When looking for a new set of cymbals to buy, getting an entire set with one purchase is a highly viable option. There are several amazing picks to choose from when looking for all the top-quality cymbals from the major brands. This brings us to this Meinl Mike Johnston Cymbal Pack Review.
Being one of my favorite cymbals sets from Meinl, I’ve had my eye on this pack for years. It’s full of dry cymbals, and it has one other cymbal that complements those with its deep and warm sound. I’m going to explain everything there is to know about this set, and I’ll let you know which types of drummers it’s good for.
Bottom Line Up Front
The Meinl Mike Johnston Cymbal Pack is a group of cymbals sold as one package. This set includes cymbals from Meinl’s popular Byzance line, and the main feature is Mike Johnston’s Signature Transition ride cymbal.
It’s an expensive set of cymbals that mostly pro drummers would use. Their main quality is dryness, but there is plenty of versatility amongst all the tones.
Meinl Mike Johnston Cymbal Pack
When buying the Mike Johnston Cymbal Pack from Meinl, you get a set of four cymbals. Each one comes from Meinl’s top-quality Byzance line. The set has been cleverly crafted together with the help of Mike Johnston to create a range of musical sounds that are versatile and widely appliable in different settings.
Here are the exact cymbals that come in the pack:
- 14” Meinl Byzance Extra Dry Medium Hi-Hats
- 18” Meinl Byzance Extra Dry Thin Crash
- 20” Meinl Byzance Traditional Extra Thin Hammered Crash
- 21” Meinl Byzance Mike Johnston Signature Transition Ride
All these cymbals are professional options from Meinl, so it’s amazing that they’re coming in one pack together. It makes the set a great option to consider if you have a drum set without cymbals to use.
The cymbal set covers a wide range of tones but mostly specializes in dry and dark ones. Here are the specifics of all the sounds from each cymbal offered.
Meinl Byzance Extra Dry Medium Hi-Hats
The Meinl Byzance Extra Dry Medium hi-hats are some of the most commonly used hi-hats that I’ve seen with drummers that play Meinl cymbals. They have an unmistakable appearance thanks to their unlathed surface.
They’re incredibly dry, giving them an incredibly articulate stick striking sound when played on the surface. As you open the hats, the sound gets a bit washier, but the dry tones remain. Since the hats have a medium weight, you still get a strong chick sound when they’re closed using the pedal. This makes them great for keeping time with your left foot.
These hats will blend into mixes very smoothly, so don’t expect them to be too loud when playing with a band.
Meinl Byzance Extra Dry Thin Crash
The Meinl Byzance Extra Dry Thin crash lends many of the qualities of the previous hi-hats. However, the cymbal is a lot thinner than the hi-hats are, making it washier when played.
It has a fairly low-pitched sound, giving you a low boom that gets out the way incredibly quickly. You get a bit of stick definition when playing on the surface, but this crash tends to work better as a once-off playing option to end fills and start new drum sections.
Something unique that I found with this cymbal is that it doesn’t actually sound too great when played separately from a drum kit. Every time I’ve hit one in a music store, I’ve thought that it sounded kind of aggressive. However, match this cymbal up with a kit and other cymbals, and it will sound incredible.
Meinl Byzance Traditional Extra Thin Hammered Crash
The Meinl Byzance Traditional Extra Thin Hammered crash is my favorite cymbal in this set. I’m a sucker for large cymbals, and 20” crashes are the largest ones you can get. This cymbal has hammering that gives it a complex tone.
When you first hit it, you’ll hear a powerful sound. That sound is followed by a deep resonance that tends to envelop your whole drum kit. Mike Johnston calls it the “bwoosh”, which perfectly describes the sound it makes.
Since the cymbal is large, you could easily use it as a ride cymbal as well. It has a fair bit of stick definition, and the rich tones will be heard when playing on the surface.
Meinl Byzance Mike Johnson Signature Transition Ride
The Transition Ride is Mike Johnston’s signature cymbal with Meinl. It’s the namesake of this cymbal set, making it the main cymbal. It’s an incredible cymbal, and it can be used for a wide array of settings.
The dry tones are matched with a strong amount of washiness when you crash on the edge. Even though it’s washy, it doesn’t lose any stick definition. The bell sound is also quite strong, and it’s the one part of the cymbal that pierces through a mix of cymbals. This makes it great for playing Latin rhythms, which Mike Johnston does all the time.
While the two crash cymbals in the set are thin, the Transition Ride is fairly heavy. So, I found it quite surprising that it has such a fantastic crashing sound.
Since the pack has Mike Johnston’s name on it, it’s good to know who he is and what he does. Knowing these things will also give you a bit of insight into why these cymbals are the ones chosen for the set.
Mike Johnston is one of the top drum educators on the planet. I remember watching his early YouTube videos in 2010 and thinking how incredible of a teacher he was. Fast forward to over a decade later, and he’s still killing it. He does clinic tours, holds drum education camps, and runs an education platform on the Internet.
Since he’s a drum teacher, he tends to play and teach every style of music. These cymbals are chosen to support that. They’re the types of cymbals that you can pull out at most gigs, and they’d work fantastically.
However, I’d say that they work best in jazz and alternative settings. The dry cymbals are a bit too soft to work well in louder environments.
This set is one of the most expensive cymbals that Meinl offers, so you’re going to be dropping a fair bit of cash on it. It’s understandable, seeing as these are all pro-grade cymbals made from a B20 bronze alloy.
The value of the set is excellent, though. After looking up the prices of each individual cymbal, I found out that you’d be saving almost $400 by buying them altogether. $400 is the price of a whole cymbal, so it’s a sweet deal.
If you love dry cymbals and you’re a fan of the Transition Ride, I highly suggest saving to buy this set instead of getting a cheaper one with lower-quality options.
Pros and Cons
- Full set of dry and dark cymbals with complex tonal characters
- Great sounds for jazz and other alternative styles
- The cymbals are widely diverse
- The Transition Ride is amazing
- The cymbal pack is very expensive
Who’s This Cymbal Pack for?
Seeing that the price of this cymbal pack is quite high, I’d say it’s a good option for intermediate or professional drummers who want some top-quality sounds.
I wouldn’t suggest it for beginner players, partly due to the price but also because beginner players won’t appreciate the esoteric sound of dry cymbals. It’s usually a better option for beginner drummers to get cymbals with more traditional sounds.
I’ve also always seen this set as an excellent option for jazz drummers. All the included cymbals tend to work brilliantly for jazz playing. You could easily use the cymbals for other styles, but jazz is where they shine!
Alternative Cymbal Packs to Consider
Meinl Byzance Vintage Benny Greb Cymbal Pack
If you love the sound of Mike Johnston’s pack, you should also check out the one from Benny Greb. These cymbals are a bit heavier with a warmer sound, giving them more of a vintage cymbal vibe.
I’ve been using a Benny Greb Meinl ride on my main drum kit for years, and it has such clear and articulate sounds that make ride cymbal patterns very distinct. The other Byzance Sand cymbals in the set share similar qualities.
The hi-hats are a lot thicker than the ones that come with the Mike Johnston set, so they work a bit better for heavier settings.
Apart from the Byzance Sand cymbals, the set comes with a 16” Byzance Trash crash. This cymbal has an explosive, trashy sound that perfectly complements the rest of the cymbals in the set. It also works quite well for stacking cymbals if you’re into that.
Fortunately, this set is slightly more affordable than the Mike Johnston set. However, it’s still very expensive.
- The cymbals are slightly more explosive than the ones in the Mike Johnson set
- The trash crash adds fantastic variety
- The cymbals sound great within multiple styles of music
Zildjian K Custom Special Dry Set
The Zildjian K Custom Special Dry Set includes Zildjian’s version of dry cymbals. These cymbals have earthy characteristics, and they have the classic short decay that is to be expected from dry cymbals.
I’m suggesting them as a good alternative as they’re slightly warmer than the dry cymbals from Meinl. The set is also cheaper than both the Benny Greb and Mike Johnston sets.
All the cymbals pack quite a bite when struck, but that aggressiveness only stays for a short time, and it’s followed by a light sustain. Have you ever placed a splash cymbal underneath a crash cymbal to see what it sounds like? That’s the tone that these cymbals have.
They’re excellent for low-volume settings and jazz drumming. You could make them work in heavier styles as well, but you would need to add a few brighter cymbals into the mix.
- Dry cymbals from the popular Zildjian brand
- Aggressive striking sounds with light decays
- This pack is cheaper than both the dry cymbal packs from Meinl
- Not the most versatile cymbal options
Meinl Classics Custom Dual Set
The Meinl Classics Custom Dual Set is a good option to consider if you’re looking for something more affordable. These cymbals take all the qualities from the Meinl Classics Customs and Classics Custom Darks and combine them together.
They have dark attacks with little sustain. However, they’re a lot more explosive and resonant than dry cymbals, making them excellent options to use in heavy settings.
The cymbals are made from a B12 bronze alloy, so they’re more intermediate options than they are pro ones. Both intermediate and pro drummers can get plenty of use out of these, though. They’ve just not as complex or responsive as all the cymbals mentioned above.
- Affordable intermediate cymbal pack option
- The cymbals are excellent for rock and metal settings
- Combines both qualities from two other Meinl cymbal lines into one
- Not as dynamically responsive as all the previous cymbals
Answer: Dry cymbals are categorized by their short sustain and slightly trashy tones. When you hit them, they don’t ring for very long. The dryer a cymbal is, the trashier its tone will be.
Not all drummers are fans of dry cymbals, making their sound an acquired taste for many. You’ll typically be able to identify a dry cymbal by its unlathed surface. Cymbals with lathed surfaces have more traditional sounds, and they ring for longer.
The benefit of dry cymbals is that you can hit them very hard without them sounding overbearing. They’re excellent for quiet environments or for drummers who love complex sounds.
Answer: Yes. Buying cymbals secondhand is one of the best ways to get your hands on professional cymbals for affordable prices. Cymbals also tend to mature with age, meaning the older ones usually sound a lot better than brand new ones. This makes buying old cymbals a sweet deal overall.
However, you should make sure to inspect the cymbals before you buy them. You may be buying a cymbal that has a small and unnoticeable crack. That crack will grow within a short time of you playing the cymbal.
Another downside of buying old cymbals is that they don’t look as shiny and fresh as they would new. The brand logo may be worn out, and many drummers I know don’t like that.
Answer: It’s a fantastic idea if you want to save money. Cymbal packs typically include a free cymbal, meaning you generally get four cymbals for the price of three. Also, cymbal packs include cymbals that have been specifically placed together because they have a coherent sound. So, getting a cymbal pack will guarantee having an awesome cymbal setup.
However, cymbal packs take away some of the individuality of a cymbal setup. Other drummers may have the same pack as you, so their cymbal setup will sound the same. I’d suggest adding a few cymbals that you’ve personally picked to insert a bit of your own voice behind the kit.
Answer: No. All cymbal and drum kit sounds are subjective. You won’t get a set of cymbals that don’t fit the sound of the drums they’re with. They’re designed to sound good together, no matter which cymbals or drums you have.
Some cymbals won’t sound appropriate for particular styles of music, though. For example, a set of dry and thin cymbals won’t be loud enough in a heavy metal setup.
Answer: Cymbal brands often link up with popular drummers to create signature cymbals. Those cymbals are made with input from the drummer according to their preferences, and then their name is put on the cymbal. Typically, the drummer makes a commission every time one of their signature cymbals is purchased.
Some drummers have multiple signature cymbals with a brand. A great example of this is Benny Greb with Meinl.
The Meinl Mike Johnson cymbal pack is an amazing option to consider. So are all the alternative choices that I recommended. If you have the money to spend and you’re looking for a versatile cymbal set, I’d suggest going with the Mike Johnston pack.
You could save a bit of cash by choosing either the Benny Greb set or the Zildjian Special Dry set. All three of these sets share many similar qualities. Alternatively, you could opt for the Classics Custom Dual set for something a bit more affordable and different.
All the cymbals are fantastic. You just need to choose the set that best matches your preferences.
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