With so many different brands and styles of cymbals, even the most skilled drummer can struggle to choose the right ones for their drum set. There are cymbal manufacturers of all sorts, from modern companies like Meinl, who are employing old world tactics and integrating them with laser like efficiency, to older companies like Zildjian that have been around for over 400 years, and doing the same exact thing.
Approximately half of the cymbals on the market are made by the big four companies: Zildjian, Paiste, Meinl, and Sabian. The other half comes from smaller companies.
To help drummers make the right choice, our team at the Drum Center of Portsmouth is on hand. Our expert percussionists can guide anyone, from the newest drummers to professionals who already have the technical know-how and just need the inside scoop when making a new cymbal purchase.
After the stunning popularity of our guide to Narrowing Down Your Drum Kit Buying Decision, we decided it was time to offer a “crash” course on cymbals. Without further ado, here’s our guide to the top six lines of cymbals and a guide to choosing the best line for your drum set and playing style.
6 Best Cymbal Line Reviews for 2019
1. Paiste Masters Cymbals – Best Cymbals Overall for Drumming Masters
The Paiste Masters series is one of the most versatile lines on the market. The cymbals are all extremely lively. They enable broad accents that are great in moderately loud settings. The development of this range took over three years. They offer a complete range of jazz and acoustic sounds with minimal instrumentation.
The Paiste Masters line includes the 20”, 22” and 24” thin rides and the 14”, 15”, and 16” thin hi-hats. Together, these provide multifunctionality and all-around capability. The extra thin cymbal varieties are exceptionally lightweight. While they are ideally meant for use as a crash, they also work great as a ride in low volume settings.
Like all the Masters’ thin models, it is neither a ride nor a crash but instead a hybrid of both. The Masters series boasts exquisite craftsmanship and superior sound for all musical genres. Both the thin and extra thin models possess thin weights and low curvatures. This gives them a unique responsiveness that is both tranquil and balanced.
The entire Masters line is very dynamic and capable of volumes that are more than sufficient given the breadth of sizes available.
- Unmatched versatility of sounds, styles, and types
- Available individually or in premade sets
- Ideal for professional drummers who understand the finer details of cymbals
- Large selection of rides, hi-hats, and crashes but not other types of cymbals
Why We Love It: With so many varieties of sounds, this line gives drummers the freedom to explore the entire spectrum of drumming styles.
Most of the cymbals in the Masters line are usually available online, making them the first choice to look at when thinking about buying new cymbals. Contact Drum Center of Portsmouth for any questions or to purchase the Paiste Masters Cymbals today.
2. Zildjian Kerope Cymbals – Best Cymbals for an Old School Sound
This line takes its name from Kerope Zildjian, who presided over Zildjian during one of their most famous periods. The Kerope line has a sound that evokes the era of rock and roll music of the 1950s-1960s. They are handcrafted and feature a distinctively modern sound that is dark and complex.
This line features four rides of 20” and 22” in two different weights apiece and two 20” medium rides of different weights. There are also hi-hats of 14” and 15” in two separate weights. The cymbals have a traditional finish that produces a dark, low pitched sound that sustains its sound for a long time.
This Kerope line is a favorite among jazz and club drummers. That being said, other drummers can appreciate the different sounds they produce as well. Although not as jazzy as the K series or as heavy as the A series, the Kerope range are somewhere in the middle. In short, they promise a great overall old school rock ’n roll sound.
- Zildjian boasts 400 years of experience
- Gritty rock ’n roll sound
- Elegant and traditional appearance will help upgrade the appearance of your set
- Somewhat expensive for beginning drummers
- Only hi-hats and ride cymbals available – no matching crash cymbal yet
Why We Love It: With over 400 years of experience making cymbals, Zildjian always delivers an excellent product with amazing sounds.
This entire line is available to purchase online. The only issue is that they can be difficult to keep in stock because of their popularity. These are great cymbals for drummers who want the best in quality and sound.
If you are looking to upgrade your sound, contact Drum Center of Portsmouth today. We can direct you to all the kits we have for sale or provide more information on our Zildjian Kerope options.
3. Sabian Artisan Cymbals – Best Cymbals for Multiple Crash Sounds
Sabian’s Artisan line has been newly remastered. The result is a deeper, warmer tone that is complex musically. These cymbals have a raw bell design and high-density hand hammering. This revamp makes for a superior instrument. This line is specially designed to excel in low volume settings where the complex sound truly shines.
There are six varieties of ride cymbals available in 20” and 22”. These come in three different weights ranging from light, medium, and elite. There is also a 19’ prototype ride/crash cymbal. The range of hi-hats come in 14”, 15” and 16”, available in a light, brilliant, and elite finish. In addition, there is the 14” prototype hi-hat, which has a medium pitched jazzy sound.
The crashes come in 16”, 17”, 18”, 19” and 20” in either a brilliant or regular finish. Plus, there are two prototype crashes in 15” and 16”. These were handpicked from the Sabian factory by our team at DCP.
- Multiple choices of crashes, rides and hi-hats
- Amazing variety of sounds
- All cymbals come with Sabian’s standard two-year warranty.
- Some of the crash cymbals are fairly expensive
- Not ideal for high volume settings—best used in the studio or for practice
Why We Love It: Sabian has always stood by their workmanship. No matter how hard you play, Sabian’s cymbals are built to withstand a pounding. If they don’t, the company will replace any products of theirs under the two-year warranty.
The Artisan line is available online. All pieces in the Artisan line come with Sabian’s two-year warranty. The wide selection of crash sounds that the Artisan line produces proves why Sabian is synonymous with masterpiece. They really are works of art. If you are looking for a new drum set or for any of Sabian’s excellent cymbal lines, contact DCP to see what new options are available.
4. UFIP Experience Cymbals – Best Cymbals for Drummers on a Budget
UFiP created the Experience line based on the immense popularity of the Experience Series Blast Crashes. Made by hand in Italy, they have a very aggressive and trashy sound. They’re perfect for playing in louder settings. The large hammer marks and unlathed surface of the cymbals produce a much darker, dry and warm sound. This makes them great for experimental music and jazz.
There is a decent amount of variations for each type of cymbal that UFIP makes. This is great for producing sounds that will work for most musical styles. The range of cymbals includes two 22” rides, 3 hi-hat varieties in 15”, 16” and a rotocast 16” demo version. They also produce 16”, 17”, 19” and 20” blast crash cymbals. The extra dry blast crash cymbals come in 16”, 18”, 19” and 20” versions.
There are also 17” and 19” demo deal extra dry blast crashes that are rotocast. Lastly, they produce a 10” splash that can be played with sticks, mallets and even your hands.
- Prices great for drummers of all skill levels
- Demo deal cymbals provide the latest advances in cymbal making
- All pieces are handcrafted for the purest sounds
- Unlike many cymbals made in the Turkish style, these are made in Italy
- All the cymbals are completely made by hand, so they may not last as long as machine manufactured types.
Why We Love It: The cymbals listed as demo deals are simply too good of a deal to pass up. If you are a drummer on a budget, UFIP is the way to go.
The rotocasting process makes for a truly unique and dynamic sound. It is surprising to have such high-quality sounds at such a great price. All their cymbals are available online. These are unlike any of the cymbals their competitors make. For more information about all UFIP cymbals, contact Drum Center of Portsmouth today.
5. Istanbul Agop 30th Anniversary Cymbals – Best High-End Cymbals
The Istanbul Agop 30th Anniversary cymbals are true works of art. Every one of these Turkish gems has been individually handcrafted by a cymbalsmith, making no two cymbals alike. The different variations in hammer marks, color, lathing and labels all enhance the sound. Their natural beauty and unique quality make these truly one-of-a-kind.
The hi-hats come in two different weights for the 14” and 15” models. The 16” has three weights. They produce a crisp yet dark and chunky sound when closed and a warm shimmer when slightly open. They are very quick, light and consistent to play. The Agop line is perfect for the studio where you need a perfect sounding hat with a great response.
Their ride cymbals are also beasts to play. They offer a warm, articulate sound with a complex booming crash when you decide to let loose on them. They produce 20” and 24” versions in two separate weights. In addition, there is a 22” model that comes in 3 different weights. With a bell that produces a bright musical sound, these cymbals are in their element when used for jazz. However, they will also excel when used as a crash for rock settings.
The Istanbul Agop crash cymbals are exceptionally versatile. They come in two 18” versions and three 19” ones. With their crashes giving you the option of thin or medium thin sizes, they produce a trashy but controlled wash with moderate decays. These crashes produce a great sound that is perfect for all musical styles.
- Every cymbal is unique; handcrafting ensures you will only sound like yourself
- Great for playing live and in the studio
- Preferred choice among serious professionals.
- On the pricier side—maybe not the best choice for beginners.
- Limited options; drummers wanting more variety may prefer other brands
Why We Love It: These Istanbul AGoP are head and shoulders above other brands in terms of quality, sound and looks. We can’t sing their praises enough.
Although available online, Istanbul produces this line in limited qualities. That means you will want to act fast unless you don’t mind a pre-owned set. Their handcrafted uniqueness means you can be assured of having your own personal sound that won’t be easy to copy. Each cymbal is signed by the cymbalsmith, so you will know who to thank for these works of art.
If you are looking for the highest quality, get in touch with a member of the DCP team to learn more about the Istanbul Agop line.
6. Paiste Signature Dark Energy Cymbals – Best Modern Style
Many experts feel that the Paiste Signature Dark Energy line is the template for all modern cymbals. They all offer full, rich sounds with a dark menacing edge to them. Their only hi-hat option is a 15’ top cymbal, but what a sound it makes. Balanced and responsive, fast and articulate, it gives an excellent feel with superb playability.
Their ride cymbals come in 20”, 21” and 22” models. Each has a dark, multi-layered sound that emphasizes control, projection and comfort. They are extremely versatile, making them great for all modern blended musical applications. Their crash cymbals are 18” and 19” with a dark body and brilliant high tones. They offer a wide range of complex and pleasing musical sounds with an immediate, sensitive response. Their crashes mix soft, silky qualities with energy and projection. They sound great on stands or suspended, making them quite versatile.
There are also two splashes in the Paiste Signature Dark Energy line that are 8” and 10”. They both provide a full, wet sound that is brittle and trashy. With their very responsive, soft feel, they have a splash character that is short and explosive. They are perfect for dynamic accents across most musical styles.
All their cymbals are Mk I models with the exception of the 20” ride, which is a Mk II. The difference is that the Mk I has a tendency to be a bit darker, drier and quieter. The Mk II is a bit livelier and brighter.
- This line is the wave of the future; it promises a modern sound that will sound great for years to come.
- Moderate pricing—great value for the investment
- Suitable for drummers of all skill levels
- Only the top hi-hat is available; you may struggle to find a bottom cymbal that measures up
- Only one type of each size cymbal—limited options for different sounds
Why We Love It: Paiste’s Signature Dark Energy line really is the sound of the future. Playing these feels like being part of a secret club.
With their versatile and modern sound, you will love playing these cymbals. The only issue may be whether to wait until there are more Mk II versions available. That way, you can have a wider range to pick from. If you are looking to replace your current kit or would like to know more about Paiste’s Signature Dark Energy, contact Drum Center of Portsmouth today.
Cymbal Buyers Guide
Professional drummers typically know what they want before buying new cymbals. However, newer drummers aren’t always sure about how to make the right investment. There are a few things to consider before buying a new set.
How Do I Know I’m Ready to Buy New Cymbals?
Typically, you buy new cymbals for two reasons. The first is that the ones you currently own may have developed cracks or chips. Or, perhaps they simply don’t sound good anymore due to heavy use and/or warping. When this occurs, it is fairly self-evident that you need new cymbals.
The second reason is because you have gotten more proficient on the drums. At this point, you might feel that you need to start using better equipment or that you need to upgrade your sound. This is a matter of personal opinion. If you are taking lessons, your instructor should be able to give you an honest assessment of whether you are ready for a new set.
What to Consider When Buying Cymbals
There are several factors to weigh when buying new cymbals. You need to consider the style of music and the type of set you are comfortable playing. At the very least, you will probably need:
- A new hi-hat
- New ride
- New crash
If you play a wide variety of musical styles, you may want to add an extra crash cymbal, a splash or a china hat.
Other factors to consider include:
- The Material: You will need to consider the material because it affects the sound. Brass is the least expensive but sounds the worst usually. B8 bronze is a step up and B20 bronze is the highest quality.
- Hand-Crafted vs Machine-Made: After the material, you will want to decide whether you want a machine manufactured or a hand-crafted set. Ones made by machines offer uniformity of sound between two cymbals of the same size. Hand-crafted ones tend to be much more unique in sound.
- Individual vs Cymbal Packs: Finally, you will have to choose between buying a pack or individual cymbals. Packs are great because the manufacturer will know what sounds complement others. With packs, you get great sounds while saving money. Buying them individually provided you more versatility of sound. However, this method will generally be much more expensive.
- Hardware: You also don’t want to overlook hardware. You might want to replace your hi-hat stand or stands with better quality models.
Unless you really know your cymbals, a good rule of thumb is to stick with one of the bigger brands like Zildjian, Sabian, Meinl or Paiste. They are all excellent, and it is unlikely you will ever get a bad sounding cymbal from these brands.
What Should I Expect to Spend on Cymbals?
You must remember that you get what you pay for, and it is no different with cymbals. If you have a budget, then you may want to either go with a used set or purchase a pack. A decent pack of Zildjian A cymbals will get you a hi-hat, a crash, a ride, and a bonus crash. You could save a few hundred dollars with this option.
If you decide to mix and match, you will likely end up spending more in the long run. You’ll need to purchase a hi-hat, crash and ride cymbal and that isn’t including the stands. If you want a quality set and can afford it, it may be better to go with a slightly more expensive option than you initially planned on buying. The pricier models generally last longer.
If you have a budget you can’t break, then you should buy the best available cymbals for the money you have. Another option is to upgrade one cymbal at a time. That way, you can get better equipment albeit over an extended period.
Investing in a new set of cymbals can be a difficult and expensive decision. Your best bet is to go to your local drum shop. Here at the Drum Center of Portsmouth, you can test out the different cymbals available. Our team members will help you to determine the ones you like playing the most that have that sound you desire.
Regardless of the brand you choose, purchasing a new set of cymbals will not only enhance your sound. It also will give you a burst of enthusiasm and creativity. For more details on any of the top 6 cymbal lines reviewed here, contact our team at DCP today!