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The Paiste
Cymbal Alloys


The basic material used for making cymbals is invariably a copper alloy. Copper alloys are the oldest alloys used by humans, because they are malleable enough to be shaped and cut by artisans with simple tools. Copper is unique in color among metals, and it has great properties for producing sound, which is why it is the main ingredient in cymbals. All of the alloys used for cymbals consist of copper (Cu) and at least one other ingredient: tin (Sn), nickel (Ni) or zinc (Zn). All alloys also contain trace elements, such as silver, but they are carefully controlled to avoid degradation in sound potential.
An alloy is a mixture of two or more metals. In an alloy source metals do not bond chemically. They coexist in a microscopic grain structure. Melting and thus mixing the ingredient metals produces the alloy. During this stage, the exact temperature and heating process will produce a specific and carefully controlled grain structure. The molten metal mix is then cast from the melting container, which involves forming it into a particular shape by pouring or pressing it into a mold while it slowly cools off. This is the process called casting, and it is the only way to produce an alloy. (Regardless of what some current cymbal literature says, there can be no non-cast alloys and thus cymbals, it is just not possible. Similarly, the distinction between cast and sheet alloys is plain nonsense.)
The cooled off cast, whether it be thick, round disks, big blocks or long, thick strips, is then repeatedly rolled using immense pressure to compress the alloy and achieve a specific internal grain size and hardness. During this stage, the alloy is repeatedly heated and allowed to cool off. This process is called annealing, and its purpose is to prevent brittleness and thus give strength to the alloy. At the end, round disks are cut out from the rolled alloy plates, which will then be made into cymbals. The exact sound property
  of an alloy is a combination of factors. The ingredient metals are a key factor, and for most cymbals, this is copper and tin, or Bronze alloy. The other important factors are the grain size, the grain structure, and the alloy hardness. These characteristics are determined in the casting, rolling, and annealing processes. They need to be fine tuned very carefully, because the wrong combination will not work. A certain combination of characteristics, while possibly producing an interesting sound, can produce an alloy that is too brittle or too soft, causing cymbals to break or dent prematurely. A very hard, homogenous and thus extremely durable combination will almost certainly produce inferior sound. The art of cymbal making thus includes selecting the right combination of the alloy characteristics for the ultimate combination of sound and durability, and this process most certainly constitutes every cymbal maker’s secret formula, including ours. Moreover, this is just the starting point, because the actual determination of cymbal sound involves the shaping (through hammering) and tapering (through lathing) of the disks into final cymbal shapes. During this process, the particular frequencies and harmonics desired in the final cymbal are selected from the vast sound potential inherent to the alloy.
Our deep body of knowledge about cymbal alloys is based on our family member’s life times of experimentation, experience, and research. We continually update and innovate the mixture and exact characteristics of our alloys, which we develop and fine-tune together with world-renowned top metallurgists at our suppliers. We are the industry leader in discovering new mixtures and procedures, having introduced several alloys to cymbal making, including one for which we received a patent.
We use finished raw materials (round, flat disks) from several specialized foundries and rolling mills. We select these suppliers due to their specialized and superior technical abilities and large scale of operations. It is simply not possible
for the comparatively small casting and rolling volume requirements of a cymbal maker to achieve their level of consistency and quality. This ensures that our manufacturing process starts with raw materials that conform to the highest standards of consistency and helps guarantee the quality of every cymbal we make.


Traditional Bronze

(CuSn20 – 80% copper, 20% tin)

This is one of the oldest bronze alloys, in use for thousands of years since the Bronze Ages. It is a sonorous alloy, but requires repeated annealing to make it useful for cymbals because it is not very durable in its natural state. Early cymbals from our company were probably made from this bronze, but modern and reliably documented use began in 1959 with the Formula 602 series.

2002 Bronze

(CuSn8 – 92% copper, 8% tin)

In the late 1950’s and early 1960’s we realized that the arrival of electronically amplified music required the use of a new cymbal alloy, as the emerging styles of Rock’n’Roll, Beat and Rock music produced completely different kinds of frequencies and volume than music made with just acoustic instruments. By 1963, our experimentation process proved 8% percent bronze to be ideal for these requirements. By 1967 our research produced the Giant Beat series, which was transformed into the 2002 series in 1971, and so this bronze came to be known as “2002 bronze”.
 

Signature Bronze

(Proprietary Mixture)

The rapid development of new music styles in the 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s was followed by a period of integration and fusion of music styles throughout the 1980’s. This trend required drummers to expand their playing repertoires and consequently also the versatility required of their cymbal sets, which led us to develop a new alloy again. The resulting Signature Bronze was unveiled in 1989, and proved to be fuller, wider and richer in its sound potential than any alloy before so that we could create whole new classes of cymbal sound from it. This time we used a bronze mixture never used before and received international patents for its use in cymbal making.

Nickel Silver

(NS12 – 88% copper, 12% nickel)

This is a sonorous alloy, which produces rich, full frequencies. We have mainly used this alloy for our cymbals in the 1940’s and 1950’s, after which time we changed direction and concentrated our cymbal making on Bronze alloys. Because of its tremendous sound properties, we still use it today, but mainly for our gongs.

Brass

(MS63 – 63% copper, 37% zinc)

Of the numerous brass alloys available, MS63 produces the best sound qualities. We use this alloy due to its low cost to produce our least expensive cymbals.
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