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Drums

Best Cymbals

Nothing is more important to a drummer than their cymbal sound. The right cymbals will stay with you for your entire career and will always sound great. However, choosing the right cymbals can be a challenging process because every cymbal sounds different. To help you choose the right cymbals for your drumming needs, check out our lists and buyer’s guide below.

Sabian AAX Limited Edition Cymbal Package

Sabian’s AAX Stage Performance Set is one of the best cymbal packs available because it is composed of cymbals used by professional drummers. All of these cymbals sound great individually and really shine when put together as a group. This pack includes amazing sounding cymbals including a 20-inch stage ride, 16-inch stage crash, and 14-inch stage hats, all of which are bright, extremely versatile cymbals.

While the ride and crash are both great, this cymbal pack could be included on this list based solely of its inclusion of AAX stage hats. The AAX stage hats just sound better than any other high hat since they’re extremely versatile and should be considered a must-have by any serious drummer. The hats as well as the ride and crash are all extremely durable cymbals that won't usually crack or bend. On a whole, all of these cymbals have a brilliant finish that looks great on stage and in the studio alike. While this core pack is still a great deal, I've seen this set packaged either with two fast crash cymbals or with an extra 18-inch AAX stage crash cymbal for added value.

Zildjian K Custom Hybrid Cymbal Set

Zildjian’s K Custom Hybrid Cymbal set is one of the most effectively unique cymbal sets available. Zildjian is one of the biggest and greatest cymbal makers in the world, and their K Custom line is one of their best. These cymbals were designed with the help of drumming legend Akira Jimbo, and they truly reflect his unique style and tone.

This set includes a 17-inch K custom hybrid crash, 21-inch K Custom hybrid ride, and 14-inch K Custom hybrid hi hats. The hybrid name is in reference to the surface and finish; the inner half of the cymbals is un-lathed and brilliantly finished while the outer half is lathed with a traditional finish. These Hybrid cymbals are a bit brighter than regular K Custom cymbals and more “splashy” sounding; they’re described by Zildjian as offering an audibly pleasing combination of brightness and darkness.

The hi hats are very crisp, the crash cymbal blends well with almost any band, and the articulate ride cymbal sounds great for rock or jazz. In fact, all of these cymbals are very versatile and will sound great when utilized across multiple genres. They also look very professional because the brilliant half provides a perfect amount of flash for any setup. This set is a little more expensive than other packs, but is still a great value when considering you’re getting Zildjian’s legendary K Custom cymbals.

Paiste 2002 Cymbal Pack

Paiste’s 2002 cymbals are an important part of drumming history because they capture the amazing sound of 70s era drummers. These cymbals have a classic sound that is unique and leaves you wanting to hear more. In fact, the Paiste 2002 cymbal pack is the ideal choice for a drummer in a classic rock band or anyone looking for a retro sound.

The 2002 Cymbal Pack includes a 20-inch ride cymbal, 16-inch medium crash and 14-inch Sound Edge hi-hats. The cymbals are made from a CuSn8 bronze alloy (commonly referred to as 2002 Bronze) and have a unique finish that’s somewhat brilliant (but not too flashy) along with red lettering which completes the retro-look. They have a sound that is warm and very unique in addition to being very articulate cymbals with an almost flat decay.

The Sound Edge hi-hats have a rippled bottom hat to control air pockets and create a crisp closure. The 16-inch medium ride is a bit heavier that most crash cymbals included in packs, and this makes it a bit more durable for live playing. The 2002 ride has the sound you hear on many of the famous classic rock albums and it’s a joy to play because of the cymbals level of responsiveness. This set is usually packaged with a cymbal bag for added protection as well as adding to the overall value.

Sabian Neil Peart Signature Paragon Performance Cymbal Set - NP5005N

Sabian’s Paragon cymbals were designed with the help of legendary rock drummer Neal Peart, who is known for his extensive cymbal setup and original sounds. The Paragon Performance Set is a smaller version of the full Paragon Set. This set includes all of the essentials including 14-inch hi hats, a 16-inch crash, and 22-inch ride. These cymbals are made from Sabian’s B20 metal and produce a bright sound along with a unique finish that’s more traditional in nature with a little bit of brilliance to it. Although the understated look is a little dull, some drummers prefer it specifically because of the lack of “flash”.

These are medium weight cymbals and each individual cymbal in the set is matched well to its counterparts. These cymbals have a pinpoint lathing on the top for articulation with a more traditional lathing on the bottom which gives them a full tone. The cymbals in this set pair well with others because they bring a unique voice that provides an alternative color. It’s worth noting there’s also a more extensive Paragon set available with more cymbals, a hard shell flight case, and a much larger price tag.

Sabian sbr Cymbal Performance Pack

Sabian’s SBR Performance Set is the best cymbal pack for drummers working with an extremely limited budget. For a relatively small investment, this cymbal set provides you with a 20-inch SBR ride, a 16-inch SBR crash, and 14-inch SBR high-hats. In fact, these SBR cymbals sound better than most entry-level cymbals and are less expensive.

These brass cymbals feature a traditional finish and have a bright sound without sounding too pingy or ticky, while having some depth. These are also a bit thicker and much more durable than other entry level cymbals. This set provides all the basic cymbals needed to start playing at a friendly price, making it perfect for a young drummer figuring out if they’re really interested in drums or not.

Sabian AA 18" Medium Crash

The Sabian 18" Medium Crash is the biggest crash cymbal I have in my set-up and it delivers a very big sound. It has a deep sound that’s fairly dark and sounds great when played simultaneously with other cymbals, kind of like the harmony under the melody. This is probably the most durable cymbal that I own and many schools use this cymbal because of its solid construction.  This cymbal can be used for any style of music, but it sounds the best  when used for loud rock music. Sabian describes this as a bright cymbal, but I think it’s on the lower end of the bright spectrum. It has medium weight and a traditional finish.

The AA series is not considered a "high-end" series, but this crash is definitely a stand-out. The benefit to that is that this cymbal is very affordable, which makes it a great value buy. This is my workhorse cymbal and is probably the most used on my kit. I began to play it more after my first recording session, when I discovered that it sounded better on tape than it did in the room.

Zildjian "A" Custom 18" Medium Crash Cymbal

Zildjian makes some of the best sounding cymbals in the world, and they are probably the most popular. Their traditional line is called an "A" cymbal which are different than "A custom" cymbals, as they are made different from a different combination of metal (often sounding brighter), usually made with a "brilliant" finish, and the "A" line cymbals are a little darker. While both of these cymbals sound great, but they sound very different.

The "A" Zildjian Medium Crash can be used in any genre of music as it’s not too bright and not too dark, producing the perfect crash cymbal sound which doesn’t limit you to a particular style of music. My Medium Crash has been with me on every gig that I have ever played. I used to use Zildjian Thin, but that stopped when I recorded for the first time and discovered that the Medium sound a little better. They have more weight and are a little less splashy than Thin Crashes. I prefer the 18 inch size because it sounds the best, and has a lot more depth.

This cymbal has a medium pitch that can sound high when recorded and a long sustain which gives it a big sound. It has a traditional finish that helps it blend with other cymbals and compliments them well. This medium weight cymbal is very durable which follows the reputation of Zildjian's other cymbals used by many professionals. This cymbal is available in several sizes, but I prefer the 18 inch size because it has the best sound. The 16 inch size is also exceptional but has a slightly different sound that’s not as full.

Zildjian K 16" Dark Medium Thin Crash Cymbal

Zildjian's 16" K Dark Crash Medium Thin is a cymbal with many names, which is important to note because there are many other cymbals that are very similar. It's important to note that this is a "K" cymbal and not a "K custom" cymbal as the two lines are made from a different combination of metals and therefore sound different from one another; I find some "K custom" cymbals to be more "pingy" than "K" cymbals. The K Dark Crash Medium Thin is a darker cymbal but not too dark, with a long sustain and low pitch. It also has a very mature sound that works really well in the jazz genre to add some depth to your sound.

While the jazz genre doesn’t generally require a lot of heavy hitting, this cymbal is still very durable and can be played intensively. I love using this cymbal in combination with brighter cymbals for a great one-two punch. While this pick sounds especially good for jazz music, it can be useful for rock music. It has a traditional finish that I think looks great when surrounded by a jazz drum set.

Meinl Cymbals Soundcaster Custom Medium Crash Cymbal

Meinl Cymbals have been popular in Europe for years and starting to appear more in the U.S. (metal drummer setups in particular) because they make many powerful, durable cymbals. They also have many lines of cymbals appropriate for all genres such as the 18" Soundcaster Custom Medium Crash. This is a medium cymbal with a brilliance which helps it cut through the texture along with a high pitch which also helps it stand out.

This cymbal speaks quickly with an average sustain along with a polished finish that looks great, particularly in a metal kit setup. While many top metal drummers use this cymbal, it’s also well-suited for other genres because of its medium weight and warmth. While this cymbal is available in many different sizes, I prefer the sound of the 18 inch option.

Meinl Cymbals MB20-20HC-B 20" Heavy Crash Cymbal

I normally don't prefer 20" crash cymbals, but this Meinl's MB20 Heavy Crash cymbal sounds amazing and plays superior to the other available sizes in this model series. This heavyweight cymbal has an enormous sound and while the 20 inch model is huge for a crash cymbal, it actually doesn't have an obnoxiously long sustain. Rather, it has a bright attack with a deep sustain. The 20 inch model has a medium-high pitch and these smaller sizes get gradually higher in pitch making them sound very different from each other. This is the most aggressive cymbal I recommend because it cuts while maintaining  a rounded sound and sounds especially great in the metal genre. It’s very thick, making this pick extremely durable along with a beautiful, brilliant finish.

Sabian 21" HH Raw Bell Dry Ride Cymbal

Sabian is one of the two biggest cymbal makers in the world, and their HH line is one of their very best series of cymbals. Their 21” HH Raw Bell Dry Ride is one of the most unique sounding cymbals I’ve ever heard. Just like its name, it produces an extremely raw and dry sound, but still retains a lot of tone and warmth. It’s definitely a heavy cymbal with a dark sound that is similar to older vintage cymbals.

The HH in the product title stand for “hand hammered”, meaning this cymbal is hammered by hand, which gives it more character than other cymbals. It has unlathed bell cuts for added articulation while giving it a very distinctive look. There’s also a subtle bell that’s smaller and shorter than most ride cymbals which helps give it a unique sound and clarity with excessive ping. This is one of the very best ride cymbals on the market and will sound great when used with different genres of music.

Zildjian K Custom 20" Dry Ride Cymbal

Zildjian's 20" K Custom Dry Ride is the best cymbal for jazz music and part of Ziljian's K Custom series used by many professionals. It has a very dry sound that provides amazing articulation and I also love the feel of this cymbal in that you have to swing a little harder to pull out the sound. This generally helps to make my ride cymbal pattern more consistent and while I have occasionally used this cymbal for rock music, but it really shines when used for jazz.

It has a low pitch that projects at low and high volumes as well as playing a lot heavier than its actual weight, meaning it is darker and thick sounding. This is truly one of Zildjian's best cymbals, which is saying a lot considering they are one of the best cymbal makers on the planet. The natural, unlathed finish means this cymbal has no shine so it ends up looking more like an ancient piece of metal.

Paiste Signature Series Dry Heavy Ride 22"

Because a lot of care is put into their design and production, Paiste's Signature line of cymbals are some of the best made cymbals in the world. In fact, this company often teams up with professional drummers to design signature cymbals for a superior sounding product. Inspired by Danny Carey from the band Tool, this is a heavy ride cymbal which produces a pingy sound perfect for the rock or metal genres. In fact, the very distinct sound has made this pick one of the most popular ride cymbals on the market.

This cymbal has a very dry sound which helps articulate advanced ride cymbal patterns and avoids sounding washy. This cymbal does have a heavy feel, meaning it’s a little more appropriate for heavy hitters. It won’t help you by hiding inconsistencies in your pattern, so this is a great cymbal for developing your technique. Additionally, Paiste is known for making interesting looking cymbals and this one is no exception with a distinctive metallic-purple finish.

Sabian HHX 20" Manhattan Jazz Ride

Sabian is one of the two biggest cymbal makers in the world, and their HHX line is one of their very best series of cymbals. In particular, their HHX Manhattan Jazz Ride has become the standard for jazz drummers looking for a “washy” sound. Sabian’s HHX cymbals usually feel better than other cymbals, meaning they are easy to play and let the drummer really enjoy themselves. This cymbal has a dark sound that produces a feel of a classic ride cymbal and many jazz drummers pair this with a dry ride cymbal so they have two different options.

This is a very wet cymbal with a long sustain and you can really lay into it without the cymbal becoming a mess of overtones. The 20 inch size is perfect for jazz music or lighter rock and there isn’t the traditional articulation of a dry ride, it can produce a clear swing pattern. This cymbal has been crafted thinner than most dry ride cymbals which allows for a sound that’s a little lighter on the ear. A modern, traditional-looking finish makes it perfect for integration into a jazz kit.

Zildjian A Series 21" Rock Ride Cymbal

Sometimes Zildjian makes things too easy and simply labels their cymbals with their most effective use. In the case of their "A" series Rock Ride, they’ve really hit the nail right on the head. This is a great ride cymbal for rock music because it has a clear sound that cuts. The 21 inch size of this heavyweight cymbal projects a bit more clearly than 20 inch ride cymbals, producing a great tone and a high pitch that helps it stand out of the texture when needed. While many cymbals rely on their bell to give them a clear tone, the well-made "A" series Rock Ride has a very normal size bell. The cymbal has a very clear attack which is very appropriate for rock music but this picks overall sound works in other genres as well because it’s not too harsh.

Sabian AAX 14” Stage Hats

Sabian is one of the top cymbal makers and they’ve created a set of hi-hat cymbals that are better than all others. Sabian’s AAX 14” Stage Hats sound great for all styles of music, from light jazz to heavy metal and bright enough to cut through any band but still warm enough to blend in. The top cymbal is of a medium weight and the bottom cymbal is heavy. Both have a brilliant finish that looks great and helps to provide some brightness that’s pleasing to the ear.

In my opinion, they are perfect cymbals. I’ve spent many hours in music stores testing hi-hats, and the best sounding Hi-hat was always the AAX 14” Stage Hats. My Stage Hats are the most durable Hi-hats that I own. Having really laid into my hi-hats, they’re the only ones that haven’t cracked. Best of all, these cymbals are also competitively priced so you don’t have to break the bank to add them to your kit.

Zildjian New Beat Hi Hat Cymbals

Zildjian’s New Beat Hi-Hats are probably the most popular hi-hats on the market thanks to their great sound which can be applied to a variety of different musical genres. They are part of the "A Zildjian series" and it’s important to note this is different than the brighter "A Custom" series. They generally have a lower pitch than other cymbals and are medium to heavy in weight. They’re also not as bright as other cymbals, and therefore they blend better and lock in the sound of when you’re playing. I mainly use my New Beats for rock music, but I’ve also used them for lighter styles of music; I think they have an edge that is even appropriate for metal. New Beat hats have a traditional finish which isn’t as shiny as a brilliant finish, often sounding drier as a result.

Zildjian 14" A Custom Mastersound Hi-Hat Cymbal Pair

Zildjian’s A Custom Hi-hats are part of their amazing A Custom series designed in part by top drumming professionals. These cymbals have a quick decay and a medium pitch caused by the cymbals being a bit lighter than most Hi-hats, but they’re still heavy enough to give them a bright sound. This combination makes them very versatile and can be used in multiple genres from jazz to rock. They have a brilliant finish which adds additional brightness to the sound and makes the cymbals very pleasing on the eyes.

I have found A Custom cymbals blend well when being paired with other cymbals of this type, but they particularly stand out when they are paired with darker cymbals. If you have a lot of dark rides and crashes in your setup that you like, than adding a set of these hi-hats can really brighten up your sound. If you have a set of darker hi-hats, they’ll make a great alternative option in a second set.

Zildjian pays careful attention to detail, and they’ve maintained very high standards when creating these cymbals. The one drawback to A custom cymbals is that they’re sometimes susceptible to cracking, but I have found that these hi-hats are some of the most durable that they make in this series. As with most of my picks, they are competitively priced with other top models.

Paiste Signature Dark Crisp Hi Hat Cymbal

The Paiste Signature Dark Crisp hi-hat is just that, dark and crisp. They are available in 13 and 14 inch types, and I prefer the 13 inch model for low-volume jazz gigs. They have a medium weight top and a heavy bottom, so the small cymbals still produce a tight chick. What I like most about these cymbals is how articulate the stick tip sounds on the top cymbal, generating a very crisp sound which is very responsive.

While these cymbals do have a refined professional sound, they have some dirt to them that’s especially appropriate for jazz. These cymbals are durable enough for ordinary playing but aren’t meant for you bashers out there as they can’t withstand intense volumes or heavy hitting. However, they work great in the studio and have a crisp sound that records well. Because these are Paiste’s top of the line cymbals, they are a bit more expensive than others but worth the investment because they are extremely well made and sound great.

Meinl MB20 Heavy Soundwave Hi-hat 14 Cymbal

Meinl cymbals have quickly become the preferred choice of cymbal for metal drummers. Many of the top metal drummers exclusively use Meinl cymbals for their durability and biting sound as this particular genre requires extremely durable and loud hi-hats. Meinl’s MB20 Heavy Soundwave 14-inch pair is a powerhouse pair that is extremely aggressive sounding. They have a very high pitch with a long sustain that helps them cut through a metal band. They also have a very bright sound which gives them a lot of energy and again helps them cut through the “wall of sound” most metal bands produce.

Their brilliant finish looks great on stage and adds to the brightness. While they’re extremely heavy, these cymbals don’t have the clunky sound most heavy cymbals produce, plus they can take a good beating without cracking. They have a professional sound that’s particularly great when played open or loose. Unique styles of music call for unique cymbals, and these are among the best hi-hats for metal music.

Zildjian 10" A Custom Splash Cymbal

Zildjian’s “A” Splash has the perfect “splash” sound you’re looking for with a fast attack which comes off bright and splashy. This pick has a high pitch whichhelps it stand out and produces effective accents. While it does speak quickly, this cymbal actually has a longer sustain with a nice ring. The cymbal has a traditional finish that looks professional and takes some of the harshness out of its sound. The 10 inch size also has the ideal sound for a splash cymbal which is perfect for when a drummer has only the space and set-up time for one splash. The “A” splash is a surprisingly durable cymbal despite its paper-thin construction, so you can trust this cymbal to take a beating. Manufactured by Zildjian, you can be sure you’re purchasing a cymbal of the highest quality.

Sabian 11" AAX AAX-Plosion Splash

Sabian’s 11” AAX Max Splash is the more extreme version of their AAX splash and designed with help from master drummer Mike Portnoy, who is known for creating interesting sounds with his cymbals. He uses splash cymbals a lot in his playing, so much that they’re sometimes part of the beat and not simply accents. The 11” AAX Max Splash is a great sounding cymbal that creates a bit more sound than traditional 10” splashes and just like the AAX 10” splash, this cymbal is part of Sabian’s AAX series.

These cymbals have a lot of punch, but also have maturity in their overall sound. In fact, I find these cymbals have a sound which appeals to everyone, but with enough power to stand out. The AAX Max Splash is offered in usual sizes, and I think the 11 inch size sounds the best. It has a very full sound and is a pitch lower in pitch than most 10 inch splashes. This cymbal will sound great as a primary splash or as a cymbal that accompanies other splashes. It ‘s very articulate, provides a bright punch, has the same modern finish as other AAX cymbals, and is fairly brilliant in look and tone.

Meinl Custom 10" Brilliant Finish Splash Cymbal

As I said in some of my previous reviews, Meinl has become the choice of cymbals for the metal genre because of their unique sound and power. The Soundcaster Custom Splash provides a bit more power than other splashes and really cuts through the band. This is a bright sounding cymbal with a high pitch to provide sharpness and a fast attack, yet still retains tone throughout the entire length of the note. I like the 10 inch size because it has a decent amount of sustain which increases the overall effectiveness of the sound. This cymbal has a brilliant finish that looks great as part of a metal drum set, with a lot of professionals using this splash cymbal because of its powerful sound and quality craftsmanship. While Meinl isn’t one of the most popular cymbal makers in the U.S., they are very well respected around the world and growing in popularity.

Sabian 10" AAX Splash Cymbal

Sabian’s 10” AAX Splash has a lot of the qualities that make the AAX series favorites of drummers everywhere. It has a very bright sound that provides explosive accents to a song. It is an extremely thin cymbal that speaks very quickly and can be used in several different genres. Blending well with other cymbals, this pick has a modern finish that’s fairly brilliant in look and tone. It’s also available in several different sizes but I believe the 10” sounds the best.

These cymbals have a lot of punch but also have maturity in their overall sound. As I’ve said in previous reviews, Sabian is one of the best cymbal makers in the work, and the AAX line could be their best line of cymbals. I find that these cymbals have a sound that appeals to everyone, but with enough power to stand out.

Zildjian A Custom Splash 8" Cymbal

Zildjian’s “A Custom” cymbals are very bright and tonal with the 8” “A custom” Splash being no exception. This is one of Zildjian's finest line of cymbals and they are very well made. The 8 inch "A custom" splash is one of the brightest I’ve ever heard and a great complimentary cymbal to add to your set-up for providing an extra level of brightness. Working especially well in combination with 10 inch splashes, the 8 inch “A Custom” cymbal is extremely short so you can even play articulate rhythmic figures. It has barely any sustain so the sound will get out of the way immediately after playing. It has a brilliant finish which shines and help produce its bright sound. If you like your splash cymbals to provide a wide range of extra colors, this cymbal is sure to extend your audio palate.

Zildjian FX Oriental China Trash Cymbal 18"

The Zildjian 18” FX Oriental China “Trash” is the clear choice for many of the world’s top professional drummers and has become known as the standard China cymbal for rock music. Zildjian has labeled this cymbal as a “trash” cymbal, but it still has a great combination of trash and tone. The 18 inch size has a huge sound and still produces a nice tone with enough “trash” to be heard over a band with great sounding overtones. It has a high pitch that helps it penetrate through the texture of any music.

This cymbal has a very brilliant finish that adds ping to the sounds and looks beautiful to boot. While many China cymbals look trashy by design, this cymbal has a refined look which is sure to add a touch of class to your kit. The 18” FX Oriental China “Trash” is easily the best sounding cymbal on the market but expect to pay a high end price for the Zildjian quality.

Wuhan 14" China Style Cymbal

Wuhan cymbals are the best China cymbals available because of their great sound and affordability. These cymbals are fairly thin with a great combination of the "China" and "Trash" sounds. The finish isn’t quite brilliant but definitely has a bit more shine than a traditional finish. These cymbals have the classic china design with the inverted bell and up-turned edge while the 14 inch size is small enough for quick accents, large enough to preserve the China sound, and also the best options for a beginner looking to add a new cymbal to their set-up. Wuhan China cymbals are also very durable; I have a Wuhan in my set-up with a crack in it from my antics as a high school drummer playing in a metal band, yet even with the crack, it still sounds great.

Wuhans are also great cymbals to perform experiments on as they retain a great sound through just about any modification. I’ve drilled holes and added rivets sizzlers to some of my Wuhans and the resulting sounds is always interesting. This unique-sounding cymbal is extremely affordable and I would recommend buying two in different sizes if you have the opportunity such as the 16 inch and larger sizes.

Sabian NP1916B 19" Paragon Chinese Cymbal

Sabian’s 19” Paragon Chinese cymbal is a very popular cymbal is used by many professional drummers thanks to a very bright sounding cymbal with the “trashy” sound associated with China cymbals. In fact, the cymbal was actually introduced to the world by drummer Neil Peart who happens to be an expert in creating unusual sounds. It’s one of the fastest speaking cymbals I’ve ever heard and has a fast decay for a 19 inch cymbal. And while a China cymbal this big often starts to sound like a gong, this pick maintains its trashy sound all the way.

The cymbal is fairly thin but it’s extremely well made with durability in mind. The unusual thing about this cymbal is its understated look. It looks less mature than it sounds and you can barely see the label. However, once you hear it you’ll be suitably impressed! It still has the traditional design with the inverted bell and up-turned edge, and is priced similar to other high-end cymbals on my list.

Meinl 18" Byzance Brilliant China Cymbal

I knew Meinl had become a serious name in cymbal making the minute I heard their 18 inch Byzance Brilliant China. It has a very mature sound with depth often lacking from China cymbals. The cymbal has a full-bodied sound and sustain with enough "trash" to sound like a China cymbal. It’s also perfectly weighted to produce a bright sound and the brilliant finish adds additional brightness. It has a relatively high pitch that will cut through and ensemble and has enough body to provide thickness to the texture.

Meinl cymbals have become very popular with metal drummers, but this cymbal is actually versatile enough to use in almost any genre a china cymbal would be appropriate for. Like most China cymbals, it has the traditional design with the inverted bell and up-turned edge. This is a very well made cymbal and is very durable while priced similar to the other high-end cymbals on our list.

Paiste Signature Cymbal Heavy China 18"

Paiste’s 18” Signature Heavy China has an amazing sound that has become associated with all Paiste Signature cymbals. The signature line is Paiste’s top of the line series of cymbals and they are extremely well made and durable. The cymbal has a heavy weight which adds to its power, giving it a full sound. This cymbal has the traditional design with an inverted bell and up-turned edge, with a lined finish that Paiste’s Signature cymbals are known for. This cymbal also has a slightly brilliant for a very professional appearance in addition to a strong attack and longer decay than most China cymbals. While priced a little high on the spectrum, it has an amazing sound. Paiste’s Signature cymbals because of the amount of care and artistry which goes into making each one.

Buyer's Guide

Cymbal Buyer’s Guide

Cymbals provide most drum sets with color and character. With so many different types of cymbals offering a variety of functions, it can be hard knowing which ones you need specifically for your drum set. This buyer’s guide provides the information needed to help you choose the appropriate cymbals for your particular drumming needs.

Cymbal Type

Hi-Hat Cymbals
Hi-hats are played in almost every style of music and usually produce the ostinato or smallest subdivision of the beat. All drummers have at least one pair of hi-hats in their cymbal set-up.

These cymbals are usually sold in a matching pair, each including a top and bottom cymbal. These cymbals usually have a diameter of 14 inches, but can measure anywhere between 10-15 inches. The bottom cymbal is usually slightly heavier than the top one.

Hi-hat cymbals are mounted on a hi-hat stand which stacks the top cymbal above the bottom cymbal. These stands include a pedal to allow them to be played by foot. Hi-hat cymbals may be played either in an open or closed position.

Ride Cymbal
The ride cymbal generally has a large bell which gives the cymbals a “pingy” sound, providing a different color option for smaller subdivisions and ostinatos. This particular cymbal is an integral part of any jazz drummer’s kit and also played by drummers in most musical genres.

The ride cymbal is usually the largest and heaviest cymbal in most drumming set-ups. Ride cymbals usually have a diameter measuring between 18-22 inches, but can also measure between 17-24 inches as well. Most drummers have at least one ride cymbal in their cymbal set-up.

Crash Cymbal
Crash cymbals produce accents, help with musical transitions, and produce a splashy, “crash” sound. Beginning drummers usually have one crash cymbal but most professionals have at least two. Most drummers prefer to have crash cymbals in a variety of sizes to provide different options for sounds and colors.

Crash cymbals are made in multiple sizes with diameters measuring anywhere between 14-22 inches with the most common models having a diameter measuring 16-18 inches.

Effect Cymbals
Effect cymbals (or EFX cymbals) are specialty cymbals which create unique sounds.

Chinese Cymbal
Chinese cymbals (aka “China” or “trash” cymbals) are mainly used to produce sharp accents in rock and metal. They have a very unique shape and sound similar to gongs but have a sharper decay. China cymbals come in sizes similar to crash cymbals and they’re often mounted with the bell pointing downward.

Splash Cymbal
Usually the smallest cymbals in any drummer’s cymbal set-up, splash cymbals are meant to produce short accents along with a splashy sound. Splash cymbals typically have a 6-12 inch diameter and are appropriate for almost all genres of music.

Flat Cymbal
Some ride cymbals are known as “flat top rides” because they’re completely flat and generate a unique sound mainly for jazz playing. These cymbals don’t have a bell and typically come in sizes similar to ride cymbals.

Sizzle Cymbal
Sizzle cymbals have a buzzy, “sizzling” sound. Sizzle ride cymbals are mostly used for jazz while sizzle crashes and Chinas are usually used for effects in rock and heavier musical genres. These cymbals sometimes have holes drilled in them to create their buzz sound. Another common method to add buzz are inserting small metal rivets into the sizzle holes.

Orchestral and Band Cymbals

Hand Crash Cymbals
Hand crash cymbals (sometimes called “piatti”) are sold in pairs. They’re held in each hand by straps tied through their center mounting holes and played by striking one cymbal against the other. Hand crash cymbals are generally thicker and much heavier than a drum sets crash cymbals and are available in almost any size diameter between 14-24 inches.

Suspended Cymbal
A suspended cymbal is similar in size and sound to a drum set crash but are often lighter with a mellower sound. While drum set crash cymbals are usually played with a stick, suspended cymbals are typically played with mallets to create a swell. Suspended cymbals are available in almost any size diameter between 14-24 inches.

Anatomy of a Cymbal

Center Hole
All cymbals have a hole drilled in the center for mounting purposes.

Bell
The bell of the cymbal is the raised portion surrounding the center hole.

Bow
The bow is the area from the bell to the edge. Usually the largest part of the cymbal.

Edge
The cymbals edge is the end point of the bow.

Finish
It’s important to note many cymbals are available with different finishes. Some cymbals have a “brilliant” reflective finish which sounds brighter.

Naming
Most cymbals contain the cymbal type in their name, usually written on the cymbal. For example, a “dry ride” is a ride cymbal that sounds dry.

Cymbal Manufacturing Methods

Cast
Cast cymbals are made from molten metal poured into a mold. Once set, the metal is shaped into a cymbal, hammered, and lathered. These affordable cymbals generally sound great.

Hand-Hammered
These cymbals are made from a solid piece of metal hammered by hand into its ultimate form. These are often the best sounding cymbals as well as the most expensive. The top cymbal makers keep their methods of hand hammering a close secret.

Sheet
Sheet cymbals are actually similar to cast cymbals except they’re cut from a larger piece of metal. Usually meant for beginners, these inexpensive cymbals sounds very thin, aren’t very durable, and professionals often consider them a waste of money.

Performance

Finding a cymbal with a particular sound is difficult because every cymbal sounds different; even cymbals of the same model from the same manufacturer will sound distinct from one another.

The best place to start is by listening to a lot of cast cymbals and then comparing them to hand-hammered cymbals. This should be done for all of the cymbal types. Most quality cymbal makers have recordings of all their cymbals on their website and I highly recommend using this resource for selecting specific models. For my recommendations of specific cymbals, refer to my best lists detailing each of the cymbal types.

Reliability

Since a cymbal is basically a piece of metal struck with a stick, they can get dented or even break if played improperly over time. While thick cymbals are more durable than thinner options, the quality of the cymbal is the most important factor in determining its durability.

Hand-hammered cymbals are generally the most durable followed by cast cymbals. Sheet cymbals are usually very thin and crack easily so only beginners on a budget should consider them.

Brand Names

The largest cymbal manufacturers are Zildjian and Sabian, two companies known for making high-quality cymbals. Paiste, Meinl, Istanbul Agop, and Bosphorous also make great sounding cymbals as well.

Price/Value

Quality cymbals hold their own like no other musical instrument and often increase in value over time. I always recommend spending extra money to purchase quality cymbals because you can end up wasting a lot of money on inferior-sounding options which crack or dent easily.

Most drummers spend a couple hundred dollars on “starter” cymbals which sound terrible. Drummers often outgrow them quickly and could have just started with the same quality cymbals they plan on upgrading to.

I recommend starting with a pair of high-quality, 14 inch hi-hats and a similar quality 16 or 18 inch crash cymbal. If you’re on a budget, I recommend buying a dirt-cheap ride cymbal because it’s the most cost effective option.

Quality ride cymbals are generally quite expensive and can be fairly genre specific, so selecting one can be a difficult decision for a beginner. It may be best to start with an inexpensive option and then upgrade later on to the exact cymbal you want.

If you’re looking for more colors under a tight budget, try adding a China or splash cymbal as they’re often inexpensive. As your playing career advances (or your budget grows) you can upgrade to a higher quality ride and add another crash or two.

Cymbal packs are a good option for saving money as most companies offer a whole cymbal set-up in one package. These are often sold at a discount and include a pair of hi-hats, a ride, and one or two crash cymbals with some packs even including specialty cymbals as a bonus. For specific pack recommendations, refer to our “Best Cymbal Pack” list. 

Rick Urban
Rick began playing drums at the age of 10. In 2003, He received Bachelor's Degrees in Percussion Performance and Music Composition from the DePaul University School of Music in Chicago. While at DePaul, Rick studied with Ted Atkatz (Principal Percussionist - Chicago Symphony Orchestra / Also founder of the band NYCO), Mike Green (Principal Percussionist - Lyric Opera of Chicago), Al Payson (Percussionist - Chicago Symphony Orchestra), Fred Selvaggio (Drumset and Marimba Artist) and Ed Harrison (Principal Timpani - Lyric Opera of Chicago) In 2005, Rick received a Master's Degree of Music from the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston where he studied with Will Hudgins (Percussionist - Boston Symphony Orchestra), and Fred Buda (Drummer - Boston Pops). While in graduate school, Rick performed with the Boston Philharmonic, including performances at Carnegie Hall and Symphony Hall in Boston.  

As a performer, Rick has performed with orchestras all over the world. He has also played drums for several groups in everything from rock bands to musical theater. He has worked with such world-renowned conductors as Bernard Haitink, Christoph Eschenbach, Valery Gergiev, and Michael Tilson Thomas. He has performed with the New World Symphony, the Grand Rapids Symphony, the National Reperatory Orchestra, and the Schlesvig Holstein Festival Orchestra in Germany. Rick is also the drummer for the band Standby Radio. In 2010 they recorded their first album entitled When Signals Cross, and they released Awake at Midnight in 2012.

In the summer of 2005, Rick moved to Chicago and became Music Director of the A.A. Stagg Percussion Ensemble. He also created and served as the resident conductor for the "Bad Vibes" new music ensemble. In the fall of 2005, rick became a percussionist with the West Michigan Symphony under the direction of Scott Speck. In 2009 He became the resident conductor of the Lincoln Park Percussion Ensemble. In 2011 they premiered his latest percussion ensemble work entitled Over 4. In the Fall of 2010, Rick enrolled in the "Music Composition for the Screen" program at Columbia College under the direction of Andy Hill and David McHugh. While studying with Mr. Hill and Mr. McHugh at Columbia, Rick also studied Film Composition with Gary Chang and Hummie Mann. He also studied conducting with Alan Tinkham.

In the Spring of 2012, Rick received his Master's of Music from Columbia College and moved to Los Angeles. Since moving to Southern California, Rick has played with the San Diego Symphony and the Santa Barbara Symphony. He is currently the Percussion Ensemble Director of the Open Academy of Los Angeles.
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