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The 11 Best Cymbals for Metal

15/05/2024

If you’re a drummer in a metal band, you’ll know the importance of a good set of powerful cymbals. Above all else, the best cymbals for metal need to be loud – you want your recording or performance to scream metal. You’ll also usually find that they have some unique features that are perfect for the genre, such as larger bells and intricate hammering patterns to achieve the best control, sustain, and attack.

Looking to upgrade your setup? In this article, we’ll discuss our favourite cymbals at the moment that are ideal for metal drummers. We’ll discuss their sound, projection, build quality, size, and durability, amongst other things.

In a hurry?

Here are our top three cymbals for metal and why we like them:

Sabian 20" Stratus CrashThin weight produces a quick, snappy decay.Check the current price
CZ3 20" Ride Cymbal by Gear4musicMedium-heavy cymbal for increased sustain.Check the current price
Paiste RUDE 14'' Sound Edge Hi Hat CymbalsUnique design looks awesome for any metal performance.Check the current price

Why we’ve chosen these cymbals

We’ve picked these cymbals for how they perform in all kinds of metal drumming, providing a range of options that will suit most heavy-hitting drummers. Arguably, the most important thing cymbals for metal need is sheer volume – enough to cut through any heavy mix, and our selection meets the criteria.

Another factor is their durability. Cymbals in these kinds of setups need an immensely robust build that can keep up with the brutally heavy playing styles that metal drumming demands. With some renowned names in the industry included on our list, you have the assurance of high-quality construction and manufacturing.

Articulation and tone are also important. We’ve chosen cymbals that deliver sharp, bright tones and that can accentuate the fast-paced and complex drum patterns typical in metal music. They’re all extremely responsive, meaning subtle nuances are preserved even during rapid, repetitive playing. This precision means every strike is heard, contributing to the overall texture of your band’s sound.

The best cymbals for metal

1. Sabian Stratus Series

Sabian 20" Stratus CrashKey features

  • B20 bronze material
  • Affordable for professional gigging drummers
  • Sonic versatility for multiple sub-metal genres

Pros

  • Perfect for metal with explosive attack and quick decay
  • Articulate rides with warm, crashable undertones
  • Crisp hats ideal for complex metal rhythms

Cons

  • Limited cymbal offering within the series

Perfect for metal drummers, the Sabian Stratus Series is a meticulously crafted cymbal line that marries the intense demands of metal music with professional-level performance.

Developed over 24 months in close collaboration with artists and industry experts, the Stratus series offers the sonic versatility and explosive response that metal drummers need.

The ride cymbals in the series, available in 20” and 22” models, feature a clear articulation with a warm undertone, escalating to a controlled wash that complements aggressive playing. Their medium-light weight allows for a balanced blend of stick definition and a crashable quality, perfect for the dynamic shifts found in metal music.

As for the crash cymbals, available in 16”, 18”, and 20” sizes, they’re designed for a quick, controlled response with a lower tone that delivers an explosive attack, essential for cutting through the mix in metal tracks. Their thin build results in a rapid decay, maintaining clarity even during intense passages.

Our top pick is the Sabian 20″ Stratus Crash. It’s made from B20 bronze which is one of the sturdiest alloys used in cymbal manufacturing and provides a full range of frequency and sonic versatility. The 20’’ diameter and the STRATUS high-impact hammering give this crash a lower tone and fast decay – perfect for heavy-hitting metal drumming.


2. Gear4music CZ2 & CZ3 Cymbals

CZ3 20" Ride Cymbal by Gear4musicKey features

  • Bright and dynamic tones
  • Low price range
  • Includes cymbal packs and low-volume cymbals

Pros

  • Affordable and durable
  • Suitable for beginner drummers
  • Perfect for a variety of musical styles

Cons

  • May not suit professional drummers

Gear4music’s cymbals are ideal for beginner drummers just starting out or getting ready to take their playing to the next level.

The CZ2 range has bright and dynamic sound, crafted through traditional lathing and enhanced with a highly polished, hammered finish. This not only gives them a visually distinctive look but also enriches the overall sound quality by improving overtones and balance.

Meanwhile, the CZ3 series steps things up with a louder and more explosive character, designed specifically for styles that demand a bold presence, such as metal. These cymbals are heavier, providing greater sound projection, explosive attack, and longer sustain. For those practising at home, there are low-volume cymbals available, which are ideal for keeping your metal drumming quiet and neighbour-friendly.

The CZ3 20″ Ride Cymbal by Gear4music is one of the top cymbals in the CZ3 range due to its medium-heavy weight, intricately-lathed surface, and highly polished finish. Versatility is a key point of this cymbal, making it great for all kinds of metal drumming from thrash metal-like blast beats to more intricate ride patterns.

Another solid contender within the Gear4music range is the CZ3 18″ Crash. The 18’’ diameter allows you to ride the crash as well, expanding your kit setup in an instant. Additionally, with the same lathe pattern as the ride cymbal, the sustain is increased and the volume is substantial for metal.


3. Paiste RUDE Series

Paiste RUDE 14'' Sound Edge Hi Hat CymbalsKey features

  • Made from 2002 Bronze alloy
  • Mid price range
  • Stunning surface designs and pinpoint lathing

Pros

  • Supports medium-loud to extremely loud playing
  • Produces a raw, powerful, and bright sound
  • Energetic with heavy mid-range harmonics

Cons

  • Limited range of hi-hat cymbals within the series

The Paiste RUDE series delivers raw, metallic, and lively tones. RUDE cymbals are renowned for excelling in the metal scene thanks to their impressive, unique aesthetic and ear-shattering volume.

Constructed from CuSn8 Bronze, also known as “2002 Bronze”, these cymbals are built to endure the demands of powerful playing and are suitable for both live performances and studio recordings. The RUDE series is especially favoured in extremely loud environments, where its sparkling, bright, and icy qualities can truly shine.

The raw sound of RUDE cymbals makes them particularly effective for genres that require a strong sound presence, such as metal and all of metal’s subgenres. With heavy mid-range harmonics, these cymbals ensure that every hit cuts through the mix, making them indispensable for you to make a significant impact with your drumming.

A pair of hi-hats like no other, the Paiste RUDE 14” Sound Edge Hi Hat Cymbals showcase just what the Paiste RUDE series is all about. They’re lively, look great, and pack a punch in any metal drumming.


4. Zildjian Z Custom Series cymbals

Zildjian Z Custom 21" Mega Bell RideKey features

  • Explosive, bright, and loud sounds
  • Mid price range
  • Star-hammered pinpoint lathing

Pros

  • Meets metal’s sonic demands
  • Enhanced for modern drumming styles
  • Robust construction for heavy use

Cons

  • May be too intense for softer music genres

The Zildjian Z Custom Series cymbals are a fantastic choice for metal drummers looking to make a statement. These cymbals are renowned for their explosive, bright, and loud sounds that perfectly complement the intensity of metal music. With a design that’s been reimagined after 15 years, they’re exceptionally durable and can withstand the rigorous demands of both live performances and studio sessions.

Tailored specifically for metal, Z Custom cymbals deliver sounds that are not only powerful but also clear and distinct, even during complex passages. Additionally, their robust construction ensures they can handle the hardest hits, making them a reliable choice.

Our cymbal pick from the range is the Zildjian Z Custom 21″ Mega Bell Ride.

It has a unique big bell design, which is great for dynamic metal drumming and extra accentuated syncopated notes. Also equipped with the stunning star hammer pattern pinpoint lathing, there’s no doubt that this cymbal will stand out amongst any kit setup.


5. Zildjian S Family Series

Zildjian S FamilyKey features

  • Versatile sound profiles, bright to dark
  • Low price range
  • Available in a variety of finishes

Pros

  • Commands attention with powerful sound
  • Offers both clean, pure tones and complex textures
  • Varied range of finishes for a unique stage aesthetic

Cons

  • Sound may be too varied for sub-genre-specific drummers

Sticking with Zildjian, their S Family Series offers some bold and versatile options if you want to stand out not just with your sound, but visually as well.

These cymbals provide a spectrum of sounds, from bright and explosive to gritty and dark, ensuring they can cater to a variety of musical styles while bringing energy to live performances.

Crafted with extensive hammering and traditional lathing, the S Family cymbals produce a clean, pure sound that resonates with clarity. The range of finishes, from dark to brilliant, guarantees a stunning stage aesthetic.

For those seeking a richer and more complex tone, the S Dark cymbals offer a darker, slightly drier sound that is both distinctive and capable of cutting through the mix with ease. The S Zildjian range, on the other hand, offers bright, natural, and intense tones that are controlled by their traditional surface lathing.


6. Sabian AAX Series

Sabian AAX 18'' X-Plosion Crash Cymbal, Brilliant FinishKey features

  • Versatile range suitable for multiple metal sub-genres
  • Mid price range
  • Renowned for extreme reliability

Pros

  • Versatile for modern and mainstream music
  • Sounds praised by top artists such as Neil Peart and Dave Weckl
  • Durable and reliable across the whole series

Cons

  • Extensive range may be confusing for less experienced drummers

As one of the leading names in the cymbal industry, Sabian have impacted the metal scene, specifically with their AAX series. This series is particularly rated for its ability to perform well in recordings, due to each cymbal’s noticeable articulation and bright, shimmering tones that cut right through the mix.

Renowned artists such as Chris Turner, Neil Peart, and Dave Weckl all use the Sabian AAX series for its durability, reliability, and consistency – proof that these are some of the best cymbals for metal!

The introduction of the Thin and Medium crashes in the AAX line-up has been a game-changer, delivering heavenly sounds with the crispness and sustain that metal drummers crave. These cymbals are not only about robust sound but also precision, allowing for detailed articulation in fast-paced metal tracks.

You can achieve a pitch-perfect metal sound with the Sabian AAX 18” X-Plosion Crash Cymbal thanks to its bright, cutting tones that are fantastic for pronounced accents and super heavy crashing. The B20 bronze material it is made from not only looks and sounds good on any stage, but also provides unmatched durability.


7. Meinl Classics Custom Extreme Metal Series

Meinl Classics Custom Extreme Metal 18" CrashKey features

  • Made from B10 bronze alloy
  • High-tech computerised manufacturing
  • Low price range

Pros

  • Outstanding sound quality and aesthetics
  • Brilliant, cutting tones ideal for metal
  • Diverse range suitable for complete setups

Cons

  • Limited to metal music – great for this list but not for other genres

Made in Germany to incredibly high standards, the Meinl Classics Custom Extreme Metal Series is exactly what it says on the tin – designed for metal.

Crafted from B10 bronze alloy, these cymbals leverage high-tech computerised manufacturing to ensure precision and consistency across the board. It’s a series that is designed not just to meet but to exceed the expectations of metal drummers looking for extreme sound capabilities.

This range includes everything from sharp, penetrating splashes to deep, resonating chinas and commanding big bell rides, providing you with the tools you need to deliver powerful performances. The brilliant finish not only adds a striking visual appeal but also enhances the aggressive sound profile that cuts through dense guitar riffs and double bass drumming typical in metal music.

Each cymbal has a bright, cutting tone with extreme clarity even in those most complex fills and passages.

Meinl’s Classic Custom Extreme Metal 18’’ Crash is arguably the best cymbal in this series due to its versatile rideability, dense weight, and deep hammer pinpoints. With volume being a key component to the best metal sound, this cymbal doesn’t disappoint as it projects its sound right to the back of any room or venue.


8. Meinl Classics Custom Series

Meinl Classics Custom 18'' Dark ChinaKey features

  • Four diverse sub-series: Dark, Heavy Dark, Dual, Brilliant
  • Designed for versatility and complex soundscapes
  • Mid price range

Pros

  • Hugely diverse range of cymbals for every drummer
  • Enhanced durability and loudness in Heavy Dark models
  • Hypnotic and sophisticated tones in Dual series

Cons

  • Diverse range may be overcomplicated for beginner drummers

One of the most diverse series for metal drumming is the Meinl Classics Custom which features four main sub-series, each with its own breathtaking finish. This series boasts the Classics Custom, Classics Custom Dark, Classics Custom Dual, and Classics Custom Brilliant cymbals, giving you all the customizability you could dream of from your cymbals.

The Classics Custom Dark sub-series focuses on delivering a shadowy mosaic of complex sounds. By dialling down the sustain and reducing bright overtones, these cymbals offer a darker, more controlled sound, ideal if you’re looking to add depth and intensity to your playing.

The addition of six heavyweight cymbals in the Classics Custom Heavy Dark range further amplifies the aggressive and loud characteristics, making them perfect for powerful performances.

On the other hand, the Classics Custom Dual cymbals bring a different flavour, merging darkness and power with warmth and flexibility. These cymbals are not only visually striking but also produce a hypnotic, sophisticated sound that adds a layer of complexity to any drum setup. Their shimmering tones and easily controllable volume make them exceptionally versatile and suitable for a range of musical styles.

A cymbal from this series that is perfect for metal is the Meinl Classics Custom 18” Dark China. If the stunning dark finish wasn’t enough to prove its commitment to metal, the china cymbal produces explosive, attacking tones from a single strike that truly wakes up any track.


9. Istanbul XIST Series

Istanbul Agop XIST Brilliant Cymbal Set with Free 18'' Crash + BagKey features

  • Combines modern production with traditional handcrafting
  • Diverse range of finishes and tonal characteristics
  • Low price range

Pros

  • Clear, articulate sticking
  • Dark, warm sound characteristics with moderate overtones
  • Hand hammering for reliable durability

Cons

  • Huge range of cymbals may be confusing for some drummers

The Istanbul XIST Series cymbals fuse the old and new, combining modern production techniques with traditional handcrafted processes. This blend not only brings out a diverse selection of sounds that cater to every style of metal but also maintains a high standard of quality and musicality.

These cymbals are known for their clear, articulate sticking and provide a dark, warm crash with moderate overtones. If you’re looking to experiment with your metal drumming and explore new realms, the XIST series offers the flexibility and performance to do so.

The sound characteristics of the XIST cymbals are distinctly modern yet deeply musical, making them a popular choice amongst a variety of professional drummers. They excel in settings where rhythmic precision and tonal warmth are needed, providing a balanced and dynamic performance.

Plus, there’s a huge range of finishes.

For the ultimate setup, we recommend the Istanbul Agop XIST Brilliant Cymbal Set with Free 18” Crash + Bag. It comes with 14’’ hi-hats, a 16’’ crash cymbal, a 20’’ ride cymbal, an 18’’ crash, and a bag to get your kit fully metal-ready.


10. Stagg Myra Series

Stagg Myra 20'' Rock Ride CymbalKey features

  • Made from B20 bronze for rich, warm tones
  • Low price range
  • Features a unique RAW sub-series

Pros

  • Full-bodied and dynamic sound
  • Dark, sweet, and shimmering tonal options
  • Stunning finishes to make your performance stand out

Cons

  • Construction may not suit professional drummers

Stagg’s contemporary Myra series is a top contender as one of the best cymbal series for metal drumming. Crafted from B20 bronze, these cymbals offer warm and rich tones and come in two main sub-series: the brilliant-finished Myra cymbals and the RAW-finished cymbals.

Particularly appealing to heavy hitters, the Myra series stands out on stage with its sheer power and presence. The addition of the RAW sub-series adds an intriguing visual and sonic element to the lineup, ideal if you’re after a unique aesthetic statement during performances.

The RAW sub-series is perfect if you want to take your metal look to a whole new level on stage. What’s more, its pinpoint hammering provides control and stability to the explosive

The Myra 20” Rock Ride, in particular, is great for metal drumming. Made from B20 bronze, it produces vibrant, powerful tones whilst projecting sheer volume, perfect for heavy drumming styles.


11. Meinl Byzance Dark

Meinl Byzance Dark 21'' Double Down Crash/Ride, Matt Halpern Sign.Key features

  • Hand-hammered and unlathed for a unique dark finish
  • Made from B20 bronze in Turkey
  • High Price Range

Pros

  • Crashes open up beautifully then fade sharply
  • Hihats and rides offer clarity, cut, and volume
  • Prominent dark tone suitable for nuanced playing

Cons

  • High price point may not suit budgeting drummers

Last on our list is the Meinl Byzance Dark series which has some of the best-looking cymbals for metal you could get your hands on. Their unlathed design is great for intricate sticking techniques and a raw, earthy overall sound. Crafted from B20 bronze in Turkey, these cymbals are shaped with meticulous attention to detail, providing a unique sound that’s both complex and captivating.

The crashes in this series are designed to hit the sweet spot quickly, opening up with enough presence to be felt, then receding smoothly to allow other instruments to shine. This makes them exceptionally useful for drummers who need cymbals that don’t overpower other sounds.

The hi-hats and rides are clear, loud, and rich in their dark tone, thanks to their unique unlathed surfaces. The Spectrum hi-hats (available in 13″ and 14″) and 22″ ride add an interesting twist with their partially lathed spiral patterns, offering a slight variation in tone and appearance.

Matt Halpern, drummer of legendary band Periphery, has a signature in this series: Meinl Byzance Dark 21” Double Down Crash/Ride. This is a stunning crash-ride cymbal that delivers explosive accents and a unique tone.

Things to consider when buying cymbals for metal music

Volume

It goes without saying that volume is crucial when it comes to cymbals for metal. You need cymbals that can cut through heavily distorted and overdriven electric guitars and complement a double kick drum setup. Keep an eye out for heavy-weighted cymbals as they tend to deliver the best volume.  


Metal alloys

The material of cymbals greatly affects their sound and durability. Most cymbals for metal drumming are made from B20 or B10 bronze.

B20 cymbals, consisting of 20% tin and 80% copper, are known for their rich, complex tones and are highly versatile. B10 cymbals, with 10% tin and 90% copper, generally produce a brighter sound and offer excellent cut and clarity, which is ideal for the crisp articulations required in metal music. 


Brand

Look for a brand you trust. Leading names like Zildjian, Sabian, and Meinl offer ranges specifically tailored to metal music, and their cymbals are known for their durability and ability to produce the high volumes needed for metal. With every brand having its own signature sound, you may want to try out a few different ones to see which matches your style.

Meinl Classics cymbals

FAQs

What cymbals do metal drummers use?

Metal drummers typically use thick, durable cymbals from Zildjian, Sabian, or Meinl. These cymbals are built to withstand the aggressive playing style common in metal music, including heavy riding and crashing.


What size cymbals are best for metal?

Depending on the type of cymbal, the best cymbals for metal tend to be over 18″. These provide the volume and sustain needed to cut through loud guitar amps and bass. Larger ride cymbals and crashes enhance the dramatic impact of metal music. 


Are dark cymbals good for metal?

While metal genres usually require bright, cutting tones, produced by brilliantly finished cymbals, to complement high-energy guitar riffs and double bass drumming, dark cymbals produce a lower tone with a deep resonance that some metal drummers may use for adding specific atmospheric or unique sound to their music. 

Final thoughts

Cymbals are incredibly important in any band setup, but especially so for metal music. The best cymbals for metal project a powerful sound above the dense mix of the rest of the kit, electric guitars, and vocals. If you’re on the hunt for some, we hope our guide has helped!

 

Joe is an enthusiastic drummer who has been drumming for 12 years. He plays Heavy Metal and Djent on drums and also plays some electric guitar in his spare time.

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