Skip to main content

The Best Cymbals

From pre-configured hi-hat/crash/ride cymbal packs designed to help beginner drummers get on the ladder, to hand-crafted, complex-sounding individual metals using the finest alloys, there has never been a better choice of cymbal companies, cymbals types and sounds available.

As always, the more cash you spend, the more you will be able to unlock quality craftsmanship, premium materials, and more pleasing cymbal sounds. However, a small budget doesn’t need to mean terrible sounding cymbals and cymbal companies are getting much better at extracting decent tones out of ‘inferior’ alloys.

Each cymbal will have a slightly different tonal character to the next one, so we would always recommend trying before you buy. And if you’re replacing individual cymbals within your set-up, you should always aim to complement your overall sound with any new additions, rather than choosing a model that sticks out unnaturally.

We’ve tested a huge range of cymbals to suit all musical situations so, whether you’re looking for the best cymbals for rock, funk, metal, jazz, or any other style, we have you covered. In fact, your next cymbal is almost definitely on this list.

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

Sabian SBR

Specifications
Models available: Hi-hats, crashes, rides, crash/rides, splashes
Alloy used: Brass
Reasons to buy
+Budget Cymbals for Beginners

Newcomers to drumming can be caught unawares when they budget for their first kit, not realising that drum manufacturers don't make cymbals and that the cheap brass cymbals thrown in with their starter kit are hideous duffers. Cheap cymbals just sound nasty. The SBR range covers the popular sizes a beginner is most likely to need. The medium weight and classic profile, along with the Sabian logo, give the cymbals authenticity. And they look the part with their deep, large-peen hammering and pinpoint lathing. 

This is the same hand-guided, high-pressure hammering and hand lathing that Sabian lavishes on its expensive bronze cymbals. Beneath their initial thin attack, there is some real meat and tone. Brass cymbals will never sound as complex as proper bronze cymbals, but these are well worth upgrading to from the cymbals thrown in with your starter kit.

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

Stagg SH

Specifications
Models available: Hi-hats, crashes, rides, Chinas, splashes
Alloy used: B20 Bronze
Reasons to buy
+Keenly Priced B20 Bronze Cymbals

Stagg cymbals from China have been with us since 2001, offering B20 bronze hand-hammered cymbals at shockingly attractive prices. The Single Hammered SH line-up is the cheapest in the range. Cymbals have uniform shallow hand-lathing top and bottom and extremely light hammering, almost unnoticeable. What the lack of extensive hammering does mean is they are a little short on projection when compared with more heavily-worked cymbals, but overall they have universally clean tones. 

The only thing stopping them from being top class cymbals is a slight foreshortening of sustain and shallowness of timbre which the extra working of expensive cymbals bestows. It's most noticeable by the time you get to the larger 16" and 18" crashes, but at these prices, it's unfair to be too sniffy. The SH may be Stagg's cheapest series, but for such budget cymbals, they are unusually refined in tone. B20 bronze, hand-hammered cymbals at knock-down prices.

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

Dream Contact

Specifications
Models available: Hi-hats, crashes, rides, crash/rides, splashes
Alloy used: B20 bronze
Reasons to buy
+Mellow Sounding Cymbals

Dream produces professional-quality cymbals in the ancient Chinese cymbal-making region around Wuhan city. Dream's Contact series lies somewhere between the slightly darker, trashier Bliss series and the rockier Energy series. The Contact series is, unusually, made from B23: 23 percent tin content and 77 percent copper. With such a high tin content the result is a lovely silvery-gold colouring and a slightly brighter stick response. The cymbals have a satin finish with Chinese-style graphics, and surfaces are lightly dimpled with barely discernible hammering, close-lathed top, and bottom. 

If you're into heavy metal, you should maybe look away now as these cymbals won't deliver a face-melting. The vibe is softer and mellower: a hint of China trashiness, a spicy tang and bell-like clarity. They need coaxing, not slaying. But while they're not clangers, they can certainly be played hard. Each cymbal will sound slightly different, so you need to choose with care.

Image 1 of 4

Image 2 of 4

Image 3 of 4

Image 4 of 4

Paiste PST8

Specifications
Models available: Hi-hats, crashes, rides, Chinas (Swish), splashes, bells
Alloy used: CuSn8 Bronze
Reasons to buy
+For Gigging

Featuring splashes, crashes, chinas, hi-hats, and rides, PST8s contain a fair few attributes from higher-spec Paiste ranges - chief among these is the CuSn8 bronze that the cymbals are made from. CuSn8 is Paiste's own blend of B8 and is also known as 2002 bronze after the legendary Paiste range that it was formulated for. Most of the diameters of cymbal are available in two weights - Medium and Rock. As well as being heavier, the Rock models also have larger bells, a slightly flatter profile and have been on the end of a few more hammer blows. Crashes open with a clean, silky blast of B8 that slides across the mix. 

Three pairs of 14" hi-hats are available - Medium, Rock and Sound Edge, and ride cymbals come in 20" (Medium & Rock) and 22" (Rock only) sizes. The 20" Medium gives a bright stick sound that generates a sympathetic accompaniment of wash. In comparison, the heavier 20" Rock has a toppier, more lively feel, while the 22" Rock ride has a deeper voice and bigger presence.

Image 1 of 3

Image 2 of 3

Image 3 of 3

Zildjian S Family

Specifications
Models available: Hi-hats, crashes, rides, Chinas, splashes
Alloy used: B12 Bronze
Reasons to buy
+Pro Sound on a Budget

The S Family is extensive, with 38 cymbals available individually or in two boxed sets - a Performer and a Rock Cymbal set. Medium spaced rippled lathing covers the top and bottom surfaces, and there is intensive, graded machine hammering everywhere except on the bells. The collection encompasses four weights: Thin, Medium-Thin, Medium and Rock.

 A highlight of the range, stick definition on the 20" Medium ride is exemplary, with the clarity of a top pro cymbal, quite woody and focused. The 18" hole-strewn Trash crash has a funky thin and trashy element, like a super-thin fast crash. It would make great effect cymbals, regardless of budget. Improving on Zildjian’s old ZHT series, the B12 bronze alloy S Family is a good-looking intermediate level series with a range of weights offering a compelling range of sounds.