Review updated: February 2010
|Documentation & Support
|OVERALL RATING = 3.3
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
The new Paiste Alpha series offers a wide variety of high quality cymbals at a competitive price. These cymbals not only look and sound great, but are versatile enough to be used in musical settings from jazz to hard rock to Latin and funk. We thoroughly enjoyed these cymbals.
The new line of Paiste Alpha cymbals are manufactured in Germany using traditional Swiss craftsmanship techniques combined with modern technology. The cymbals have a beautiful and brilliant bronze color. Adorned on each cymbal, both top and bottom, is the Paiste logo and triangular Alpha logo. The Thin, Medium, Full, and Groove cymbals had the same loose lathe pattern on both the top and bottom, from the hole all the way to the edge. The Rock and Metal cymbals have a much tighter lathing on the top with little to no lathing on bottom.
All the cymbals are enhanced with hand hammering. Most have a lighter, flatter, and less-pronounced hammer pattern on both the top and bottom. The Metal series cymbals have deeper “ball-tipped” hammer patterns. These hammer and lathing combinations give the entire line of Alpha cymbals a stunning appearance (and some very appealing sounds).
The Paiste Alpha series is a full line of cymbals, offering numerous options. The Alpha line includes:
- Rides: Full, Rock, Heavy, Metal, and Groove
- Crashes: Thin, Medium, Rock, and Metal*
- Hi-hats: Medium, Rock, Sound Edge, and Metal Edge*
- Splashes: Thin and Metal
- Chinas: Rock, and China
* These cymbals were added to the product line after this review was originally published and are not covered in the Sound review section. Additionally, the cymbal line was not available in a brilliant finish as depicted in the group photo above. The photos throughout the remainder of the review feature the original flat finish.
[Editor's Note: This review includes some cymbals that are no longer available in the product line. The Features and Pricing section have been updated to only include the current products, but we have left some of the older cymbals in this review for historical reference.]
There are a wide variety of rides offered in the new Alpha series. A few of these rides deserve highlighting for their specific tonal characteristics. For starters, the 20” Full ride is one of our favorites because of its nice warm wash and clear bell. The bell on the Full ride is not as large as other models, and thus does not interfere with the overall sound. At higher volumes the wash is a bit much, but not enough to detract from the cymbals presence.
Another versatile ride cymbal is the Groove ride that comes in two sizes, 21” and 22”. The 21” model is the pick of the two sizes as it had slightly more stick definition and fewer overtones.
The 22” Metal ride is appropriately named and would feel right at home in any hard rock or metal drummer’s setup. Its tall, wide bell provides a nice clear accent that will cut through the loudest of settings. The cymbal has a more pronounced taper from the bell to the edge that accentuates the mids and lows while retaining a defined ping with the wood-tipped 5Bs we used during the evaluation.
One of the most unique cymbals in the line, the 20” Flat ride tells us that Paiste is serious about making a distinguished name for the Alpha line. We thoroughly enjoyed this cymbal. The obvious exclusion of a bell and slight taper of the bow provided a virtually flat playing surface and very special sound. There is very little stick definition with the Flat ride and its volume is best described as “controlled.” It takes a lot for this ride to stand out as it blends in to the background and would be best used in softer, acoustic music. The edge of the cymbal vibrated more than the others and generated a nice sizzle. If you didn’t know any better, you would be convinced the ride was fitted with rivets.
There is something for everyone with the Paiste Alpha hi-hats. The 14” Sound Edge hi-hats have the rippled edge on the bottom cymbal that we’ve all come to know with the Sound Edge name. This allows for more air to escape and produces a hollow chuck pedal sound. We found the sweet spot for this pair of hats to be at the half-open state. Loosen the top cymbal’s felts and let it go with the flow when riding these hi-hats to really experience the full effect of this unique combo.
Got Bonham? Put the 15” Rock hats on for size. These are not for the feint of heart and just asked us to lay into them, which is where they truly shined. Tighten up the top cymbal felts a bit and you’ll get a fantastic open hi-hat sound when you allow both the bottom and top cymbal to play with each other. In addition to excellent stick definition, they sound great when used for steady quarter note or eighth note patterns.
We had the most fun playing the 12” Rhythm X-Hats. Initially we mounted these as our main hi-hats and found that they were well suited for funk and hip-hop styles of playing. Their higher pitched chick pedal sound is bit muted, but in their closed state allowed for very intricate sticking patterns and were perfect for syncopated accents. After a while, we moved them over to a remote hi-hat stand above the floor toms and found that they made excellent auxiliary hi-hats.
Now, on to the crashes. We like both the Thin and Medium crashes very much. The 17” Thin crash and the 18” Medium crash were our favorites. They both produced a very predictable, bright crash with a well-defined shimmer. The Thin crashes, in general, have a much faster response and got out of the way just as fast. Even though their name suggests they are a thin cymbal, they are by no means the thinnest on the market as they still have a nice solid feel and weight. The Medium crashes have a slightly fuller sound with a longer sustain and are probably the most versatile crashes in the set.
If you are looking for a crash that needs to stand up and be heard, look no further than the Rock crashes. The 18” and 20” Rock crashes make a perfect pair. Mount these cymbals on your kit and people will know you mean business. Their darker sound accentuate the mid and lows and had a nice long sustain. We actually felt the 20” Rock crash made an excellent crash/ride. Its heavier weight and larger diameter lends itself to being used as either a ride or a crash as it takes a bit more for this cymbal to rise to full volume. These crashes exhibited a harsh overtone when hit really hard, but we feel it actually added to the character of these particular cymbals.
The Alpha line includes many splash and China options to choose from. The 8” Thin splash was a bit weak, but the 10” Thin splash had a full palette that provided nice accents. The 12” Rock splash had pronounced overtones that we didn’t care for as much – perhaps due to its larger size.
Paiste makes some great Chinas, and these are no exception. The 16” and 18” Chinas had a bright trashy chang sound. The 14” China didn’t do much for us, with too many mid and high overtones and a lot of ring. For a mellower sound with more versatility, we prefered the 15” or 17” Sensitive Chinas. They have less taper (like the Rock and Standard Chinas) which lent them to be mounted right side up. Their bell was also not the traditional cylindrical bell, but a smaller, rounded bell. The Sensitive Chinas proved versatile for crash and ride applications.
Documentation and Product Support
If you haven’t already done so, check out the Paiste website. Although documentation typically doesn’t ship with cymbals, Paiste provides plenty of useful information online.
Under the Cymbals section of the Products area, you can read more about each of these cymbals. Paiste even offers MP3 audio samples of each cymbal to help you with your cymbal selection. For example, the hi-hats have four MP3 sound files to choose from for each pair: chick, stick opened, stick closed, and pattern.
The Cymbal Sound Room page allows you to research and listen to all of Paiste’s cymbals lines on one easy-to-use page, and useful information on cymbal care and usage is also provided.
20” Full, Rock, and Metal rides $276
21” Groove Ride $348
22” Rock rides $388
24” Rock rides $472
14” Thin and medium crashes $175
16” Thin, medium, and Rock crashes $221
17” Thin, Rock, and Metal crashes $245
18” Thin, Medium, Rock, and Metal crashes $270
19” Thin, Medium, Rock, and Metal crashes $287
20” Rock and Metal crash $305
13” Medium hi-hats $294
14” Rock, Medium, and Metal Edge hi-hats $350
15” Rock hi-hats $396
14” Sound Edge hi-hats $375
Splashes and Chinas
8” Thin splash $104
10” Thin and Metal splash $123
12” Metal splash $132
14” China $158
16” China $221
18” China and Rock China $270
The prices above are the manufacturers suggested retail prices. Searching online retailers, we typically found these cymbals selling for more than a 35% discount!