The Sabian Story: A Timeline of Cymbal Craft

Innovation is as much an art as the medium it’s applied to. It’s an active process, one that requires equal parts intellect and sweat to break new ground in a chosen field. Standing on the shoulders of giants isn’t enough: you have to become a giant for the next guy. In the case of Sabian, generations of giants have grown on the broad shoulders of company founder and original cymbal smith Robert “Bob” Zildjian.

Nort Hargrove, with Sabian since 1968 when the factory was still Azco, is an evergreen fixture of the Sabian headquarters. He’s also the conduit for the original vision of Bob to today’s cymbals. “He taught me what he knew, which was quite in-depth from the big band era to the symphonies around the world. So I took that to the next level, and then Mark Love who was my protégé, took it to the next level. Now he's got a protégé, Dave Williams, and he's taking it to another level. We've got five or six generations of guys here that accentuate on what they've been taught before.”

This tandem process of absorbing the traditions that came before and staking new land lies at the core of Sabian’s identity and storied history.

Nort goes on to put it best: “It's kind of like watching a skateboarder. In the '50s a skateboarder had two wheels on it and a handle, a T steering wheel and he just pushed it around. Every five or 10 years someone took it to another level and now they can flip those sons of bitches over cars.” Read below for our timeline laying out just how Sabian’s been flipping the proverbial skateboard over a car for 35 years.

1968

In order to meet the demand for cymbals in Britain while avoiding high tariffs exporting from the United States, Zildjian constructs the AZCO (Avedis Zildjian Company) factory in Meductic, New Brunswick. The town was chosen by Bob Zildjian, who took his family there on camping and fishing trips.

Early ‘70s

The K. Zildjian operation in Istanbul, purchased in 1960, is moved to the Meductic plant.

1975


The Zilcans, master cymbal smiths consisting of father and two sons Gabe and Michael, are moved to the Meductic plant. Their presence is integral to the development of Sabian’s hammering techniques and production. Kerope Zildjian, Bob’s uncle, is also brought over at this time.

The Zilcans, master cymbal smiths consisting of father and two sons Gabe and Michael, are moved to the Meductic plant. Their presence is integral to the development of Sabian’s hammering techniques and production. Kerope Zildjian, Bob’s uncle, is also brought over at this time.


1979

Avedis Zildjian III passes away and a legal battle ensues between older brother Armand Zildjian and the younger Bob Zildjian. In the eventual deal, Bob was given the Meductic plant to found his own company while Armand retained ownership of Zildjian and the Zildjian plant in Quincy, Massachusetts.

1981


Sabian is formally founded. The name is an acronym formed from the first two letters from each of Bob's children: Sally, Billy, and Andy.

Sabian is formally founded. The name is an acronym formed from the first two letters from each of Bob's children: Sally, Billy, and Andy.


1982

Sabian officially begins production and distribution. The AA (Automatic Anvil) and HH (Hand Hammered) lines are introduced at the company’s inception: 45,000 cymbals are produced in the first year.

As per the agreement with Zildjian, Sabian is not allowed to distribute cymbals in the United States for its first year.

Early ‘80s


The earliest Sabian artists include names like Phil Collins as well as session greats such as Larry Londin and Chester Thompson.

The earliest Sabian artists include names like Phil Collins as well as session greats such as Larry Londin and Chester Thompson.


1983


Sabian begins distributing cymbals by truck to the United States. Nort Hargrove, a key architect in the vision of Sabian cymbals who designed the AA series, describes the experience. “On January the fifth I think it was, I went with a truck to Charles Halls & Music in Massachusetts, which was the Sonor importers. Then we went to Ludwig in Chicago and then Slingerland in Chicago and then Pearl in Nashville, Tennessee.”

Sabian begins distributing cymbals by truck to the United States. Nort Hargrove, a key architect in the vision of Sabian cymbals who designed the AA series, describes the experience. “On January the fifth I think it was, I went with a truck to Charles Halls & Music in Massachusetts, which was the Sonor importers. Then we went to Ludwig in Chicago and then Slingerland in Chicago and then Pearl in Nashville, Tennessee.”


1986

Sabian follows up on the HH and AA with the B8 series, the first uni-rolled cymbal series made in North America. Designed to allow an affordable avenue into playing drums, these were some of the first sonically matched prepacks produced on a large scale. The added revenue allowed the Sabian cymbal smiths to expand their R&D and begin producing even more experimental cymbals.

1989


The first of Sabian’s Signature Artist cymbals, the Jack DeJohnette ride/hi hats and the Carmine Appice Silver Nickel Chinese, are produced. Sabian’s close association working alongside artists to produce models to their specifications continues to this day.

The first of Sabian’s Signature Artist cymbals, the Jack DeJohnette ride/hi hats and the Carmine Appice Silver Nickel Chinese, are produced. Sabian’s close association working alongside artists to produce models to their specifications continues to this day.


1991


The factory undergoes a 5000 sq. ft. expansion to meet rising demands of production.

The factory undergoes a 5000 sq. ft. expansion to meet rising demands of production.


1993

The AAX series debuts at that year’s Winter NAMM. Designed to adapt to changing demands in changing genres, the series introduced new hammering and lathing processes which produced a more focused cymbal that sat in specific frequency ranges.

Some of the first artists to endorse the AAX series include Dave Abbruzzese of Pearl Jam, Russ McKinnon of Tower of Power, and Geoff Dugmore of Killing Joke.

The AA El Sabor series, combining the hand playability of a Latin cymbal with stick capabilities, is also introduced, as well as Sabian’s Cymbal Discs. The latter were favored by Chad Smith and can be heard on Red Hot Chili Pepper recordings of this era.

1996

One of the company’s most popular rides, the 21” HH Raw Bell Dry Ride, is introduced. Combining the shape of an HH Dry Ride with a raw bell, the cymbal found immediate success and future crossover success in AA, AAX, and HHX iterations.

The HH Duo Ride is also introduced, the precursor to the current OMNI series.

1997

A new, larger plant opens in Meductic to again meet rising production demand. The majority of operations are moved to the new facility, though the original is still in operation.

Sabian’s cymbal output closes near 900,000 cymbals, a 1,900% production increase from their first year in 1982.

1998

Terry Bozzio comes over to Sabian and works in tandem with the cymbalsmiths to produce the Radia series. Dave Williams remembers the artist coming and working with them: “It was incredible, really, especially for me growing up knowing who he was. He was one of those players that you’d have the ‘We’re not worthy’ reaction when he would come to the factory. He was here for two solid weeks and it was really entertaining because he was so into it himself (and his drum tech too), that they were helping to hand-etch that radial etching. That was really cool to see how into it they were that they wanted to physically do it with us. He’s a genuine article for sure.”

The Signature Artist series is further expanded with the Chad Smith Explosion Crashes, Dave Garibaldi Jam Master Ride, and Will Calhoun ride, hi-hats, and effects.

2000


Building from Chad Smith’s Explosion Crashes, the AAX X-Plosion crash series is introduced with a maximal approach to volume, cut, and sustain. The process has since been incorporated into other lines such as the HHX X-Plosion crash.

The 20” and 22” HH Manhattan Rides were introduced to the market. The newly pioneered hammering techniques acted as the starting point for the development of the HHX series.

Building from Chad Smith’s Explosion Crashes, the AAX X-Plosion crash series is introduced with a maximal approach to volume, cut, and sustain. The process has since been incorporated into other lines such as the HHX X-Plosion crash.

The 20” and 22” HH Manhattan Rides were introduced to the market. The newly pioneered hammering techniques acted as the starting point for the development of the HHX series.


2001


The HHX series is introduced. Incorporating the Manhattan’s hammering techniques with pinpoint lathing allowed for the darker, atmospheric tonality of a vintage cymbal while retaining the focus and clarity associated with modern models.

The HHX series is introduced. Incorporating the Manhattan’s hammering techniques with pinpoint lathing allowed for the darker, atmospheric tonality of a vintage cymbal while retaining the focus and clarity associated with modern models.


2002

The Evolution extension of the HHX series is released as a collaboration between R&D and drummer Dave Weckl. “That was a wonderful learning experience because the crash cymbals that Dave [Weckl] was wanting were thinner than what was even considered extra-thin. With the shapes he wanted to use, it was one of those things of trial-and-error until you could mass-produce these beautiful, super thin crashes,” says Dave Williams

The debut of the Evolution series also marked the inception of the O-Zone crashes, which are found throughout Sabian’s roster today.

2003

The XS20 series is introduced, replacing the Pro series.

2004

The Paragon series, a collection of cymbals produced to the specifications of legendary Rush drummer Neil Peart, is introduced. “Neil visited the factory the fall of 2004, and after a quick lesson on anatomy properties, seemed to really have a high understanding of what cymbal properties appealed to him. After an extensive day of R&D and many long distance shipments of prototypes, we emerged from hundreds of possibilities with a truly unique signature cymbal.”

2005


The Vault Crash series is launched. In addition to encompassing the range of crashes, the Vault series included the Artisan rides and absorbed Signature Artist cymbals from different lines with the intent of having them under one umbrella.

The Vault name was dissolved in 2010, the Signature cymbals returned to their respective lines, and the Vault crashes renamed V crashes.

The Vault Crash series is launched. In addition to encompassing the range of crashes, the Vault series included the Artisan rides and absorbed Signature Artist cymbals from different lines with the intent of having them under one umbrella.

The Vault name was dissolved in 2010, the Signature cymbals returned to their respective lines, and the Vault crashes renamed V crashes.


2006

The Legacy series is introduced, again in conjunction with Dave Weckl. These models built on the darker tone and projection of the Evolution series with the added complexity of a vintage-made cymbal.

2008

The APX series is introduced.

2010

The affordable SBR series is introduced.

2011


The OMNI series is produced. The end product of years of R&D conducted alongside Jojo Mayer, these cymbals combine lathed and un-lathed textures as well as a super-thin edge for added complexity. Initially available in 18” and 22” models in AAX, the line expanded to include HHX and more sizes as well as hi-hats.

The OMNI series is produced. The end product of years of R&D conducted alongside Jojo Mayer, these cymbals combine lathed and un-lathed textures as well as a super-thin edge for added complexity. Initially available in 18” and 22” models in AAX, the line expanded to include HHX and more sizes as well as hi-hats.


2013


Sabian founder Robert Zildjian passes at the age of 89.

Sabian founder Robert Zildjian passes at the age of 89.


2014

Sabian begins consulting with Crescent on producing their cymbals in the Sabian factory.

2015

Sabian purchases the Crescent cymbal company.

Designed to showcase Sabian’s breadth cymbal-making, the Big & Ugly series is introduced. Channeling the look and sound of antique Turkish cymbals, the line was introduced to compete with boutique cymbal companies. “It was like ‘Oh, the big companies don’t bother with these kinds of cymbals,’ and it was like ‘Well, we absolutely know how to make these kinds of cymbals. If you’d forgotten that we know how to make these kinds of cymbals, here you go,’” says Dave Williams.

The HH Remastered series is announced. The line builds on the original designs of Bob Zildjian and his team when the original HH line was launched in 1982 with added depth and complexity thanks to new, extensive hammering techniques.

2016

The Vanguard series is introduced. An extension of the HH line, these cymbals incorporated existing Crescent series with concurrent Sabian development and research.

In tandem with the Vanguard series, the Crescent series is released. These are comprised of three Crescent lines absorbed into Sabian with reconceived production processes: the Stanton Moore, Hammertone, and Elements collections.

The XSR series is introduced, replacing the XS20s. This update features new hammering techniques in lines such as the Evolution and X-Plosion along with reshaped bells for a completely updated sonic profile.

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