A great ride cymbal is a must if you want to have a professional-sounding drum set. While choosing a ride cymbal is a personal matter for any drummer, there are some that stand out from the herd and are battle-tested.
I’m here to help you get an idea of what’s out there so that you spend less time browsing and more time playing.
My top recommended ride cymbal is the Zildjian K Custom Dark Ride. It’s really popular among pro drummers for its rich and diverse sound.
My second recommended ride cymbal is the Meinl 20” HCS Ride, which has a very decent sound for its price.
The 7 Best Ride Cymbals (2023)
Let’s look at these in more detail.
1. Zildjian K Custom Dark Ride
The Zildjian K Custom Dark is well-known for its diverse sound. It produces a dry, washy sound with warm undertones, making it great for mellow music.
- Brilliant stick definition
- Can be used as a crash
- Versatile use
Made with Cast bronze, they age very nicely. Their sound only gets warmer as time goes on, making them a very durable ride. Its stick definition, along with a trashy “crashability” also adds to its versatility if you’re playing rock music. What that means is that you can use the ride as a crash as well.
The K Custom Dark series is poured individually from molten metal, and then hand-hammered. With the ride, Zildjian allows you to choose either a 20” or 22”.
|Alloy||B20, Cast Bronze|
|Sound||Dark, warm undertone|
|Size||20” or 22”|
Zildjian is one of the biggest cymbal makers and the K Custom series is their most sought-after series. With the Dark ride, it’s easy to see why.
2. Meinl 20” HCS Ride
In recent history, Meinl has managed to stand out as a leading cymbal maker by making high-quality cymbals at affordable prices. The 20” HCS ride perfectly symbolizes that.
- Incredibly affordable
- High-quality sound
- Well-defined bell
- Lacks a bit of character
- Inferior to bronze cymbals
It is a great cymbal especially if you’re just beginning on your drumming journey and have a limited budget. The HCS ride produces a warm sound with medium to short sustain which is good for playing rock and pop.
Made from MS63 alloy, this ride has a low-mid pitch, a nice ping, and a decent bell. Therefore, you can use it in a range of musical settings. Aesthetically speaking, it is shaped with pressure point technology and supports a traditional look. It looks nice on stage, particularly in a smaller venue.
For a cymbal that sonically matches mid-ranged cymbals of some other brands and is priced so affordably, the Meinl HCS 20” Ride is an amazing option. Even if you’re at an intermediate level.
3. Zildjian 21” A-Series Sweet Ride
Another Zildjian ride that is widely popular and respected in the drumming world. The Zildjian 21” A-Series Sweet Ride is an incredibly versatile ride that is good for all occasions.
- All-purpose ride cymbal
- Can be used as a crash cymbal
- Nice stick definition
- A bit of a ring to it
Each stick hit produces a defined, bright sound with medium undertones. The cymbal can also be a crash cymbal if you want it to be, which is why it is one of the most used cymbals in music history.
The A Sweet Ride is made from Zildjian’s hundreds of years old secret cast bronze alloy. It is also available in two finishes, Brilliant and Traditional. The cymbal looks all class whether you’re at a big show or a small gig.
The Zildjian 21” A Sweet Ride lives up to its “sweet” name. It has a nice, beautiful sound that will come to your rescue in any musical situation. After all, many successful drummers have shown love to A Sweet Ride for a reason.
4. Sabian 21” HHX Groove Ride
Sabian cymbals have been a trusted choice for some of the greatest drummers of all time and the Sabian 21” HHS Groove Ride shows exactly why. This sweet-sounding ride is great for all intents and purposes.
- Good for multiple genres
- Works well as crash
It has a dark sound with just enough dryness to make it ideal for modern music. The bow holds a good stick definition and can be used as a crash. The bell, too, matches the rest of the cymbal with a very melodious ting.
The HHX Groove Ride is made with the highly durable B20 Bronze alloy. Each cymbal is aged, hand-hammered, and given a brilliant finish so that it looks as magnificent as it sounds.
Despite the price bracket of the Sabian 21” HHX Groove Ride, it’s a cymbal worth having in your arsenal. Whether you’re professional or not.
5. Paiste PST 3 20” Ride
Paiste PST3 cymbals have redefined what starter cymbals can offer. The 20” ride is a good one to have if you’re just a beginner or browsing on a tight budget.
- Balanced stick sound
- Soft to loud volume
- Amazingly affordable
- Better as a training cymbal
- Lacks a bit of character
It has a warm, clear sound that produces a nice sizzle on accents. The bell is well-pronounced as well. Being a 20” ride, the cymbal has some “crashability” as well. For a starter ride, it sure is widely applicable.
The PST 3 ride is made from MS63 Brass alloy. It boasts a brilliant finish and has a medium weight. For such affordable cymbals, Paiste has done a decent job with the PST 3.
|Sound||Warm and clear|
The Paiste PST 3 20” Ride is a cymbal for many styles. For beginners who don’t want to spend a fortune and get quality sound, this ride is something to look into.
6. Meinl 22" Byzance Medium Ride
Another Meinl ride cymbal, this time a more high-end product – the Meinl 22″ Byzance Medium Ride. This ride cymbal hits the sweet spot between sound, tonality, and stick definition. An all-purpose choice.
- Well-rounded sound
- Great stick definition
- Pronounced bell
This hand-hammered beast of a cymbal has a natural, well-rounded sound with a very pronounced bell. The B20 bronze alloy assures quality and durability, while the fully lathed surface allows for a classic, bright, and cutting sound.
Despite the hefty price tag, this cymbal has great value for money. The bell produces a nice high-frequency sound that rises above the mix. Additionally, this cymbal is crashable to an extent, producing decent crash levels.
Overall, if you’re after a high-end, high-quality, classic sound, the Meinl 22″ Byzance Medium Ride has a sweet factor and is a well-rounded cymbal to consider.
7. Paiste 2002 Classic 22" Ride
Last but not least is another Paiste ride, the Paiste 2002 Classic 22″ Ride. This is a more high-quality option than its other counterpart on the list. A well-rounded, versatile, and classic-sounding ride cymbal for any occasion.
- Warm and full sound
- Brilliant, aesthetically pleasing finish
- Suitable for any genre
- Great value for money
- A bit pricey
You can hardly find anything wrong with this brilliant cymbal from Paiste. The “classic” in the name is not just for show. You can apply this ride cymbal to any genre and it will stick. An all-rounder ride with a warm, lively, and full sound.
Despite the moderately pricey nature of this cymbal, the value you get is superb. Hailing from a well-known and reputable cymbal manufacturer, you cannot go wrong.
All in all, if you’re after a classic, full, well-rounded sound that will stick to any genre, the Paiste 2002 Classic 22″ Ride will do the job. If you’re in a cover band that plays different genres from time to time, you have found a match.
Ride Cymbal Buyer’s Guide
A ride is the second most important cymbal in your setup after the hi-hats. Its usage goes beyond mainstream jazz and rock, and into genres like bossa nova, and Afro-Cuban. You’ll benefit from focusing on what you’re looking for when buying a ride cymbal.
You’ve probably heard of the Bronze B20 alloy. Made of 80% copper and 20% tin, it’s the most common alloy used for making cymbals. It’s the industry standard for professional players.
However, Meinl, Paiste, and Zildjian have also been experimenting with alloys like B8, B10, B12, and B15. A general rule of thumb is the more the tin, the better the sound.
If you’re a beginner on a tight budget, you can also go for brass cymbals. They won’t get you the quality of the higher-priced cymbals, but they will get you through your beginner phase.
Choosing the right size depends entirely upon you. Ride sizes range from 18” to 22” with each of them having a distinct sound.
Smaller rides also work well as a crash cymbal but the bigger ones have better ping and sustain to them. It’s a matter of preference depending on your style.
It’s subjective what makes a good-sounding ride cymbal. Some players prefer the high-pitched bright sound, while some go for the lower-toned dark sound. Some styles demand a washy sound with nice sustain, while some are better off with the little sustain that comes with dry cymbals.
The bell comes in several different sizes. The bigger bells produce a louder sound that is largely used in heavier music. The downside might be that big bells make the ride heavier and generate a lot of overtones as the size of the bow is reduced.
Cymbals play a crucial role in defining the style and sound of your playing so it’s better when you make an educated decision while buying them. Then again, don’t let conventions hold you back. Explore for yourself and find out what fits your needs best, depending on your budget, of course.
My top pick is the Zildjian K Custom Dark Ride. This is a dark, dry, and very diverse ride cymbal from a well-renowned manufacturer.
My budget pick is the Meinl 20” HCS Ride. This is an affordable, decent-sounding ride cymbal from a reputable cymbal manufacturer.