and hardly any body or tone. I guess it's a sound that would work for metal drummers, but not anyone else. Also, the bell is similar to the medium version, but isn't much louder despite being bigger and rounder.
However, the 18" crash/ride is suprisingly good. It's more subtle than the other two rides and has a washy, jazzy feel when riding it. Hitting the outer edge gives a decent crash sound with a hint of trashiness, while the bell sounds tight but musical. It won't replace your main ride cymbal, but it's good for the extra sound options.
Probably my favourite cymbals in the series are the hi-hats! Both the 13" and 14" hats are slick and don't have any overtones cluttering up the sound. The 13" hats, as you'd expect, are a little tighter and faster, but either pair would work with many different styles.
If you want one, there's an 18" china cymbal available that's actually pretty good. It's not as harsh sounding as many other china's i've played, and instead has a mellow crash sound with just enough trashiness to make it work.
There are 10" and 12" splash cymbals in the Xs20 series too, which are ok but not brilliant. The 12" splash has a quick, colourful sound, but the thin 10" splash is quite tinny and doesn't have much body at all. They're playable, but not particularly exicitng.
To be honest, the Sabian Xs20 cymbals are a slight disapointment in my view. They have a clean, musical sound, but there's hardly any body and they decay far too quickly. Especially the thicker rock versions which are too pingy and blunt.
It's not all bad though! The 13" and 14" hi-hats are both very playable plus the 18" china and 18" crash/ride are good as well. Even the medium/medium-thin crash and ride cymbals have at least some body and sustain. But, considering these cymbals cost more than average, and are made from B20 bronze, you'd expect them to sound closer to Sabian's top-end cymbals than they do. If you're upgrading from cheaper B8 cymbals then you'll like these - they are an improvement. But otherwise, you might want to look elsewhere.
What about the price? Like I mentioned earlier, these cymbals cost more because they're made with B20 bronze, and aren't mid or high-end - they're inbetween and the price reflects that. Where's the cheapest place to buy? Here's the cheapest site i've found. They usually have the lowest price and sometimes free delivery too, so I recommend checking them out for the best deal!
The final word: the Sabian Xs20 series is ok for drummers upgrading from cheaper cymbals, you will like them...really! But, if you're looking for a sound closer to high-end B20 cymbals, these don't quite cut it.
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