Growing up as a young drummer I idolized John Bonham and one of the first things that drew my attention to Bonzo was his sound and particularly, the sound of his hi-hats. In fact, perhaps more than any other drummer, I came to appreciate Bonzo’s style, work, and feel with his hats whether it was the laboring tempo in When The Levee Breaks (Led Zeppelin IV (1971)), the riveting and epic intro in Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin IV (1971)), the compressed feel of The Crunge (Houses Of The Holy (1973)), or, the engaging shuffle of Fool In The Rain (In Through The Out Door (1979)). All great and all different.
Fast forward a few decades later and I suddenly found myself in the market for a new pair of hi-hats. With so many brands, makes and models to choose from I decided to do some consumer research. I liked a lot of what I saw and heard but when I really thought about it, I regressed back to my thinking in my younger days which was a constant search for a product that had style and frankly, a product that was just simply different. You know, “Bonham” different. For a moment I thought about my favorite drummers and Bonham certainly came to mind but up until this time my thinking was that Bonham must have had some special way of either hitting his hi-hats or holding his sticks to constantly get those different sounds from his hats. I deduced that it could not have been the cymbals that he was playing and that they really had nothing to do with it. (In a moment, we will revisit this premise).
Anyway, my next move was to put a call into the fine folks at Paiste Cymbals. After all, the reputation of this Swiss-German cymbal manufacturer preceded itself and, they were also the manufacturer of the cymbals that Bonham played. In fact, it was Bonham who made the 2002 Sound Edge hats (15″) so popular. Bonham was not only innovative, brilliant, powerful, dynamic, and utterly tasteful in whatever he did, he also had great sound as I had remembered from my younger years.
Editor’s Note: In the 1960s Paiste actually made a cymbal range called “Giant Beats.” The Giant Beats were popular with British rock drummers like Bonham however, they were discontinued in 1971 and replaced by the 2002 series. After they were released, Bonham played the 2002 series for rest of his career.
Surprisingly, my conversation with Paiste was a quick one. They asked me what type of sound I wanted to get from my new pair of would be hats and I instinctively responded that I wanted a “Bonham” sound. Without hesitation a rep told me “you definitely want the 2002 Sound Edge hats and you won’t be disappointed. You will get the sound you want. No doubt.” If I am honest, my first reaction to that statement was “now that’s a sales pitch.”
After giving it some thought I figured I would try these cymbals out but not so much because I would emulate Bonham (which no one can do) but more because I needed a pair of hi-hats and I always heard good things about Paiste so I figured I would be satisfied one way or another. Now fast forward to my next gig after I received my 2002s. I took my new 2002s out of the box and my first experience with them was noting some people glancing at them in admiration. No doubt they are beautiful cymbals. But despite the good looks, I was more interested in hearing how they would sound, to be frank.
Sound check was next but I experienced a condenser mic fail for my hats. Great. So now I am playing a big hall with no mic on the hats and on this night I did not have a spare mic either. Next walks in a friend who also happens to be a drummer. Noting that time is up for sound check I accept the fact that I will have to play this show–my first with these hats–without a microphone on them. Not the way I wanted to start this relationship. However, we get going and I settle in and my first reaction to the 2002s is one of comfort. They feel great. The 2002s have an uncanny ability to be heavy when you need them heavy (i.e., in the open position) but also light when you need a more intimate feel. I now start experimenting with some different stick angles and accents and levels of attack and I start to notice I am hearing some different sounds out of my 2002s. Nice sounds. I would even dare to say “Bonham” sounds. I start to come around and feel that yes, these cymbals are different.
First set done and my drummer friend comes on stage to talk to me. Much to my surprise he remarks, “you know, you are not missing your hi-hat mic at all. Those 2002s are cutting right through.” I ask for a repeat of that remark to make sure I heard it correct which I find out I did. Wow. I did not expect that.
Next, we discuss the feel of the hats. My friend agrees that these hats offer a lot of different sounds depending on how they are played. Frankly, I would describe it as a more fuller sound than I have ever experienced with other makes and models. For me this was special because for a moment in time I reconnected with my youth and my constant wonderment and pursuit of that “Bonham” sound. Decades later I found it and suddenly a floodgate of ideas and memories hit me. And get this; I am playing dance music, not driving rock and roll like Led Zeppelin. All in all, my first night was a keeper. The 2002s were the right choice and I was completely satisfied with these cymbals.
No doubt Bonham is a legendary player and I am not suggesting by any stretch of the imagination that by merely employing these hats (the 2002s) that you will transform yourself into John Bonham. However, what I am suggesting is that certain equipment or certain components of your instrument can make a big difference in your playing and sound and without a doubt, Paiste’s 2002 Sound Edge hi-hats fall in that category. They are indeed that certain set of cymbals that are difference makers.
I am unable to explain how these hi-hats project what they project but I can tell you this. Give them a chance and you will hear a penumbra of sounds. Perhaps the most noticeable facet of these hats is that they cut. . .above everything. However, the cutting is not obnoxious or overbearing and instead, it is (to borrow from a Led Zeppelin song), a “presence.” They are bright cymbals whose appearance matches their sound and their ability to cut above everything is nicely matched by their ability to also lay low if you need that kind of sound. The 2002s are easily capable of manipulation which for a drummer, is a great thing. Being able to manipulate your instrument (or a component thereof) gives the player the ability to create many different sounds and feels.
So whether you are a rock player, a jazz player or, anything in between, I highly recommend the 2002s. They are that good and I know that players have their preferences however, even if you still prefer another brand or manufacturer you will love these cymbals. For me, I now feel that I have added a different (and significant) component to my arsenal. I now hear my hi-hats in a different way; a brilliant way, if you will. It is a sound that I have been searching out for decades and now I have found it. I always admired John Bonham’s playing so much, but now–even if nominally–I can relate to his playing because of my 2002s. Check them out and as someone once told me; “you definitely want the 2002 Sound Edge hats and you won’t be disappointed. You will get the sound you want. No doubt.” That’s not a sales pitch, it’s just the truth.
Ken “K Bo” Biedzynski, Editor