The cymbal market is dominated by Zildjian, Sabian, Paiste, and Meinl. There are a few more noteworthy ones that compete in the world market with incredible cymbals that you’re probably not aware of.
Some of the most essential items in any drum kit are your cymbals. Even experienced drummers can find it difficult to choose the right ones for them, so if you’re a beginner, it can seem like an insurmountable set of options.
Before you can choose the right set of cymbals, you should first try and pinpoint which cymbal brands you want to go for.
Here are 12 of the best cymbal brands that you should know as you get started on your drumming journey:
1. Zildjian Cymbals
The Avedis Zildjian Company, better known as Zildjian, is one of the oldest companies in the world. It was founded in 1623 by Avedis Zildjian, in Constantinople (in the present day, it is Istanbul, Turkey), and is now based in Massachusetts.
Aside from being one of the oldest makers of musical instruments in the world, it is also the world’s largest maker of cymbals. This combination means that this brand is securely positioned as one of the most easily recognizable brands in the music world. They produce a huge variety of cymbals, from ones for beginners to custom cymbal lines for professional drummers.
Some of the musicians that use cymbals from this brand include Travis Barker (Blink-182), Rick Allen (Def Leopard), and Elvin Jones.
Founded in 1981, Sabian is the youngest of the “big four” cymbal manufacturers (alongside Zildjian, Meinl, and Paiste). In some ways, Sabian is an offshoot of the Zildjian brand – it was founded by Robert Zildjian following a conflict with brother Armand, who was then the CEO of Zildjian.
Sabian is based in New Brunswick, Canada, and has quickly established itself as a quality cymbal maker. It is a leading innovator in cymbal design and is well known for its versatile selection and diverse range of sounds. It offers tones and styles of all kinds, from traditional to modern, dark to bright, and everything in between!
Among the many drummers that endorse Sabian are Phil Collins, Mike Portnoy (Dream Theatre), Chad Smith (Red Hot Chili Peppers), and Ben Johnston (Billy Clyro).
A Swiss cymbal brand, Paiste is also the third-largest cymbal manufacturer in the world. Founded in 1906 by Toomas Paiste, an Estonian musician, in Saint Petersburg, it relocated to Estonia following the Russian Revolution in 1917. The Second World War led it to move first to Poland and then to Germany until it finally shifted to Switzerland in 1957, where it has been based ever since.
Paiste is known for innovative cymbals that offer original sounds, shapes, and construction materials. Their cymbals are well regarded for being extremely durable, and they are ideal for drummers looking for a more full-bodied sound. Bright, clear, and articulate, Paiste cymbals are a great option for rock, pop, metal, punk, blues, and gospel drummers.
Considered one of the best cymbal brands in the world, users of Paiste cymbals include Nick Mason (Pink Floyd), Stewart Copeland (The Police), Nicko McBrain (Iron Maiden), and Joey Jordison (Slipknot, Scar the Martyr, Sinsaenum).
4. Meinl Percussion
Meinl Percussion is a German manufacturer of a wide range of percussion instruments, most notably cymbals. Established in 1951 by Robert Meinl, it has made an enormous impact in the world of music in a short period.
These cymbals have a distinctive sound and have become known for low, dark, and dry sounds. They are also known for their innovative use of alloys when making cymbals, and inventive models. They offer a variety of options for all drummers, regardless of where you are in your drumming journey. Meinl was the first cymbal maker to sell pre-pack cymbal sets, which it did in 1974.
Some drummers that use Meinl cymbals include Benny Greb, Thomas Lang, and Chris Adler (Lamb of God, Megadeath).
5. Wuhan Cymbals
One thing that any drummer – or any musician knows is that instruments can get to be extremely expensive. This can be a challenge especially for newcomers, who are only just starting to figure out what cymbals they work best with.
This is why Wuhan Cymbals are a great option. They pride themselves on producing high-quality, yet affordable cymbals. They tend to feature a quick attack and a short decay. They also have a bright sound and can cut through any mix. They are made using a high-grade B20 alloy, one of the gold standards when it comes to alloys for cymbal making.
Even though they’re best known for being a budget brand, their signature sound means that they have also been used by some of the best drummers in the world. Some proponents of Wuhan Cymbals include Neil Peart (Rush), Jeff Hamilton, Chad Sexton, and Mike Terrana.
6. Zultan Cymbals
This German brand was launched in 2000 by founder Martin Hofmann and his brother Johannes.
They were one of the first brands to offer audio files of their cymbals online as part of their product descriptions. This was especially effective for them because they only sell online.
They offer 11 lines of cymbals. 10 of them – save for the Aja line, which is produced in East Asia – are manufactured in Turkey, using the experience of local artisans. This allows Zultan to offer cymbals that are varied both in look and in sound to meet a multitude of requirements.
7. Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals
Turkey, and specifically Istanbul, is widely thought to be the center of true, traditional cymbal production. Several of the world’s leading cymbal makers have their roots in the city, one of which is Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals.
Founded by master craftsman Mehmet Tamdeğer, a former Zildjian apprentice, in 1996, these cymbals are still made using the traditional methods – each cymbal is still hammered in shape by hand. These handcraft methods have made Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals some of the best in the world.
Since the formation of the company, Mehmet continued to refine his cymbals and innovate with styles, allowing Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals to offer a variety of products for drummers. Some drummers that have developed a love for these cymbals include Lenny White, Cindy Blackman Santana, Jack DeJohnette, and Elvin Jones.
8. Bosphorus Cymbals
Established in 1996 by master cymbal smiths Hasan Seker, Ibrahim Yakici, and Hasan Ozdemir, Bosphorus creates unique cymbals that are dark and dry.
Their unique style of creating these cymbals includes over hammering them on both the top and the bottom, which results in a unique temper and a relaxation of the metal. This allows for a relatively deep pitch with complex, controlled overtones.
Bosphorus cymbals are particularly well known as jazz cymbals, with a lush sound and loads of wash, personality, and trashiness.
Drummers who use Bosphorus include Kerry Jacobson, Matt Skelton, Martin Lopez, and Rena Beavers.
9. Istanbul Agop Cymbals
Along with Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals, Istanbul Agop Cymbals is one of two cymbal-making companies that formed after the split of Istanbul Cymbals. The first Istanbul Cymbals were produced in 1980 by Agop Tomurcuk. After his death, the company split in two – one led by Tomurcuk’s sons, Arman and Sarkis, and the other by his business partner, Mehmet Tamdeğer.
Many of Agop’s original, innovative designs are still available today. Istanbul Agop Cymbals has become well regarded for the unique sound of their cymbals. This is attributed to the way the cymbals are made, using a special method and unique alloy, which is kept a closely guarded secret.
These cymbals embrace Turkish traditions, imparting authentic, raw, and dark tones. Though they originally only produced jazz cymbals, Agop has expanded its catalog over the years, and now offers a larger variety of hand-hammered, traditional, and modern cymbals.
Musicians that endorse Istanbul Agop Cymbals include Aaron Sterling (John Mayer), Tom Meadows (Kylie Minogue), Cindy Blackman Santana (Lenny Kravitz), and Lenny White.
10. Dream Cymbals
Dream Cymbals was established in 2005 and are a Canadian company that sells handmade Chinese cymbals. They offer a variety of cymbals, both Western-style and Chinese-style, and are made using the combined experience of Western instrument designers and Chinese gong smiths.
Made using bronze bell technology, which dates back to 2000 B.C., Dream Cymbals aims to provide cymbals that are affordable for every drummer, regardless of how small or large their budget was.
These cymbals provide a jazzy sound and emphasize darker, lower tones. Their unique production style means that no two cymbals are alike, allowing you to get a truly distinctive sound from your cymbals!
Artists who use Dream Cymbals include Kent Aberle (Dark Water), Kelson Camp (The Band Perry), and Chris Gormley (The Trews).
11. Crescent Cymbals
Crescent Cymbals are a relatively new cymbal brand that is a product of four friends (drummers) who shared an idea and a vision. Stanton Moore, Michael Vosbein, Bill Norman, and Jeff Hamilton joined together to make this brand a reality.
They were successful in establishing a high-quality cymbal brand that started in 2012. Only 3 years in the making, in 2015 Sabian acquired the brand as a subsidiary and further produced cymbals under the famous Sabian-Crescent name.
What’s notable about this brand and venture is the unique designs they had. With certain design tweaks and small adjustments, they open up a new wave of sounds and high-quality cymbals.
Hammerax was founded in 2006 by audio engineer John Stannard.
The company specializes in unique designs that certainly no other on this list can compare to. Although odd-looking, these cymbals have grabbed the attention of many drummers across the globe.
Most notably, the company is famous for its 11″ cymbal that offers a trashy sound that most drummers fell in love with. This triple-layered cymbal, with a bold and raspy tone, is both unique and unmistakable, more so, it has a black finish that is certainly noticeable.
Although many are not familiar with this brand in general, they have produced some fine cymbals and unique ones that a lot of great drummers have shown interest in.
There are several cymbal brands in the world. The most prominent are Zildjian, Sabian, Paiste, and Meinl but there are many more.
Most of the major cymbal manufacturers produce cymbals in a variety of styles including traditional, signature, alloy, and fusion. Each one has a unique sound that is suited to different musical genres.
The shape of the cymbal plays an important part in determining the overall sound it produces. The thickness, curvature, and edge of the cymbal influence how it will play. A thicker cymbal has a lower pitch while a thinner one has a higher pitch to it.
Despite what each manufacturer brings to the table, it’s up to the musician to determine which brand produces the sound that they’re looking for. It’s a matter of preference and experimentation, but it can take time before you find your perfect cymbal match.
Zildjian Cymbals Image By: Kim2480, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Meinl Cymbals Image By: bigdrumthump.com from Santa Monica, United States, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons