Best Cymbals of 2019 To Make your Gigs More Enthralling

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Cymbals arguably matter the most to drummers. The expectations from these components probably even surpass other factors impacting a performance such as the technique or the wood used in making the shells. While the rest of the drum kit is percussive in nature, cymbals give the thumps and the kicks a tone, they provide the definition.

If you don’t know how to choose the best cymbals for your money, we have a couple of suggestions for you. Let’s take a look at the review. 

Top 10 Best Cymbals Comparison Chart

Model name

Cymbals included

Material

Price

Meinl BV-480 Byzance Vintage Series Cymbal box set

14-inch Sand hi-hat, 18-inch thin Crash

B20 Bronze

Meinl Classics Custom Cymbal set CCD460

14-inch Hi-hat, 16-inch crash

B10 Bronze

Zildjian 21-inch K Sweet Ride

21-inch Ride

B20 Bronze

Zildjian A391 Cymbal Set

14-inch Hi-hat, 16-inch medium-thin crash

B20 Bronze

Zildjian K Custom Special Dry 19-inch Trash Crash Cymbal

19-inch Crash

B20 Bronze

Paiste 18-inch Giga Bell Ride Cymbal

18-inch Ride

CuSn20 Bronze

Sabian SBR Promo Set

14-inch Hi-hat, 10-inch splash

Brass

Zildjian L80 Low Volume Cymbal Set

13-inch Hi-hat, 18-inch ride

B8 Bronze

Zildjian ZBT Starter Cymbal Set

13-inch Hi-hat, 14-inch Crash, 18-inch crash ride

B8 Bronze

Sabian QTPC502

Variety Package

13-inch hi-hat, 14-

inch crash, 18-inch ride

B20 Bronze

1. Meinl BV-480 Byzance Vintage Series Cymbal box set

We’re opening up our review with Meinl’s BV-480 Vintage cymbals. First of all, we should mention that this package comprises of professional-grade cymbals that offer premium quality performance.  Although they are slightly expensive, the cost can be overlooked considering the product’s abilities.

Regardless of whether you’re asking yourself ‘What are the best hi-hat cymbals?’ or ‘Which are some of the best Cymbals for jazz?’, the BV-480 pack should provide an adequate answer.

The BV-480 cymbals are made of exceptionally durable B20 bronze. Though this type of material is quite common in the mid-priced category, these cymbal models were sand-blasted and hand-hammered to perfection, so they’re substantially more durable than average B20 cymbals.

As a full 5-piece set, it’s safe to say that the BV-480 Byzance Vintage is perfect for a gigging drummer looking for a full-on upgrade of his drum kit. It includes a balanced 14-inch hi-hat, a very thin 18-inch Crash, a 20-inch ride, and a complimentary vintage 16-inch Trash Crash.

The Meinl BV-480 Byzance Vintage Series set comprises of small-sized and thin cymbals, best suited for more tame music genres such as pop and blues. Due to its incredible durability, the BV-480 set can also be used for heavier music, but musicians exclusively focused on a few sub-genres might find themselves in lack of sustain, wash, and overtones.

The only downside of this set is its high price. However, since it’s a professional cymbal package which offers everything you need, it’s safe to say that it’s well worth the money.

Pros

  • Thin, small-sized balanced cymbals.
  • Made of premium-quality B20 Bronze.
  • Perfect for professional musicians.
  • Hand-hammered and sandblasted for additional warmth and dryness.
  • Built to withstand a lot of mechanical stress.

Cons

  • Very expensive.
  • Tailored for professionals, most beginners wouldn’t be able to utilize its versatility efficiently.

2. Meinl Classics Custom Cymbal set CCD460

Next on our list is the Classics Custom CCD-460, another cymbal set manufactured by Meinl. Similar to our previous pick, this package comprises of a 14-inch hi-hat, 16-inch crash, and a 20-inch ride complemented with an 18-inch crash. The main difference between the CCD 460 Vintage Classics and BV-480 Byzance is that the former wasn’t so thoroughly sandblasted, so the tones don’t ring as loud in the highest frequencies.  This ability gives the CCD460 an edge.

Speaking of which, the frequency range of these cymbals isn’t narrow per se, but it resonates the strongest in the lower and the middle-end with plenty of wash and a fast overtones build-up. There’s another big difference between the two sets – this one is made from B10 bronze. This means that these cymbals are a bit heavier and thicker, making them more suitable for heavy metal genres.  

These cymbals not just look unique, but the special form of lacquer used to lathe them also makes them sound more complex and substantially warmer. These qualities steer the CCD460 ahead of instruments of similar size and thickness.

Though the Vintage Classic set can be labeled as professional, it’s not as expensive as you’d presume. It falls in the upper bracket of the middle price point category, so even intermediate level players, as well as beginners with a bit heftier budget could afford them.

All things considered, the CCD 460 Vintage Classics cymbal set is versatile, looks exquisite, and rocks a performance on par with a professional cymbal kit. If you liked the BV-480 but feel as if it’s too expensive and ‘thin’ in terms of sound, the CCD 460 is more than capable of offering you similar benefits.

Pros

  • Not exactly affordable, but certainly not too expensive.
  • Very durable B10 Bronze construction.
  • Unique outward appearance.
  • Broad range of tones due to custom hammering methods.

Cons

  • Quite expensive.
  • Dark, complex tonal structure, certainly not for everyone.

3. Zildjian 21-inch K Sweet Ride Cymbal

Zildjian’s K Sweet ride is the first standalone cymbal in our review. Apart from being made by a leading name of the music industry, this particular Ride is so unique that if you’re looking for an upgrade, we highly recommend you give it a shot.

The 21-inch sweet ride is made of robust B20 bronze which allows it the much-needed durability, as well as plenty of versatility. Its stick attack is huge, there’s plenty of spread, and since the entire surface (including the bell) is lathed, the overtones ring incredibly loud.

One of the best things about the K Sweet ride is that its wash is fairly easy to control. This means that it’s perfectly suited for complex jazz grooves, timid blues rhythms, but even a raging metal-head could pound on it without fretting about the spread absorbing the attack and sustain.

It’s also incredibly responsive, so it will generously complement even the most technical playing style. Of course, the same can be said for drummers who use the most basic techniques as well. Its versatility is so over-the-top that we could say that it could fit into any kit.

Lastly, even though the 23-inch variant is a bit louder, the 21-inch K Sweet ride is massive in terms of volume. This also means that it can easily and quickly overtake the dominance in your kit if you abuse it too much. Ideally, the K Sweet ride fits the best in a louder cymbal setup.

Pros

  • Fully lathed surface and bell.
  • Thin and fairly light.
  • Incredibly versatile for a ride cymbal, could fit into any kit.
  • Very loud, but easy to control..

Cons

  • Quite expensive.
  • Dominant sound, might overshadow a weaker set of cymbals.

4. Zildjian A391 Cymbal Set

Next up is Zildjian’s A391 cymbal set. The main reason why these cymbals are so versatile is that they’re medium in both size and thickness. This set is comprised of a 21-inch sweet ride, an 18-inch medium-thin crash, a 16-inch medium-thin crash, and a 14-inch hi-hat. Even though there are two crash cymbals for you to use, the smaller one (16-inch) can be used as a splash if need be.

This is a relatively basic cymbal pack as far as the specs are concerned. All of the four cymbals are neither too big nor small, and the crashes are medium-thin, so this set can accommodate pretty much any playing style or music genre.

The A391 cymbals are made of the B20 bronze, which means that they’re fairly durable and decently lightweight. With a polished surface, they offer a fast response, a decent attack, and plenty of overtones to play around. However, they somewhat lack in sustain. The A391 cymbals are ideally used by pop and rock drummers.

On another hand, these cymbals are very easy to play due to their ultra-responsiveness. Even an immediate beginner would be able to handle them. They’re not too expensive and are exceptionally valuable for the money.

Pros

  • A balanced cymbal set that could fit in any playing style or music genre.
  • Exceptional level of durability.
  • Very responsive and easy to use.
  • Well suited for beginners and pros alike.
  • Huge value for the money.

Cons

  • Broad, but not-very-defined sound.

5. Zildjian K Custom Special Dry 19-inch Trash Crash Cymbal

Zildjian’s K custom Trash Crash is a cymbal that succeeds significantly in delivering a good all-around performance. This 19-inch crash emits warm sound and is made of ultra-durable cast bronze with just a bit of silver on top. It’s very light and projects sound wonderful.

The K Custom’s sustain is relatively short, but its thin profile and low-to-mid pitch make the overtones build up remarkably well. The attack is quick and the same can be said about the decay, making it ideal for quick accentuation in any given genre. The bottom of this cymbal is fully lathed and it washes quite nicely.

Even though it does cost just a bit more than average, it’s a wonderful cymbal made by one of the biggest brands out there, so we recommend it to intermediate level players and professionals.

Pros

  • Quick decay and attack.
  • Awesome presence.
  • Extra thin and light.
  • Unique sound.
  • Ideal for intermediate level players and professionals.

Cons

  • Moderately expensive.
  • Low sustain.

6. Paiste 18-inch 2002 Giga Bell Ride Cymbal

Some of the expectations from cymbals for heavy metal enthusiasts is that the products need to look dark and need to sound heavy. Paiste’s 18-inch wonder fits the bill perfectly.

This is the first standalone cymbal in our review tailor-made for metal drummers. This ride has one of the biggest bells around and sounds as dark as it looks like. Its presence is astounding and it’s projecting the tone marvelously well.

Even though this ride was made for heavier music styles, it works pretty great for mellow genres like rock and pop. It is a bit harder to play because of the oversized bell simply because you’ll need to adapt to its architecture, but this little flaw is easily compensated for with the sheer crushing volume it brings to the table.

The Paiste 18-inch Giga Bell Ride is made of CuSn20 Bronze alloy and is moderately heavy. It is very robust, though, and even though it does cost quite a bit, the product offers a great value for the money.

Pros

  • Very loud sound and dominating presence.
  • Articulate ping.
  • Dark wash, great accentuation .
  • Beautiful design.

Cons

  • Slightly more difficult to play than traditional ride cymbals.
  • Intended for heavier music genres.

7. Sabian SBR Promo Set

The Sabian’s SBR Promo cymbal set is an all-rounder. It could be used by beginners, experienced players, and professionals alike. With a high pitch and incredibly bright sound, these cymbals can accommodate virtually any music genre and playing style.

They’re made from quality Brass materials and they were built to last. Additionally, they were gently lathed and pack a slim profile which somewhat affects their durability, but greatly enhances the way they sound.

The SBR Promo pack is comprised of a focused 14-inch Hi-hat, a splashy 16-inch crash, and a 20-inch ride. Additionally, you’ll get a free 10-inch splash and a gratis gig bag as a part of the package.

These cymbals are very easy to play, and it’s safe to say that even immediate beginners will be able to use them to get their basics right. Alternatively, experienced players would welcome the quick responsiveness and huge attack while professionals could toy around with their versatile performance and pluck them in practically any setup.

One of the greatest benefits the Sabian SBR Promo pack offers is affordability. This is one of the cheapest high-quality cymbal packages this brand has put out, and on top of that they’ve pitched in a couple of bonus features as well. It’s more than obvious that its value for the buck is huge, regardless of your skill level.

The only downside to this cymbal package is that neither of the cymbals stands out in any particular category. They’re medium in terms of size, weight, and thickness, and offer moderate sustain as well as wash. They’re also not the loudest cymbals out there, so if you’re thinking of trying them for music genres known for high decibel and energy levels, you might have to add a bit of an extra punch in your drumming.

All things considered, they’re very durable, versatile and easy to play. The Sabian’s SBR Promo kit is as good as a gift as it is a replacement gigging kit for touring musicians.

Pros

  • Quality Brass construction.
  • Bright, warm sound.
  • Very versatile cymbals that can accommodate a wide range of playing styles and music genres.
  • Ideal for players of all skill levels.
  • Decently affordable.
  • Highly durable build.
  • Complementary gig bag and 10-inch splash cymbal.

Cons

  • These cymbals don’t excel in any particular field of performance.

8. Zildjian L80 Low Volume Cymbal Set

Next up is Zildjian’s L80 Low-volume cymbal set. It goes without saying, they’re certainly not well suited for live drummers who play heavier music, but they would be perfect for practice.

These cymbals are petite in size, with a 13-inch hat, 14-inch crash, and 18-inch ride being in the package. Additionally, they’re also substantially thinner and lighter than average, but that’s what makes them so quiet. They’re made from B8 bronze which isn’t as durable as B20. However, since they’re quieter, you wouldn’t need to pound on them as hard, so they will still be able to endure years of use.

They could be used for live performance as well if you mic them up properly or if you’re playing more timid music styles, such as Latino or acoustic music for example. Due to their muffled sonic performance, they’re great for beginner drummers as this perk allows them to play at home without bothering anyone.

Pros

  • Great for home practice and beginner drummers.
  • Emits significantly loud sound despite being a low-volume device.
  • Decent presence and quick decay.
  • Great action and fast overtones build-up.
  • Affordable cymbal set.

Cons

  • Not well suited for bigger venues.
  • Slightly flimsier than average.

9. Zildjian ZBT Starter Cymbal Set

The ZBT Starter cymbal set is god-sent for drummers who are still toying with the instrument. The set is comprised of petite cymbals, including 13-inch hats, 14-inch crash, and an 18-inch ride. Despite being small and light, this set is actually quite loud, offers plenty of wash and is quite a head-turner.

The biggest accent has been put on the responsiveness and attack, so that the beginner drummers can accelerate on the learning curve a bit. As for the sound of these cymbals, it can be defined as high-pitched with loads of overtones.

These cymbals are made of a high-quality B8 bronze alloy, which is pretty durable considering the price of the kit.

Pros

  • Very affordable.
  • Impressive sound.
  • Suitable for numerous playing styles.
  • Highly durable construction.

Cons

  • Ideally used by beginners, not so great for skilled drummers.

10. Sabian QTPC502 Varity Package

Just like Zildjian’s L80 low-noise cymbals, Sabian’s QTPC502 variety package is a bundle of cymbals that sound very quiet. This package features a 13-inch hi-hat, a 14-inch crash, and an 18-inch crash ride, all of which are manufactured from the sturdy B20 Bronze alloy. These cymbals are pierced with holes all over so as to keep the noise at a bare minimum.

We could safely say that the QTOPC502 package is also a starter package, as these cymbals were mainly meant for home practice. Alternatively, you could use them for acoustic or unplugged gigs at smaller venues, but you shouldn’t test your luck out if electric guitars are present.

One of the best things about this cymbal package is that it comes at a very attractive price. It’s substantially cheaper than most beginner cymbal packages, Zildjian’s L80 included, and it’s probably one of the best gifts you could possibly give to a drummer-in-the-making.

Pros

  • One of the cheapest beginner cymbal sets in the market.
  • Premium quality B20 bronze construction.
  • Ultra-low sounding cymbals.
  • Tones are clearly defined and pretty solid.

Cons

  • Suitable for acoustic gigs at smaller venues only.
  • Made for beginner drummers.

Buyers Guide

Categories of Cymbals & sizes

Hi-hat

The Hi-Hat cymbal is the only type of cymbal that is paired up (and controlled by) a floor pedal. Essentially, a hi-hat is a combination of two identical cymbals mounted on a stand. Drummers can play it ‘open’ or ‘closed’, or alternate between the two if the song demands it. 

Hi-hat cymbals usually come in 12-inch, 13-inch, 14-inch, and 15-inch sizes. Smaller models are generally a bit harder to play, but they’re also ultra-responsive and put up a brighter array of tones. Musicians who generally have a ‘softer’ playing style tend to prefer hi-hats of smaller size. 

Larger ones, on the other hand, are substantially louder and are easier to play but harder to control. Rock and metal drummers usually play on larger hi-hats. 

Crash

Crash cymbals are meant to accentuate key passages in songs. They’re usually positioned on the far-left side of the kit and traditionally come in 14-inch to 18-inch sizes. These instruments are drastically thinner than ride cymbals which are commonly placed on the opposite side of the kit. 

Smaller crash cymbals are preferred by drummers who play heavier music due to their faster buildup of overtones while bigger crashes are preferred by pop, blues, and soul musicians. 

Ride

While crash cymbals are used to pronounce certain parts, fills, or passages, the ride cymbal is used much more frequently. The function of a crash is percussive, while the function of a ride is entirely rhythmic. Rides usually come in 20-inch, 21-inch, and 22-inch size options. 

Splash

Splash is a smaller variation of a crash cymbal. They’re typically 8 to 12 inches in size and tend to buildup overtones faster, but in turn, they also decay more quickly. Splashes are, just like crashes, used to accentuate certain parts, but since they’re smaller and don’t ring out as much, drummers tend to use them throughout the entire song to accentuate notes rather than ending parts. 

You’ll easily recognize the sound of a splash cymbal from that of a crash because it’s not as noisy, and it’s nowhere near as complex as the latter. The highest frequencies in a drum kit’s sound that decay after a second or two are made with a splash cymbal.

China

There are many sub-categories of China cymbals, such as the traditional, Novo, Pang & Swish, China Splash, and many more. These cymbals come in a variety of sizes, ranging from the smallest being 0.5-inch, and to the largest being approximately 27 inches in diameter. 

This type of cymbal has almost zero tapers from the bell to the rim and it usually has upturned edges. Since there are so many types of Chinas, it would be hard to describe how they sound in comparison to other cymbal types. However, Chinas generally sound more complex due to the peculiar disproportion between their sizes and taper. 

Materials

Cymbals are traditionally made from a form of copper mainly because of this particular material sports incredible sonic properties. The most widely used copper alloys are bronze, brass, and nickel silver. 

Bronze, especially Bell Bronze, and B8 bronze, largely feature copper (between 80% and 92%) and but a speck of tin. This type of material is so widely used because it’s incredibly easy to shape, quite affordable, and pretty durable. 

Brass cymbals are on a whole different level in terms of sonic performance simply because rather than blending tin into the mix, zinc is used. Zinc is a bit lighter than tin, which means that cymbals made from brass are easier to play, respond a bit faster, but also pack a slightly weaker punch in terms of attack and sustain. 

Nickel silver cymbals are the least common ones, although they were pretty popular in the 1950s. They’re the lightest cymbals out there and sound the brightest. Most importantly, they don’t dent and break most easily.  

Shaping Options

The sound of a cymbal is also affected by the way it was shaped. There are four metrics you can modify and adjust which will change your cymbal’s sound, such as the diameter, bell size, profile, and taper. 

First of all, by altering the diameter of your cymbal you will affect its overall volume and sustain. Cymbals with a larger diameter have longer sustain, but they also emit louder sound. Such cymbals are ideal for bigger live gigs where large stack amps cut through drum’s acoustics like better. 

Secondly, the bell size affects the buildup of overtones, sustain, and attack. The bigger the bell is, the greater the sustain you will get, overtones will build up more easily, but you’ll probably have to settle for less attack while hitting it. 

The profile defines the cymbal’s curvature. The bigger the curvature is, the higher the pitch of your tones will be. Additionally, larger curvatures result in fewer overtones because the cymbal will vibrate a bit slower. 

Lastly, the amount of cymbal’s thickness which tappers off the bell and to the cymbal’s edge define the clarity (or muddiness) of the tones. 

Thickness

The thickness of the cymbal shapes the sound in many ways. It defines how the strike feels, it defines the decay, attack and sustain, so it’s safe to say that this is one of the most important aspects of the cymbal’s tone.

First of all, let’s talk about the thin cymbals. Thin cymbals are usually made of Bell Bronze and they’re characterized with short decay and quick attack. Obviously, thinner cymbals are the least durable ones, regardless of what material they’re built from. 

Medium-thick cymbals bring the benefits of thin and thick cymbals to the table. They’re not as chirpy as thin cymbals, but their tone is also not as dull as that of thick cymbals. Though they’re not as robust as thin models, they’re certainly superior in terms of durability. 

Thick cymbals are the most robust cymbal type, and almost every model was specifically built to last for a couple of tours if you’re a professional musician or for several years if you’re playing casually. Thick cymbals are the also the loudest and the hardest to dent.

Weight

The weight of the cymbals affects the overtones, response, sustain, and the frequency range. The heavier the cymbal is, the narrower the frequency range becomes, the bigger the volume will get, the longer the sustain will be, but fewer overtones to toy around with. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What household item can I use to clean cymbals?

You shouldn’t clean your cymbals with a wet piece of cloth, so it would be best to squeeze some lemon juice straight on the cymbal and rub a teaspoon of vinegar over the surface. You should use a completely dry cloth to rinse the cymbals.

What are the best drum brushes for cymbals?

Usually, the best accessories are manufactured by brands that specialize in this type of gear rather than by actual drum-kit makers. For example, Vic Firth is held in high regard among drummers for making the best drum sticks, drum mutes, and practice accessories, so if you’re looking for a quality brush, we recommend the Steve Gadd wire brush. Alternatively, you should check out Promark’s B600 and Regal Tip’s 583R.

What are the pieces of a drum set?

If we exclude the hardware pieces, a standard drum set doesn’t feature a lot of parts. The biggest piece of a drum kit is the bass drum, on which the toms (timpani) and the snare drum are attached to. Certain drum kits also feature ‘hanging’ or ‘rack’ toms which are usually attached to the primary toms. 

Apart from that, there are several cymbals onboard as well. A standard drum kit features a hi-hat and a ride cymbal, but most players also use a crash and a china cymbal. Full, more complex drum kits also pack a sizzle cymbal, a swish cymbal, a cowbell, a woodblock, a gong, and a triangle.

Do thin cymbals break easier?

Simply put, thinner cymbals are generally less durable than thicker ones. However, the durability of a cymbal is largely defined by the material it was made from and by the manufacturing process itself. For example, a thick cymbal made from cheap brass would break faster than an ultra-thin cymbal made from quality bronze.

How does cymbal size affect the sound?

In a nutshell, cymbals emit sound through vibrations. This means that the larger a cymbal is, the bigger the surface on which the sound will reverberate on and through. 

So, if you’re asking yourself ‘what size ride cymbal should I get?’ for example, ask yourself how loud you want to play first. Bigger rides are easier to hit but harder to control, and the same applies to every type of cymbal. 

Ride cymbal vs crash cymbal

In short, a crash cymbal is used only frequently when a certain part of the song demands accentuation whereas the ride cymbal is used constantly throughout the entire song or pattern simply because crash cymbals are incredibly loud and ride cymbals are pretty quiet. 

Crash cymbals rage with overtones while ride cymbals have a clear, defined tone. Additionally, controlling a crash cymbal is fairly hard while you can use the ride cymbal in a variety of ways. 

Brass vs. Bronze cymbals

Brass cymbals are a relic from the past. Most manufacturers use bronze nowadays for a variety of reasons. First, bronze is easier to shape and more durable. Even the least durable bronze cymbal is still more robust than some of the sturdiest brass models. If you’re a collector, pursuing brass cymbals could be viable, but otherwise, we suggest you stick to the bronze ones. 

Conclusion

It’s a fact that most cymbal makers are pretty great mainly because the craft of cymbal making is demanding, expensive, and requires a wide array of skills. Finding a good set of cymbals is all too easy, but finding the best out there might not even be possible – this is an entirely subjective matter. 

What sounds great to some might not seem as good to others. Moreover, every person hears things differently, and every drummer has different expectations of tonal characteristics. While some drummers want cymbals that are easy to play, a few others demand durable cymbals so they can pound on them without restraint during high-octane performances. Luckily, we’ve included a lot of variety in our selection, so just sit back and take your pick. 

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