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Cymbals are an essential part of the drum kit. There is no set rule on how many cymbals a drummer should have or needs, but there are not many drummers (who play on drum kits) that do not use at least some cymbals.
There have been very successful drummers who have kept their cymbals to a bare minimum, such as a hi-hat and ride cymbal only. I play some gigs where these are the only cymbals I use, typically at indoor venues where the overall volume level needs to be lower.
On the other hand, some drummers have so many cymbals (and toms) that it is almost impossible to count them all.
Most drummers fall between these extremes, as I usually do when I play gigs or record.
If you are a drummer and are like me, you have probably spent hours on gear markets like Reverb or other sites looking at drum gear and cymbals. The sheer number of cymbal choices is daunting, but one thing many have in common is that many of the options are not cheap.
So why is this? Why are cymbals so expensive?
The first reason cymbals can be very expensive is the amount of labor and the process that goes into making cymbals. The creation of cymbals is a highly skilled endeavor that can be a lengthy process. The materials used can also contribute to the cost, but this has a smaller impact than the creation process.
Below I will take a detailed look at how much different types of cymbals cost, some price ranges within brands, and explore a bit more into what cymbals are made of and why they are often so expensive.
How Much Do Cymbals Cost?
There are so many different brands and types of cymbals available that it can become overwhelming when trying to decide which to purchase.
A quick “cymbals” keyword search produces over 80,000 hits. That’s a lot of options to choose from. If you head to an online retailer like Sweetwater or Musician’s Friend, dozens of options exist.
The good news is that there are likely options for most budgets.
Some drum kits come with cymbals (but these are typically on the lower end regarding their quality), but most often, they will need to be purchased separately.
With so many different brands and options within those brands, it can be a daunting task to determine which cymbal(s) are right for you.
Because of this overwhelming array of choices, I have provided several tables below that can help you get an idea of what options are available and the associated price ranges.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I have limited my examples to the three most common types of cymbals: Hi-hats, Rides, and Crashes, along with cymbal packs. For a more exhaustive list of cymbal types, check out this article.
There are also usually multiple options for each price range available, but I have only stuck to one for simplicity’s sake.
I have also limited the lists to four of the most popular brands, but please note that there are many more options, including some really cool boutique cymbal makers, that are not listed here. This list doesn’t mean these four brands are superior to other brands either, it is merely for comparison and reference.
All of the pricing and information below came from the Sweetwater website.
For Hi-hats, I am keeping the selections to either 14” or 15” options as they are the most popular sizes.
|Under $350||$350-$600||$600 and above|
|Zildjian||14” I Series Hi-hat Cymbals ($179.95)||14” A Zildjian New Beat Hi-hat Cymbals ($429.95)||14” K Constantinople Hi-hat Cymbals ($699.95)|
|Paiste||14” PST 3 Hi-hat Cymbals ($99.00)||15” 2002 Sound Edge Hi-hat Cymbals ($436.00)||15” Signature Dark Energy Hi-hat Mark 1 Cymbals ($650.00)|
|Meinl||14” HCS Hi-hat Cymbals ($89.99)||15” Pure Alloy Custom Medium Thin Hi-hat Cymbals ($419.99)||14” Byzance Foundry Reserve Hi-hat Cymbals ($629.99)|
|Sabian||14” SBR Hi-hat Cymbals ($94.99)||14” AAX Medium Hi-Hat Cymbals- Brilliant Finish ($449.99)||15” Artisan Hi-hat Cymbals ($859.99)|
I stuck with a 20” or 22” option for ride cymbals, as those are the two most popular sizes.
|Under $350||$350-$600||$600 and above|
|Zildjian||20” A Zildjian Medium Ride Cymbal ($349.95)||20” K Constantinople Medium Thin Ride Cymbal- High Pitch ($579.95)||22” K Constantinople Medium Thin Ride Cymbal- Low Pitch ($689.95)|
|Paiste||20” 2002 Big Beat Cymbal ($334.00)||22” Signature Series Blue Bell Ride Cymbal ($524.00)||22” Signature Dark Energy Ride Mark 1 Cymbal ($605.00)|
|Meinl||20” Classics Custom Brilliant Extreme Metal Ride Cymbal ($209.99)||20” Byzance Vintage Sand Ride Cymbal ($459.99)||20” Byzance Foundry Reserve Ride Cymbal ($649.99)|
|Sabian||20” XSR Monarch Ride Cymbal ($249.99)||22” FRX Ride Cymbal ($589.99)||22” 40th Anniversary Artisan Raw Bell Dry Ride Cymbal ($899.99)|
I have only listed 18” options for crash cymbals to keep it simple.
|Under $200||$200-$350||$350 and above|
|Zildjian||S Series Medium Thin Crash Cymbal ($179.95)||A Zildjian Thin Crash Cymbal ($309.95)||K Constantinople Crash Cymbal ($514.95)|
|Paiste||Color Sound 900 Blue Crash Cymbal ($178.00)||2002 Extreme Crash Cymbal ($292.00)||Signature Dark Energy Crash Mark 1 Cymbal ($440.00)|
|Meinl||HCS Bronze Crash Cymbal ($109.99)||Pure Alloy Custom Medium-heavy Crash Cymbal ($289.99)||Byzance Extra Dry Thin Crash Cymbal ($389.99)|
|Sabian||B8X Rock Crash Cymbal ($124.99)||AAX X-Plosion Crash Cymbal- Brilliant Finish ($319.99)||FRX Crash Cymbal ($429.99)|
For cymbal packs, I chose the most expensive, mid-range, and under $300 options.
|Under $300||Mid-range||Most Expensive|
|Zildjian||3-Piece Planet Z Cymbal Set ($259.95)||4-Piece A Rock Cymbal Set ($889.95)||4-Piece K Zildjian Sweet Cymbal Set ($1,379.95)|
|Paiste||3-Piece PST X DJs Cymbal Set ($288.00)||4-Piece RUDE Cymbal Set ($1,095.00)||5-Piece Paiste Masters Thin Cymbal Set ($1,895.00)|
|Meinl||4-Piece HCS Basic Set ($248.99)||4-Piece Classics Custom Dual Complete Cymbal Set ($899.00)||5-Piece Byzance Custom-tailored Studio Set ($1,889.99)|
|Sabian||4-Piece SBR Performance Cymbal Set ($259.99)||6-Piece XSR Super Cymbal Set ($854.99)||11-Piece Paragon Neil Peart Complete Cymbal Set ($3,789.99)|
What Are Expensive Cymbals Made Of?
To keep this article consistent, I will provide the same examples from the different price ranges of cymbals I listed above and keep them grouped by brand. Instead of just talking about what expensive cymbals are made of, I will share what each cymbal discussed above is made of for a better comparison. I did not include the material for the cymbal packs.
This doesn’t mean that every single expensive cymbal is made from the exact materials listed below. However, cymbals, according to Billy Brennan on the Modern Drummer website, are traditionally made from bell bronze, malleable bronze, brass, or nickel silver, although some other materials are also used.
It should be noted here that cymbals are a lot like guitars in that expensive and cheaper models are often made with the same or similar materials, but not always.
Also, as stated earlier, the process in which they are made generally increases the price more than the materials used. Creating higher-end cymbals is very labor-intensive, often by hand, and the attention to detail is very high.
Zildjian, according to Wikipedia, has been making cymbals since the early 17th century and is currently the largest cymbal company in the world.
If you are interested in the history of this storied company, you can check out the video below, which gives an excellent history of the company since the early 20th century.
- 14” K Constantinople Hi-hats are made of B20 (80% bronze, 20% tin), cast bronze.
- 14” A Zildjian New Beat Hi-hat Cymbals are made of B20, cast bronze.
- 14” I Series Hi-hat Cymbals are made of B8 (8% tin) bronze.
- 22” K Constantinople Medium Thin Ride Cymbal- Low Pitch is made of B20, cast bronze.
- 20” K Constantinople Medium Thin Ride Cymbal- High Pitch is made of B20, cast bronze.
- 20” A Zildjian Medium Ride Cymbal is made of B20, cast bronze.
- K Constantinople Crash Cymbal is made of B20, cast bronze.
- A Zildjian Thin Crash Cymbal is made of B20, cast bronze.
- S Series Medium Thin Crash Cymbal is made of B12.
Paiste, according to their website, was founded in the early 20th century and was the primary competitor of Zildjian for most of the century. They are known for their high-quality craftsmanship and have an impressive list of artists that use their cymbals.
- 15” Signature Dark Energy Hi-hat Mark 1 Cymbals are made of proprietary signature bronze.
- 15” 2002 Sound Edge Hi-hat Cymbals are made of CuSn8 (92% copper, 8% tin) bronze.
- 14” PST 3 Hi-hat Cymbals are made of MS63 (63% copper, 37% zinc) brass alloy.
- 22” Signature Dark Energy Ride Mark 1 Cymbal is made of signature bronze.
- 22” Signature Series Blue Bell Ride Cymbal is made of proprietary signature bronze.
- 20” 2002 Big Beat Cymbal is made of CuSn8 bronze.
- Signature Dark Energy Crash Mark 1 Cymbal is made of proprietary signature bronze.
- 2002 Extreme Crash Cymbal is made of CuSn8 bronze.
- Color Sound 900 Blue Crash Cymbal is made of CuSn8 bronze.
As their website states, founded in 1951, Meinl has gained a large following of dedicated drummers and has particularly been a favorite in the metal genre.
- 14” Byzance Foundry Reserve Hi-hat Cymbals are made of B20.
- 15” Pure Alloy Custom Medium Thin Hi-hat Cymbals are made of B12.
- 14” HCS Hi-hat Cymbals are made of MS63 Brass Alloy
- 20” Byzance Foundry Reserve Ride Cymbal is made of B20.
- 20” Byzance Vintage Sand Ride Cymbal is made of B20.
- 20” Classics Custom Brilliant Extreme Metal Ride Cymbal is made of B10.
- Byzance Extra Dry Thin Crash Cymbal is made of B20.
- Pure Alloy Custom Medium-heavy Crash Cymbal is made of pure alloy.
- HCS Bronze Crash Cymbal is made of B8.
Founded in 1981 by Robert Zildjian, according to Wikipedia, Sabian has proven to be a high-quality cymbal company and a go-to for many artists.
- 15” Artisan Hi-hat Cymbals are made of B20.
- 14” AAX Medium Hi-Hat Cymbals- Brilliant Finish are made of B20.
- 14” SBR Hi-hat Cymbals are made of brass.
- 22” 40th Anniversary Artisan Raw Bell Dry Ride Cymbal is made of B20.
- 22” FRX Ride Cymbal is made of B20.
- 20” XSR Monarch Ride Cymbal is made of B20.
- FRX Crash Cymbal is made of B20.
- AAX X-Plosion Crash Cymbal- Brilliant Finish is made of B20.
- B8X Rock Crash Cymbal is made of B8.
How Much Should You Spend On Cymbals?
How much you should spend on cymbals is something that you will need to decide for yourself, but from personal experience, cutting corners in the cymbal department is not a great decision.
A cheaply made or poor-quality set of cymbals can make even high-end kits sound bad. Conversely, a set of high-quality cymbals can transform a poor-quality kit into a decent-sounding instrument.
Think about it: most of the time spent drumming during a song will involve either the hi-hat or ride cymbal (or both). Sometimes I play a groove that doesn’t include these cymbals, but it typically is not for a very long time. Usually, the only time I am not using these cymbals is during a drum fill, but even then, most drum fills typically end with cymbal hits.
There are, of course, certain genres or situations where that isn’t true, but for the type of music I play, that is rarely the case.
Before you rush out and buy thousands of dollars worth of cymbals, there are some factors you should consider.
Full disclaimer, I used an entry-level set of cymbals for over 15 years before I finally recently upgraded my cymbals, and they worked just fine. No one who listened to me play (except maybe the occasional drummer in the audience) ever commented on the sound of my cymbals. The average listener won’t care.
In fact, I still use those cymbals in recordings and various live shows, depending on what type of sound I am going for. In my opinion, many entry-level cymbals will suit most drumming needs. As long as you properly care for them, as I have, they will last for years and still perform.
I do need to mention that I took an almost ten-year break from serious playing after graduating high school, in which time I didn’t play a single live show.
Below, I have provided a couple of factors I considered before buying relatively expensive cymbals. Not all of these reasons will likely apply to you, but hopefully, they give you a good starting point if you are considering investing in cymbals.
How Long Have You Been Playing For?
Is there a certain length of time that determines how much you should spend on cymbals? No, of course not, but if you are just starting out, there isn’t a real need to spend thousands of dollars on cymbals when a few hundred dollars will suffice.
That does not mean you can’t spend thousands of dollars if you want to, but if you are just starting out playing, it is a good idea to make sure you are going to be persistent with playing before investing large sums of money.
Cymbal packs are a solid choice because they will come with multiple cymbals instead of having to purchase several cymbals individually.
Also, as I said above, until the summer of 2022, I used an entry-level cymbal pack for most of my playing career, and it worked (and still works) just fine for me.
My entry-level set is a Sabian B8 that came with 14” hi-hats, 10” splash, 14” thin crash, 18” thin crash, and 22” ride cymbal. I can’t recall how much they were at the time of purchase, but I believe it was around the $400 range back in the mid-2000s.
The B8 series is now discontinued, but you can still find them on places like Reverb. You can also pick up the B8X series packs, the updated line of these cymbals, in various configurations from between $279.99 and $699.99, depending on how many cymbals you are looking for in the packs.
I haven’t personally played the B8X series cymbals, but from what I have read, they are a step up from the B8s and seem to be a solid choice for a first set of cymbals.
Another option is to start with a cheaper cymbal pack and then upgrade cymbals individually over time. This won’t necessarily save you money, but it will space out how much you are spending at any given time, making buying higher-end and expensive cymbals more manageable.
You can also usually find good deals on sites like Reverb for used higher-end cymbals in good condition, which can (but not always) save you some money.
What Are You Using Cymbals For?
If you are drumming as a personal hobby or creative outlet, you should not worry about spending a lot of money on high-end cymbals.
If you are recording, producing, and distributing your music or regularly playing live shows, investing in more expensive cymbals might not be a bad idea.
However, again, I must stress that I used my entry-level B8 cymbals in high school and then again in the last few years when I got more serious about playing again. I played almost thirty live shows with one of my cover bands before I even considered upgrading my cymbals.
My new cymbals (Meinl Classics Custom Dark Cymbals) do sound much better than my old B8s, and I am glad I made the investment, but I didn’t do it until I knew my drumming was becoming a serious part of my life (both time-wise and financially).
Again, it is entirely up to you as to when you should buy new cymbals and how much you are willing to spend.
I wanted to ensure I was getting consistent paying gigs before investing in a set of relatively expensive cymbals.
How Often Will You Use Cymbals?
This factor relates to the first two quite a bit. If you are only going to occasionally use your drums or play for a few minutes here and there, it doesn’t make much sense to spend a lot on cymbals.
Once again, I am not saying you can’t or shouldn’t buy expensive cymbals if you don’t play much, but that is a large investment without much usage.
There are certain times of the year when I play less than others, such as the winter months. I live in a part of the country where outdoor gigs are almost impossible for about 4 to 5 months out of the year, and indoor venues are limited in my area.
While I still practice and record quite a bit, I usually only play one live performance a month during these months. From April through October, I will typically be playing live shows at least two or three weekends a month, with many having two-night performances.
Overall, I get a lot of use out of my drums, which is another reason I decided to invest in some higher-end cymbals.
So there you have it. Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of why cymbals tend to be on the expensive side.
I also hope that you better understand the many options available when determining which cymbal(s) are right for you and how much you should be spending on them.
Best of luck on your search for the perfect cymbals, and keep on playing!
Hi everyone! I have been involved with music most of my life, beginning in grade school with the trumpet. I am a largely self-taught multi-instrumentalist (drums, guitar, bass, and starting the piano and violin). I currently play drums in two bands and write and produce many genres of music in my home recording studio. I am also an avid guitar and drum collector.