China cymbals are somewhat unique. They’re built upside down and have a trashy, washy sound. China cymbals are mostly played in hard rock and metal music, with the occasional jazz use. They work really well as effects and even in grooves.
However, if you’re new to these cymbals, it’s a tough ask to buy the right china cymbal as there are plenty of good ones on the market. So, I’m here to make it easier for you.
My top recommendation is the Sabian 19” AA Holy China, a loud and blistering cymbal for powerful performances.
My second recommendation is the Wuhan 16” China. It’s a very inexpensive, yet high-quality china cymbal that’s good for many occasions.
Let’s further explore some more china cymbals. This will help you get a better idea of what to buy.
The 5 Best China Cymbals (2023)
Let’s look at them in more detail:
1. Sabian 19” AA Holy China
The Sabian 19” AA Holy is a china cymbal that is meant to be thrashy and explosive. In fact, it’s the loudest cymbal in the entirety of Sabian’s portfolio.
The reason behind its unique sound is the 51 holes covering the body. It gives it a relatively quicker decay, but much more sizzle than many other china cymbals.
- Loud, brash, cutting sound
- 51 holes make it truly unique
- Looks just as nice as it sounds
- Not much!
This is a heavy-duty china cymbal that is great for energetic music settings. It’s made of durable B20 bronze. Looks quite stunning as well with its traditional lathing and brilliant finish.
The cymbal was designed in collaboration with RHCP drummer, Chad Smith. Although this is termed an effect cymbal, it works equally well with grooves. After all, Sabian calls this a cymbal for the creative drummer.
|Alloy||B20 Cast Bronze|
The Sabian 19” AA Holy is a really nice cymbal to have to get a holy moly reaction out of your listeners. You’ll find it pretty useful if you record your own music or play a lot of live gigs.
2. Wuhan 16” China
Over the years, Wuhan has come to prominence as the cymbal brand to watch out for if you’re looking for legit high-quality cymbals at a very modest price.
This 16” is bang for buck in every sense of the word. It produces a warm, yet thrashy sound that is quite explosive and full-bodied.
- Incredibly affordable
- Warm, thrashy sound
- Built using B20 bronze
- Isn’t the best for grooves
It is produced in a traditional way, just like many other cymbals. It’s also built really well using the B20 bronze alloy and sporting a traditional finish. That said, it is a thinner china with very few overtones.
The only letdown is that it’s not the best when it comes to grooves, although, this is something you can get around due to the affordability of this cymbal.
The Wuhan 16” China cymbal is a great buy if you’re looking for an inexpensive china that you can record with or play at live gigs.
3. Meinl 18" Classics Custom Dark China
A great china cymbal to be playing in modern music, the Meinl 18” Classics Custom Dark China is a nice, dark, and expressive cymbal. It has a fast and bright attack that really shines through in the kit.
It finds its home in more energetic music styles. It has a pretty short sustain, so the cymbal is really good for accents. Although, you can even groove with it.
- Full-bodied attack with medium sustain
- Dark tones and finish
- Made with durable B10 bronze
- Not much!
Unlike most cymbals on this list, the Meinl 18” Classics Custom Dark is made of B10 bronze. This gives the cymbal good durability. The cymbal also looks pretty stylish with its dark finish.
This china cymbal personifies raw, loud thrashiness. With its cutting edge, bright sounds, and dark tones, the Meinl 18” Classics Custom Dark China is a nice buy for modern drummers.
4. Zildjian 19” A Ultra Hammered China
It would be a bust to have the best cymbals list without featuring any Zildjian cymbal. The Zildjian 19” A Ultra Hammered China is a great one to uphold the company’s aegis.
From its design to its sound, the china cymbal screams awesomeness. It’s been extra hammered, which not only gives it a nice look but also makes it super responsive. Thanks to this, the cymbal works extremely well across all dynamics. You can play this thing in really any musical setting.
- It’s loud. Very loud
- Has great response that saves you some energy
As this is a 19” china, it’s straight-up loud, thrashy, and shimmering. It will make its presence known no matter how you play it. The only letdown is that it’s quite expensive but it is certainly no deal-breaker.
It’s made of B20 bronze and sports a brilliant finish. It also has an inverted bell, for what it’s worth. You, most likely, won’t need another china cymbal for a while once you get this one.
For all its features, the Zildjian 19” A Ultra Hammered China is a professional quality cymbal. Thus, it carries a professional price as well. If you’re not limited by a budget, then this is a great choice.
5. Zildjian 17" K Custom Dark China
The Zildjian 17” K Custom Dark China is a really nice cymbal that can be used as an effect or for grooves. It has similar qualities to other cymbals of the K Custom Dark line.
- Dry, thrashy sound
- Explosive attack
- Quick decay
A standout feature of this china cymbal is that it has been enhanced with an extra dry layer, giving it a much more unique and convincing sound. It has a dark, thrashy sound and a quick decay. Perfect for breakdowns.
This is another B20 bronze cymbal that has a traditional finish. It stands out both in its looks and sound.
The Zildjian 17” K Custom Dark China is a neat buy. Its unique sound works really well in many settings from fusion to metal.
Now that you’ve gone through my best china cymbals, let me walk you through some helpful tips to make it easier for you to narrow down your perfect china.
What are china cymbals used for?
China cymbals are quite stylish in the way they look and sound. They can be used for many applications.
While they’re mostly used as an effect cymbal, like a splash, they are also widely used for driving grooves as well. As for musical settings, they sound good in more energetic styles.
Which genre are china cymbals used in?
China cymbals have seen an increase in popularity in the modern era. This could be linked to the rise in heavier, more explosive genres.
You’ll find most applications of the china cymbal in metal, djent, prog, and fusion sounds. They sound amazing with breakdowns and darker grooves. The more uncommon usage of the china cymbal is in jazz, although, it highly depends on the player.
What makes china cymbals unique?
Without a doubt, the most defining characteristic of a china cymbal is its thrashy, explosive sound. Well, that and its upside-down look.
Whereas most cymbals originated in Turkey, the china cymbal originated in, surprise surprise, China. And you can hear that in its quickly attacking sound.
It’s a bright cymbal that has the drawback of not working with many musical genres.
Where should you position your china cymbal in your drum kit?
Since it’s mostly an effect cymbal, your china cymbal should be placed where it won’t interrupt other, more heavily used cymbals. As such, you want to keep it on the side of your dominant hand as it takes a lot of power to play it correctly.
If you check for reference, you will most likely see the same. The cymbal would most commonly be placed on the side of the dominant hand, easy to reach for power strokes.
China cymbals are really unique. They can be played using a variety of techniques and are often used as an effect cymbal, though they also work well for grooves.
China cymbals are widely used in modern music styles like metal, djent, prog, and fusion. They are highly versatile but, as mentioned earlier, work best as an effect cymbal.
So, there you have it. I have listed down my top five cymbals.
My top choice would be the Sabian 19” AA Holy while if you’re on a budget, I would suggest the Wuhan 16” China. Although, the other cymbals are great as well.