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You’ll find Zildjian cymbals in the kits of drummers in all musical styles, from old school jazz to death metal to rock and everything in between. Their catalogue offers drummers a wide range of options, with standard pieces like ride cymbals and hi-hats as well as more specialized effects cymbals.
Whether you lean toward the dark, rich tone of the K series or the brighter, sweeter sound of the A series, one of the cymbals on this list is sure to be just what you’re looking for. They’re the best Zildjian cymbals on the market.
K Constantinople Medium Ride
The Constantinople ride cymbal is an especially popular choice for jazz players because it has a vintage tone reminiscent of the cymbals from the 1950s and ‘60s, with a richer, darker edge that gives you both a sharp, clear attack when struck and an enveloping wash in between articulations. It comes in either a 20” or a 22” diameter, both of which will give you a very similar bold tone with just the right amount of overtones. Both sizes are made of an 80/20 copper/tin alloy.
Because the K series cymbals are still hand-made using traditional tools the cymbals retain some of their naturally occurring surface imperfections (see full specs), giving each cymbal its own unique, complex tone. The hand-crafting also means each cymbal is free of flaws that will cause it to crack or chip, making them some of the most durable ride cymbals on the market.
A Series New Beat Hi Hat Pair
If you’re shopping in the hi-hat department, you should scope out the New Beat Hi Hat from the company’s A series, which is one of their most popular and versatile hi-hat offerings. It’s available in a range of diameters from 13” to 15” and uses a standard 80/20 alloy with a traditional hammering and finish (see full specs).
The relatively bright, light tone of the A-series cymbals is particularly well-suited to the hi-hat, giving you a crisp attack with a short sustain on both the “chick” and on stick strikes. This makes it a very versatile cymbal that will fit in sonically with a variety of kit set-ups and genres. This is one of the best Zildjian cymbals for the money.
A Series Rock Crash Cymbal
As you might infer from the name, this cymbal is specifically designed for players of rock music. It’s one of the highest-pitched and loudest crashes in their catalogue with an impressive sound projection that lets your cymbal cut through the rest of your band without a problem. It uses traditional materials (80/20 copper/tin alloy with traces of silver) and is available in both a 16” and an 18” size, machine hammered and lathed with a wide groove.
The sound is bright but without losing its expression or musicality. It’s a thicker crash cymbal than you might be used to, which can sometimes take some adjustment, but once you’re used to the feel of it the Rock Crash will give you decades of clear, ringing power, with a sound that’s just as good struck on the edge or the bell, and that’s versatile enough to use as a ride cymbal if you so desire. You want the best Zildjian crash cymbal? Well, this is it.
ZHT 10” China Splash
You don’t have to have a massive bankroll to outfit your kit with Zildjian cymbals. If you’re looking for the option that’s the best value in their catalogue, check out the ZHT China Splash, which gives you that coveted Zildjian sound and craftsmanship for under $100.
It has the square cup and exaggerated bow angle of an authentic Oriental cymbal, providing your kit with that extra shimmer you can’t get from the other cymbals on your rack. It’s also incredibly thin and has a lot of give, meaning it has just the stick feel most players are looking for when they buy a new splash. Don’t think that just because it’s affordable means it’s low-quality; the ZHT China cymbal is made to the same exacting specifications as the rest of the cymbals in the Zildjian line.
The Best Zildjian Cymbals – Which Ones Do You Need?
The drums that you’ll include in a typical kit are fairly standard: a snare, a kick drum, and one or two toms depending on your tastes. When it comes to cymbals, however, they’re much more personal to your needs as a player. While pretty much every kit will have a hi-hat and some kind of ride cymbal, beyond that the choices are all dependent on your style as a player—and could even change depending on which genre or style you’re playing at the time.
Most kits will also have a crash cymbal somewhere on their rack. This can also double as your ride cymbal, depending on your needs, but is often a separate piece of equipment used specifically for heavy, sharp accents. You will typically want a cymbal with a brighter tone and better projection for your crash cymbal than for the cymbals in your kit that are more for ostinato rhythms, like the hi-hat or ride.
While the best Zildjian crash cymbals are typically for loud, heavy accents, there are a variety of different styles available for different levels and types of accents. China cymbals (also called “trash cymbals”) are a variant on the crash cymbal. They have a similar shape to a gong, with a square head that’s more pronounced than a typical cymbal bell, and give you a brighter, crisper tone than the standard crash. They also tend to be a bit smaller for accessing higher pitches and overtones and can give your accents a very explosive sound that projects through an ensemble. You can also find splash cymbals, which are often the smallest accent cymbals on your kit, and are used for even higher pitches and sharper accents than the China cymbal.
While most players will choose one or two different crash or effect cymbals for their kit, you can truly have as many or as few as you’d like. The right way to know which are the best Zildjian cymbals on your kit is to try them out. Overloading your rack can make it tricky to navigate, but you want to give yourself as many sonic options as you’ll need for your set. As you find the right cymbals for your playing style and genre, you’ll be able to personalize your tone, making the kit truly your own. Good luck!