The cymbal is one of the oldest musical instruments. Records have shown that it might be older than even drums, dating backs to as early as the 7th century BC.
They have been used in various functions and festivals, especially religious rituals. The earliest cymbals have their roots in Chana and Asia from the 4th century, where they were used for these same functions.
But it was not until the 16th and 17th century that they started appearing in military bands, and then into the orchestra. The bang crash was played by Buddy Rich but disappeared for a while until the era of Keith Moon and John Bonham. And today, cymbals are one of the most integral parts of a modern drum kit.
At one time, many drummers were advised to forget worrying about their drums and get the right cymbals accessories.
The emergence of the world’s greatest cymbal makers, Zildjian, Sabian, Paiste, and Meinl, proves these instruments’ importance. Zildjian has been making cymbals for more than 200 years and is considered the world’s largest cymbal maker.
With so many options, choosing the best sounding cymbals can prove hectic.
But don’t worry. We are going to look at not only the best cymbals you can get but also great packs for the money.
What are cymbals?
This is one of the most important questions in the cymbal world, yet one that not many people will ask or answer correctly. Even most of those who play cymbals may only know them as percussion musical instruments.
And non-musicians will tell you it’s the round yellow things you see on a drum set. Well, this is a fair explanation since that is what they really are.
However, if you are a beginner drummer and are serious about drumming, it’s crucial that we get deeper into the meaning.
First, understand that cymbals are originally from Asia and were used in musical and ritual activities, among other ceremonies. They were then officially established by Beethoven, Liszt, Wagner, and Bizet as musical instruments. Since then, they have found more value in the drumming community, with a wide range of variety being seen.
You might never see a drum set that does not have a cymbal set, yet it’s complete. Every drummer worries about getting a cymbal that will no only look great, but sound incredible.
Another thing that can help users better understand cymbals is the material they are made from.
Most cymbals come from four main metals, all of which are copper-based. These include bronze (malleable, bell, combination), brass, nickel, silver, and Silicon.
Other cymbal materials include Aluminum bronze and another alloy.
We can also talk about electronic cymbal pads, which are great for practice. These ones are made from plastic and rubber and connected to a sound module that triggers different cymbal sounds.
Getting the best sounding cymbals means you must consider the material they are made from. For instance, brass is the cheapest material for making them. It delivers a bright and ringy sound, and they are more responsive, which makes them perfect for jazz drumming.
What Is the Purpose of Cymbals?
We are still on understanding cymbals. And this time, we look at the cymbal purpose. I mean, there must be more to them than just the sound they produce, right?
First of all, I cannot emphasize enough the importance of experimenting with and trying out new sounds. Many drummers today are trying out different ideas to ensure delivery of something more than just then normal. Most drummers try to merge two cymbals into a stark.
Besides, cymbals makers are tapping into modern technologies to offer different sounds and meet the surging consumer needs.
The world is changing rapidly, and only those who can keep up with its demands can survive for long. This simply means that some types of cymbals can change their purpose in these trials and processes.
The traditional cymbal setup has a hi-hat, a ride, a crash, and a china. These were the only cymbal available, and they were used as such, with specific purposes and approaches. The splash and china came later.
The hi-hat was intended for rhythms. And they still perform the same function today. But then, we can see different kinds of stacked cymbal today.
All the other cymbals are used for ascending notes, and some appear between song parts and as fills in drum breaks. For instance, crash cymbals are often heard at the start or finish of a drum break, as the splash is found in rhythm fills.
Note that every type of cymbal is designed for a specific purpose, and it is with the same purpose that you should get good tunes from them.
One of the best ways of choosing the best sounding cymbals is to understand the different types of these instruments. It makes it easier for you for a specific instrument instead of looking at the overall world.
I have already mentioned about the stack made out of two or more cymbals. But they all come from existing types.
There are about 12 types of cymbals: crash, splash, hi-hat, ride, china, o-zone, bell, crash, finger cymbal, taal, and all other types of FX cymbals.
But the main ones, and perhaps what you know, are the first fives. A drum set is complete with a crash, a ride, and a hi-hat, even if it does not have all the others.
What Are the Best Sounding Cymbals?
There is a whole world of different cymbals out there. And to get the best sounding, you need first to understand the types of cymbals you can get – which you now do.
I will continue then by talking about cymbal companies.
Today, there are so many cymbal companies that you will not even finish counting if you tried to. Unfortunately, some of them don’t have what it takes to deliver the best quality. And to be honest, I have never liked cymbal from the smaller companies I have tried with.
Even though a good cymbal sound depends on the drummer’s needs and taste in cymbals, there are some that you will just know if they are not good.
The most popular cymbal companies include Sabian, Zildjian Paiste, and Meinl. If you ask any experienced drummer about the best cymbal, they will probably give you one from these manufactures. From here, now we can easily get deeper into the best sounding cymbals. Note that the best sound, in this case, comes from the music genre you will be playing.
Also, every manufacturer offers different lines of cymbals to meet different needs. You will get them in three or four levels based on the intended user’s quality and drumming experience.
For beginners, you will get cymbal lines like:
- The Zildjian S family
- Zildjian Planet Z
- Sabian SR2
- Sabian B8X
- Paiste 101
- Paiste PST3
- Meinl HCS
- Meinl HCS Bronze
- Meinl Generation X
The second level comprises intermediate drummers who have gone beyond the basics of drumming. If you are such a person and need something to help you upgrade your gear, consider the following products:
The highest levels contain professional cymbals used in both live and studio areas. Many young drummers prefer these cymbals because they are flashier and brighter in sound. The best ones are:
Studios use even more advanced levels of cymbals like Sabian Vault, Special edition series, and the Signature series, among others.
Sometimes the signature versions are found in the mid or lower lives. Consider the Joe Jordison and Nicko Mcbrian signature on
Paiste’s cymbals, for instance, or some high levels like Meinl signature stacks. You can also find Dave Weckl signature on the Sabian HHX Evolution.
Apart from knowing the brand, consider endorsements if you want to go for the very best of cymbals. Though companies use them mostly to increase sales, it is always good to use something that your favorite drummer uses.
Now, let’s talk about sound, relative to the listener’s ear. Even though the drummer decides the sound they want from cymbals, they don’t drum for themselves. In other words, it is what the listener feels that matters. In my experience, the best sounding cymbals come from the top lines of top manufacturers.
This means you need to invest more is you are looking for that specific sound.
I also tell drummers who ask me about the best cymbals because they should not always go for cymbal packs. Although it’s cheaper, the sound you get is probably cheap too.
So, if you have the money, go for products like:
- Zildjian K series
- Sabian HHX series
- Sabian Artisan line
- Paiste 2002
- Paiste Signature series
- Meinl Byzance series
- Meinl Artist concept models series
Also, note that versatility is very crucial in cymbal choice. Pick something that will serve you in more than one type of music.
Luckily many of these top lines have that capability. If you make your choices well, you will never go wrong with them. It terms of sound and durability, these cymbals have it all, and you always enjoy a good service that comes from them.
Now that you know the best cymbal makers and quality levels, it is easier now to find the perfect one for your needs. You already know the quality levels too, and if your budget is right, nothing will stop you from achieving your needs.
It all comes down to sound and price. For this reason, I will be sharing the best sounding cymbals.
I have made my selection in two ways: the general best sounding cymbals and rock and heavier once. The later comes with a brilliant finish, a more massive bell, bright and bright sound. Jazz cymbals are low volume and deliver a soft attack.
Most of these cymbals are very popular. Don’t expect this to be about saving money, but about the sound. Even so, there are a few budget ideas I have included, just in case you feel the prices are too overwhelming for others.
Top 5 Best Sounding Cymbal Packs – Beginners
This section is for the overall top cymbal sounds in packs. Like I said earlier, I don’t advise people to buy cymbals in packs. Itis better to but one from different sources.
I am still sharing these packs because you can use them to pick what you want from each manufacturer.
Meinl is one of the biggest cymbal makers in the world. The company was established in Germany by Roland in the 1950s, producing wind instruments. Later it diversified to various ranges of other musical instruments, starting with cymbals in 1952.
Ever since, Meinl has been growing from strength to strength, offering top quality products. It moved part of its manufacturing to the US in the 60s and has become a major contender.
This is one of the best sounding cymbals. The set has everything you need to start playing, and it is intended for jazz players. It is an excellent upgrade if you want something a little more daring.
Meinl has made them with a special design that gives them a very dark appearance. It is created by a process used to finish their production, which was originally intended for a rich tone. Therefore, they have a unique look about them that you will not easily find at this price range. They offer great cut-throughs that will rise above the mix. The sound is good and powerful.
For the money, these are the cymbal you should take. However, some users may not like their coloring.
Zildjian is a brand that does not need an introduction. It has been on the market since 1623, offering great cymbals for drummers. Hence, no drummers would say they don’t know about them.
This set comes with a 21-inch custom ride and a 17-inc crash. It also includes 14 ¼-inch hi-hats. All the cymbals are designed with ‘K’ sound, which is considered to deliver the best of both traditional and modern worlds.
They feature a hybrid design around them that blends easily with the Zildjian brightness, with some darkness. The cymbals are pre-matched for sound, which ensures plenty of combinations.
They also gave a superior design that sets that apart from other products at this price range. Extra varying tones emanate from the unlathed finish on the bell area of each cymbal.
Lathed outer edges increase that crash ability that brings out the monster in many drummers. They are, therefore, a bit noisy.
There is not much to say about these cymbals, only that Zildjian is one of the most respected cymbal manufacturers of all time.
Hence, you can rely on this product.
The only thing that may put you off is perhaps the price. But if you are the value, then you can never go wrong on these ones.
It is amazing how Meinl has come up as a strong contender in making cymbals. Many drummers are finding their products more and more useful.
Here is another incredible pack from them that comes with everything a beginner needs. They carry a pair of a 14-inch hi-hat, 16-inch crash, and a 20-inch crash. They also come with a complimentary 18-inch crash, a 10-inch splash, and 16-inch china. You will not need anything else to begin playing your drums.
The hi-hats have been improved with a heavier bottom than the top, which makes them look professional. They also deliver that ‘chick’ sound that is normally associated with professional needs.
The two crashes sit well on this setup and offer a few options. The 16-inch delivers an instant loud reaction. It comes with a medium weight and thickness that ensures great volume no matter how you strike them.
The included china and splash cymbals only mean more for the buyer. The china is quite dark on the sound while the splash sounds instant.
Consider the price and the variety of sounds you get from this set; it is a worthy consideration. Unfortunately, it does not have felts or sleeves for transportation.
If you are looking for a great started kit or something to upgrade your current collection, this Zildjian pack would be a perfect consideration.
It is not every day that a beginner gets a chance to build their first kit with Zildjian cymbals. This because most of their products are expensive and found on the higher-end market. But they have also realized than beginners are getting bad sounds from poor quality brands.
Hence, they bring you a pair of 13-inch hi-hats, a 14-inch crash, and 18-inch ride cymbals. Notice that these sizes are a bit smaller than the normal cymbals. But it is this unique feature that makes them stand out.
It is cutting edge technology that will not disappoint you. They are crafted from high-quality bronze, lathed, and buffed to the renowned Zildjian quality.
Sound-wise, they are pretty decent, and with everything, you will need to ensure a great performance. They project well and will cut through those annoying guitar rings.
If you are looking for the best quality sound in beginner cymbals, these are the products you should try out. Although they don’t have any covers of felts, which is really unfortunate.
Anyway, they are all you need to perfect your drumming skills and become a pro without having to spend too much.
Sabian is among the big four cymbal makers. It was founded by Robert Zildjian in Canada as a Zildjian offshoot after a dispute.
The name Sabian comes from the first letters of the names of his children, Sally, Billy, and Andy. And because of their relationship with Sabian, we can say they are a reputable brand.
The set bears a 14-inch pair of hi-hats, a 16-inch crash, and a 20-inch ride. You also get a complimentary 18-inch crash.
Sabian calls these crashes and rides cymbals “Stage” because they are made to cut through loud stage noises. The crash has an “X-plosion” label.
There are some of the best quality cymbals you can ever begin with. They come from the AAX family, which is very popular.
They can easily be used for studio and other professional needs because of their quality. The crash is quite loud, letting everyone know they are around.
In terms of price, they are fairly expensive, which is something you can expect at such quality. If you are looking for a budget product, this is not a good recommendation for you.
Nevertheless, their value should give you a good reason to buy. In terms of sound, you will never go wrong with Sabian.
What Are the Best Cymbals for Rock?
Rock cymbals are described as Bright/high pitch and loud. But it also comes down to personal tastes.
Many rock drummers look for similar features in their cymbals. A larger percentage goes for a brilliant finish, which cuts through the guitar and bass distortions.
Sabian and Zildjian tend to favor rock sounds, although Sabians are more versatile. Paiste tends to focus on vintage rock styles, which makes them totally different from Sabian and Zildjian.
On the other hand, Meinl is about dry sound, but you can also get ‘brilliant’ sound from them. Here are some of the top cymbals with the best sounds for rock.
The Sabian AAX series delivers a bright sound with high and middle pitch. They offer modern sounds that are perfect for many bands today. And coming from Sabian, you can be sure of great quality in the products you buy.
HHX Evolution series from Sabian is another true mark of quality. This is a legendary series designed to help Dave Weckl. And because of this, you can expect nothing but the best sounds ever. They are more expensive than the AAX above but more versatile too. Hence, you can use it for all kinds of music, which makes them affordable.
The Sabian HH is a hand-hammered series of cymbals from Sabian made for heavy hitters. And the best part is they are not too expensive. They lean toward old school sound with a lower pitch.
Talk of quality in cymbals and Zildjian will not miss it. The A custom has the same quality sound as the AAX from Sabian, but they tend to be more expensive. Their bright and modern sounds will give you something to think about.
Zildjian’s K Custom Session is a cool line for rock. But it is important to note that ride and the hi-hat are different from crashes. They are heavier and deliver a clear ‘brilliant’ while the crashes are more mellow sounding and relatively lighter.
Feel the old school tunes of John Bonham and Ian Pace sounds from the Paiste 2002. They are made to give that sound, and you will not easily find anything that good. But they come at a high price tag.
As the name suggests, this series is ruthless. They deliver a hard tick sound that will scare away any pop music lower. This is a series made for the rock and metal world.
Many heavy hitters will think of the Meinl Byzance Brilliant series are their first choice. It has been at the top of the market for many years and continues to offer incredible modern sounds. Meinl sound around the dry and low pitch, except for this series.
For a versatile performance, Byzance dual is my favorite. It gets all modern and trashy, delivering the best sounds on the market. They are two-layer cymbals with a cracky sound, perfect for rock. Meinlmanaged to reduce the attach a bit by adding a raw bell, while the brilliant finish edge ensures a modern sound.
What Are the Best Cymbals for Jazz?
These cymbals have a serious sound, and they are quite versatile. Their sounds are drier and darker, which is perfect for a jazz drummer. But their price is no joke.
This series is the best representation of Zildjian in the jazz world. Like the Kerope series, they also lean towards old school dry jazz sounds.
The Signature subcategory offers dark energy that is more towards rock. But the Traditionals are made for jazz. They will give you that crispy sound that many drummers want. If you are not comfortable with the price, consider the Formula 602 series. It offers all you need for a wonderful jazz experience.
Pick these cymbals for jazz and any other music style. They sound similar to Sabian’s Artisan and Legacy series. But if you want something dedicated specifically to jazz, consider Byzance Jazz.
What Are the Best Zildjian Cymbals?
I don’t think there is any Zildjian cymbal that is any less good. Every product they make is designed for the higher end market.
But just in case you still want to know their best cymbals, consider the Award-winning FX series. It features 10 and 12-inch FXSpiral Stackers, 8 and 10-inch Oriental China’ trash’ cymbals, and 7.5-inch Volcano Cup Zil-Bel.
The Kerope Medium Cymbals and the 19-inch &20-inch Custom Dark Crashes have also been top-of-the-market. These are cymbals than will make your drumming life really easy.
I have tried to go through some of the most important questions online cymbal buyers ask concerning the best sounding cymbals. My focus was not only on sharing the best products and brands, but also to teach you how you can choose a perfect solution.
Other companies like Wuhan, Ufip, Istanbul, and Soultone have good cymbals too. But the ones I have reviewed our top picks, and