Best Drum Cymbal Sets

Updated January 2021
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and all opinions about the products are our own. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

38 Models Considered
8 Hours Researched
2 Experts Interviewed
168 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for Best drum cymbal sets

Cymbals add spice and consistency to a drum kit. While the snare, bass, and toms handle the main rhythms, cymbals accent important beats and add color and fill to the music. Purchasing a set of cymbals is a great way to build up an existing drum kit or start a new one.

The most basic drum cymbal sets come with only the essentials: hi-hat, ride, and crash cymbals. Pricier sets build upon this foundation with an extra crash, splash, or china cymbals for different effects.

In this guide, we look at what you should expect from a basic drum cymbal set as well as the extras that you may (or may not) want with your purchase. We point you in the direction of our favorite drum cymbal sets and answer your frequently asked questions. Read on to learn more about selecting the right cymbal set for your drum kit.

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Due to variations in hammering, lathing, and metal content, no two cymbals sound exactly alike.

Key considerations

Drum kit basics

A typical drum kit includes seven pieces: floor tom, tom-toms, snare, bass, ride cymbal, crash cymbal, and hi-hat. Before we delve into the types of cymbal kits you can buy, let’s examine what the individual pieces of a drum kit look like.

Floor tom: This sits on its own adjustable legs (three or four) and is played with sticks. You can use a floor tom to create rhythmic patterns or fill.

Tom-toms: These sit directly in front of the drummer, adding rhythmic excitement and serving as fill.

Snare: The snare is a double-sided drum with a buzzy sound. Musicians use it to create a wide range of articulations.

Bass: The bass drum is usually the largest drum in a kit and is operated with a foot pedal to keep time and add depth to the sound.

Ride cymbal: This is played with sticks and used to keep time and add color and sustain.

Crash cymbal: This is played with sticks and produces accents and punctuation.

Hi-hat: This can be played with sticks or a foot pedal and is used to keep time and add sizzle.

Set components

Basics: As we’ve mentioned, drum cymbal sets come with at least three pieces: ride, crash, and hi-hat. A lot of the sets we examined included a 20-inch ride, 16-inch crash, and 14-inch hi-hat. However, you can find sets with slight size variations, such as a set that comprises an 18-inch ride, 14-inch crash, and 13-inch hi-hat.

Cymbal additions: In addition to the basics, some sellers throw in extras to sweeten the pot. For example, you might find a kit that also includes a 10-inch splash cymbal. Another common add-on is a 16-inch china cymbal. Why would you want these extras? Both can add color and depth to the usual crash sound. Interestingly, we note that a lot of companies tout these additions as “free” extras. Whether the product is actually “free” is uncertain, as the price could very well have been adjusted to cover the additional pieces!

Other extras: A drum cymbal set might also include drumsticks, gig bag, cleaning cloth, and even a code for “free” online drumming lessons. Note that these additions will most certainly inflate the price. It’s always nice to have an extra pair of drumsticks, but you might not need another gig bag or online lessons. If these extras are offered, make sure you really want them so you don’t end up spending more than necessary.

Most drum cymbal sets for beginners are made of brass. The brass may sound thin, dull, or bright, depending on the quality of the metal.

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Brass vs. bronze

Buying a cymbal set is convenient because you get everything you need in one fell swoop. The tradeoff, however, is that you do not get to tailor each cymbal to your particular tastes. Instead, you must determine which set offers the best combination of qualities. For some musicians, this means they must compromise on cymbal material.

Most cymbals are made of brass or bronze. Brass cymbals are cheaper; bronze cymbals are pricier but also better in quality. Cymbal sets in the budget and mid-price ranges are generally made of brass, which means the sound quality may not be as good as that of a handpicked set of bronze cymbals.

Unless you are dead set against brass, however, we don’t think you should immediately discount these brass sets. In fact, for a beginner on a budget, a cymbal set made of brass could be the best choice because it removes a lot of guesswork from the kit-building process and doesn’t require a huge investment.

If you want to buy a ready-made set and you want it to be bronze, you’ll need to look harder and be prepared to pay a handsome price. But if you’re at the point in your musical career where you know exactly what kind of bronze cymbals you want, it may be better to forgo the set idea entirely and buy each piece individually.

Cymbal size

You may also have to compromise on cymbal size if you buy a set. As we’ve mentioned, a lot of sets on today’s market include a 20-inch ride, 16-inch crash, and 14-inch hi-hat. But what if that’s not exactly what you want?

If you buy a kit and later decide you’re dissatisfied with the size of, say, your crash cymbal, you could certainly buy another one. In fact, experienced drummers often own multiple crash cymbals of different sizes. However, this could eventually put a strain on your budget. Your best bet is to make an educated guess about what you need today as well as what you might need several years from now.

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Did You Know?
B8 bronze cymbals consist of 92% copper and 8% tin. B20 bronze cymbals consist of 80% copper and 20% tin. The latter type costs more because the metal is of higher quality.
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Drum cymbal set prices

Inexpensive: For $100 to $200, you can get a set of brass cymbals — ride, crash, and hi-hat — for a beginner’s drum kit. The sound will be brighter than that of bronze cymbals, but for most novice musicians this purchase would be more than sufficient.

Mid-range: For $200 to $500, you can get a set that includes a ride, crash, and hi-hat of slightly better quality than those in the budget range. The brass may have been extensively hammered and lathed for better sound quality. Notably, it’s rare to find cymbal sets made of bronze in this price range.

Expensive: For $500 and up, you can find drum cymbal sets made of bronze. Many of these pricier sets come with two crash cymbals instead of one. Expect to pay closer to $900 for a high-quality set of bronze cymbals.

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Did You Know?
Drum cymbal sets are often colored gold or a variation of that metallic hue. If you look, however, you can also find cymbal sets in red, blue, purple, pink, and black.
Staff
BestReviews

Tips

  • Check the product specs before buying. Many cymbal sets do not come with the necessary hardware you need to mount them. Be prepared to purchase washers, screws, and felts separately as needed.
  • Invest in a low-cost cymbal mute. You’ll want to do this if you’re concerned that your cymbal practice is too loud. In fact, you could buy mutes for every piece in your drum kit if you wanted to. An acoustic drum set with mutes is a practical solution for those who want to practice quietly but don’t want an electronic drum set.
  • Pay attention to product literature about hammering and lathing. The best cymbals have been hammered and lathed to add complexity and interest to the sound. Some high-end cymbals have been hammered and lathed by hand to enhance individuality and quality.
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Drumsticks eventually break. Expect to get anywhere from 5 to 50 hours of play from a stick, depending on its quality. It’s a good idea to keep several pairs of drumsticks on hand so you’re never without.

FAQ

Q. I bought a hi-hat that sounded great in the video demo, but now that I’ve got it home I don’t like the sound. Help!

A. There should be a knob on your hi-hat stand, right beneath the cymbals, that you can loosen or tighten to tilt the bottom hat. Play around with this knob and continue testing the sound. The cymbals need a little give to sound right, and chances are you’ll find the right sound if you keep fiddling.

Q. My cymbals are getting old and starting to look grungy. Should I wash them?

A. Not necessarily. Dirt and dust collect in the lathing grooves over time, but some musicians think this patina enhances the sound. If the dirt bothers you, take a conservative approach to cleaning your cymbals. Dab gently, don’t use abrasive cleaning agents, and make sure the cymbals are completely dry after you’ve finished cleaning them. Better yet, take them to an instrument repair shop for a professional cleaning.

Q. My grandkids love to bang on the cymbals with all their might. Could the cymbals break?

A. Yes. Cymbals are actually quite fragile, especially on the edges. Once cymbals crack, they often cannot be repaired. If the grandkids must play, teach them to play in moderation.

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