25 Best Cymbals Reviews and Tested – Crash, Hi-Hat, Riding, Splash

Choosing the right cymbal is a more complex decision than it seems at first. There are so many types and brands and each of them has their own unique sound. If a salesperson tells you that any cymbal will do in a pinch, they’re wrong. Even beginners will benefit by best matching their cymbal to their drums and their musical style.

Below you will find cymbal reviews of the various types and brands, their sound spectrum, and what instruments and styles they best accompany.

You can use this guide to learn everything you need to know for a fully informed purchase, whether you’re purchasing one cymbal for your little beginner or a variety of sets for a professional gig set up.

Our Top Cymbals

RIDE
Sabian Ride Cymbal (SBR2012)
  • Sabian SBR2012 SBR Series Pure Brass 20-Inch Ride Cymbal
  • 20-Inch
  • Price: See Here!
CRASH
Sabian SBR 16" Crash Cymbal
  • Sabian 16 Inch SBR Crash
  • 16-Inch
  • Price: See Here!
HI-HATS
Meinl 13" Hihat (Hi Hat) Cymbal Pair - HCS Traditional Finish Brass for Drum Set, Made In Germany, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HCS13H)
  • Meinl Cymbals HCS13H 13″ HCS Traditional Hi Hat Pair
  • 13-Inch
  • Price: See Here!

Contents

Why Having Good Cymbals is Important

Let’s start with a caveat. Any instrument is a good instrument in the right hands. I have a hand-made, broken guitar that I bought 10 years ago from a t-shirt store in Mexico. The back is cracked, the G string is never fully in tune and it produces a very painful sound when I play it.

So why don’t I throw it away? Well for one, it has sentimental value. It was a fun trip. Also, this broken-down pile of junk produces a magical sound when my friend Tommy comes over to play. It’s his favorite toy. The first time I heard him play Folsom Prison Blues on that broken relic, I just about fell out of my chair.

Still, you should hear how amazing Tommy is on my Alvarez DYM75 Yairi. The same goes for cymbals. A good drummer can work with just about anything, but they’re at their best when working with the best cymbals for their sound.

A cymbal’s depth of sound and volume should match the drums and the other instruments it accompanies. The wrong type of ride cymbal could completely drown out other musicians and overwhelm the sound. Technical knowledge and an ear for balance are key to the perfect selection.

25 Best Cymbal Reviews

List of 5 Best Ride Cymbals on the Market Today:

This is the standard cymbal in most drum sets. Ride cymbals are not as loud when struck, but they produce longer overtones with a richer sound. If you hit a crash cymbal and a ride cymbal at exactly the same in exactly the same place, the ride cymbal will still be ringing a few seconds after the crash.

It’s actually a bit difficult to tell the difference between a ride cymbal and a crash cymbal, but generally, the ride cymbal is thicker and heavier.

There are several types of ride cymbals. The typical ride with a bell in the center is used for all kinds of music. It will generally be played with the dominant hand and used to carry the beat along with the snare and bass drum. A flat ride lacks the bell in the center and is often used for jazz music because of its more subtle sound.

A sizzle cymbal was most often used in early rock, second to a regular ride symbol, to add variety to the rhythm sounds. A swish and pang cymbal has a sound more similar to a China cymbal (which is the last type we will talk about on this list).

Here are five cymbal reviews for the more popular ride cymbals on the market (click on the picture to check on amazon.com):

1. Sabian SBR2012 SBR Series Pure Brass 20-Inch Ride Cymbal

Sabian Ride Cymbal (SBR2012)

This is one of the best cymbals for beginners on the market since its introduction in 2009. It’s loved not only for its price but also for its durability and full sound. Because of its size, 20 inches, it produces a fuller tone, yet has a fast decay.

This produces a very tightly focused sound that a less skilled drummer can control. The sound of the bell is powerful too, which is unusual at this price point – under $100. This is an unbelievable bargain for this type of hand lathed brass craftsmanship.

2. Meinl Cymbals HCS20R 20″ HCS Traditional Ride

Meinl 20" Ride Cymbal - HCS Traditional Finish Brass for Drum Set, Made in Germany, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HCS20R)

One of the best things about Meinl cymbals is that they come with a two-year warranty. You probably won’t need it though, because they stand up very well to the type of abuse that beginners can dish out. The medium sustain is versatile enough for any kind of music.

This makes it an explorer-type of cymbal that helps a new drummer develop their own unique feel and style. Just like the Sabian, the price is very affordable at under $100, making this a realistic purchase for a first set. There is no sacrifice in sound for the price. It has a beautiful clear bell tone and a very warm sound.

3. Zildjian ZBT 20″ Ride Cymbal

Zildjian ZBT 20" Ride Cymbal

Zildjian knows what they are doing when comes to cymbal making. They have been producing top-notch instruments for nearly 400 years, and it shows in their product. This 20-inch ride weighs about 5.4 pounds, so it delivers a nice, high pitch with a longer sustain.

You can crank a lot of volume out of this baby too—it won’t complain. The bell is razor-sharp and the crash is reliable, without the hanging sustain or weird harmonics that a lesser cymbal might have. No matter whether you are pairing this with more expensive cymbals or other starters, it will hold its own and compliment the set.

4. Zildjian A Series Medium Ride Cymbal

Zildjian A Series 20" Medium Ride Cymbal

This 20-inch medium ride is the best ride cymbal for a kit that needs extra options for sound. If you want to add a slightly wet pingy vibe to your kit for jazz, this is the cymbal for the job. It still works well for rock and country too.

It gets very loud on the crash, with slow decay, so consider that for your style. Like most cymbals, it has a copper-tin ratio of 80/20, but it’s more sturdy. The sturdiness is reflected in the price, anywhere just under $300. It comes in 22 inches and 24 inches as well for those who want more depth of sound and longer sustain.

5. Sabian 32014B B8 Pro 20-inch Ride Cymbal

Sabian 32014B B8 Pro 20-inch Ride Cymbal

This is THE rock ride cymbal. It’s perfect for drummers who demand extreme power, speed, and hard-core aggression. Sabian uses a new bell design and a larger hammering pattern to produce the perfect sound for heavy metal or hard rock with excellent stick definition.

And this cymbal looks great on any set. The uni-rolled bronze has a high-gloss, beautiful finish that stands up well to the type of beating it will sustain. At under $200, it’s a definite bargain and a low-risk purchase as it comes with a rock-solid two-year warranty.

List of 5 Crash Cymbals on the Market Today:

The purpose of a crash cymbal is to accent the beat. The sound is much shorter than that of a ride cymbal. It makes a loud, very sharp “crash” (thus the name), and is standard on most drum kits. Rock kits will often have two suspended crash cymbals so they can both be hit at the same time for added effect. Crash cymbals are usually 14 to 18 inches and have a very thin edge, but specialty crashes can be as small as 8 or as large as 24 inches. Thick cymbals are used for rock music while thinner, more delicate ones are used for orchestras and often played with mallets instead of drumsticks.

It is important to get a very well-made crash cymbal as they are the first to crack or warp, especially with beginners. This is because they are repeatedly struck on their very thin, delicate edge, and a poor technique or poor construction will reduce its lifespan. Many drummers spend more to buy the best crash cymbal for this reason because the quality isn’t just worth it, it’s flat-out necessary. Here are five cymbal reviews for the most popular crash cymbals, useful for a variety of styles.

1. Sabian 16 Inch SBR Crash

Sabian SBR 16" Crash Cymbal

This is an ideal starter crash, not just because of the price—under $100—but also because it comes with a one year warranty. It has a highly polished, bright sound with a minimal sustain. This crash has a much higher sound but a very nice ring.

Even beginners can get a tightly focused accent out of this one. It may not last forever, especially under the type of abuse a beginner can dish out, but the price makes it a less-risky investment for a first, (or even 10th) buy. This is the one to learn your art on.

2. Zildjian ZBT 18″ Crash Cymbal

Zildjian ZBT 18" Crash Cymbal

At 18 inches, this crash has a deeper sound than the standard size. The sound goes well with most types of music. It’s brighter than most crashes and a bit sharp, without the tinny undertone that occurs with lesser crash cymbals of this size.

This cymbal is very durable too, even if you have a severe case of the butterfingers. It will stand up to getting dropped, beaten and battered without losing its bright, stable tone. This makes the Zildjian ZBT one of the best values in its price class, just under $100.

3. Meinl Cymbals HCS18C 18″ HCS Traditional Crash

Meinl 18" Crash Cymbal - HCS Traditional Finish Brass for Drum Set, Made In Germany, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HCS18C)

To say that the Meinl HCS is dynamic and versatile is an understatement, which is amazing at this price, under $100. This cymbal produces brilliant sound for anything from light riding to super heavy crashes at the peak of a song.

It doesn’t look particularly special, with a standard traditional finish, and it’s a basic medium weight, so it’s outstanding quality makes it the hidden gem on any beginner’s set. While the HCS is extremely versatile, it creates a darker sound than some crashes, so you might want to balance it out with a brighter crash as well for pop or jazz setups.

4. Meinl Cymbals HCS16TRC 16″ HCS Trash Crash

Meinl 16" Trash Crash Cymbal with Holes - HCS Traditional Finish Brass for Drum Set, Made In Germany, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HCS16TRC)

The Meinl HCS Trash Crash is the first choice for many beginners when they start to expand their kit for more variety in their sound. Of course, it’s ideal for the heavy metal and hard rock sound, but it’s a standard add-on for other musical styles as well.

This is the type of higher pitched crash that compliments a heavier, traditional crash. Even though this is a beginner’s cymbal, a lot of pros use it for a back-up crash. It only costs a little under $100, and looks pretty tight with the cut-out pattern.

5. Stagg DH-CMT14E 14-Inch DH Exo Medium Thin Crash Cymbal

Stagg DH-CMT14E 14-Inch DH Exo Medium Thin Crash Cymbal

This is the most traditional sound you can think of in a cast bronze crash cymbal. The hand-hammered bronze produces just the right pitch, and the raw un-lathed bell has a very high, crystalline tone. The hand-hammering methods that Stagg uses create amazing overtones that sing with depth and character.

It blends well with medium weight crash symbols, enhancing and harmonizing without overwhelming or out-shouting. It definitely screams when you crash it though. It sells for under $100 and is a steal at that price.

List of 5 Hi-Hats Cymbals on the Market Today:

Hi-hats consist of two cymbals suspended, one above the other, on a stand and operated with a foot pedal. Hi-hats are the most versatile cymbals on a kit. When a hi-hat is played with the foot or struck while closed, it creates a short, muted sound that drummers call a “chick.”

This is usually used as an accent to the beat. The foot plays a big part in this sound because the tone changes with the pressure of the foot. With more pressure, the sound is dampened and short. With more pressure, the sustain holds longer with louder volume.

The sound of on open hi-hat can be changed by adjusting the gap between the two cymbals so that it resembles the tone of a ride cymbal. It is an essential part of any drum set and a necessary sound for all musical styles.

1. Meinl Cymbals HCS13H 13″ HCS Traditional Hi-Hat Pair

Meinl 13" Hihat (Hi Hat) Cymbal Pair - HCS Traditional Finish Brass for Drum Set, Made In Germany, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HCS13H)

When played open, it’s not easy to get such warm undertones from a 13-inch high-hat pair, but somehow Meinl pulled it off with sizzling undertones to boot. When played with the foot, the chick sound is super tight.

This is basically the “go-to” for high-hats. This is because of the durability, versatility and amazing sound quality they provide. This set is designed for beginners who don’t quite have the feel of their stride yet, so it’s strong enough to handle a lot of stick play. No need to feel shy about mixing it up—you aren’t likely to break it.

2. Zildjian ZBT 14″ Hi-Hat Cymbals Pair

Zildjian ZBT 14" Hi Hat Cymbals Pair

Definition. This is the main plus of this cymbal pair. It’s due to the alloy which is 92% copper and 8% tin. The modern manufacturing technique used to make this set uses a small round hammer to strike a very precise pattern and lathing only on the top side.

The result is the best hi-hat on the market, with high definition, extremely focused tones, and bright, bold response, whether the player is a beginner or a pro. Best, this new manufacturing technique produces a very consistent product, so there is little variation between sets within each model. In other words, you know exactly what you are buying at this great value—just under $150 for a set.

3. Zildjian ZHT Mini Hi-Hat Cymbals, 10 Inch

(2-Pack) Tempered Glass Screen Protector

Balance is the operative word with this set. They are great for a second set or an effects cymbal. These are some of the higher quality sheet bronze cymbals made by Zildjian, made from 88% copper and 12% tin to produce a much more melodic sound, whether played open or shut, with enhanced mid and low frequencies.

The chick sound is amazing. The sound profile is especially suited to electronica and hip-hop. Amazingly they get a great volume, along with the dynamic sound. It’s hard to believe that you can get this type of ultra-responsive recording quality sound for under $200, but it’s true.

4. Zildjian ZHT 14-Inch Rock Hi-Hat Cymbals Pair

Zildjian ZHT 14-Inch Rock Hi-Hat Cymbals Pair

This set has a more focused, heavier sound than the average set. Like the Mini, it’s manufactured from an alloy consisting of 88% copper and 12% tin. It’s great for louder volume and lower pitch needed for heavy rock sounds. The rebound is tight enough to make the set work for inexperienced beginners, to help them get a feel for their combo leg/handwork.

Many players buy them as a cheap set for their practice kits (they only cost a bit under $130) but then fall in love with them enough to break them out for gigs.

5. Zildjian A Custom 14″ Mastersound Hi-Hat Cymbals Pair

Zildjian A Custom 14" Mastersound Hi Hat Cymbals Pair

These are the babies you break out when you have to get very, very serious. They are more expensive, at just under $500, and absolutely worth it—a bargain in fact. Whether you beat the heck out of the rim or smash them like a ride at full volume, they will take the beating and thank you for it.

Many musicians will say that this is the type of set that only gets better and gains a richer sound with wear. The copper/tin alloy (80% copper to 20% tin) produces a phenomenal, full-bodied sound with rich color and tone. Best is the high-end sparkle you can squeeze out of the overtones when played partially open.

List of 5 Splash Cymbals on the Market Today:

Splash cymbals are the smallest on a set. They come as small as 4 inches and as large as 13 and are used almost purely for accent. There are 6 different basic types: Bell, thin, salsa, china, rock and traditional. They are a modern invention, like the hi-hat, and didn’t really become popular till the ’80s, when Stewart Copeland of The Police was blowing minds with his unique drumming style.

They aren’t a fad though. They were widely used in the ’20s and ’30s with jazz music and are now adapted to every style because there are so many sizes and styles. Basically, pro drummers use the wide variety of splash cymbals available to add color and depth of tone to an extended drum kit.

Most pros don’t just stop with one. They have multiple splashes of different styles and sizes so that they can generate an almost melodic sound during drum solos or for an ultra-complex, harmonic rhythm.

1. Zildjian A Series 12″ Splash Cymbal

Zildjian A Series 12" Splash Cymbal

The A-Series is among the best Zildjian cymbals for the price. The A-series has a short and quick crash with a traditional finish. If you want a Christmas or birthday present for a beginner who already has a full set, one that will send them over the moon with a happy dance, this is one of the best cymbals for that gift.

It usually runs at a bit less than $150 and is worth every penny. It’s short sustain and bright mid sound adds a musical flavor to even the most standard set, letting bother beginners and pros add a few more beautiful notes to their musical vocabulary.

2. Zildjian K Custom 9″ Hybrid Splash Cymbal

Zildjian K Custom 9" Hybrid Splash Cymbal

Akira Jimbo helped to develop this gem. In case you don’t know who he is, he’s basically the Japanese Josh Freese of jazz fusion. Drummers all over the world look to this musical guru to learn from his unique flavor and style. You’d expect no less from one of his creations, and this splash delivers in spades.

These custom hybrids (all of them, not just the splash) is only lathed on the outer two thirds to create a darker sound than you would find in an A Zildjian, with some wash, but a good, quick decay for control. The entire series was originally introduced only in Japan but received so much interest and buzz that they have become popular everywhere.

3. Meinl Cymbals HCS12S 12″ HCS Traditional Splash

Meinl 12" Splash Cymbal - HCS Traditional Finish Brass for Drum Set, Made In Germany, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HCS12S)

This Splash is super affordable, at $50 and under, but does not sacrifice quality, style or tone for a beginner set. This is a very controllable piece that helps newbies deliver that bright and cutting clip with a longer sustain. It can be placed just about anywhere on a kit, according to taste, and plays well with the rest of your set because of its medium weight.

Even as it blends, it still stands out properly as a splash should. It’s extremely sturdy, so you probably won’t need the two-year warranty, but you’ll have it if you manage to break it despite its excellent build.

4. Foraineam 10-Inch Splash Cymbal

Foraineam 10-Inch Splash Cymbal

This is the all-purpose splash that drummers use to expand their sound while fitting into many different styles, and it’s so affordable it’s ridiculous. Most places sell it for less than $30. That’s pocket change to add high-quality variety to your set.

The entire cymbal, from the rim to the bell, is roughly lathed to add surprising depth to the tone. What’s most surprising is that many musicians, in a blind test, will prefer the sound of this splash to the stock cymbals that come with their sets. It’s basically no risk, all benefit at this price.

5. WUHAN WUSP 10-Inch Splash Cymbal

WUHAN WUSP 10-Inch Splash Cymbal

Thin, crisp and quick is all any drummer wants from a splash cymbal. Why shell out more than $60 bucks when you can get the same quality for just over $30? It’s a favorite with pros and newbies alike. Surprisingly, it holds up well to the heavy beating of heavy rock styles and still delivers a remarkably musical tone.

Most pros keep two or three on standby so they can switch them out when they crush them. Not that it’s flimsy. Pros have had a single Wuhan as part of their set for years, but aggressive drumming styles can have unexpected effects at times. At this price, you can get as aggressive as you want.

List of 5 Best China Cymbals on the Market Today:

China cymbals are made to produce a very crisp, bright, loud, and most importantly, explosive sound. Most drummers call them to crash cymbals. If you are wondering where the name comes from, it’s called a China cymbal because of the similarity in sound it has to a Chinese gong.

Nine times out of ten, it’s mounted upside-down, making it easier to strike it for that long, ringing sound. A typical China cymbal will have a truncated cone and a turned up outer rim reverse to the main bow, with almost no taper from the rim to the bell.

There are many variations to this style, however, because the feature that truly makes a China cymbal is its sound, which is basically trashy, and many builds will fit the bill. Check out these cymbal reviews to learn about the top five China cymbals on the market.

1. Meinl Cymbals HCS16CH 16″ HCS Traditional China

Meinl 16" China Cymbal - HCS Traditional Finish Brass for Drum Set, Made In Germany, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HCS16CH)

Most drummers interested in Meinl cymbals review this brand first. It’s popular because it produces one of the best trash sounds without sacrificing depth and harmony. The medium-dark sustain adds a fantastic, quick trash sound and explosive attack that beginners can master with ease.

The warm tones work well with rock, pop and jazz styles to bring crescendos to their maximum peak. It’s one of the more durable builds available for this type, so there’s no worry about losing pace during a gig.

2. Sabian 31416B B8 Pro 14-inch China Cymbal

Sabian 31416B B8 Pro 14-inch China Cymbal

This cymbal both looks and sounds sweet. Sabian’s uni-rolled bronze produces a focused, bright and tight sound that provides the most cutting accents. This isn’t just a beginner’s cymbal. Pros favor the B8 for its control. It can be found as a standard mainstay on many professional kits.

It suits to literally every musical style from grunge to funk and hip hop to pop. Rock drummers favor the B8 because they can keep control while playing with power, speed, and a very aggressive style.

3. Zildjian ZBT 16″ China Cymbal

Zildjian ZBT 16" China Cymbal

This is one of the best cymbals for the drummers who desire the classic Oriental gong sound that gave China cymbals their name. The fast decay, massive attack, and sharp focus come through strongly, especially when played at maximum volume.

It has a trashier sound than most cymbals in its class, so it’s best suited to heavy metal and thrash, and as a secondary to other styles. It’s very affordable, just under $100, so it makes a solid investment for both beginner and pro sets.

4. WUHAN WU104-18R China Cymbal 18-Inch with Rivets

WUHAN WU104-18R China Cymbal 18-Inch with Rivets

These cymbals are a bit hard to find because they are so popular, not just because of their amazing sound, but because of their affordability, so they sell out fast. For under $100, these handcrafted cymbals are made according to an ancient, two-thousand-year-old method. You can only get this kind of unrefined, complex and aggressive sound from experts at their hand made craft.

5. Meinl Cymbals HCS12CH 12″ HCS Traditional China

Meinl 12" China Cymbal - HCS Traditional Finish Brass for Drum Set, Made In Germany, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HCS12CH)

How on earth can it be possible to get this amazing, sizzling sustain and massive trash from a cymbal that costs less than $50? The HCS China delivers all of this, plus a fast, sizzling sustain to deliver a surprisingly unique, medium bring tone and explosive attack.

It will follow with warm tones in the longer sustain, making it a perfect top for the buildup. This is literally one of the best sounding cymbals on the market.

Purchasing Cymbals in Packs

Most beginners think the best advantage of purchasing a cymbal in a pack is the price discount. Not true. The real benefit is knowing that you are getting a set that you know is perfectly matched for tone, harmony, and sound.

This way, you can be sure that you aren’t sacrificing harmonic balance and style for price. Many pro sets are designed by pros to match their unique sound and style, and if it suits your style, it will turn out to be the best buy you ever made.

To make the best cymbal pack purchase, explore the musicians behind the make and the manufacturing style that makes this specific pack unique for the market. Then, give it a test drive, with your own mallets and sticks, to see how it feels with your favorite songs. If you feel a sense of musical bliss, well, that’s the point of a well-matched set.

Meinl Cymbals HCS1314+10S HCS Pack Cymbal Box

Meinl Cymbal Set Box Pack with 13" Hihats, 14" Crash, Plus Free 10" Splash, Sticks, Lessons - HCS Traditional Brass - Made in Germany, 2-YEAR WARRANTY MultiColor HCS1314-10S

This is an unbelievably affordable box set. They are the best cheap cymbals on the market, providing both versatility and durability. This set includes a 14-inch crash cymbal, a 13-inch hi-hat pair, a 10-inch splash cymbal and a free pair of sticks. All the cymbals are perfectly matched or tone and harmony so beginners can start with confidence.

It’s a durable set too, cast from a highly durable brass alloy that provides all the range and sound quality a drummer could want, whether a newbie or well-seasoned veteran. Its medium range will blend well with most other enhancements, so the kit is ready to grow as the student becomes a pro. Best, go ahead and practice all striking styles without fear of losing your investment, because this set comes with a 2-year warranty.

Pacific Drums by DW 800 SERIES BOOM CYMBAL STAND

PDP By DW 800 Series Boom Cymbal Stand

At the end of the day, a cymbal is only as good as its stand. The best cymbals will fail without proper support. The DW 800 Boom Cymbal Stand combines durability, flexibility, and strength for a perfect all-purpose medium weight workhorse.

The double-braced legs and large-diameter tubing provide extra support for even more violent styles of play.

What Makes a Good Cymbal

First, one must qualify the following information by clarifying a very important point. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure. Purists will tell you that the more expensive a cymbal is, the better the quality of sound. A hard-core purist will tell you that the difference between a sheet cymbal and an individually cast, the hand-hammered cymbal is equivalent to the difference between filet mignon and welfare burgers.

 modern cymbalMuch of this misconception is based on the fact that modern cymbal making techniques really were substandard. This isn’t the case anymore. Modern techniques have come a very long way.

A lot of well-respected professional drummers prefer to play their sheet bronze Sabian or Zildjian cymbals instead of more expensive cast cymbals because the sound print of their sheet cymbals better meets their need. This is because modern cymbal making techniques produce different overtones and undertones. These differences are easier to explain if we go over the cymbal making techniques used, both old and new.

The Old-Universally Accepted, Deeply Respected

The traditional method for cymbal making required that individually cast blanks were heat-forged, usually with annealing processes, to make the basic shape. Then the cymbal was cold hammered so that the metal hardened unevenly. It was then turned on a lathe to reduce its thickness to meet the need of the cymbal type. Truly art-inspired makers would often use a very coarse lathe tool and very limited polishing to leave marks called “tone grooves” to enhance the undertones. The result is that each cymbal was as unique as the musician who played it.

Now the New-Sometimes Respected, Becoming More Accepted

Modern cymbals can be made either by roto casting or by stamping out sheet metal. Rotocasting involves spinning the cymbal into a mold using centrifugal force. It’s an expensive method and is used for some of the higher quality bell bronze cymbals. Sheet metal stamping produces cymbals from more malleable alloys instead of bell bronze. There is a lot of prestige attached to individually casting a cymbal instead of using sheet metal, but in truth, modern methods have improved vastly and many musicians are convinced that the new methods have far surpassed the old.

The truth, as usual, lies somewhere in between. Louder, heavy metal and rock drummers need sheet cymbals for their explosive volume, while jazz and classical players use cast cymbals for their rich overtones and undertones. Almost all drummers are thankful that they have more variety to choose from now because there are so many different manufacturing techniques. It’s also another reason that most professional drummers have a collection of cymbals that would boggle the beginner’s mind.

How to Choose the Best Cymbals: Factors to Consider

When choosing the right cymbal, you’re best to consider these factors; bell size, weight, profile, size and of course, the test drive.

Bell size The size of the bell affects both the tone and volume. A larger bell generally produces more volume and lower tone than those with smaller bells. This is general though because the manufacturing method and type of alloy used always have an effect. Still, the general rule usually stands.

 Best CymbalsWeight-Weight affects all parts of the sound, from articulation, and tone to volume and power. The thinner the cymbal is, the fuller the sound. This is one of the reasons rock drummers prefer sheet-stamped cymbals to hand cast. Modern methods are capable of producing thinner cymbals that produce the explosive sound they need and can still stand up to the powerful beating of their drumming techniques.

Thin crashes produce explosive sound while a thin ride will provide less stick articulation and more tone. Heavier cymbals produce a louder sound so for loud rhythm, medium to heavyweight cymbals will fit the bill.

Profile-The is higher the profile, the higher the pitch. You’ll need a higher pitch if you want your sound to cut through the accompaniment with less need for volume. You’ll need a lower profile and lower pitch if you want the sound to blend with the other instruments.
Size-This one is basic. The larger the cymbal is, the more volume and longer sustain. Smaller cymbals have faster response and smaller volume and sustain.

The Test Drive

The first and most important thing to remember about your test drive is to bring your own drumsticks. In fact, if you can, bring your other drums too so you know how this cymbal blends in with your own instruments.

cymbal blends

Courtesy of bigdrumthump.com

Now that you’re (hopefully) set up properly for the test drive, pick the right kind for your style. If you’re playing heavy and hard, you need a heavy and large cymbal that can stand up to the beating. If you are playing a more subtle, lighter volume, a smaller, thinner cymbal will probably be best to give you the tones you want.

If you can, set the cymbal up at the same angle and spot that you would place it for your normal set up. Play it at the same volume and style that you do with your band. A test tap or playing with unfamiliar mallet won’t show if the cymbal can make the sound you want or not. Take as much time and play as many styles as you need so you really have a feel for its resonance.

Have the salesperson play it for a bit while you listen to it from different angles. This way you can get a feel for its projection and basic vibe, even if you aren’t the one playing it. If they are willing, have the salesperson use your sticks too.

Finally, ask questions. Ask a lot of questions and don’t be shy about showing your lack of knowledge. If the salesperson wants to put you down for not knowing enough, they don’t deserve your business. The simple fact is that no one knows everything and musicians learn from each other, which is why they are so willing to share their knowledge. A salesperson who is intimidating or not forthcoming is most likely trying to cover for a lack of knowledge. You’re better off and will make a better purchase if you go with the person that treats you right and doesn’t mind taking the time to share their personal experience (and a smile) with you.

Cymbal Caring Tips

A cymbal will only last as well as it’s cared for. Any number of things can affect its quality of sound, from how it’s played to where how you store it, to the amount of grime you allow to build up. The more care you give, the more likely your investment is to survive.

First things first-It doesn’t matter how well you care for your instrument if you play it in a way that it wasn’t designed to withstand. If you are truly going for brutal volume and beats, you need a cymbal that can stand up to the punishment, or else a steady stream of backups when they crack. There actually are some musicians who throw their hard-earned money into the second choice because they just need to abuse the heck out of a more delicate instrument to get the signature sound that they want. But if you’re like the rest of us, and don’t want to have a stack of ten cymbals on standby at every gig, you need a heavy instrument for a huge sound. Now that’s out of the way, here are the three basics of great cymbal care:

  • Cymbal Caring Tips

    Courtesy of Christian Cooper

    Mount it properly – Your knobs should be good and tight, but make sure not to overtighten the wing nut, which could ruin the bell (it also messes up your sound). And most important, make sure all your mounting equipment is in top-notch condition. Nothing cracks a cymbal faster than flying across the stage at full speed because it came loose or the mounting equipment fell apart!

  • Storage – Store your cymbals as soon as you break your set down. If they aren’t to be used for a while, make sure you wrap them each in cloth to protect the edges. Keep all of this on hand wherever you play so you’re aren’t tempted to store your cymbal improperly even for a bit. DO NOT allow your cymbals to be stored in excessive cold or heat. Either will cause them to warp and ruin the sound.
  • Cleaning – Cleaning. If the word was said a thousand times or emphasized in big red, bold, all capital letters, it would still be an understatement. The grime and corrosion that build upon a cymbal change its sound so dramatically that some musicians actually corrode them on purpose to change the sound. Crazy, but true. They call this grime patina, and it’s spoken of like a finely aged cheese. Truth, the patina is a collection of sweat, smoke, dust, stick residue, oxides, and dirt. Yuk. If, on the other hand, you already love the way your cymbal sounds because you went through the trouble of test driving the perfect piece for your set, then you will want to clean it regularly with Zildjian Cymbal Cleaning Polish or, perhaps the best cymbal cleaner on the market, Music Nomad MN112 Premium Drum and Cymbal Care System, which provides cleaning care and instructions for your entire drum set.

Making the Decision

Now you have the knowledge it takes to start exploring your musical options. You know, according to your style, what you need to produce the best sound and how to get a feel for the instruments as you try them. So why wait? Go shopping! Take one or ten for a test drive until you have found one that sings just the right way, just for you. And then make sure that you have all the care equipment, including cases, packing supplies, cleaners and mounting support to make your set last a lifetime.

Cymbals are an investment—in some cases, a very serious and expensive investment. But you now know how to choose the right one for your needs and style and how to best care for it when you have chosen the perfect match for your set. Not only will your choice show in your sound, but your fellow musicians will thank you for your new investment as well.