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There are dozens of incredible cymbal brands out there that make cymbals to pair with drum kits. Most cymbal brands offer a wide range of cymbals in various price ranges, giving drummers of all experience levels plenty of options.
In this guide, I’ve picked out the best cymbal brands. I’ve listed one excellent product from each brand, included a quick buyer’s guide to help you choose cymbals, and then I’ve included short descriptions of each brand so that you know what they’re all about.
Zildjian A Cymbal Set – Best Overall
The Zildjian A Cymbal Set (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of Zildjian’s most popular products. The Zildjian A cymbals have a legendary reputation in the music industry, and this pack offers four carefully selected cymbals from the famous line.
For the hi-hats, you get the 14” New Beats. These are often referred to as the most recorded hi-hats in the world, as they’re a favorite of studio producers that record albums. They have bright sounds with explosive energy, but they’re also versatile enough to work brilliantly in any style of music.
The 16” and 18” crash cymbals are the Zildjian A Medium Thin options. These are bright and full-bodied, meaning they pack quite a serious punch. However, they’re also really dynamically expressive.
They offer quite complex tones, depending on where you strike them. But most drummers love the solid crashes get when laying into the edges.
The final cymbal in the pack is a Zildjian A 21” Sweet Ride. This cymbal is widely articulate when played on the bow. You can hear every little stroke incredibly clearly. You then get an aggressively bright sound from the bell.
You can also crash the edge, but it sounds really heavy and boisterous. Some drummers love that, but it can sound too overwhelming in the wrong setting.
These cymbals are all on the brighter side of the sound spectrum, but they’re highly versatile. The pack also costs under $1000, which makes it quite a bit more affordable than many of the high-end cymbal packs out there.
Overall, it’s a solid set of cymbals that most drummers will love.
Material: B20 bronze
Size: 14” hi-hats, 16” & 18” crashes, 21” ride
Meinl Mike Johnston Byzance Cymbal Set – Premium Option
The Meinl Mike Johnston Byzance Cymbal Set (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the best examples of the kind of unique cymbals on offer from Meinl. These are all beautifully dry and complex, and they all look like pieces of art.
The set is quite expensive, costing around the same as a good professional drum kit shell pack, but these are cymbals that will sound fantastic in almost any style of music. However, drummers tend to prefer them in jazz and low-volume contexts.
The 14” Extra Dry hi-hats have a seriously earthy sound. When played open, they offer a washy character that disappears very quickly after striking them. These are hi-hats that blend instead of cut, making them great for drummers that don’t want anything too aggressive.
The 18” Extra Dry Thin crash comes from the same line, so it has similar sounds. However, the thinner structure makes it a bit washier. It’s the driest cymbal of the set, meaning it has the least amount of resonance.
The 20” Extra Thin crash is a personal favorite. This cymbal has a deep tone that covers your whole drum set when you strike it. It’s one of those cymbals that is perfectly suited for ending massive drum fills and song parts.
Finally, Mike Johnston’s Signature 21” Transition ride is the key cymbal of the entire set. This is one of Mein’s most versatile ride cymbals. It offers the perfect balance of washiness and articulation. You get distinct notes from the surface, while the edge offers you a fantastic crashing tone. The bell also sounds strong and piercing.
The downside of these cymbals is that they’re not loved by all drummers. If you’re a fan of the classic bright cymbal sound, these may be far off from your preferences.
Material: B20 bronze
Size: 14” hi-hats, 18” & 20” crashes, 21” ride
Wuhan 457 Cymbal Set – Best Budget Option
The Wuhan 457 Cymbal Set (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is an extremely affordable cymbal pack that is a great option for beginners to get started. I’d recommend this set above any other beginner set from major brands, as these cymbals sound a lot better.
They’re still not the best cymbals around, but they’re perfect for new drummers that can’t quite recognize good audio quality yet.
The most surprising thing about these cymbals is that they’re made from a B8 alloy. This means that they’re comprised of 92% copper and 8% tin. This makes them the most affordable B8 cymbals that I know of, as this pack costs about $200 less than any other B8 cymbal pack.
You only get three cymbals in the set, but they’re all the essential cymbals needed for a basic drum kit setup.
The 14” hi-hats have a sharp and glossy tone. They get more aggressive as you open them up, adding plenty of power behind your grooves.
The 16” crash cymbal has the typical sound of a cheap crash. It’s high-pitched, and you have to hit it quite hard to get a full tone. However, the fact that it has the same sound as most other pricier entry-level cymbals is quite impressive.
The 20” ride cymbal is the most impressive of the set. It has a darker sound than the other cymbals, and it has a surprisingly good dynamic range. It also has a strong crash sound when played on the edge that gets out of the way very quickly.
Material: B8 bronze
Size: 14” hi-hats, 16” crash, 20” ride
Sabian AAX Praise and Worship Cymbal Set
The Sabian AAX Praise and Worship Cymbal Set (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a great set for drummers needing brightness and punchiness. These are some of the liveliest cymbals that Sabian offers, yet they’re also incredibly musical in their response.
The set is labeled as a Praise and Worship set, as it tends to work very well in Gospel settings. However, it’s also an excellent option for pop drummers.
The 14” hi-hats are very quick to speak, and they’re loud enough to be heard clearly over all the other cymbals in the set.
The 16” and 18” have similar tones with slightly different pitches. They’re seriously powerful, cutting through mixes with ease.
The 10” splash cymbal is an excellent addition to this set that you don’t see in many others. It’s bright, but it also has a trashy tone to add a unique sense of flavor to the setup.
Lastly, the 21” ride has a strong crashing sound and a highly articulate bow tone. It has an unlathed bell, leading to an earthier and more raw sound when you strike it.
The drawback of this cymbal set is that it’s not very versatile. These cymbals are best suited for loud and vibrant environments. If you want something more versatile for all styles of music, the brand’s HHX cymbals would be a better pick.
With that said, this is undoubtedly one of my favorite cymbal packs from Sabian.
Material: B20 bronze
Size: 14” hi-hats, 16” & 18” crashes, 21” ride, 10” splash
Paiste 2002 Cymbal Set
The Paiste 2002 Cymbal Set (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of Paiste’s most famous products. The 2002s are legendary in the music industry, as they were the cymbals of choice for many rock drummers back in the Classic Rock Era.
They’re just as good today as they were back then, and they’re still a compelling option for anyone that needs big and powerful cymbals for heavier styles of music.
The most interesting thing about these cymbals is that they’re made from B8 bronze, but Paiste has their own unique mixture called CuSn8. Typically, B8 cymbals would sound quite bad, but these are full-on professional cymbals with high-quality sounds.
The 14” hi-hats have aggressive tones with highly distinct articulation. The bottom hats have a waved design to further boost their cutting nature.
The 18” and 20” crash cymbals sound massive. They have plenty of wash, but they also cut like butter through mixes.
The 22” ride cymbal is the loudest of the set. It has a large amount of projection, sounding absolutely massive when played hard. It’s a dream ride cymbal for many rock drummers, as it offers everything you need for heavy music.
This is another set of cymbals that mainly caters to one style of playing. These are heavy cymbals for heavy players. If you’re looking for something versatile, you’ll need to check out the Signature and Masters lines from Paiste.
Material: CuSn8 bronze
Size: 14” hi-hats, 18” & 20” crashes, 22” ride
Istanbul Agop Clap Stack
The Istanbul Agop Clap Stack is a highly popular cymbal stack that has also led to a bit of controversy in the drumming world. This stack was designed by Istanbul with the help of Trevor Lawrence Jr, and the idea is that it produces the same sound as a sampled handclap.
This allows drummers to play handclap sounds without needing to use any sort of electronic device in their setup. With most modern music using handclap sounds, this stack blew up in popularity when it was introduced to the market.
The controversy comes with the fact that most other cymbal companies recreated the design and started selling it under their own brand name. However, the original Istanbul Agop Clapstack still remains the best one available.
It comprises of three cymbals that have been bent to fit snuggly on top of each other. When you strike these cymbals, you get a sound that perfectly imitates the sound of hands clapping together.
That’s the only sound that the stack makes, so it essentially has a single purpose. You can get slightly more resonance from leaving the wingnut loose on the cymbal stand.
You’ll mostly see drummers that play pop, jazz, and any sort of hip-hop using this cymbal. Drummers like Chris Dave are a perfect example.
Material: B20 bronze
Size: 11”, 13”, 15”
Dream 14” Bliss Hi-Hats
The Dream Bliss 14” Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are one of my favorite pairs of hi-hats from a lesser-known cymbal brand. These cymbals have a beautifully dark touch to them, but they also have shimmering tones to make them effective in a mix.
One of the cool things about Dream cymbals is that they go through a lengthy process to make each cymbal highly unique. They’re hand-hammered, so no Bliss hi-hats will sound exactly the same. However, there’s a general tone to expect.
I’d say the main tonal quality of these hats is quite warm. They’re not aggressive, but they don’t disappear into a mix either. You’ll get a slight hint of trashiness, which is what adds even more to their character.
A lot of worship drummers love to use these, but they fit in perfectly in most styles of music. They have enough volume to work in rock settings, and they’re sensitive enough to perform really well in a jazz context.
Another thing I love about these hi-hats is their low price tag. They easily compete with all the high-end hi-hat options available, but they cost around $200 less.
Some drummers don’t enjoy the fact that different pairs offer varying qualities, so that’s just something to keep in mind. You may listen to a sound demo of these and then buy a pair that doesn’t sound the same.
Bosphorus 24” Turk Series Ride
The Bosphorus 24” Turk Series Ride is a beautifully large ride cymbal that mainly works well in jazz and worship settings. This is one of the largest ride cymbals you can get with its 24” diameter, so it may not be something you’re used to. However, I strongly recommend checking it out, as it sounds incredible.
It has a fundamental dark tone, meaning it’s quite low-pitched compared to most other ride cymbals. It’s wonderfully complex, though, so you get various sounds depending on where you strike the cymbal with your sticks.
It’s also quite thin, so you get a seriously good crashing sound that washes over your entire kit. This is the main reason it’s a good option for worship, as worship drummers need to crash on the ride often.
It’s excellent for jazz due to the clean articulation you get from playing the surface. You can hear every small detail of your strokes, and then you can open the sounds up as you play closer to the edge.
The unlathed bell produces a loud and earthy tone. It’s also low-pitched, but it’s a bit higher than what you get from the bow.
This is one of those cymbals that you pull out when you want some unique sounds from your cymbal setup, and it’s a big favorite for drummers that love Bosphorus cymbals.
TRX 19” ALT Series Crash
The TRX 19” ALT Series Crash is my favorite cymbal option from one of the least-known cymbal brands on this list. Although TRX has great reach, the brand isn’t nearly as popular as any of the names we’ve looked at so far.
With that said, I love the products that they create, and I think they offer some of the best crash cymbals on the market.
This crash cymbal has been designed to produce a solid modern tone. It has a brilliant finish on the bow and edge, and then it has an unlathed finish on the bell. This leads it to produce a bright and vibrant sound when you crash it, but you get slightly earthier sounds when striking it closer to the center.
All the crash cymbals in TRX’s ALT line have these qualities, but I’m a big fan of 19” cymbals, which is why I’ve suggested this one here.
This cymbal is also slightly more affordable than something like a Zildjian A or Sabian AAX crash. The only downside is that TRX cymbals are a bit harder to find.
Material: B20 bronze
What To Look For In Cymbal Brands
The first thing you should check out with a cymbal brand is their entire product range. It’s a good idea to go onto a brand’s website to see everything that they offer.
Some cymbal brands offer lines that cater to all budget levels, while others only produce high-end cymbals that can be quite pricey.
Every cymbal brand sells top-tier cymbals, but not every brand has a large number of entry-level lines. For example, Zildjian only has a few beginner product ranges, while Paiste offers several.
This means that Paiste cymbals cater more to beginners, as the brand offers a larger choice pool. However, a professional drummer may have a better time looking through the dozens of high-end options from Zildjian.
You can find these small differences with every brand’s product range, so do your research and see what’s out there.
Cymbals are made from various types of metal. The cheapest cymbals are made from brass, while higher-quality cymbals are made from bronze alloys.
These bronze alloys are typically made from a combination of copper and tin, with the more musical cymbals having a higher level of tin.
With that said, some cymbal brands utilize “cheaper” materials much better. Paiste is the best example, as the brand offers several high-end cymbal lines that are made from a comparative alloy to B8 bronze. On the flip side, Zildjian and Sabian only make beginner cymbals that are made from those materials.
You should also look through the design processes that each cymbal brand puts their products through. These processes lead to various sound qualities that are unique to specific brands.
Most cymbal brands offer wide ranges of products that have various sound qualities, but you get a few brands that are well-known for a certain few.
For example, Meinl has been the go-to brand for dark, earthy, and dry cymbals for years. The other big three brands have comparative options, but you’ll find a lot more of these cymbals in Meinl’s Byzance line.
If you want trashy cymbals that have a great blend of darkness and brightness, you should consider a few options from Dream.
If you want large and powerful cymbals that are excellent for rock music, Paiste tends to offer the most options with that description.
With that said, it’s a good idea to compare all of your choices. While Meinl has more dry options, you may prefer the sound of the dry cymbals from Zildjian, etc.
If you’re really unsure of which cymbal brand to choose, find out what brands all your favorite drummers are playing.
Every cymbal brand has a roster of artists that endorse their products. Seeing your favorite drummers playing these cymbals is the best way of hearing them in action.
You’ll often find high-quality YouTube videos of the cymbals being played by these artists, especially if you’re looking at the big four brands.
Availability is something else to consider. When you walk into a random music store, the brands that are guaranteed to be available are Meinl, Paiste, Zildjian, and Sabian. All the other brands are just possibilities, as they’re much smaller companies.
Brands like Dream and Istanbul Agop have gained a good amount of popularity in the US, but brands like Bosphorus and TRX are easier to find in European countries.
The last thing to consider when picking a cymbal brand is resale value. This refers to how easy it will be to sell your cymbals when you’re ready for new ones. It also refers to how high of a price you’ll be able to sell them for.
Again, the big four cymbal brands are the winners here. The used market is full of cymbals from Meinl, Sabian, Paiste, and Zildjian. If you want to sell your cymbals, there will be plenty of drummers looking for them.
Selling a TRX or Dream cymbal may prove to be a lot harder, as the cymbals aren’t as popular, leading the used buying market to be a bit smaller.
Best Cymbal Brands
Here are short descriptions of all the top cymbal brands in the world. I’ll also mention a few things that each brand is well-known for.
Zildjian is the oldest cymbal company of all of them, and it’s actually one of the oldest companies in the world. Founded in the 1600s, Zildjian has been making top-tier cymbals for hundreds of years.
Zildjian cymbals are the gold standard that many other cymbal companies have looked up to. The brand’s A and K lines are famous in the music industry for being so reliable.
Paiste is a cymbal brand based in Switzerland. The brand gained major fame in the classic rock era, with drummers like John Bonham and Stewart Copeland being big fans of Paiste cymbals.
The top cymbals from Paiste are the Masters, 2002, and Signature Series lines. Many drummers say Paiste cymbals are the best option for rock music, but the brand caters to drummers of all styles with all of their products.
Meinl is a German cymbal brand that has gained major popularity over the last decade. The brand is known for making dark and dry cymbals that sound quite complex.
You’ll find plenty of Meinl cymbals with traditional designs, but the more artsy ones are what most drummers love the brand for.
The brand has a seriously strong social media presence, which is why it’s grown so much in popularity in recent years.
Sabian is the final brand that forms part of the “big four.” It was started by a Zildjian family member after a leadership dispute within the company. So, Zildjian and Sabian have often been seen as rival cymbal brands.
The brand is most well-known for the AAX and HHX cymbal lines, which are quite similar to Zildjian’s A and K lines.
Istanbul Agop is a smaller cymbal brand that makes some really artistic and beautiful cymbals. You’ll mostly find jazz drummers using the brand’s cymbals, as they tend to cater best to that style of music.
However, like Meinl, they make everything to suit a wider range of styles. For example, the brand was the first one to make a stack that sounds like a handclap.
Wuhan is a cymbal brand that primarily sells inexpensive products. They’re well-known for being some of the best-sounding cheap cymbals on the market. So, drummers often recommend going for Wuhan cymbals instead of the entry-level cymbals from bigger brands.
A lot of people recommend getting china cymbals from Wuhan. With chinas sounding so trashy and aggressive, it’s often better to get a cheaper one. The difference in sound quality is mostly unnoticeable.
Dream was also known for being a more affordable cymbal brand. However, the brand’s cymbals have gained a good amount of popularity in recent years, and the prices have started to match the ones from the major cymbal brands.
With that said, Dream is one of the few brands to use high-quality B20 alloys in their more affordable cymbals.
One of the best parts about the Dream brand is that they allow you to trade in cracked cymbals for credit points on new Dream products.
Bosphorus is a similar brand to Istanbul Agop. All the brand’s cymbals are handmade, giving them artistic characteristics that you don’t get from mass-produced cymbals. It also means that every cymbal has a unique touch.
This is another brand that is mostly loved by jazz drummers, as all the products they make sound fantastic in jazz band settings.
TRX is a small boutique cymbal company with a relatively wide reach. The brand offers a wide range of cymbal lines that cover all the common cymbal characteristics.
One of my favorite things about TRX is that they have a program that lets you design custom cymbals. It works the same way as a custom drum company process. You give them specifications, and then they make cymbals for you based on what those are.
Top Cymbal Brands, Final Thoughts
Most drummers gravitate toward Meinl, Paiste, Zildjian, and Sabian. They are the top four cymbal brands in the drumming industry.
However, I strongly encourage you to check out the other smaller brands too. Most of them offer incredible cymbals that don’t get the attention they should.
Read through the products I highlighted, but then check out each brand’s website to see their full product ranges.