It’s no Lemon

A new entrant in the low-cost cymbal market is making waves, so we checked out this latest offering.

IF YOU’VE BEEN following any online e-drum group, you will have seen the intense interest in the Chinese Lemon brand of e-cymbals, especially the 16” three-zone ride.
Many drummers have added these cymbals to their kits, some lamenting the lack of a bigger option – especially as the 16” turned out to be closer to 15 inches in reality.
Well, the wait is over with Lemon now offering a nominal 18” three-zone cymbal.

What’s in the box
Lemon is sold directly by its manufacturer via the Alibaba platform. Some western buyers are nervous about dealing with the Asian Amazon-equivalent, so a secondary market has developed, with entrepreneurial e-drummers buying in bulk and then on-selling (obviously with some profit built in).
I have purchased many things from Alibaba over the years and never had an issue, so there’s really nothing to fear about this platform – and even less risk if you use your credit card. That said, don’t be fooled by the seemingly give-away price – you’ll have to add shipping. The new cymbal is currently listed for US$69 each plus close to $60 shipping to my part of the world. Still, $130 for one of the largest analogue three-zone cymbals on the market seems too good to be true.
The cymbal ships in a flimsy cardboard box with no fancy packaging or foam protection, leaving most buyers quite nervous before they plug in the cymbal.
You won’t find any documentation, any cables or rotation stoppers in the package – just the almost-18” cymbal.
The cymbal itself seems solid enough and well built – pretty much in the same league as Goedum, XM or Avatar cymbals – or the Medeli OEM cymbals for KAT, Simmons and Alesis.
There’s a rigid plastic base covered with a reasonably firm ribbed black rubber playing surface covering the whole cymbal – unlike some designs with a limited trigger area.
Underneath are two TSR jacks labelled ‘Ride 1’ and ‘Ride 2’, which is not too informative. It’s not clear which is bell, bow or edge – which means you’ll need to experiment when connecting to your module (but more about that a little later).
The cymbal is designed to fit on a Roland-style rotation stopper, but can be mounted fairly securely with a fat cymbal felt.
Interestingly, my review sample didn’t have the large ‘Lemon’ logo shown on Alibaba. I saw subsequently that buyers can request a logo-free cymbal if they choose. It did, however, have a raised semicircle around half of the edge – indicating the side which should face the drummer.

In action
The first lesson I learned is that there are two possible ways Lemon cymbals can be wired internally – one specifically for three-zone applications and the other two-zone crash triggering. Unfortunately, there’s no factory default and some are shipped as a ride while others are configured as a crash – and you can’t tell unless you plug them into a module.
As ‘luck’ would have it, when I connected the cymbal, my ride turned out to be wired as a crash. It’s not hard to fix this – you simply unscrew all the screws on the underside and remove the plastic cover to reveal the two stereo jacks. You then remove the quick connector from one jack and clip it onto the other one. Then replace the plastic cover and screw it back together. It’s a 10-minute job, but a job that shouldn’t be necessary, especially on an 18” cymbal which will almost certainly be deployed as a ride.
Once ‘wired’ correctly, the cymbal is configured like a Roland three-zone, two-cable ride, and – in theory at least – should be easy to dial into any module using a CY-15R setting. But “should be” is the operative phrase as I found.
Connected to a Roland TD-30, the Lemon triggered extremely well after the sensitivity was lowered and the threshold raised slightly. Bell triggering was accurate and easy, although the bell itself is a bit smaller and has a lower profile than most e-cymbals. Nonetheless, bell strikes were clearly detected, the bow played beautifully and the edge was very responsive, producing excellent swells. Choking was easy, with a slight pinch required on the edge. Note, however, that the choke switch only covers about 60% of the perimeter – the area designated by the raised ridge on the playing surface.
Although I chose the Roland ride wiring set-up in the Lemon’s jack box, the results were less than ideal on the TD-27, where the bell and edge zones were reversed (hit the bell and get the edge sound and vice versa) – and there was no choke action at all. I tried every single cymbal preset, but nothing helped to correct the edge/bell issue or to restore the choke until I opened the cymbal again and reversed the connection (moving it from the right to the left-hand jack). Once that was done, I got excellent triggering on all three zones and an effective choke in CY15 setting.
Plugged into an Alesis Strike with two cable inputs, the Lemon was perfect: excellent bow triggering, perfect bell triggering and great edge response, with accurate choke action. The cymbal needed almost no adjustment from the module’s stock ride setting.
As easy as the Strike was to dial in, the 2box DrumIt Three was difficult with the same cymbal internal set-up. No matter what setting I tried, I was not able to get bell triggering. However, after switching the internal wiring, I got excellent triggering with the CYPSB preset. Triggering was, however, very hot for the 2box and needed to be dialled back.
On the Pearl mimicPRO, triggering was slightly hot, but the aDC18 setting produced excellent performance – with perfect bell, bow and edge response and easy chokeability. Performance was a bit worse using the CY setting, with bow/bell separation less accurate.
And while the aDC18 setting worked best on the mimic, it didn’t perform as well on the ATV aD5. Again, bell and edge were reversed and there was no choke. The same was true using the CY15R preset. Again, the wiring had to be swapped over internally.
Initially, we struggled with the GEWA G9, but after a couple of GEWA firmware/software updates, we tried again. We had to flip the internal wiring (opposite to Roland), and when connected with two cables, used the ATV ride preset to obtain excellent bell, bow and edge triggering and easy chokeability.
On the eDRUMin TMI, good triggering was achieved using the Metal 3 Zone preset. A few tweaks produced good bell/bow separation and edge triggering.

The bottom line
There was lots of hype and enthusiasm for the almost 16” Lemon ride, but drummers were calling for more – or at least bigger.
With the 17.5” three-zone ride, Lemon has delivered one of the largest e-rides on the market – and at a bargain price.
Sure, the finish is nowhere near the ATV or Efnote cymbals which cost many times more. But the Lemon is not unattractive and seems to be well built. You get some insight into the build if you have to remove the bottom of the cymbal to swap the connectors. The design is fairly basic – an exposed piezo, and the ribbon connectors for the edge switch and the bell trigger. I was a bit concerned at the exposed flaps of ribbon, but I guess after the switch, they’ll never be “exposed” again, and provided you don’t damage them during the mod, they should be fine.
The playing surface feels good – not significantly more or less bouncy than other offerings in the e-cymbal world. The strike zone is quite generous – the bow seems to be fairly sensitive all the way around, while the edge/choke switch covers about 60% of the circumference. If there’s one weakness, it’s the bell bulge which is slightly smaller and quite a bit shallower than most of its rivals. But it is big enough to hit most of the time – and no doubt drummers will get used to the size of the target with practice. Importantly, it doesn’t require the excessive force needed to trigger some older Roland bells.
Triggering can be hit and miss, depending on how the cymbal is wired internally – and there’s no way of telling before you start. On the one hand, it’s frustrating that there are two options and you can’t tell which has been activated, but on the other, it’s good that there is a choice and, in all probability, one of the two options should work for any module. Another frustration is the labelling of the jacks: ‘Ride 1’ and ‘Ride 2’ really doesn’t tell you anything! It’s also confusing because one internal set-up is perfect for the Roland TD-30, but doesn’t work with the TD-27. And then the CY16 setting is perfect on one module, but not another. Of course, none of this is Lemon’s fault – you can’t really blame an after-market supplier for the design decisions of the module makers. But the confusion does highlight the need for some decent documentation – suggesting settings for some of the popular modules.
So, if, like most people, you will be using the Lemon with a specific module, you will need to first check the internal set-up. Then, it’s a matter of dialling it in – and in most cases, that was fairly easy, with not much modification needed to most ‘stock’ CY15R or ATV 18” ride presets.
If size matters to you, and you’re keen on value for money, the new almost-18” Lemon cymbal is a good choice. It triggers well (if it’s wired right and you’ve chosen an appropriate preset which has been dialed to your personal playing style) with most modules, looks good and feels realistic, especially when mounted on a Roland rotation stopper.
I see now why they removed the “Lemon” label from my sample – because on the whole, it isn’t one!

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3 thoughts on “It’s no Lemon

  1. Got mine, with much anticipation, about 10 days after ordering. I agree, it works and triggers great. Dialed it in on a Roland TD-4, using the RD on Ride 1 and the CR2 on Ride 2. Put it on a Roland TD-4kp, with only 9 cables, no CR2. I’m getting a lot of Edge wash between Bow playing, but it still sounds good. Like everyone else, we have to wait and see about longevity.

  2. I live in the UK and have recently bought a couple of Lemon cymbals from a Lemon retailer at https://www.lemoncymbals.co.uk. I didn’t want to buy from China using my credit card 9I know, I should be more trusting!), so just felt more comfortable buying from a UK supplier. I am very please with my 15″ and 18″ crash/rides (both 3 zone) and they look/feel really good quality. I would recommend Lemon cymbals to anyone looking to upgrade or replace older typed of cymbal pads.

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