The new Sabian Vault Holy China cymbal was developed in collaboration with Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers and is a part of the growing collection of signature cymbals found in Sabian’s Vault product line.
Sabian was the first manufacturer to experiment with cutting holes in their cymbals with their O-Zone models, and in the case of the Holy China we think they’ve taken this practice to a whole new level.
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|OVERALL RATING = 3.4
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 Holy China is one of the most visually stunning and creative cymbals we’ve seen or heard. If you are a fan of unique, innovative, and loud cymbals then you’ll love the Holy China.
Sabian handcrafts the Holy China cymbal from its renowned B20 bronze, which is the same alloy used in other high-end Sabian cymbal lines such as AAX. The Holy China is available in two sizes, 19” and 21”, and comes in either natural or brilliant finish. Sabian sent us a 21” model in the natural finish to review.
The most obvious differentiating feature of the Holy China is the plethora of small holes cut out of the bow section of the cymbal. Although the Vatican may debate this cymbal’s piety, its holey-ness is indisputable. Lined up like pews in a church are sixteen rows of four, half-inch holes radiating out from the bell across the bow of the cymbal. For those of you not keeping track at home, that’s 64 individual holes! We’ll discuss the effect this has on the cymbal’s sound in a moment.
The 5.5” diameter bell of the cymbal is un-lathed, which Sabian states is for “cut and durability.” The bow is lathed all the way to the edge and its high profile gives the Holy China its higher pitch. Both the bow and edge of the cymbal are hammered with deeper, heavier hammer indentations at the edge. The edge is relatively flat with very little curvature and at 2.75” deep provides a large, fat striking surface.
Signage is relatively sparse on the Holy China. There is a small Sabian logo with Chad Smith’s signature on the underside of the bell; Vault and small Sabian logos (and model designation) on top.
The 21” model we reviewed had a much higher pitch than we would have expected from a China cymbal this size. Sabian accomplishes this by increasing the profile of the cymbal. We found the higher pitch and volume of this cymbal helps it cut through and make itself heard.
The most notable qualities of the Holy China are its huge attack and amazing sustain. The large numbers of small holes cut in the bow section of the cymbal allow it to turn up to 11! All joking aside, this is one of the loudest cymbals we’ve played. This comes as no surprise given the heavy hitting and hard rocking style of Chad Smith.
The cymbal we reviewed had dark, complex overtones that were present in both the initial attack and long sustain. As with most cymbals, there may be a slight variance in pitch and tone, so we recommend visiting your local music shop and play it if you’re looking for something specific.
We found it took little effort to make the Holy China sound good. The cymbal had a consistent attack and tone at all volume levels. The wide edge, measuring in at 2.75”, provided a large sweet spot and striking surface that you can really lay into to get the most out of the cymbal.
Although the Holy China thrives when hit hard, we were surprised to find it to be a fairly versatile cymbal. We experimented with different sticks, such as rod bundles and mallets, and were able to coax some unique sounds out of it from subtle trashy accents to dark, bellowing washes. Overall we enjoyed the Holy China’s unique sound, intense volume, and attack.
There is no mistaking that quintessential China cymbal sound with the Holy China. But what differentiates this cymbal from the rest of the congregation is its dark and dirty bite, ear-splitting volume, and prolonged sustain. If you're looking to get more out of your China and want to turn it up to 11, your prayers have been answered.
The Sabian Holy China 19” (MSRP $448) sells for under $275, and the Holy China 21” (MSRP $537) sells for under $325. A two-year warranty is provided.
These are good prices for a unique, pro-series cymbal that puts it within easy reach for the drummer in search of something special.
If you haven’t already done so, check out the short product videos on Sabian’s website for the Holy China that features both Chad Smith and Michael Anthony (of Van Halen fame). They’re very entertaining and the video will give you a good idea how the cymbal sounds.