Cymbal sets are an absolutely essential piece of kit for every drummer. Legends behind the drum kit such as John Bonham of Led Zeppelin or Tony Williams who played for Miles Davis, and modern pioneers like Blink 182’s Travis Barker or Snarky Puppy’s Larnell Lewis all have one thing in common. They are very particular with the cymbals they use. In fact, some drummers only play custom-made cymbal sets tailored specifically for the music they play. The “Big Four” well-established western cymbal manufacturers Meinl, Zildjian, Sabian, and Paiste offer signature model cymbals. These bespoke signature models are custom-made and marketed in collaboration with known drummers.

Such is the hype surrounding cymbals and cymbal sets that it might sometimes seem quite baffling. You may be a beginner getting into drums or a parent looking to buy a set for their kid. You might also be wondering why cymbals matter so much to these drummers.

Well, cymbals are a very important piece of gear in a drum set. Every song that has drums on it will probably have cymbals on it as well; be it rock, pop, jazz, or metal. Cymbals complement the low thud of the kick drum and the spank of the snare drum with high and smashing hits. Cymbals round out the collection of percussive sounds in a drum kit and make the orchestration complete. Try imagining Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean without cymbals. It would feel wrong, wouldn’t it? This is why professional drummers go to such lengths when using and selecting cymbals. Cymbals matter.

Cymbal Sets: What’s in them?

Of course, not everybody is a legend or a professional. The countless choices for cymbals can confuse beginners who are just starting out and parents who are buying for their kids. This is why cymbal manufacturers offer cymbal sets. Cymbal sets are convenient for beginners and parents because these include all the important pieces in a single package. These are also conveniently divided into tiers and price points which make deciding what to purchase easier. Not everybody is a legend but they could be. For beginners, good and reliable cymbal sets are indispensable for the journey ahead.

So, what are them anyway? A standard cymbal set will usually come in four pieces, 2 hi-hat cymbals, one crash cymbal and one ride cymbal.

1. Hi-hat Cymbals:

The 2 hi-hat cymbals are paired together to form what looks like two hands pressed against each other. When placed on a hi-hat stand, the top hi-hat hangs above the bottom hi-hat forming a small gap. Striking the top hi-hat would cause it to collide with the lower hi-hat. This produces a sizzling sound while they reverberate. Stepping on a pedal at the bottom of the hi-hat stand causes the gap to close like a hand clap. While in this position, striking the pair will produce a tight and quick “chick”.

2. Crash Cymbals:

The sound a crash cymbal makes is like its name; a crash. Striking the side with a stick will produce a loud crash that punctuates a drum beat. Striking its top will produce a high pitched ringing sound.

3. Ride Cymbals:

The ride cymbal is similar to a crash cymbal albeit usually much thicker. A ride cymbal will produce a ringing sound when struck. Due to its mass, the sound lasts for quite some time. Towards its center, its ever-so-slight curve gets steeper and forms a dome. This is the bell part of the ride cymbal. Striking this part will produce a sound similar to a bell.

4 piece cymbal sets that have 2 hi-hats, a crash cymbal, and a ride cymbal combine together with a 5 piece drum set to form the standard full-size drum kit. Music schools teach drummers on a full-size kit.

4. Effects Cymbals:

The purpose of effects cymbals are to complement the three standard cymbals included in a 5-piece drum set. These cymbals offer more options for the drummer to produce additional sounds when playing. Examples of effects cymbals are Splash cymbals, China cymbals, and Trash Crashes.

Splash cymbals are smaller than most other cymbals and produce high splash sound. China cymbals on the other hand are sound similar to crash cymbals albeit a bit higher and with more presence. Trash crashes are like crash cymbals as well but are modified to produce different sounds.

Although usually containing the same pieces, cymbal sets offered by manufacturers differ from each other in certain aspects.

Cymbal Sets 1

What to look for in cymbal sets:

Cymbal sets are divided into levels and tiers because of certain qualities that determine their worth. Professional drummers keep these qualities in mind to discern fine craftsmanship from poor handiwork and in the case of a beginner or parent; to pick out a great bargain from a waste of money.

Material:

Most cymbals are made of either bronze or brass. Bronze alloy is a combination of copper and tin. Two types of copper-tin mixtures, B8 and B20 make up most bronze cymbals. Brass alloy on the other hand is a combination of copper and zinc. Bronze cymbals sound richer and ring longer than brass cymbals. They are generally more durable aw well.

Price:

If material quality is the only consideration, the obvious choice between the two types of cymbals would be bronze. The prices get in the way, however. Bronze cymbals are more expensive because they are harder to manufacture. Brass cymbals are cheap because they are easy to manufacture. Although cheap, brass cymbals can sound when well-made.

Sound:

You are buying a musical instrument. Of course, the sound is what matters the most when choosing between cymbal sets. Generally, going for bronze is the best option. They are pricier, however, they sound better than brass and last longer as well. Aside from sound, durability is also an important consideration especially for an instrument constantly being struck.

This does not mean you should opt out of purchasing brass cymbals entirely. As stated earlier, brass cymbals can sound good when well-made and are affordable to boot. Good brass cymbal sets can inspire a beginner to keep playing and practicing till they get serious about pursuing drums.


Top 10 Best Cymbal Sets for Beginners

Sabian B8X

Sabian B8X Performance Set Cymbal Pack, inch (45003XG)

Material: Bronze

Price: $329.99

Pieces:

  • 14″ Hi-Hats
  • 16″ Thin Crash
  • 18″ Thin Crash
  • 20″ Ride

Description:

Let’s start out strong with the Sabian B8X cymbal set. The Canadian company Sabian, one of the “big four” cymbal manufacturers have been in the business since the ’80s and know a thing or two about crafting cymbals. The B8 line of cymbals is Sabian’s entry to the student and amateur musician market.

The B8 line is Sabian’s effort in producing quality B8 bronze cymbals with an affordable price tag and the B8X is their latest iteration. Further, the B8X improves upon the former B8 line with a new and updated lathing process and fully-hammered bells.

The additional 18″ crash cymbal is a nice addition to the standard 4 piece set which allow you to have more orchestration for drum fills and chops.

Sound:

Sabian’s B8X cymbal sets have a bright sound profile due to being made of B8 bronze. Also, the hi-hats have a slight ringing tone around the low-mid frequencies.


Zildjian I Family Pro Gig

Zildjian I Family Pro Gig Cymbal Pack, 14' pair, 16', 18', 20' (ILHPRO)

Material: Bronze

Price: $339.95

Pieces:

  • 14″ Hi-Hats
  • 16″ Crash
  • 18″ Crash
  • 20″ Ride

Description:

The Turkish company Zildjian has been producing high-quality cymbals since 1623 from the old Ottoman Empire and is the largest cymbal and drumstick manufacturers in the world. Definitely one of the “big four,” Zildjian’s cymbals are some of the best in the market. Zildjian I Family Pro Gig cymbal sets are Zildjian’s submission into the student and amateur musician market.

The Zildjian I Family line has replaced Zildjian’s old ZBT line with improved hammering and lathing techniques. The I in the I Family line stands for Ilham; a Turkish word that means inspiration. Consequently, at a price point geared towards beginners and students, Zildjian I Family Pro Gig cymbal sets will definitely inspire you to practice and play drums. The additional 18″ crash allows you to be more musical as well.

Zildjian I Family Pro Gig cymbal sets are made of B8 bronze. Hence these will stand up to the rigors of daily drum practice. Also, these cymbal sets can even hold their own in live performance settings.

Sound:

Compared to the other B8 bronze cymbals in this list, Zildjian I Family Pro Gig cymbal sets sound a bit darker with a little more sheen at the top end.


Paiste PST 7

Paiste PST 7 Universal Cymbal Set - FREE 16 Inches Crash

Material: Bronze

Price: $445.00

Pieces:

  • 14″ Hi-Hats
  • 16″ Crash
  • 18″ Crash
  • 20″ Ride

Description:

The Paiste company started out in 1902 in Russia and is the third-largest producer of cymbals in the world. Paiste has continuously developed the method of creating cymbals from sheet metal as opposed to casting. This has to lead to a distinctive sound unique to Paiste.

Paiste PST 7 cymbal sets are made of 2002 bronze which is similar to B8 bronze in terms of copper to tin ratio. Paiste PST 7 cymbals are reminiscent of the Paiste 2002 because PST 7s are made of the same type of alloy. PST 2002 cymbals defined the sound of the early rock during the ’70s and are the weapon of choice of drummers like John Bonham of Led Zeppelin.

PST 7 cymbal sets are a good purchase if you are willing to spend a little more for a good set of cymbals with a distinct sound.

Sound:

PST 7 cymbal sets are made of a version of B8 bronze alloy and therefore posses the bright sound typical of B8 bronze cymbals.


Meinl Classics Custom Dark

Meinl Cymbal Set Box Pack with 14” Hihats, 20” Ride, 16” Crash, Plus a FREE 18” Crash – Classics Custom Dark – Made In Germany, TWO-YEAR WARRANY (CCD460+18)

Material: Bronze

Price: $529.99

Pieces:

  • 14″ Hi-Hats
  • 16″ Crash
  • 18″ Crash
  • 20″ Ride

Description: Meinl Cymbals are a company operating from Germany. One of the “big four” cymbal producers, Meinl crafts great cymbals such as the iconic Byzance line. The reputation of Meinl for crafting great cymbals precedes them as shown by the countless boundary-pushing drummers with Meinl signature lines.

Meinl Classics Dark cymbal sets are pricier than the other cymbals in this list. This is because the Classics Dark line is aimed at drummers who are serious about drums and want a great set of cymbals that could go a long way. This set could be practiced on and gigged with reliably.

Made of the uncommon B10 bronze, Meinl Classics Dark sound unique. The beautiful dark finish complements its dark sound. These qualities make Meinl Classics Dark cymbal sets stand out both visually and sonically.

Sound:

Due to it being made of B10 bronze, Meinl Classics Dark sound dark without losing sustain. The sound profile of this set has a boost on the low-mid frequency range that characterize its dark sound.


Wuhan Western Series WUTBSU

Wuhan WUTBSU Western Style Cymbal Set with Cymbal Bag

Material: Bronze

Price: $300

Pieces:

  • 14″ Hi-Hats
  • 16″ Thin Crash
  • 20″ Ride

Description:

Wuhan Cymbals are cymbal manufacturers based in Wuhan, China. They utilize techniques that have been used and perfected a thousand years ago by Chinese metalworkers and craftsmen for their cymbals. Their cymbal sets are evidence of this tradition because they sound amazing for their price.

Wuhan Cymbals’ WUTBSU line is made of B20 brass and cast forged. This process is usually reserved for higher-quality cymbals because of the laborious process involved. To offer B20 cast cymbals at the student price range is quite astounding.

Sound:

Wuhan WUTBSA cymbal sets possess the full and tone-rich sound typical of B20 cast cymbals. They sound close to other high-end cymbals offered by other brands, albeit with lean towards the higher hissing frequencies.


Sabian SBR Promotional

Sabian SBR Promotional Cymbal Set with Free 10' Splash, Natural (SBR5003G)

Material: Brass

Price: $210.99

Pieces:

  • 14″ Hi-Hats
  • 16″ Crash
  • 20″ Ride
  • 10″ Splash

Description:

Moving on to the brass cymbal sets, Sabian offers a more budget option over the B8X. These are Sabian SBR Promotional cymbal sets. These are great for those who are just looking to try out playing drums for the first time. The Sabian SBR is also ideal for parents who are unsure if their child will stick with playing drums.

As established, bronze cymbals are always the better choice over brass if we are strictly speaking in terms of sound. However, for beginners who are on a really tight budget or for parents with other expenses to mind, complete brass cymbal sets could be the better option. Sabian SBR Promotional cymbal sets are crafted using Sabian’s techniques for their bronze cymbals such as the B8X. Thus, these make SBRs sound good.

The additional 10″ splash cymbal is a cool addition to the set. Splash cymbals allow you to punctuate your standard drum grooves with high and loud cymbal hits.

Sound:

Brass won’t ring as long as bronze. Still, that does not necessarily mean that brass cymbal sets can’t sound good. For brass cymbal sets, individual pieces such as the hi-hats, crash, and ride must actually sound like they should. In this regard, Sabian SBR Promotional cymbal sets pass with flying colors. Compared to a lot of other cheap brass cymbals in the market, Sabian SBR sounds pretty good.


Zildjian Planet Z

Zildjian Planet Z Complete Cymbal Pack, 14' pair, 16', 20' (ZP4PK)

Material: Brass

Price: $199.95

Pieces:

  • 14″ Hi-Hats
  • 16″ Thin Crash
  • 20″ Ride

Description:

Zildjian Planet Z cymbal sets are Zildjian’s entry into to budget range. Like the Sabian SBR, Planet Z is made of brass which is easier to manufacture than bronze cymbals. This makes it much more affordable than the next step up the Zildjian ladder, the I Family series.

In order to live up to their status as the biggest producer of cymbals in the world, Zildjian’s Planet Z cymbals are targeted not only towards beginners but also at musicians in parts of the world who aren’t able to afford pricier cymbals. With Planet Z cymbal sets, Zildjian delivers good cymbals. Cymbal sets that are made in the same factory and using the same crafting process as all their other cymbals.

Sound:

Instead of going against the grain and trying to make brass cymbals sustain sound longer, Zildjian took a different approach. They worked with the short-sustain quality of brass cymbals and made it a central feature of the Planet Z line. Planet Z cymbal sets sound bright and have a short and controlled sustain.


Meinl HCS

Meinl Cymbal Set Box Pack with 13' Hihats, 14' Crash, Plus Free 10' Splash, Sticks, and Lessons TWO-YEAR WARRANTY, (HCS1314-10S)

Material: Brass

Price: $99.99

Pieces:

  • 14″ Hi-Hats
  • 16″ Thin Crash
  • 20″ Ride

Description:

Meinl offers the most budget-friendly set of cymbals on this list. With 4 pieces and no-frills, Meinl HCS cymbal sets are designed to get you or your child playing as soon as possible.

What’s great about the HCS line is that Meinl offers the widest variety in the budget price range. The Meinl HCS is a truly expansive line because they offer different sizes of crashes, splashes, and effects such as trash stacks and china cymbals.

Sound:

Meinl HCS are made of brass. HCS line cymbals sets possess a sound typical of brass cymbals. Bright with controlled sustain.


Zildjian L80 Low Volume

Zildjian L80 Low Volume Cymbal Pack - LV468

Material: Brass

Price: $299.95

Pieces:

  • 14″ Hi-Hats
  • 16″ Thin Crash
  • 18″ Ride

Description:

You might have noticed how different these look compared to the other cymbals on this list. These are low-volume cymbals. The holes that perforate the whole circumference of low-noise cymbals are designed to reduce the volume these cymbals produce. Low-noise cymbals are generally about 70 to 80 percent quieter than regular cymbals making them an excellent choice for a practice set.

One important thing to note about low-noise cymbals is that although every inch of their surface is perforated with holes, drumsticks won’t be snagged or get caught in the holes. This makes low-noise cymbals a great piece of kit to have for practice sessions. Low-noise cymbals possess the authentic feel and sound of regular cymbals.

Zildjian L80 cymbal sets are made of brass which is the same material they use for their affordable cymbals such as the Planet Z line. Due to the similarity in materials used, Zildjian L80 cymbal sets will sound close to regular brass cymbals but 80 percent quieter.

Zildjian L80 cymbal sets are a great choice not only for beginners but also for professionals who might be living in places where you can’t be too loud but need the sound and feel of bronze cymbals.

Sound:

Because Zildjian L80 cymbal sets are low-noise cymbals how they sound won’t be a huge matter for some. Although others are very particular about how these sound even if they are the only ones who can hear these cymbals.

Zildjian L80 cymbals are made of brass and so will sound like brass cymbals. Because of the holes which reduce the volume, however, these sound much higher than the already high-sounding brass cymbals. L80’s sound somewhat like electronic 808’s. This could lead to an interesting and creative combination of electronic drums and drum pads.


Arborea Mute Silver

Arborea silver drum set cymbal Mute cymbal set 14'hihat+16'crash+18“crash+20ride low volume cymbals for drum

Material: Metal Alloy

Price: $189.00

Pieces:

  • 14″ Hi-Hats
  • 16″ Crash
  • 18″ Crash
  • 20″ Ride

Description:

Arborea Cymbals is a Chinese company known for producing very affordable and decent cymbals. Their submission into the low-noise cymbals market is the Arborea Mute.

An amazing and affordable option, Arborea mute cymbal sets are for drummers who cannot make much noise but need to practice with the feel of actual cymbals. Attach a MIDI drum trigger on these and combine it with an electronic drum set with realistic heads like the Alesis Nitro Mesh Kit. With this set-up, the feel of real drums and hearing drum recordings as you play is possible.

Interested in the Alesis Nitro Mesh kit? Check out our review here.

Sound:

They sound like the typical low-noise cymbal. High pitched and very bright.


FAQs:

1. What are the best cymbal sets/packs?

Considering which cymbal sets/packs you would buy usually depends on 3 factors; namely necessity, quality, and budget. Choosing cymbal packs/sets that are a balance between these three factors is generally the best choice.

Best For Beginners/Students:

  • Sabian B8X
  • Zildjian I Family
  • Paiste PST 7
  • Wuhan Western Series WUTBSU

Best Value/Most Affordable:

  • Sabian SBR
  • Zildjian Planet Z
  • Meinl HCS

2. Are cymbals sets/packs good?

Absolutely! Cymbal manufacturers offer cymbal sets/packs for every every tier they have. Cymbal sets/packs will usually contain the 3 most basic cymbals found in every set; the ride cymbal, crash cymbal, hi-hat cymbals. Purchasing a good cymbal set/pack is never a bad choice when you need a starter set or are looking to upgrade the cymbals that came with your set of drum shells.

3. Is Sabian or Zildian better? Are some brands better than others?

Since cymbal brands are in constant competition with each other, especially the big four manufacturers namely; Sabian, Zildjian, Meinl, and Paiste they will always strive to offer the best cymbals for every price point. Some brands embody certain identities for their cymbals. For example, Zildjian is all about finesse while Paiste is about innovation. Whichever cymbal sets/packs you choose to buy depends on your preference and your sound.

To conclude:

For starting musicians, it is easy to fall into the trap of buying the cheapest gear possible. This is especially true for drums and drum equipment because the sum of every individual part in a kit will add up. Because of this, it can be quite easy to justify skimping on gear and buying the cheapest options available. It is important to note however that what you pay for is what you get. This is especially true for musical equipment, especially for cymbal sets. We would argue that it would be wiser to invest in cymbal sets that give you a proper bang for your buck.

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