With the Byzance Foundry Reserve cymbals, Meinl introduced a completely new developed cymbal line at the beginning of the year. This was preceded by a development period of several years, with various prototypes the Turkish cymbal makers and the product managers from Germany approached the common ideal of a complex sounding and yet versatile cymbal sound. As soon as the first models were available, they were out of stock again. Due to the elaborate production, the series is only produced in small quantities and not in large numbers, we were told. So we had to be patient for a set of test instruments. A good half a year later it is so far, and all available models have gathered for the test. So far there are four ride cymbals, two hi-hats and one crash cymbal in the series.
Now it is by no means the case that the category of jazzy cymbals at Meinl is understaffed, 38 models are currently listed in the Byzance Jazz series, and even the quite extensive Vintage Pure line has quite jazzy sound potential. The Foundry Reserve series is (also in price) in the absolute upper class. Some of the quite light and very elaborately hammered cymbals indicate to me that Meinl would like to provide an answer to other top dogs in this segment like Zildjians K Constantinople series, Sabians Artisan Elite cymbals or Istanbul Agops 30th Anniversary series. Already the finely sparkling Monophonic Ride presented last year could be seen as a first signpost for the new sound culture. The Foundry Reserve Ride cymbals have, as much I can anticipate, in comparison much stronger bells and more tension and cut.
The eye eats with me
Each cymbal is delivered in a double folding box, and before you get to the actual cymbal, there is a pair of cloth gloves on the first level, a pair of Meinl 5A Hickory Drumsticks and a cover letter with the signature of Reinhold Meinl welcoming you to the Meinl Family.
The Ride cymbals are available in Regular and Light versions.
With the Ride cymbals there is the largest selection, in the sizes 20″ and 22″ the inclined cymbal lover can choose between a regular and a light version. The Light cymbals are not only a little lighter, but also have more pointed bells that are a little smaller overall. Especially with the 22″ model the difference is clearly visible. Also striking are the pointed hammer blows on the bells and the wide hammer blows on the surfaces. The cymbals are finely turned and shimmering polished all over the surface, for a nice optical contrast there are a few raw areas, which are more numerous on the Light Rides.
With 2385 (Light Ride) to 2580 grams (Ride) the weight difference is less than I expected. For the 20″ models, the difference is only 70 grams, 2150 grams for the 20″ Ride and 2080 grams for the Light Ride. Here you can see that the cymbals are rather light, but also not ultralight.
Let’s go with the four ride basins,…
… these shine with a fast and direct response, the cymbals are tonal, medium low with fine sparkling overtones. All cymbals are very good crashable, have a nice stick definition, which doesn’t go badly even with a little more work, and all the bells are articulated very well. A further quality feature is that there are homogeneous tones on the surfaces all around, so there are no differences in tone on identical surface areas around the bell, as is the case with many hand-hammered models. I like the four rides best in a jazz context with resonant and high tuned set, but they can also be used in soft to medium pop music. Outstanding and my personal highlights are the two 22″ models. The 22″ Thin sounds earthy and plays soft as butter, the 22″ Ride has a great, silvery sounding presence, which I like very much on the recordings. With the 20″ models the tonal difference is less drastic. In the blind check I would not have been able to distinguish them at first… except for one fact, which I don’t want to leave unmentioned. In quiet settings and played individually, it is noticeable that the 20″ Thin Ride has a pronounced, deep-sounding undertone.
… respond quickly, sound fresh and at the same time complex, at openings it gets a bit more rosy, with slightly tinny sounding frequencies. The tonal difference between the two models is also less than expected, but due to the even more pronounced high frequencies, the 14th Hats are much more successful in the overall mix. The 15 hi-hats could use a slightly heavier bottom for my taste, so they would play a bit faster. If you don’t like the somewhat more busy sounding Byzance Jazz Thin models, these hi-hats offer an interesting alternative that is not only suitable for jazz purists.
The 18″ crash cymbal…
… can also score with a lightning-fast response, the cymbal also rises in very quiet dynamic levels when struck by hand. The pitch is very low, and there is surprisingly much trash in the overall sound. The latter is a matter of taste, in my opinion the crash with this characteristic doesn’t go very well with the rest of the test set.
Conclusion (4 / 5)
The Meinl Foundry Reserve cymbals are not only a visual feast for the eyes, but also have a convincing sound. The cymbals, which are individually manufactured with a lot of effort, sound complex and earthy at the same time. The combination of medium to medium weight class and the special hammering gives the cymbals a fresh sounding presence. Thus, the Cymbals are not only at home in very quiet and acoustic (jazz) music, but are also suitable for many types of quiet to medium-loud pop music. Especially the two 22″ Ride cymbals proved to be real dream instruments in the test. The rather trashy 18″ crash of our test set doesn’t sound quite as suitable for the rest of the test run, while the 20″ Thin Ride’s low frequency clouded the otherwise round overall picture. The instruments have their price, who is willing to pay for them should definitely go for a personal test.