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Meinl Cymbals is a German brand that has gained major popularity over the last decade. The world of social media put the brand on the map, with many of the best drummers in the world using their products.
If you like dry, dark, and earthy, Meinl is one of the best brands to look at for those kinds of tones.
I’ve listed some of the best Meinl cymbals available. The first few are cymbal packs. For the rest, I’ve picked out a good option for each cymbal type.
Meinl Mike Johnston Byzance Set – Best Overall
The Meinl Mike Johnston Byzance Set (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the best examples of a group of cymbals that people expect to see from Meinl. The brand is most well-known for having dark, dry, and earthy cymbals, and that’s exactly what you get here.
The 14” Extra Dry hats have dirty tones with very short sustain. It means that you can play them really hard while open, and the sound will get out of the way quite quickly. They’re fantastic for most styles, but they’re just not as loud as some drummers would like their hi-hats to be.
The 18” crash is from the same line, so you get similar sounds. This is actually one of Meinl’s most popular crash cymbals. The dry tones are perfect for ending off drum fills and crash-riding without the cymbal ever sounding too aggressive.
The 20” Extra Thin crash has powerful character. It resonates a lot more, and its low tones cover your whole set once you strike it. Mike Johnston has labeled it the “bwoosh” crash, as that’s pretty much what it sounds like.
Finally, the 21” Transition ride is the main cymbal of the set. It’s one of my favorite ride cymbals from Meinl, and I think it’s one of the most versatile ride cymbals on the market. It has the perfect balance of definition, washiness, and sustain. You can play anything on it and it will sound incredible.
Material: B20 bronze
Size: 14” hi-hats, 18” & 20” crash, 21” ride
Meinl Byzance Custom-Tailored Studio Set – Premium Option
The Meinl Byzance Custom-Tailored Studio Set is the best cymbal pack that you can get from Meinl. It’s pricey, but you get a beautiful mixture of sounds when using the cymbals together, and the pack has been mainly catered for studio drumming. So, it’s highly versatile.
The 14” Traditional Medium hats sit right in the middle of sounding dark and bright. They’re strong in their tones, and they can easily be heard within a mix.
The 18” and 20” Jazz crashes have buttery tones. They also have a hint of trashiness, but not enough for them to sound too aggressive.
The 16” Trash crash is where you’ll get most of your trashy tones. This cymbal is very explosive, and it’s the perfect tool for dramatic effect within your drum fills.
The 22” Dark Raw Bell ride rounds the whole set together. It has warm, low-pitched tones that sound smooth and washy in all the right ways. The unlathed bell has a beautiful earthy tone.
The set also comes with Cymbal Bacon and a Ching Ring. These are accessories from Meinl that add a bit more resonance to whichever cymbals you place them on.
You could use this cymbal pack to play both jazz and heavy metal. While the cymbals are darker in nature, they’re powerful and explosive enough to stand out in heavier settings.
Material: B20 bronze
Size: 14” hi-hats, 16” & 18” & 20” crashes, 22” ride
Meinl HCS Basic Set – Best Budget Option
The Meinl HCS Basic Set (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of the many packs that Meinl offers with HCS cymbals in it. There are several others, but the splash cymbal included in this one makes me like it the most. The great price helps too!
These HCS cymbals don’t sound amazing, but their glossy and shimmering tones are perfectly good enough for newer drummers that are learning the ropes.
They also sound miles better than the cheap no-name brand brass cymbals that you’ll see coming with a lot of entry-level drum kits.
So, if you’re someone who owns one of those kits, getting this pack would be a good way of upgrading your overall cymbal sound without paying too much.
The cymbals are quite durable, so they’ll handle whatever you throw at them very well.
Something unique to mention about HCS cymbals is that most of them work incredibly well in cymbal stacks. When you upgrade your cymbal setup from these in the future, you can still use all of them to create some great-sounding stacks for getting tight and punchy sounds.
Material: MS63 brass alloy
Size: 14” hi-hats, 10” splash, 16” crash, 20” ride
Meinl Byzance 14” Vintage Sand Hi-Hats
The Meinl Byzance 14” Vintage Sand Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are the signature cymbals of the groove master, Benny Greb. These hi-hats have been available from Meinl for ages, but they’ve remained one of the brand’s most popular hi-hat options.
The cymbals have been sandblasted on the surface, which leads them to have dark and shimmering tones. They’re quite dry, meaning you don’t get a lot of sustain or volume.
One of the best features of the Sand Hats is that they have fantastic stick definition. You can hear every note you play on them very distinctly. This makes them great for drummers that like to play busy hi-hat patterns.
They also have a surprisingly powerful chick sound when you play them with your foot, meaning they’re great for keeping time with. This makes them excellent for a style like jazz where you need to keep your hi-hat pedal quite busy.
It’s just not the best option for drummers that love bright and powerful hi-hats.
Material: B20 bronze
Meinl Byzance 18” Dual Crash
The first thing you’ll notice about this one is that it has two different finishes on the surface. The center part is unlathed, while the outer part has a brilliant finish.
The two surface areas give you extended playability on the cymbal. You can hit the unlathed surface at the top of the cymbal to get a dry and washy tone, and then you can strike the edge to get a high-pitched explosive sound.
The bell also sounds great when you hit it, but you get more wash than articulation due to the cymbal being relatively small.
Overall, the cymbal has dark tones that are a lot more complex than most other crash cymbals. The shimmering high sounds come from the edge, while the low sustain comes from the unlathed center.
It works for every musical style, but you’ll need to pair it with a few brighter cymbals for styles like rock and metal.
Material: B20 bronze
Meinl Byzance 22” Foundry Reserve Light Ride
The Meinl Byzance 22” Foundry Reserve Light Ride (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is arguably the best cymbal that Meinl offers. It’s a favorite of many Meinl artists, especially ones that play expressive musical styles like jazz and fusion.
This cymbal has incredibly beautiful tones that are dark, washy, and very distinct. The cymbal has been fully handcrafted, giving it plenty of character. It also means that every Foundry Reserve Light Ride sounds slightly different.
When you play the surface of this ride, you get low-pitched warm tones that are quite articulate. As you move down to the edge, you get huge washy tones that are round and powerful.
One of the coolest things about the cymbal is that it comes in a special box with a pair of gloves and 5A Meinl Stick & Brush drumsticks. Unboxing it is a truly unique experience, and this packaging is something that not many other cymbal brands offer.
Naturally, this is the most expensive singular cymbal on this entire list, but it’s one of the best cymbals you’ll ever own if you get it.
Material: B20 bronze
Meinl Classics Custom 18” Dark China
The cymbal has darker tones than most other chinas, but it’s seriously powerful and explosive. Even though the sounds are lower-pitched, they cut through any mix effortlessly.
While aesthetics shouldn’t be a main focus when it comes to cymbals, you can’t help but admire how cool this cymbal looks. The cymbal has a black finish with gold line highlights, which make it stand out in a cymbal setup.
Just keep in mind that this china has a huge amount of sustain. When you strike it, it rings for a lot longer than you may expect. Some drummers like tighter china cymbals, so this may not be a good option for them.
However, the powerful sounds and long sustain make this a force to be reckoned with when playing heavy breakdowns.
Material: B12 bronze
Meinl Classics Custom 12” Trash Splash
Splash cymbals are so small that high-quality tones are often hard to distinguish between mid-tier and high-priced options. So, this one is an excellent choice for both intermediate and pro drummers.
The holes in the cymbal give it a very trashy sound, so it’s a great cymbal to have in your setup to play jabs and accents with.
It’s also known to work seriously well within various stack combinations, which is what a lot of drummers use it for.
You could even buy two of these cymbals to use as a pair of auxiliary hi-hats. I’ve seen a few drummers do this, and they sound fantastic.
Material: B12 bronze
Meinl Byzance Vintage Smack Stack
These kinds of cymbals have become incredibly popular over the last few years. If you play all the cymbals from this stack separately, they don’t sound good at all.
However, when you place them together, you get a sound that resembles a tight handclap. The idea is that you can use this stack instead of triggering a handclap sound from an electronic device like a pad or module.
In the world of modern music, handclap sounds are essential for drummers to be able to play, so these Smack Stacks have become some of the most sought-after cymbal stacks from Meinl.
The original handclap cymbal comes from Istanbul Agop, and it’s called the Clap Stack. While it may seem that Meinl copied the idea, I think it’s good to have different options that offer slightly different tones.
Meinl also offers Smack Stacks in the HCS line, but the Byzance ones sound much better.
Material: B20 bronze
Size: 10”, 12”, and 14”
What To Look For In Meinl Cymbals
Product Lines Explained
There are several lines that the brand offers, and understanding the general idea of what they offer is the best way of knowing where to look to get cymbals that you want.
Here are a few brief explanations of all the lines:
HCS – Entry-level cymbals made from brass that sounds glossy and shimmering.
HCS Bronze – Entry-level cymbals made from B8 bronze that sound bright and have good sustain.
Classics Custom – B12 bronze cymbals with loud and bright tones.
Classics Custom Extreme Metal – The brightest and most aggressive cymbals offered by Meinl.
Classics Custom Dark – Cymbals with dark and complex tones that are quite loud and aggressive.
Classics Custom Dual – Combination of the dark and traditional Classics Custom lines, leading to unique tones.
Pure Alloy – B12 cymbals with refined tones that are quite washy.
Pure Alloy Custom – Slightly softer and warmer than the standard Pure Alloy cymbals.
Artist Concept – Signature cymbals and stacks that have been formed by Meinl artists.
Byzance Brilliant – Bright B20 cymbals with musically responsive tones.
Byzance Traditional – Versatile B20 cymbals that work well for all musical styles.
Byzance Jazz – B20 cymbals with soft and buttery sounds. The larger ones are a bit trashy.
Byzance Vintage – Dry B20 cymbals with excellent stick definition.
Byzance Dark – Dark B20 cymbals with low-pitched tones.
Byzance Extra Dry – Very dry B20 cymbals with trashy tones and short sustains.
Byzance Dual – Dry B20 cymbals that are surprisingly explosive.
Byzance Foundry Reserve – Beautifully crafted B20 cymbals that sound warm, musical, and highly articulate.
When checking out cymbals, you’ll see a lot of descriptive words about how they sound. While it’s always best to listen to the cymbals being played, understanding these words will give you a better idea of what each cymbal offers.
Here are brief descriptions of all the words used to describe cymbals:
Bright – High-pitched sounds.
Dark – Low-pitched sounds.
Glossy – High-pitched sounds that tend to get higher as you strike the cymbals.
Shimmering – Vibrant resonance at higher frequencies.
Washy – Plenty of sustain when crashed on.
Trashy – White noise that is quite aggressive.
Dry – Reduced amount of resonance.
Packs vs Single Cymbals
Cymbal packs are sets of cymbals that you can buy with a single purchase. They include all the necessary cymbals for a drum kit setup, which are the hi-hats, some crashes, and a ride cymbal.
You can buy these to save a bit of money compared to buying all those cymbals separately, and most cymbal packs come with cymbals from the same line.
You can find plenty of good Meinl cymbal packs, with the brand offering at least one for every line other than the Byzance Series. The brand only offers a few from the Byzance cymbals.
If you need an entirely new set of cymbals, I’d recommend getting a cymbal pack. If you only need one or two cymbals, it’s better to pick them out individually.
One of the best ways of checking cymbals out is to watch videos of your favorite drummers playing them. My favorite thing about Meinl as a brand is that they post high-quality studio recordings of drummers playing their cymbals every day on YouTube.
There are hundreds of videos to watch, so you can find a full high-quality performance that involves any Meinl cymbal that you may be wanting to buy.
All these videos include drummers that are endorsed by Meinl, so you need to know who those drummers are. You can then check out other things that they’re doing to see those cymbals in action.
Here’s a list of some of the biggest drummers on Meinl’s artist list:
- Benny Greb
- Matt Garstka
- Zack Graybeal
- Thomas Lang
- Mike Johnston
- Luke Holland
- Chris Coleman
- Robert ‘Sput’ Searight
- Anika Nilles
- Matt Halpern
- Greyson Nekrutman
- Calvin Rodgers
- Richard Spaven
The last thing to consider before buying a Meinl cymbal is how much you’re willing to spend. Since the brand falls under the big four next to Zildjian, Paiste, and Sabian, you can expect some high prices when looking at the top-tier cymbals in their product range.
It’s normal to see a Meinl ride cymbal costing close to $700.
However, the brand has a big range of beginner and intermediate cymbals, meaning that players with lower budgets have many more options compared to brands like Zildjian and Sabian.
I’d say that Meinl and Paiste have the best cymbal options for beginners, as both brands offer some incredible cymbals at low prices.
All the cymbals that fall under the Byzance name are quite expensive. The Classics Custom cymbals are mid-tier priced, and the HCS cymbals are the lowest-priced options.
Top Meinl Cymbals, Final Thoughts
While dark, dry, and earthy are the most popular cymbals from Meinl, the brand offers everything you may need. The Byzance Traditional line is perfect for drummers that want something closer to a Zildjian A, while the Classics Custom lines are great for getting brighter sounds.
Check through all the options I mentioned and hop onto the Meinl website to see the brand’s complete product range. There are such good cymbals on there!