Best Cymbal Pack – Definitive Guide [2020 Update]

If you are in a hurry and want to know what’s the best cymbal pack. I will give you 3 options for 3 different situations.

  1. For your first drum kit: Meinl Cymbals HCS Super Set Box Pack
  2. You are tired of brass cymbals and want to upgrade: Zildjian I Family Pro Gig Cymbal Pack
  3. For an experienced player and ready for a significant upgrade: Zildjian A Custom Cymbal Set

Do you know what the surest route to a drummer’s heart is? If you guessed cymbals, you are right.

After almost 30 years of playing drums, I’m still fascinated by how crisp cymbals look in my drum set and how well they enhance my jamming sessions. They are so important to me that I don’t bother by spending hours cleaning them Saturday afternoons, it’s just like therapy.

So What Should You Look For In A Cymbal?

Today I’m going to teach how you can buy the best cymbal pack, and what really matters with all these different specs you can find in thousands of cymbals available in the market.

Material

A cymbal’s material is probably the most important specification you should look for when buying your cymbal pack. Why? Because if you know its material, you can expect a certain level of sound even before hearing it.

The material they come from its called alloy (a combination of metals) and the alloy’s quality ends up affecting the cymbal’s overall sound. Each specific alloy has its own formulas and names in the cymbal manufacturing industry, so I will simplify the most common alloys. 

But before getting to know them, please, keep in mind three things:

1- That the major element in most cymbal alloys is copper. Although there are very small amounts of other elements usually contained, the most significant of these give the alloy its name (e.g., Bell Bronze and Nickel).

2- The easiest way to refer to a bronze alloy is by the amount of tin is mixed in with copper (e.g., B20 and B8).

3- The cymbal’s alloy matters a lot? As said previously, yes. But is not the sole determinant of sound. Being open-minded when it comes to “out of mainstream” cymbal alloys can be positive to make the most of your drum-set choices.

B20 or Bell Bronze

Or simply bronze alloy, Paiste calls it CuSn20, and Zildjian calls it “Zildjian Secret Alloy.” It’s a bronze formula comprised of 80% copper and 20% tin (acceptable range of 18.5% tin to 21.5% tin), with traces of silver. This is the traditional alloy used, and its found in most high-quality cymbals because it’s challenging to work with and requires expert craftsmanship.

They provide warm and soft sounds with the most performance and can be found in cymbals like Zildjian A Series Custom and Zildjian K Series.

B8 or Malleable bronze

A formula of bronze comprised of 92% copper and 8% tin.  They are usually cheaper and mid-performance. You can differ them from B20 by their more reddish tint. Nowadays, with modern techniques in cymbal manufacturing, they sound a lot better than a decade ago; that’s because, from the mid 20th century, there were attempts to make high-quality cymbals from this alloy because of economic reasons. 

Cymbals made from B8 alloy are noted for a really bright sound and can be found in cymbals like Paiste 2002 (John Bonham’s favorite cymbals) and Zildjian I Series.

B12

The B12 is an intermediate tin level formula with 88% copper and 12% tin. They balance output and control, warmth, and cut. You can find this alloy can be found in the Zildjian S Series.

B15 (Paiste Signature Alloy)

This is a formula created by cymbal manufacturer Paiste in 1989. Basically, a cymbal series composed of sheet metal bronze with about 15% tin. The patent for Paiste Signature Alloy covers B13 to B18, narrowing down to B15 as giving the best results.

As this alloy is now out of patent, it can be found not only in Paiste Signature cymbals but also in Zildjian Project 391 limited edition 2014.

Brass

An alloy made from copper and zinc, it’s mostly used for budget cymbals. They feel lighter and warmer due to the density and thermal conductivity of the metal. You can spot Brass cymbals easily because they are much brighter than bronze cymbals.

Paiste 302 and Meinl Marathon are some examples of cymbals made with brass.

Nickel-Silver

This is a formula that resembles steel cymbals in many cases. As the name tells, these cymbals are made of nickel-silver. This alloy is known for not corroding quickly. Like brass cymbals, this alloy is also used mostly for budget cymbals.

Some cymbal examples are Meinl Marathon N12 and Paiste 402.

Bell Size

A bell is a domed structure in the center of a cymbal, as incredible as it may seem, bells play a significant role in a drum cymbal’s sound.

Smaller bells add harmonics, a higher frequency in the sound. A good example is Zildjian Series I cymbals; they feature a smaller bell because they are made with B8 alloys, which, as specified before, give a bright sound, a higher frequency. This way, Zildjian’s Series I cymbals can keep a sweet and well-balanced sound.

Heavy cymbals with big bells are recommended for a more powerful sound. Rides especially tend to have a great bell ‘ping.’ Below a good example, Aquiles Priester’s Paiste 18″ 2002 Giga Bell Rider Cymbal Psychoctopus, one of my favorite rides for playing metal.

Above we reviewed five options of really nice sets of quality cymbal packs for beginners, intermediate and advanced drummers.

1. Best Sounding Beginner’s Pack – Sabian SBr Cymbal Set

Key Features:

  • Material: Brass
  • 10″, 14″ X2 (hi-hats), 16″, 20″

This is an excellent set for beginners by Sabian. It comes with all “essential” cymbals for drummers: 14″ hi-hats, 16″ crash, 20″ ride, and a 10″ splash. This pack is produced from a “special formula brass alloy” at the Sabian plant in Canada, and we can say it’s worth Sabian’s stamp on it.

They are medium-weighted and feature a classic profile with their deep, large-peen hammering and pinpoint lathing. The same lathing that Sabian lavishes on its bronze cymbals. 

Something really nice about this cymbal pack is that Sabian has extracted the maximum sustain from what usually is unresponsive brass.

A highlight in this pack is the 20″ ride, a jazzy cymbal,  surprisingly good, has a warm, rich tone with a sharp ping, I was really pleased with the sound, they sound better than some costing twice as much. The 10″ splash sounds nice for brass cymbals and does the trick for the money. The 16″ crash is a Great starter cymbal, It does not sound like a high-end Sabian, but it has a satisfying tone.

However, the 14″ hi-hats were disappointing, they resonate well but don’t sound really clean, acceptable as they are a lot better than those that come with a starter drum kit. 

In general, these cymbals sound bright but lack some sustain – characteristics of brass cymbals, but they sure sound better than most brass competitors in the same price range, and others even say they sound better than some B8’s. Not bad for a starter pack.

Pros:

  • Same lathing as Sabian’s bronze cymbals
  • It’s an excellent cymbal starter pack

Cons:

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

2. Best Beginner’s Pack – Meinl Cymbal HCS Super Set

Key Features:

  • Material: Brass
  • 7-piece set: 10″, 14″ X2 (hi-hats), 16″, 16″, 18″, 20″ 

If you like to try out different sounds without expending too much, this is definitely the pack for you. It includes 14″ hi-hats, 20″ ride, 16″ crash, 18″ crash, 10″ splash, and the coolest part, an 16″ china effect cymbal. 

Thanks to its great variety of sounds, it’s an excellent choice for students, beginners, and teachers (or even jamming at home). It opens up even more different possibilities and enhances the creativeness of playing, and what’s best, makes the drum learning experience even more joyful. You can find those in a lot of studios and classrooms.

This cymbal pack features the same “Made in Germany” engraved logo, and a big “Meinl” stamp seen in more expensive Meinl cymbals.

As you can see in the video below, they sound good for brass cymbals. But in comparison to Sabian SBr Cymbal Set (also reviewed by us), they have a short sustain and shallow sound.

Overall, buy this if you want to own a lot of cymbals and try out different sounds at an excellent price. If you are looking for a gift to young drummers, this pack is terrific. Personally, If I were a teenager, I’d love to get one of those packs for Christmas or whatever.

Pros:

  • Variety of sounds
  • Recommended for students and teachers

Cons:

  • Can sound shallow in comparison to other brass cymbals

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

3. Best Intermediate Pack – Zildjian I Family Pro Gig Cymbal Pack

Key Features:

  • Material: B8 or Malleable bronze
  • 5-piece set: 14” X2 (hi-hats), 16”, 18”, 20” 

The Zildjian I series replaced the controversial Zildjian ZBT series. Zildjian called it “I series” because of “Ilham,” the Turkish word for inspiration.

The good news is that If you are familiarized with the discontinued ZBT’s, many reviewers say that the I Series sounds a lot better a lot more airy and bright – as they are also thinner than ZBT’s.

In this pack are included: 14″ hi-hat, 14″ crash, 18″ crash, and sweet-sounding 20″ ride. The first time I played with these cymbals I was definitely impressed, they really sound descent. 

Obviously, they don’t sound the same, but they remind me of Paiste’s 2002, and after reading a lot of reviews, I saw other drummers saying the exact same thing.

This is the first cymbal in this roundup review that isn’t made of brass alloy, but instead a B8 alloy. Basically, the B8 alloy we can say is the first stage of bronze cymbals (where cymbals start to sound really good). And that’s the case with the I series, its alloy combined with a small bell present in every cymbal of the pack creates a bright but balanced sound. 

If you own brass or nickel cymbals you will notice a lot of difference, the sounds get more sustain, especially when playing the 16″ and 18″ crashes. 

It isn’t made for professionals or full-time musicians, and other Zildjian series like S, K, and Avedis are better recommended for this use. But it’s important to mention that Mike Mangini (Dream Theater) uses a 13″ inch ZBT hi-hat in his official drum set, so we can conclude sound matters more than anything.

Overall, this cymbal pack is a good option for those looking for sturdier and more expressive sounds in their drum kits at a very reasonable price.

Pros:

  • Made from B8 alloy
  • Durable
  • Balanced sound

Cons:

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

4. Best Advanced Cymbal Pack – Zildjian A Custom Cymbal Set

Key Features:

  • Material: B20
  • 5-piece set: 14” X2 (hi-hats), 16”, 18”, 20” 

Developed with help from the American drummer Vinnie Colaiuta, this set of cymbals is easily identifiable because of its brilliant finish. 

Zildjian’s A Custom cymbals sound amazing, they give the perfect bright/glassy that became a cliche when describing A Custom series. Some drummers (myself included) even recommend this set over the more expensive Zildjian’s K Series. 

The hi-hats are great for metal, rock, and funk, but not an excellent fit for possible low volume, acoustic styles. I really enjoy playing the 18″ crash cymbal, use it into fills, out of fills, whatever. It is, by far, the best in the bunch. 

The 20″ ride features A Custom series signature glassy sound with a bit of wash that adds to the versatility in ways that some of the ping-style rides that Zildjian offers just can’t. 

The 16″ has a higher pitch, opens rapidly on the attack and has rapid decay, but is not nearly as versatile as its 18″.

I’ve seen players complaining about these cymbals breaking easily (especially the 16″), but on the other hand, I talked to some friends that own A Custom series for years and play in gigs. They swear that it’s a really tough cymbal. In the end, If you are a hard-hitter drummer, be aware.

The first time I heard a drummer playing with one of these, I knew I had to own one. After this roundup review, this is the set I personally bought, especially for playing every Sunday at church. These are really good cymbals and a solid investment.

Pros:

  • Great sound
  • Recommended for studio recording

Cons:

  • Not recommend for hard-hitting drummers

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

5. Best Budget Advanced Pack – Meinl Cymbals Pack Classic Custom Dark

Key Features:

  • Material: B10
  • 5-piece set: 15” X2 (hi-hats), 18”, 20”, 22” 

This pack is a huge step up from the Meinl HCS, the first cymbal pack reviewed today. Instead of brass, these cymbals feature a B10 alloy crafted in Germany, well made and really heavy.  A nice feeling by just holding them. These are loud, aggressive, and cut through, but don’t overstay their welcome. 

This pack features bigger cymbal sizes than others we reviewed because this set is made for more aggressive playing styles. It includes 15″ well-balanced dark hi-hats that get a nice sizzle when they’re open, a 20″ crash, a 22″ pingy dark ride, and 18″ dark trash crashes, which produces a beautiful dark tone.

The 20″ dark crash keeps the aggressive tone, but it lacks cymbal response; I suppose its meant for heavy break downs.

Some drummers complain that they don’t sound right when recording in a studio.

For its price, it’s of the best “all-around” cymbal pack you can find. Meinl has a unique style and a variety of cymbals. If you like cymbals with a quick decay and dark tones, these are the cymbals for you.

Pros

  • Recommended to heavy music styles

Cons

  • 20″ dark crash lacks cymbal response

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Conclusion

I wish I could only pick one winner, but I can’t. There are different “stages” in a drummer’s life and recommended cymbals for each one of them. So I picked three cymbal packs for three different “stages.”

Beginner:

You started drumming, you bought your first kit that came with those horrible cymbals, and you want to upgrade. Get the Meinl Cymbals HCS Super Set Box Pack, it’s a really nice pack, sound good for brass cymbals, the main feature here is the variety of cymbals. It’s really cool to get to know different sounds like the 16″ china effect cymbal and 2 separate crashes. It makes the drum learning experience more exciting and joyful. If you are buying for younger drummers, they will love this as people playing drums for the first time mostly go crazy with cymbals (tell my kids that).

Intermediate:

Now you are playing for some time with your brass cymbals and decide to get the grips of drumming. Time to level-up, and buy better sounding and sturdier cymbals. I recommend the Zildjian I Series. Made from a B8 alloy, Zildjian really got it right after discontinuing the ZBT series. These are some sharp sounding cymbals that even resemble the all-time great Paiste’s 2002 cymbals. It comes with an excellent price for your first bronze cymbals and will last some good years.

Advanced:

The last pack recommended today is the Zildjian A Custom series. It’s the best cymbal pack as I bought them after writing this roundup review. With an awesome-looking brilliant finish, these cymbals are overall amazing. They sound fantastic if you are playing in gigs, recording in the studio, or want definitely to level up your home drumming. This pack is an investment for many years, it’s durable and comes at a fair price in comparison to its competitor Sabian HHX and the more expensive Zildjian K series.

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