Because they tend to be larger—typically between 20” and 22” on most kits—ride cymbals in general cost a bit more than smaller effect cymbals or hi-hats, but this doesn’t mean you have to despair if you’re on a budget and need a cheap ride cymbal (and we use “cheap” strictly in terms of price, not quality). The options below all cost reasonably and make excellent choices for a wide array of genres and playing styles.
These are our recommendations for the 4 best cheap ride cymbals on the market:
Sabian SBR 2012 Pure Brass 20” Ride Cymbal
Sabian as a brand is synonymous with quality cymbals, and this very affordable ride cymbal is no exception. The surface of these ride cymbals is both hammered and lathed to give you a tightly focused sound with the pure essence of brass. There is no skimping on the craftsmanship, even in the value end of their catalogue; each of their cymbals is tested for durability and consistency.
Because it’s made of brass, this cymbal will give you a bright tone, with more presence in the higher end of the frequency range, making it perfect for cutting through loud rock or country bands. The natural finish and sleek design also mean it will look great on any kit.
Meinl Cymbals HCS20R 20” Traditional Ride Cymbal
- Meinl 20" Ride Cymbal - HCS Traditional Finish Brass for Drum Set, Made in Germany, 2-YEAR WARRANTY (HCS20R)
- Price: $79.99
- Price as of 09/21/2020 11:58 PDT(more info)
Another great option for a rock drummer is the HCS20R from Meinl. It’s designed for pop or rock ensembles, with a warm tone on the sustain that still gives you plenty of penetrating stick definition so your ride patterns cut through the ensemble. It’s crafted from a MS63 brass alloy, formulated both for musicality and durability. It’s built to stand up to the force of your sticks, giving you an array of clear pitches and tones from the different regions of the cymbal.
Overall, the tones have a relatively short sustain that’s centered more in the mid- to low-range frequencies, giving your sound complexity and depth. At this price, it’s an affordable way to add professional-level performance to your kit—truly one of the best cheap ride cymbals around.
Zildjian ZBT 20” Ride Cymbal
If you’re looking for an all-purpose ride cymbal that can serve you well across styles and genres, the ZBT from Zildjian is an excellent option. It uses a unique bronze alloy exclusive to the ZBT series, giving them an intense, bright sound with impressively clean articulation and tight control on the overtones (see full specs). This gives you quick response with a quick decay.
The cymbals in the ZBT lines are also incredibly consistent, giving you complete control over your sound and a professional level of performance and musicality every time you sit down at your kit. The advanced hammering and lathing techniques utilized in the construction of these cymbals improves their durability, as well. It will serve you well for longer than most options at this price point.
Zildjian Planet Z 20” Ride Cymbal
The Planet Z line from Zildjian is designed to give you clear definition on all your attacks. It’s a bright cymbal, made of an innovative nickel-silver alloy that makes them more expressive. They’re impressively responsive for a ride cymbal in the price range, with a variety of sonic possibilities depending on where you strike the ride.
This is a very versatile ride cymbal. It’s relatively forgiving, which makes it great for beginners and students. It doesn’t sound tinny, though, and has a rich enough sound to function equally well in on-stage performance. It’s also very powerful, capable of producing massive walls of sound, especially when you strike it along the outer edge. Since it’s made by Zildjian, you also know it’s made to last—not susceptible to cracking or failing over time, like some other low-price cymbals. The Zildjian Planet Z 20” ride is an exceptional value for the money.
The Best Cheap Ride Cymbal Materials
The main difference you’ll find between the different cymbals on the market is in the kind of metal used in their construction. Cymbals use a copper-based alloy of some nature. An alloy is simply a mix of different metals, which are melted together; the exact ratios of different metals in the alloy are what give each cymbal its own distinctive tone and sound quality. While there are some alloys that are considered best for certain purposes, which one is right for your kit is largely a matter of finding the one that best suits your ideal tone.
The most common alloy used in cymbals is bronze, which is a mix of copper with tin, sometimes with trace amounts of other metals, like silver. The ratio of copper to tin is expressed with the letter B followed by a numeral. The two most popular bronze alloys you’ll find are B20, or “bell bronze,” which is 20% tin, and B8, which is 8% tin. You will also find cymbals made of brass, which is an alloy of copper and zinc.
The kind and thickness of the metal will also be the main difference between cymbals at different price points. More specialized alloys are likely to cost a bit more than standard alloys. A good rule of thumb is that the higher the ratio of tin or zinc to copper, the more expensive the cymbal will be, though this isn’t always the case. Alloys that use other metals, like silver, also tend to be a bit pricier.
In terms of the sound difference, the more copper is in the mix, the brighter and more focused the sound will be. A cymbal made from a B8 alloy, which is 92% copper, will have more high-frequencies in the sound than one made from B20. More tin in a bronze alloy will give you a richer and more sustained sound. Brass, on the other hand, will have a slightly more muffled sound as compared to bronze cymbals. They also tend to be less durable and more limited in the range of tones they can produce.
Ultimately, the right balance of cost and sound will determine which of the best will count as the best cheap ride cymbal for you. Good luck!
Micah Johnson started playing music in high school, when he taught himself the bass to join his friend’s band. He added guitar and drums during his twenties playing in local clubs, and along the way, he picked up unique, hands-on experience from hand drums to studio mixers. On Song Simian, he aims to share this knowledge from 20+ years playing and recording music. When not in gearhead mode, he enjoys photography and travel. Email him