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Zildjian Cymbals Comparison — A Complete Guide

Zildjian—you don't have to be a professional drummer to know this brand is among the best in the world. Since its founding nearly 400 years ago, Zildjian has been the cymbal of choice for legendary musicians, including Ringo Starr from The Beatles to Travis Barker from Blink 182.  

Zildjian was the first (and only) cymbal company for many years. While other contenders have risen in the ranks, they continue to make reliable, versatile cymbals. However, its long and illustrious history means there are many cymbals to choose from, making finding the right model a challenge.  

This guide compares Zildjian cymbals to help you make the best choice for your drum set. Not all Zildjian cymbals offer the same qualities. Here, we look at the criteria you want to compare and four praiseworthy options worth considering. We know you'll find what you're looking for here at Drum Center of Portsmouth.

Sound Quality 

Each type of cymbal will produce a different sound called the tone. However, tonal qualities are distinct among cymbals, even within their category. Rides can produce anything from bright, colorful tones to complex, dark ones.

Decide on the sound that you want. Is it dark or bright? It may help to consider what style of music you are going for, whether it’s smooth jazz with warm tones or harsh, brassy sounds for rock or metal. With this information in mind, you'll be able to weed out the ride cymbals that don't fit with your musical goals. 

You can tell a lot about the sound quality of a Zildjian cymbal by its texture. Lathed cymbals, for instance, deliver an open sound with more wash and less definition. Unlathed cymbals offer a drier sound with more definition. 

Every cymbal has grooves produced by the technique called lathing. If you want bright tones or a cutting attack, look for fine lathing, where the distance between the grooves is smaller. Think music like ‘80s hair metal or pop punk as reference points for finely lathed cymbals. 

Medium or wide lathing is when you can see the grooves. Many Zildjian cymbals use this technique, developed over the centuries before the invention of electricity!

Finally, you have unlathed cymbals. These look rough and raw, producing a quick attack and decay. The old-world technique produces a stunning tonal complexity. These are on par with hand-hammered varieties so popular today. 

When shopping for Zildjian ride cymbals, comparing tonal quality is essential. Start with the tonal quality you’re looking for to narrow your decision. 

Material

Cymbals can be made from various materials, among them bronze, brass, and nickel silver. 

The most popular material is bronze alloy, a composite of copper and tin. The ratio of copper to tin affects the tone of the cymbal. Typically, adding more tin to a bronze alloy will darken the tone. 

Zildjian makes its cymbals using the Zildjian Secret Family Alloy. It consists of 80% copper, 20% tin, and traces of silver. Combining these materials produces the well-renowned sounds that have made Zildjian cymbals famous.

Size

Size affects the sound produced by each cymbal. A general rule is the thicker the cymbal is, the higher the pitch. Larger sizes are great for drummers who play a lot of rock music. 

Small, thin cymbals are quieter than heavier options since the vibrations move faster and dissipate quicker when compared to large cymbals. 

Larger cymbals will offer more volume and a bigger sound. They'll have a longer sustain and a slower response than smaller cymbals. 

Type

Zildjian makes several types of cymbals. Therefore, you want to make sure you're comparing the same types. In this case, we'll be comparing Zildjian 20" ride cymbals. These are the largest and heaviest cymbals on the drum set.

Other types of cymbal types include: 

  • Crash
  • Hi-hat
  • Splash
  • China
  • FX

There are also many Zildjian cymbal series which we'll cover below. 

Best Zildjian Ride Cymbal Series

1. Zildjian K Custom Ride Brilliant Cymbal 20"

The first Zildjian cymbals created in 1618, this series continues to be highly sought after by beginner and professional drummers alike. Many would agree that the K series has some of the best cymbals offered by Zildjian. They'd even go as far as saying they're the best manufacturer of cymbals worldwide!

K Custom cymbals feature cast bronze. They're individually poured, cast from raw molten metal, and undergo a complex production process. The result is a rich, full-bodied sound that only improves with age. 

How does the Zildjian K Custom Ride Brilliant Cymbal 20" sound? It has a dark and rich tone lower in pitch than most Zildjian cymbals. Drummers will enjoy this ride's top-of-the-line tone and projection, which is ideal for studio and performances. Whether playing the bell or the bow, you can expect a quality cymbal that offers excellent projection, clarity, and durability. 

 

Specifications

  • Cymbal Series: K Custom
  • Type: Ride
  • Size: 20"
  • Weight: Medium Heavy
  • Material: Zildjian Secret Family Alloy
  • Finish: Brilliant
  • Sound: Dark and Rich
 
 

PROS

  • Premium tone and projection
  • Bright, clean stick definition
  • A beautiful ride with a brilliant, unlathed finish
  • Ideal for studio and live playing

CONS

  • Pricey compared to A series
 

Who's It For? 

  • Beginners and professionals
  • Drummers looking for dark & rich sounds

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2. Zildjian Kerope Ride Cymbal 20"

Ask any of us at Drum Center of Portsmouth, and we'll tell you that Zildjian represents the gold (or should we say the bronze) standard in cymbal making. The Zildjian Kerope Ride Cymbal 20" looks just as it sounds—dark and complex. It delivers a dark sound, low pitch, and long sustain. 

These handcrafted cymbals are reminiscent of cymbals from the ‘50s and ‘60s, both in appearance and sound. You may have seen several jazz drummers like Steve Gad or Steve Smith play the Kerope series. Kerope rides are top options for jazz players as they offer an authentic vintage look and feel.

The Zildjian Kerope Ride attributes make it great for those who play jazz, swing, or in a big band. Drummers can expect a soft attack, clear, mid-pith with the Zildjian Kerope Ride Cymbal. It has a dark feel, with a stick definition that's clean and clicky, perfect for jazz drummers.

 

Specifications

  • Cymbal Series: Kerope
  • Type: Ride
  • Size: 20"
  • Weight: Medium
  • Material: Zildjian Secret Family Alloy
  • Finish: Traditional
  • Sound: Dark and Complex
 
 

PROS

  • Dark and rich sounds
  • Professional, high-end, handcrafted build
  • Great for jazz

CONS

  • Not as loud for heavy music
 

Who's It For? 

  • Great for drummers that play jazz or swing
  • Drummers who want dark tones

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3. Zildjian A Custom Ride Cymbal 20"

If there's one thing Zildjian is known for, it's creating timeless cymbals. They've been around since 1623, equivalent to almost 400 years. With so many years in the industry, many drummers consider them the best cymbals worldwide manufacturers.  

The A Customs series came out in 1990. Unlike the Zildjians K series, the A Customs series has thinner profiles and lighter weight, making them great for several genres. 

Among their timeless cymbals is the Zildjian A Custom Ride Cymbal 20". It features a brilliant finish with tonal grooves. These attributes deliver a smooth, bright sound great for many drumming styles, such as modern rock, pop, R&B, or funk. At a glance, it's a refined version of the classic Zildjian sound.

This ride cymbal is very high-end, making it an excellent choice for professional drummers. They work great for those that want to play over the top of other high-pitched instruments. The bright and expansive sound allows them to hit broader frequency ranges. 

 

Specifications

  • Cymbal Series: A Custom
  • Type: Ride
  • Size: 20"
  • Weight: Medium
  • Material: Zildjian Secret Family Alloy
  • Finish: Brilliant
  • Sound: Bright and Loud
 
 

PROS

  • Suitable for several genres
  • Bright, loud, and strong attack
  • Colorful, warmer undertones

CONS

  • Not great for beginners
 

Who's It For? 

  • Professionals
  • Drummers looking for colorful and warm tones

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4. Zildjian A Custom Medium Ride Cymbal 20"

There's so much to love about the Zildjian A Custom Medium Ride Cymbal 20". It's a bright, glassy-sounding ride cymbal that offers a clear, crisp stick definition. These ride cymbals are easily recognizable by their brilliant finish, unique tonal grooves, and lower profiles. 

Rock, country, pop, or funk drummers will find the sounds they're looking for with this ride. And, thanks to the medium-thin weight, it also allows for some wash when playing ride patterns. 

With this hot pick, drummers will get a versatile ride cymbal with a clear, transparent sound. Don't believe us? Try it for yourself today!

 

Specifications

  • Cymbal Series: A Custom
  • Type: Ride
  • Size: 20"
  • Weight: Medium
  • Material: Zildjian Secret Family Alloy
  • Finish: Brilliant
  • Sound: Bright and Warm
 
 

PROS

  • Striking, brilliant finish
  • Bright and warm undertones
  • Clear bell sound
  • Versatile—great for several genres

CONS

  • Not a good cymbal for jazz
 

Who's It For? 

  • Beginners and professionals
  • Great for modern drummers that play rock, country, or pop

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Choose Your Zildjian Cymbal? Buy Directly From Us Today!

Ride cymbals complete a professional drum set. With so many options to pick from, it can become challenging to choose the right one for you. However, with these tips and hot picks in mind, you'll be well on your way to purchasing a quality ride cymbal for your drum set. 

Browse our collection of Zildjian ride cymbals today! We know you'll find what you were looking for at Drum Center of Portsmouth.

10 days ago