A Brief History of New Beats

The one minute overview is that New Beat hi hats can be usefully divided into seven eras when you are trying to determine year of manufacture. They are
  1. 1963-mid 70s ink: straight BOTTOM HI HAT / NEW BEAT stamp: 60s or 70s
  2. mid 70s - 1981 ink: curved BOTTOM NEW BEAT / HI HAT; hollow ink Zildjian 1978 onwards
  3. 1982 - 1991 ink: solid Zildjian
  4. 1992 ink: Avedis added to Zildjian script on top
  5. 1994 - onwards laser serial numbers give year of manufacture
  6. 1997? ink: cursive A next to model ink
  7. 2013 redisgn of A series; large cursive A above model ink
These eras are based mostly on changing ink styles, and the changing ink styles are related to die stamps when this is possible. If you've been here before and just need a refresher, you just got it. If you need to know more about what these ink styles actually mean, read on. But first a little history about how New Beats began.

New Beat hi hats came about with input from drummer Louis Bellson. The Zildjian web site gives the year as 1963:

Image: New Beat First Year 1963

NB first year
Paul Francis (head of R&D at Zildjian) says 1968 in the NAMM 2013 release video for the year of the first New Beats (start at 4:20), but that seems to be for the pair sold as a pair. So it is looking like there are two first dates, and that is how I've noted them in the timeline.

I later came across this site and found the same idea of two dates given there, although they point out that the exact year might be between 1963 and 1965. It's nice to have independent confirmation.

In addition Magnus (member on VDF) emailed Zildjian about them and got this reply

The "New Beat" concept actually started with the suggestion from the great drumming artist and Zildjian endorser, Louie Bellson in 1965. He recommended the use of a heavier bottom cymbal than what was commonly used up to that point in time. It was actually the bottom cymbal that was referred to as a "New Beat" (Mr. Bellson actually coined the term) that could be applied to any weight top cymbal (medium to thin weights). This went on for a couple of years until a dedicated New Beat Hihat pairing was established in 1967-68 using a medium weighted top cymbal to go against the "New Beat" bottom. It was then that the classic New Beat Hihats were born. Since then, they have remained our most popular hihat creations.

So we have a few different threads of evidence for two different years of introduction. But as usual the exact year can't be pinpointed 100%. For simplicity I've written the rest of this essay as if the years are 1963 and 1968, but remember that this is really 1963±2 and 1968±2.

So what was happening before New Beats came along? Basically hi hats tended to be about the same weight on the top and bottom. Say within 80g, and often within 50g. Hi hats in this "equal weight" or "matched" tradition continue to be offered, but most manufacturers also have a New Beat style pair in their hi hat offerings. And what is this magic New Beat ratio?

The usual formula is given as 2:3 for top:bottom. That ratio can also be expressed as 67% and the average across all the pairs I've collected up (52 pairs and counting) is 71%. But the variation in individual pairings goes from 60% to 80% (in rounded figures). So there appears to be lots of natural variation around the expected ratio. Here is a plot so you can get an idea of just how much variation there is:

Graph: 14" New Beat Top vs Bottom Weights
NB ratios graph
If you would like to look at the weights in greater detail, here is a link to the raw data on which the graph is based: click here and then use the back button in your browser to get back here. The data in the table is sorted in increasing order by the weight of the top.

One issue with all of this is that we can't be sure all of the pairs are original factory pairs. People can play mix and match (I've been known to do it myself) and sellers can be absolutely convinced a pair is factory original simply because that's what the guy they bought them from said. We'll have a closer look at the actual variation in weights, and examine the evidence that they got heavier over time. I've also got some preliminary pricing info on used New Beats versus matched hats in the 14" size. But first, here is a gallery of the different eras.

First Generation New Beat Ink (1963-mid 70s)

Image: New Beat 1st Gen ink

New Beat 1st Gen

This is the first generation of ink I have identified for the New Beat. This ink is found on the inside of the bottom cymbal. Most often the ink is only on the bottom, which is is to be expected with the bottom cymbal being sold separately (1963-1967). The defining characteristics of this ink are that it is straight (not curved) and says BOTTOM HI HAT / NEW BEAT.

Image: New Beat 1st Gen top ink pre 1968

NB 1st Gen top ink pre 68

Prior to the 1968 pair being available, the ink on the top cymbal might say THIN or MEDIUM depending on the weight class of the top. The bottom of a pre 1968 pair would show the BOTTOM HI HAT / NEW BEAT, as indeed the bottom of this particular pair does. So it was a THIN (776g) over a medium weight bottom (1094g). Another style of ink which can appear on the top hat of a New Beat pairing is just model ink saying TOP / HI-HAT with no indication of weight class. This style of ink with the relatively taller and more slender letters was around in the 1950s as well.


NB sticker

The above image is from a 15" pair of New Beats and the die stamp on there is the larger (1.5") 1960s die stamp. The bottom hat of this pair revealed a new style of ink which doesn't mention BOTTOM or TOP at all:

Image: New Beat 1st Gen alternative ink

NB alternative 1st ink

This might be the very first ink style when the name "New Beat" referred to just a bottom, and thus the ink didn't need to specify top or bottom. I've seen two examples so far and these were on bottom cymbals with a 60s die stamp. But there are other sorts of ink showing up as well. On a pair from the UK I found ink stamps which include diameter info, and the Ottoman portion of the Avedis stamp. This may be only on UK (or European) exported cymbals.

Image: New Beat 1st Gen export ink

NB other ink

In addition to the size ink the top cymbal of this 1960s pair also includes a sticker.

Image: New Beat Sticker

NB sticker

I've recorded two of these New Beat stickers so far, as well as a Rock Hats sticker.

Image: New Beat 1st Gen top ink post 1968

NB 1st Gen top ink post 68

There are also a few top cymbals with straight top ink which says TOP HI HAT / NEW BEAT as shown above, and we presume that top ink comes in as of 1968 when the pair were sold as a pair.

Note that the ink from the top cymbal of a Hi Hat pair often ends up polished off, so just because you don't find it doesn't mean it wasn't there. If the top ink is still there it can help pin down years, if there is no top ink that doesn't provide any information one way or the other. Of course, ink on the bottom of a cymbal can be polished off as well, but it seems like more top ink disappears. Anther thing which has come to my attention when looking at a lot of the 1st gen New Beat ink is that it is crooked, or not positioned evenly over the bell L to R, or often both. This seems to be the way with much of the early model/weight class ink on cymbals and isn't just restricted to New Beats.

The die stamp found on cymbals with this 1st gen ink is the 1960s stamp (as one would expect) and I've recorded both the early 60s and the later 60s heights. Note that there are also pairs of New Beat 1st gens which have the 70s stamp on them, so this generation didn't stop at the end of the 60s stamp era. The ink generation change doesn't line exactly with the die stamp era change.

Image: New Beat 1st Gen top hammering view

NB 1st Gen top ink post 68

The New Beats from this first generation tend to have quite obvious hammering on the top.

Image: New Beat 1st Gen bottom hammering view

NB 1st Gen top ink post 68

and no obvious hammering underneath. This is consistent with Bill Hartrick's observation that there was an early 60s date for the change in hammering to top side only.

The lathing looks fairly even (compared to 1950s lathing), and goes up onto the bell on the top side. Inside the bell (on the bottom side of the cymbal) the tonal grooves are often just slightly finer (definition link coming to as yet unwritten page on lathing). In both pictures above, the top hat is on the left (with the slightly enlarged mounting hole).

Second Generation New Beat Ink (mid 70s-1981)

Image: New Beat 2nd Gen ink


In the 2nd gen ink, the word order has changed from BOTTOM HI HAT / NEW BEAT (1st gen) into BOTTOM NEW BEAT / HI HAT (2nd gen). The ink is also curved down at the edges. The addition of the Hollow Zildjian Ink logo to the bottom cymbal dates the second generation of ink dates to 1978 to 1981. But that is just the year at which we know it is present. It could have started a bit earlier than 1978.

Image: New Beat 2nd Gen top ink

NB 2nd Gen top ink

During this time there is also ink on the top cymbal saying TOP NEW BEAT / HI HAT. Both the top and bottom ink is curved (a little higher in the middle). If you have learned to recognize the signs of a 70s stamp (particularly the vertical alignment and lack of bold Zildjian) the you should agree with me that this is a 70s stamp shown with this ink.

You don't need to have a Hollow Zildjian ink logo showing to qualify for 2nd generation, but the ones I've recorded so far do date from this period.

Image: NB 2nd Gen ink on both cymbals

NB 2nd Gen bot ink

Sometimes both cymbals will still carry the hollow Zildjian ink logo underneath. The above picture illustrates a particularly well preserved pair. It appears that more care is taken in putting the ink on accurately in this generation (and later). No more being off center or crooked.

By 1976, New Beats are being described as a Medium weight top over a Heavy bottom in the Zildjian catalog. (link coming).

The lathing tends to be the same as the 60s lathing, and this remains true for later generations. The hammering on the top becomes less obvious.

Third Generation New Beat Ink (mid 1982-1991)

Image: New Beat 80s

New Beat 80s

This is the style from about 1982 and it is the third generation. This ink change isn't unique to New Beats, it's just the general progression of ink in the A series. This style lasts until about 1991. The most obvious change is that the script Zildjian logo ink has become solid and appears at 6 o'clock on both the bottom and the top.

Image: New Beat Ink with diameter

NB ink with diameter

The top model ink now has the diameter under it as well, in both inches and cm. It continues to have the diameter measurements under it from here on out.

The rest of this section will be added when I get to it, but you can return to the gallery and follow the general ink changes from here on out.

Changes in New Beat Weights Over Time

Graph: 14" New Beat Top Weights by Era
NB top wts by era
New Beat weights got heavier over the years. Both the tops and the bottoms increased. The pattern is statistically significant even though there is lots of variation. The variation means it is possible to find a lighter pair from the 1980s which weigh about the same as a heavier pair from the 1960s.

Graph: 14" New Beat Bottom Weights by Era
NB bot wts by era
These are boxplots (or box and whiskers plots) and they tell you the whole distribution of the data at a glance. The box encloses half the observations (aka the interquartile range). The solid line is the median of the distribution. The whiskers (lines up and down from the box) go out further to include most of the observations, and the little circles outside the whisker range represent outliers. Outliers are defined as outside 1.5 times the interquartile range. A pictorial version of my description is here although it doesn't mention the outliers aspect. In this case outliers represent unusually heavy or light cymbals.

These plots show the clear increase in weight by decade, and they also show the reset of weights in 2013 which moved the tops back down to the 60s - 70s weights. Note that the 2013 revamp targeted a change to the weights and curvature of the tops but not the bottoms, and that comes through in these plots. You can see that the bottom weights haven't gone right back down to 60s-70s level, although the bottoms will still be a bit lighter so that magic New Beat ratio stays about the same.

Graph: 14" New Beat Ratios by Era
NB ratio by era
As one would expect, the ratio after the 2013 revamp is a bit lower and also back in the 60s-70s range. In fact, the ratio post revamp is at the lower end of the 60s-70s range and looking like that traditional 2:3 or 0.66 once again. Back to the golden era.

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text stabilized 9 Jan 2016 6:17 PM
text last updated 4 Nov 2016 8:45 AM

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