17th Jun 2015

Brilliant or Natural Cymbals: Does the look influence the sound?

The most eye-catching part of your drum kit is the cymbals. They flash and reflect light when you are crashing them, so not only do they sound great, they become part of the show you put on as well. When purchasing cymbals, drummers are attracted to both the sound quality and the appearance. Cymbals can come in different finishes, including dark, aged, extremely dry looking cymbals to those with such a brilliant finish that you can see yourself reflected in them. Not only do cymbals with a natural finish look differently than that of a brilliant, the finishing process can affect the sound of the cymbal.

The high polished finish of the Meinl Mb20 Cymbals

The natural, untreated finish on the Meinl Byzance Extra Dry Cymbals

The difference in appearance between a natural cymbal and a brilliant cymbal starts with the way it is created. A natural cymbal is only lathed. You can see the tonal grooves in the cymbal but there is no extra polish or shine. In contrast, a brilliant cymbal goes through a high heat, high-pressure process that causes it to have a luminous, reflective quality. Each cymbal is hand buffed to a dazzling shine. Brilliant cymbals are favored by those who want a lot of flash with their clash, as they are eye-catching in appearance. Natural cymbals, while still somewhat reflective of light, do not have the same glow a brilliant cymbal would as they are not polished in the same way.

Although some may say that the difference in finish does not affect the sound of the cymbal, most drummers would agree that the brilliant cymbals sound drastically different than the natural. Particles from the cymbal creation process are jammed into the grooves or lathe marks of natural cymbals. Because of the extra particles that are present, the natural cymbal is capable of creating a different sound or tone. Sound travels along the deep grooves, and as it travels it creates a different tone as it encounters the particles along the way. As the brilliant cymbal is heat pressured and hand buffed, an extra layer is removed and all of the particles that would be present in a natural cymbal are shaved off. Smoother grooves would be present, without the distortion of extra particles to slow the travel of sound. The result? The sound of a brilliant cymbal is washier, glassy, and more open than a natural cymbal. Another way to equate the sound differences of the cymbal is that the brilliant provides a brighter sound quality, whereas the natural gives a lower tone.

The differences in the brilliant and natural finishes are like night and day. Choose brilliant for effect, as the shine alone is a showstopper. Cymbals with a natural finish are chosen for their classic, natural sound quality. Either choice will provide you with a great cymbal for your kit.