Luckily, refinements in the automation process have let many manufacturers create high-quality cymbals with less labor, bringing down the prices while maintaining the musicality. If you’re a drummer on a budget, it can be daunting trying to find a cymbal that sounds great and still fits into your budget—but there are options out there, and the four on this list are likely the best cheap cymbals you can buy (cheap being in price, of course, and not quality).
Sabian 10” SBR Splash
Some people spend twenty bucks on a new pair of sticks, so many people are understandably dubious when they hear you can get a quality cymbal for just a couple bucks more. That’s just what Sabian delivers, though, with their 10” SBR splash. It has a pure brass sound that’s tight and bright, with a hammered surface that has a smooth natural finish.
It’s perfect for punchy accents, with a crisp and powerful response. This is an excellent choice for a beginner kit, not just because of its value but also because it’s very durable, giving you a consistent sound even after lots of use. The versatile sound also makes it great for young players, working with them as they experiment with different styles.
Meinl HCS-FX Box Set (10” Splash, 12” China)
It’s common wisdom that if you buy in bulk you can save a bit of money per item, and that advice even holds true when it comes to cymbals. By buying this pack of cymbals, you can both a splash and a China cymbal for around $25 each, an incredible value for the quality of equipment you’re getting. The set also comes with a free stacker attachment that can be mounted without using an extra stand, adding to the value.
In terms of sound, the 12” china cymbal (see full specs) has a powerful, bright sound that cuts through the mix. The 10” crash cymbal has a fast decay and sharp attack that complement the sound of the splash. The light weight and versatility of Meinl cymbals makes them great for all-purpose kits, giving you a professional sound and look at student prices. Hands down, these are among the best cheap cymbals on the market.
Meinl HCS14CH 14” HCS Traditional China
Of course, if all you need is a single new effect cymbal you won’t be saving any money by buying two. The Meinl HCS line of traditional china cymbals is an affordable option that’s available in a wide range of sizes to suit your needs.
This cymbal has a sound that’s bright and powerful on the attack but darker on the sustain (see full specs), an overall tonal picture that makes this cymbal very versatile. It can be used as a trash effect or for more of a crash or ride sound depending on your style and needs. Ultimately this makes it an even better value since it can function in so many ways on your kit.
WUHAN WUSP 10” Splash Cymbal
This quick little cymbal gives you everything you want in a splash, and for less than $25. As affordable as it is, this cymbal doesn’t sound cheap, with a full sustain and a rich, bright tone. It gives you the power you need, too—none of that thin, wimpy sound you’ll sometimes get from cheap cymbals.
Wuhan makes their affordable cymbals with the same attention to detail and craftsmanship as their pricier models. This is a durable and tuneful cymbal, loud enough to balance with the rest of your kit and band but not so bright as to be abrasive. The WUSP from Wuhan has a sound that fits right in on a professional kit for less than half the cost of most cymbals on the market This should be on anyone’s list of the best cheap cymbals.
What’s the Difference?
A full array of cymbals gives you more tonal options and helps you to develop your own unique ideal sound. You’re likely to devote more of your budget to your hi-hat and ride cymbal, since these are more integral to your groove, making splash and china cymbals (like the ones on the list above) the areas of your kit you’ll be most likely looking to fill on the cheap. Knowing how to choose the good from the bad will help you to get the right sound without wiping out your bank account.
Your ears will probably know a bad cymbal from a good before your eyes learn how to see the differences. Use your ears when you’re shopping for new cymbals. If there’s a musical instrument store nearby, pay a visit and try out a few different weights and brands. If you’re shopping online, watching videos can at least let you hear the cymbal in action, even if you can’t get the feel of playing it. And, of course, you can always find an online source (like Amazon) that allows you to return products you don’t want with a no-questions-asked policy.
A quality cymbal is best heard in the sustain. It doesn’t have to be a long sustain, but the sound will be rich, with a full tone that’s more musical than metallic. A cymbal that clangs or has no identifiable pitch is probably made from either low-quality materials or with poor technique. Lower-quality cymbals also often have a muted or dull quality to the sound, and don’t give you the same power on the front end of the attack. A good cymbal, on the other hand, has a loud, clear sound that projects through an ensemble. An experienced drummer can tell a good cymbal by its feel. It will be quick to respond to your strikes and will be sensitive to changes in your touch.
When you’re shopping in the budget-friendly price range, making sure you’re getting a quality product is the most important thing. In the case of the cymbals on the list above, the price is kept low by using a common alloy for the construction and automating certain steps of the production. Be wary of any cymbals you find in the budget price range that claim to be hand-hammered. While hand hammering is generally more desirable, giving the cymbal more depth and musicality, it also tends to be what raises the prices of higher-end cymbals. With these ideas in mind, we’re sure you’ll find the best cheap cymbal for your needs. Good luck!