All drum kits are a combination of drums, hardware, and cymbals. Most drummers will tell you that cymbals are the most important aspect of any set. That has a lot of truth, as the sound of your cymbals can make or break your entire setup.
A good set of cymbals will boost the quality of your drum kit dramatically. So, it’s important to pick a good brand to get those cymbals from.
In this guide, we’ll look through all the best cymbal brands that are worth considering. These are all established brands with trusted quality and impressive product lines filled with various cymbal types.
We’ll also give a bit of advice on how to choose a cymbal brand to best suit your sound preferences.
- 1 Big Four Cymbal Brands
- 2 Other Popular Cymbal Brands
- 3 Cymbal Brand Selection Guide
- 4 Final Thoughts on Cymbal Brands
Big Four Cymbal Brands
In the cymbal world, there are four main brands that are the undisputed leaders in the market. Most professional drummers play one of these four brands, and they tend to have the most expansive product lines as well.
These are brands that you’ll easily find when walking into any music store, no matter where you are in the world. They’re all based in different parts of the world, but they have the widest reach compared to the smaller cymbal brands out there.
The Paiste brand started in the early 1900s with Toomas Paiste creating cymbals and other instruments for people who custom-ordered them. The brand eventually established itself with a headquarters in Switzerland in 1957, with Toomas’ grandsons running the business.
It was around that time that Paiste cymbals gained massive popularity, and a lot of famous rock drummers started using Paiste cymbals in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. It’s for this reason that Paiste cymbals have a reputation for being rock cymbals.
However, the brand has such an expansive product line that drummers of any style will be happy with the options.
The Paiste 2002s are some of the most popular cymbals from the brand. These are what John Bonham and many other rock drummers used.
The brand’s current flagship line is the Signature Series, which are versatile cymbals that work well in most settings.
The interesting thing about Paiste is that they use unconventional cymbal alloys. While most other brands use B20 alloys for their pro-tier cymbals, Paiste has several top-tier cymbals made from alloys that would typically seem like lower-quality ones.
Famous drummers who play Paiste cymbals:
- Danny Carey
- Stewart Copeland
- John Bonham
- Eric Moore
- Steve Jordan
Most people, musician or not, know of Zildjian cymbals. It’s one of the most popular music brands in the world, and it’s also one of the oldest. The brand started in 1623, which is hundreds of years before the first drum kit was used.
In the modern day, Zildjian cymbals are as popular as ever, with hundreds of famous drummers using their products. A lot of cymbal innovations came from Zildjian, but the other three big brands are on equal grounds with their own creations.
Zildjian’s biggest spikes in popularity occurred when Gene Krupa and Ringo Starr used their cymbals. These brought them to the attention of a lot more people around the world.
The most popular drum kit cymbals from Zildjian are their A and K lines. The A and A Custom cymbals are bright and vibrant, while the K and K Custom cymbals are a bit darker and more musically complex.
The top-tier cymbal line from Zildjian is the K Constantinople line. These cymbals are some of the brand’s most expensive options, and they’re also the best sounding. They also have a long history of coming out with new lines, though not all have been successes, such as the Z Custom line and the Pitch Black series.
The coolest thing about Zildjian is that the brand has always been a family business. The Zildjian family members running the show now are direct descendants of Avedis Zildjian, who started the brand in 1623.
There’s also a persistent rumour that Zildjian are behind the similarly named Zenjian cymbals – read about that here.
Famous drummers who play Zildjian cymbals:
- Larnell Lewis
- Aaron Spears
- Mike Mangini
- Steve Smith
- Ash Soan
Meinl is one of the newer names in the group of the top four cymbal brands, but the company has been around since the 50s. It’s a German brand, and their cymbals started seeing massive growth in popularity with the rise of social media.
A decade or two ago, it was mostly German drummers playing Meinl cymbals. Nowadays, thousands of drummers love and swear by the brand. The brand has done brilliantly with marketing their products across social platformswith famous drummers playing them.
Most of the cymbals from Meinl are noticeably different from the other three brands. Their Byzance line is full of cymbals with unique tones and unlathed finishes. A lot of Meinl cymbals have an earthy appearance, and there’s an overarching sense of dryness amongst all of them.
The brand also creates traditional cymbals that cater to most styles, but those arguably aren’t as popular as the ones with artistic tones.
The brand posts a high-production video of their cymbals being played by famous drummers on YouTube almost every day, and that’s one of the biggest reasons why their reach has become so wide.
Famous drummers who play Meinl cymbals:
- Matt Garstka
- Luke Holland
- Zack Graybeal
- Calvin Rogers
- Anika Nilles
Sabian is the final brand that forms part of the big four, and the company is almost as popular as Zildjian. A lot of drummers used to aggressively compare the two brands, and Paiste was a wildcard in that argument. However, the playing field has evened out since Meinl became big, so drummers don’t argue over Sabian and Zildjian anymore.
The brand has its roots in Zildjian, as it was started by one of the Zildjian family members who ventured out to start their own company. The brand is based in Canada, but Sabian cymbals have massive reach all throughout the world.
For a long time, a lot of their cymbals acted as direct competitors to Zildjian’s cymbals. The AAX cymbals were comparable to the A Custom cymbals, and the HHX cymbals were comparable to the K Custom cymbals. While that’s still slightly true, there are so many unique options in the Sabian lineup that it’s not worth deciding if one is better than the other.
Sabian was the first brand to sell cymbals with holes in them, which is an interesting part of cymbal history.
Famous drummers who play Sabian cymbals:
- Bernard Purdie
- Dave Weckl
- Ray Luzier
- Mike Portnoy
- Frank Ferrer
Other Popular Cymbal Brands
The next batch of cymbal brands that we’re about to mention are a lot smaller than the big four. A lot of them produce a similar number of cymbal types, but they’re just not as popular around the world. Some of them are very niche, while others are relatively popular in their respective countries.
It’s important to check these brands out as well, as there may be some hidden gems that you prefer over the bigger brands. You may find that you like the sounds a lot better of cymbals from smaller brands. They may even be cheaper, so they’re worth looking into!
The Istanbul Agop brand is arguably the honorary fifth member of the big group of cymbal brands, as it’s the small brand with the largest number of popular artists. There are several well-known drummers that play Istanbul Agop cymbals, including Cindy Blackman, Yussef Dayes, Mel Lewis, and Mike Clark.
That brand has a rich but divided history. It was originally called Istanbul Cymbals, but the owners parted ways and split the company in two. Istanbul Mehmet is the other part, but that brand hasn’t become as well-known as Istanbul Agop.
Istanbul Agop was the first brand to introduce the Clapstack, which is a cymbal stack that acoustically imitates the sound of a handclap. It became extremely popular, and several brands have copied the design since, including Meinl.
Apart from that, the brand has a stunning line of expertly crafted cymbals that come straight from Turkey, which is where most master cymbal smiths come from.
Dream is a Canadian cymbal brand, and it’s one of the true hidden gems in the drumming industry. All the cymbals from the brand are ridiculously affordable compared to the options from the popular brands.
Most of them are also hand-hammered, even the ones with entry-level price tags. With larger brands, only the top-tier options are hand-hammered. You get that authentic hammering experience with almost every Dream cymbal, meaning each one sounds different, even if it has the exact same name.
The brand is fairly popular within Contemporary Christian Music settings. Worship drummers who play songs from bands like Hillsong, Elevation Worship, and Planetshakers tend to love these cymbals for how well they fit into that style.
It’s common for a worship drummer to use 24-inch rides and 18-inch hi-hats from Dream. They all sound fantastic.
The brand isn’t limited to just that, though, as they make cymbals for every style and setting. If you want to get the most affordable but best-sounding cymbals available, we’d strongly suggest checking Dream’s Ignition cymbalsout.
Bosphorus is a popular cymbal brand in the jazz drumming world. You’ll find drummers from all over the world who play in small jazz ensembles using these cymbals. The brand tends to mostly make artistic cymbals that fit that style.
Like Istanbul Agop, Bosphorus cymbals are made in Turkey by master cymbal smiths. On the brand’s website, they say that the three smiths in charge of making the cymbals are the best working smiths in the world at the moment. While that may be debatable, you can’t doubt how good most Bosphorus cymbals sound.
The brand has several lines of artistic-sounding cymbals. While they’re mostly suited for jazz drumming, the Bosphorus Gold Series is a great line for heavier styles.
There aren’t too many world-famous drummers that endorse Bosphorus, but Ari Hoenig is one drummer that everyone who loves jazz is most likely to know about. He’s been playing Bosphorus cymbals for years.
Wuhan is another cymbal brand known for offering very inexpensive products. Their cymbals are actually the most affordable options compared to every other brand on this list. There’s a common saying in the drum industry to just get a Wuhan if you want something cheap to bash.
However, the brand makes plenty of high-quality cymbals as well. Most of Wuhan’s cymbals have trashy qualitiesto them. It’s similar to Meinl, but these are a lot trashier.
It’s for this reason that Wuhan chinas are such good picks. China cymbals are meant to be very trashy, so many drummers opt for Wuhan chinas, as they’re a lot cheaper than china cymbals from bigger brands.
Soultone is a unique brand considering that it was founded by a professional drummer. Most cymbal brands are founded by drummers, but not ones that have played with world-famous artists and toured the world.
Iki Levy started the brand as he wasn’t happy with the cymbals he was getting from the cymbal brands he was affiliated with in the early 2000s. Since then, the brand has grown in popularity.
However, there was a stage where Soultone got a lot of bad press due to the brand offering light endorsements to lesser-known drummers for them to say that they were affiliated with the brand. The controversy surrounding that has died down, though, and Soultone still stands as a solid brand to get cymbals from.
A lot of Gospel drummers who play with pop artists use Soultone cymbals, including Jerohn Garnett, Nick Smith, and Eric Seats.
Heartbeat is a highly unique cymbal brand in that they sell their products directly to customers. With most other cymbal brands, the brands send their cymbals to distributors, and then those distributors send the cymbals to music stores. Without the middleman, Heartbeat cymbals end up being a bit more affordable in most cases.
You get a more personal relationship with the brand through this process, which is what most drummers who play Heartbeat cymbals love.
Like Dream, these cymbals are mostly used in worship settings, but the brand also makes specific cymbal lines that cater well to jazz, rock, and metal.
Most of the brand’s cymbals are hand-hammered, making it another cymbal brand that offers slightly different tones with all their cymbals.
All the cymbals also feature a two-year warranty, and having that feels even better, knowing that you work directly with the brand. However, it also means that Heartbeat cymbals aren’t as readily available around the world, as not having distributors means the company has less reach.
UFIP is a very small cymbal brand. However, we’ve mentioned it here as the brand makes some of the best-sounding cymbals that we’ve heard. Every single cymbal that the brand makes is handcrafted, and all of them are made with B20 bronze.
While most other high-end cymbals are made with B20 bronze, the difference with UFIP cymbals is that they have a unique casting process. The brand calls it Rotocasting, and it basically means that the cymbals come out with fewer impurities and have thicker bells.
The brand has a few cymbal lines readily available, but every cymbal goes through a rigorous handcrafting process.
UFIP is based in Italy, so there are several famous Italian drummers that form the artist roster. However, you’re not likely to find many drummers around the world playing UFIP cymbals. If you ever have the chance to hear these in person, you’ll be pleasantly surprised!
Cymbal Brand Selection Guide
While sticking with brands is what most pro drummers do, there’s no reason not to mix cymbals from different brands in your setup.
The main reason why pro drummers stick with a single brand is that they’re endorsed by that brand. They have an agreement with the cymbal brand to advertise their cymbals and receive support in return by means of discounted or free cymbals.
If you have no endorsements or affiliations, you can go wild with cymbals from every brand. It opens up the field of choice, as only picking cymbals from a single brand could limit your options.
When you allow yourself to choose cymbals from every brand, you’ll be able to find the most affordable optionsfor what you’re looking for. It will also make buying cymbals easier, as you can choose whatever is available to you at the time.
There are also two reasons to stick with a single brand. The first would be to make your drum setup look as neat as possible. It’s a bit of a shallow reason, but it’s one that most of us drummers tend to side with. It just looks better to have the same brand name on all your cymbals.
The second reason is to show a particular cymbal brand that you’re loyal to them. This may help you with a possible endorsement deal in the future. They’ll see that you already loved their cymbals before getting anything free or discounted from them.
One of the best ways to get a cymbal endorsement is by showing your love for a brand with no strings attached. Most artists were using their cymbal brands long before they got an endorsement deal.
Check What Your Favorite Drummers Are Playing
One of the best ways to choose a brand you like is to see what your favorite drummers play. Pro drummers typically play a wide variety of cymbals, so you’ll get to hear your favorite drummer do their thing while also listening to various cymbal options from the brand.
This will also show you how that cymbal brand makes cymbals that cater to different styles. Your favorite jazz drummer will play jazzy cymbals, while your favorite rock drummer will have a completely different setup with bright and punchy cymbals.
A lot of pro drummers even have signature cymbals with different brands. Meinl has a line called the Artist Concept Model Series. This line includes stacks created by various Meinl artists.
The entire HHX Evolution line from Sabian was created with Dave Weckl. If you love his drum kit sound, the chances are high that you’ll love those cymbals. All the major cymbal brands have options like this, so make sure to check those out.
Two of Meinl’s most popular cymbal packs were made in collaboration with Benny Greb and Mike Johnston.
The overall idea here is that if your favorite drummer loves a certain brand, you’ll most likely love it as well. They’re your favorite drummer because they have a particular sound, and a lot of that comes from their cymbals.
The longer you play the drums, the more your taste will develop on how you like your kit to sound. The drums themselves are fairly limited in tones, only giving low, mid, or high ones. The cymbals are where you get a wide variety of tones and textures.
You may be more inclined to pick a certain brand depending on which tones and textures you like the most.
The best example of this is with Meinl. Most of Meinl’s cymbals sound dry and a bit trashy. A lot of modern drummers love those tones, but many detest them as well, preferring the sound of more traditional cymbals.
If you want classic cymbal sounds that you heard on albums from the early 2000s, Meinl arguably wouldn’t be the best brand option to go with. Sabian, Zildjian, or Paiste would be better picks.
With that being said, every cymbal brand offers cymbal lines with comparable tones. So, you should also do a listening test between all of them. If you love dark cymbals, listen to all the dark cymbal options from every brand and then decide which brand you like the sound of the most.
Cymbal packs are prepacked cymbal setups that you can buy in one shot. The idea behind these is that a cymbal brand has already picked which cymbals sound good together, and they sell them to you so that you don’t need to pick and choose cymbals for your setup.
The other benefit of them is that they’re cheaper than if you were to buy those same cymbals individually. When comparing those prices, you typically walk away with a free cymbal.
Not every brand sells cymbal packs. So, you should look for brands that do if you like the idea of getting all your cymbals with an easy purchase.
The big four brands all sell several cymbal packs. Only some of the smaller brands sell them, so look carefully to see which ones do.
Most cymbal packs have very distinguishable price points. You can clearly see which packs are meant for beginner, intermediate, or pro drummers.
The last deciding factor would be to check each brand’s social media pages. While it may not be to everyone’s liking, social media is the prime platform for cymbal brands to show their products and connect with their customers.
You can find what a certain cymbal brand is all about when checking their social media pages. Again, this is why Meinl have done so well in recent years. Their pages are loaded with fresh content, and you can always see their latest cymbals being used in professional video recordings.
Smaller brands don’t utilize this marketing tool as much, and that’s why they’re not as popular, even if they make cymbals that are just as good.
When checking a cymbal brand’s social platforms, you’ll be able to see which drummers play their products, and then you’ll be able to watch those drummers in action. That will help you decide whether you like the brand or not.
Final Thoughts on Cymbal Brands
While choosing cymbals from Meinl, Sabian, Paiste, or Zildjian would be a safe bet, we strongly recommend checking the smaller brands out as well. A lot of them are very unique in their processes, like how Heartbeat deals directly with customers or how Dream offers entry-level hand-hammered cymbals.
You should also consider mixing and matching cymbals from different brands if you don’t have any ties with them. That will expand your choice pool, allowing you to find the best possible cymbal options for your tonal tastes.
You can never have too many cymbals in a collection, and you’ll realize that more and more as your drumming journey goes on.