The 5 Best Ride Cymbals (2021)

A great ride cymbal is a must if you want to have a professional-sounding drum set. 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 recommendation as the best ride cymbal is the Zildjian K Custom Dark. It’s really popular among pro drummers for its rich and diverse sound.

My top budget pick would be the Meinl HCS 20”, which has a very decent sound for its price.

The 5 Best Ride Cymbals (2021)

1. Zildjian K Custom Dark Ride
Editor's Choice - Dark, dry, and diverse
2. Meinl 20” HCS Ride
Affordable Option - A very decent ride cymbal for this price range
3. Zildjian 21” A-Series Sweet Ride
Bright and colorful sound with medium overtones
4. Sabian 21” HHX Groove Ride
Great ride - good for crashing too
5. Paiste PST 3 20” Ride
A clear sound at an affordable price

Let’s look at these in more detail.

1. Zildjian K Custom Dark Ride

My Top Pick as the Best Ride Cymbal
With a dark, dry, and diverse sound.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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.

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. 

Pros

  • Brilliant stick definition
  • Can be used as a crash
  • Versatile use

Cons

  • Price

Made with Cast bronze, they age very nicely. Their sound only gets warmer as time goes on, making them a very durable ride.

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”. 

AlloyB20, Cast Bronze
SoundDark, warm undertone
Size20” or 22”
Hand HammeredYes

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

Budget Pick
A very decent ride cymbal for this price range.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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. 

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. 

Pros

  • Incredibly affordable
  • High-quality sound
  • Well-defined bell

Cons

  • Lacks a bit of character

Made from MS63 alloy, this ride has a low-mid pitch, 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. Looks really nice on stage, particularly in a smaller venue. 

AlloyMS63
SoundWarm, Harmonical
Size20”
Hand-hammeredNo

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

Bright and colorful sound with medium overtones.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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. 

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. 

Pros

  • All-purpose ride cymbal
  • Can be used as a crash cymbal
  • Nice stick definition

Cons

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. 

AlloyCast Bronze
SoundBright
Size21”
Hand-hammeredNo

The Zildjian 21” A Sweet Ride definitely stands 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 the A Sweet Ride for a reason.

4. Sabian 21” HHX Groove Ride

Great ride, very nice for crashing too.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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.

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.

Pros

  • Good for multiple genres
  • Works well as crash
  • Durable

Cons

  • Price

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.

AlloyB20 Bronze
SoundDark
Size21”
Hand-hammeredYes

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

A clear sound at an affordable price.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

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. 

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.

Pros

  • Balanced stick sound
  • Soft to loud volume
  • Amazingly affordable

Cons

  • Better as a training cymbal
  • Lacks a bit of character

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.

AlloyMS63 Brass
SoundWarm and clear
Size20”
Hand HammeredNo

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.

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. When you’re buying a ride cymbal it will definitely help you if you put some thought into what you actually want from your ride.

Build Material

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.

Ride Size

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 but the bigger ones have better ping and sustain to them. It’s a matter of preference depending on your style.

Sound

It’s totally 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.

Bell

The bell comes in a number of 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.

Verdict

I’ve listed out my top five ride cymbals for you with the top choice being the Zildjian K Custom Dark. If you’re a new player, go for the Meinl HCS 20”

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 you the best.

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