Let’s Band Together on the Never-Ending Journey to Find the 11 Best Cymbals for Metal

For all genres of music and iconic bands within them, there is a signature sound. Whether it be the manic energy that Keith Moon showed his kit, the surgical precision of a Neil Peart solo, or the everlasting bass drum roll that John Bonham made infamous

From my first time hearing live drums to now helping my fellow musicians in their hunt for the perfect cymbal; it feels like a full circle mission that will hopefully help guide the seasoned player or inspire someone to pick up a pair of sticks for the first time.

Let us dive into what you will learn from this article:

  • Our top overall cymbal picks
  • Some solid criteria to select the right cymbal for you
  • Comparisons around cymbal features, the good, the bad, and the ugly.
  • Some must haves for any drummer

We have scoured the web by way of 44 individual product reviews to ensure we are bringing you all the top-tier info for you to build your very own custom cymbal setup. I pulled data from sites such as Reddit, Drummerworld, and Drumforum to compile the overall roadmap we are about to embark on.

Some worthy runners-up, that didn’t quite make the cut of our final list are:

The little cymbals that could. Great products but they do not land a top spot in our best of the best listing.

Our Top Pick

There can only be one winner and here is my favorite cymbal.

Zildjian A Custom Cymbal Pack

Zildjian A Custom Pack

What’s inside?

  • A “bright” and crisp sounding tone
  • Thin design to cut through loud frequency
  • Q62 Handslide: .562-inch, standard-weight yellow brass; nickel-silver wide crook

Best for: Show-stopping aesthetic with a razor-sharp sound

Check price on Amazon →

Check price on Guitar Center →

Check price on Musician’s Friend →

The A Customs are great for all genres but lending its clear and sharp sound to be more defined and noticeable over heavy and high distortion riffs. Beautifully crafted with their signature light glassy shine these bad boys were made to be seen as well as heard.

Also Great

There is also another great option for your kit:

Sabian AAX X-Plosion Crash

Sabian AAX  X-Plosion 18” Crash

What’s inside?

  • A thin yet powerful crash cymbal
  • Penetrating definition
  • Clear and quick performance

Best for: Achieving a deep and impactful tone with all the beauty of a light and bright design

Check price on Amazon →

Check price on Guitar Center →

Check price on Musician’s Friend →

A lean, mean, sound machine; the Sabian AAX crash cymbal redefines what a thin cymbal can sound like. Its purely powerful tone can cut through any thick wall of metal put in front of it. This cymbal has come to play and be played.

Best Bang for Your Buck!

 We all know money makes the world go round so let’s make sure we are going in the right direction when it comes to making a long-lasting purchase towards building a specific drum style and sound.

Step 1 – Analyze Your Budget

Analyze Your BudgetSome sage advice is to follow your ear, not the price tag when it comes to selecting the right cymbals for your kit, style, and overall sound you want to achieve.

Focus on the quality of sound the cymbals produce, not the quantity for the listing price. If you can feel the sound reverberating in your gut, then trust it.

You don’t want to break the bank when looking for the right cymbals, rather ensure that you are crash testing (pun intended) multiple brands and styles.

Step 2 – A Pack or Separate Items from Different Manufacturers

To mix and match? Or be a beacon of brand loyalty. What a paradox. You wouldn’t buy a car without testing driving, would you?

Cymbal Pack vs Single Item

So don’t base your decision on outfitting your kit with new cymbals without throwing down a few paradiddles on your newly sought-after set additions. The decision to customize or buy a pack together, should be solely based on your preference.

For the adventurous types you could always go the route of cymbal modification down the road as your style and progression advances.

Step 3 – What Kind of Cymbals Do You Want?

Socrates said it best. “Know thy self” and in this case know what depth and scalability you are seeking when choosing the cymbals you want in your arsenal.

Cymbal Types

This includes every kind of setup from the stripped-down minimalist types like The White Stripes and Black Keys. To a completely kitted-out structure of sound like Motely Crue or more infamously Frank Zappa’s drummer Terry Bozzio who undoubtedly has assembled the largest tour kit ever. This includes:

  • 4 bass drums
  • 15 toms (5 piccolo toms and 10 rack/floor toms)
  • 9 hi-hat and bass drum pedals
  • 50 (yes 50!) Sabian Radia cymbals
  • A gong
  • Enough DW hardware to sink a ship

Impressive? Yes. Excessive? Wells that’s for you to decide. Different stick strokes for different folks.

Are you new to cymbals and drums? Learn how long does it take to learn it from this article.

My List of the 11 Best Cymbals for Metal

After checking out the list, keep reading to see a detailed review of each cymbal’s features, advantages and disadvantages as well as some videos that demonstrate how they sound.

Cymbals for Metal
Stagg DH Exo Medium Thin Crash 18"

Loud and heavy sound. Great for drummers that want to make a statement.

Amazon →Guitar Center→Musician’s Friend →
Sabian AAX X-Plosion Crash 18"

Power and presence. This crash is a match made in heaven for a heavy hitter.

Great Choice
Amazon →Guitar Center→Musician’s Friend →
Paiste 2002 Classic Crash 18"

Best for ultifaceted players that want to jump into different genres.

Amazon →Guitar Center→Musician’s Friend →
Paiste RUDE Thin Crash 18"

Stamina and projection. Suited for a player that has evolved into a more theory-based player.

Amazon →Guitar Center→Musician’s Friend →
Sabian Paragaon Chinese 19"

The strong yet sensitive type. The power this cymbal possesses is subtle but strong.

Amazon →Sweetwater→Musician’s Friend →
Meinl Byzance Dark Crash 18"

Good for an imperfectionist. This crash has a bold and dark sound that makes its point and leaves.

Amazon →Guitar Center→Musician’s Friend →
Meinl Classics Custom Dark Cymbal Set

Dark delivery. This cymbal set makes you feel like you are on a covert music mission.

Amazon →Sweetwater→Guitar Center →
Zildjian A Custom Cymbal Pack

Best for bright sounds with the crisp clarity that can slice through any high-density hard-hitting tones.

Our Top Pick
Amazon →Guitar Center→Musician’s Friend →
Sabian AAX Promotional Set

Perfect for seeking a new and signature sound that doesn’t exist in the cymbal market until now.

Amazon →Sweetwater→Drum Center →
Zildjian K Custom Hybrid Pack

Crowd-pleasing, and versatile. This pack can wear many hats and change on a dime

Amazon →Guitar Center→Musician’s Friend →
Sabian HHX Evolution Promotional Set

Raw and glassy. Best for showcasing an eclectic presentation of dark thin cymbals.

Amazon →Guitar Center→Musician’s Friend →

Now I know this list has you vibrating with anticipation and wanting more so let’s get all your long-awaited cymbal questions answered.

Like any good drummer with their feet planted firmly on the floor, thank you for keeping your pants on thus far. Now on with the headliner you have all come here to see.

Criticism of Cymbolism – Let’s Review

Here we will go over all the ins and outs of the cymbals I have reviewed. What makes them stand out, or stand apart from their product counterparts?

What type of drumming style will be conducive to each type of cymbal, as well as the poignant details of their unique characteristics and overall sound? Let’s unpack all your options whether you are looking for different types of crash cymbals, or what pack is the best fit for you.

I will make sure we separate church and state with this list by having the first section (Numbers 11-8) include single cymbals, while the last half (Numbers 7-1) will be packs from a single manufacturer.

11. Stagg DH Exo Medium Thin Crash

This thin crash offering from Stagg gives you all the quality you have come to expect from the big brands, but with the affordability of a relatively new cymbal manufacturer.

Stagg DH Exo Medium Thin Crash 18 in

Stagg started handcrafting their cymbals in 1995 and the DH (Dual Hammered) EXO series delivers on its promise of being extremely genre pleasing. It can cut through metal while also providing a shimmering glass tone to accompany any slow jazzy groove.

This cymbal is comparable to the Sabian Vault Artisan series but a little lighter on the pocketbook.

Best for

Beginners because of price point, or anyone looking for a low-cost multitalented cymbal.

Killer Feature

Versatility and range of tonality


  • Great for demanding players
  • Medium Weight yet thin
  • Simmering and short


  • Hand Lathed Craftmanship produces quality sound
  • It sounds very similar to the Sabian AAX X-plosion but Stagg is cheaper btw 🙂
  • Durability
  • Open up well and have a nice sustaining sound: rich tone and expressive wash


  • Limited stock in most brick-and-mortar music stores to test out
  • Not a flashy name brand (if that’s your thing)

Watch James Chapman give an in-depth and glowing review of the Stagg DH Exo series Medium Thin Crash. He demos various tempos and musical genres in which the Stagg shines and showcases its dynamic sound.

Buying Options

10. Sabian AAX X-Plosion Crash

The Sabian AAX has a piercing and penetrative sound with a high degree of sensitivity which alludes to a minimal effort for maximum range. Due to its pinpoint lathing, this cymbal opens very fast and comes across as crisp and clean.

Sabian AAX X-Plosion Crash 18 inch

Although it is a medium to thin weight cymbal it still is a little thicker than the Zildjian A Custom crash. Overall, the Sabian AAX is an absolute workhorse and makes a great addition to any kit.

Best for

Drummers seeking a wide range of sound and versatility

Killer Feature

Explosive response and very punchy accents


  • Raw bell design
  • Available in “Modern Dark” models
  • Cutting Highs


  • You get dark full tone and with a long decay from this cymbal
  • Pinpoint lathing creates a tight and clean shimmer
  • High performance and a very complimentary cymbal
  • Very quick response with bright explosion


  • Limited long projection
  • Bell carries a damped sound but if you need to make a bell sound but don’t want any ride wash, you go to this cymbal.

Although this YouTube review may be a little bit of a “fox in charge of the henhouse” scenario. Watch Chris Delisa from Sabian give us some insight as to why the AAX crash is a quintessential choice when purchasing a cymbal for any drummer or music genre.

Buying Options

9. Paiste 2002 Crash

A Swiss import with a very nostalgic sound. Since 1971 Paiste has been the signature classic rock crash cymbal sound.

Paiste 2002 Classic Crash 18 inch

If you’re looking for a traditional live performance cymbal that also holds its own in the recording studio then look no further. Paiste has done a great job in designing the 2002 to deliver high projection along with an all-encompassing full-bodied sounding cymbal.

Best for

Classic rock drummers and studio sessions

Killer Feature

Even Response with a rare medium sustain


  • Lively intensity
  • Consistent overall tonality
  • High energy performance


  • Washy stick sound
  • If you need the classic rock sound you won’t be disappointed  but they are suitable for all genres of music
  • Clear and warm range


  • Somewhat heavier than most crashes
  • Susceptible to edge damage
  • Limited versatility

The Soundattack channel lets us know why the Paiste 2002 has been a mainstay in the crash cymbal collection for 50 years. Timeless and still sought after in the modern rock genre for those wanting to capture the lofty sounds of 1970’s rock.

Buying options

8. Paiste Rude Thin Crash

If you have ever heard that an inch can make all the difference, then for your sake I hope you were overhearing a conversation around the Paiste 19” Thin Crash from Rude.

A thick and audacious crash cymbal, but still thin by Rude’s standards; its un-lathed surface creates an in-your-face projection while maintaining a very warm and uniform sustain.

Paiste RUDE Thin Crash 18 inch

Considered to still have a bright tone, it does weigh a little heavier than most crash cymbals and is on the darker side. If you are looking for a similar yet lighter glassier sound, go ahead and stack the Rude 18” Wild Crash up against it.

The Thin Crash is by far the most polite member of the Rude family all the while still reminding us it has an edge by belting out a commanding sound.

Best for

Heavy and seasoned players

Killer Feature

Shattering attack and unbridled tone


  • Traditional crash sound
  • Dry unrefined surface and sound
  • Excellent for hard-hitting metal and rock bands


  • Deep and resonating bell
  • A brazen and dark-colored appearance
  • A very long sustain


  • High price point
  • Easily cracked
  • Does not mix well with classic 2002 cymbals

A non-verbal demo of the Rude Thin Crash performed by an anonymous drummer from the Memphis Drum Shop channel captivates the deep and engulfing sound that this cymbal provides.

Buying Options

7. Sabian Neil Peart Paragon Chinese

Everyone at one point or another has wanted to be part of the cool crowd. Well now is your chance with the exotic and unique sounding 19” Paragon Chinese cymbal from Sabian.

Speaking of cool, this one-of-a-kind designed cymbal was built alongside the late and great Neil Peart from Rush. When it comes to adding a very exclusive tone to your cymbal set the Paragon does not disappoint.

Sabian Neil Peart Paragon Chinese 19 inch

Leaning away from the typical “trashy” and disruptive sound that a China cymbal produces; this sleek brainchild of a legend has achieved a very intricate and welcoming tone.

It is surprisingly thin and has a very wide flanged lip which explains its extreme sensitivity and wavy finish. Don’t blend in, stand out by picking up this cymbal.

Best for

Trendsetters and mavericks of the drumming world

Killer Feature

Volume boosting small stature bell


  • Open and easy to activate
  • Complex and very identifiable range
  • Dark, agitated dirty sound


  • High Durability
  • Supersized hammering
  • The spice your standard kit is missing


  • Too refined
  • Expensive
  • Consuming sustain

Todd Sucherman from the Memphis Drum Shop opens our minds to the odd and beautiful creation between Sabian and Neil Peart. He lets us know that this China cymbal is not as clangy as most and is more pleasing to the ear than smaller or higher tin-based products.

Buying Options

6. Meinl Byzance Dark Crash

Another Turkish delight in the form of the Byzance Dark Crash. Its esoteric tones are really on display here which is no surprise as its hand-hammered and un-lathed finish show how deep-rooted this cymbal is in traditional master craftmanship.

From the first stick strike of this unprocessed labor of love, a super dark attack is revealed. Its wash is strong but alas dies a quick death.

Meinl Byzance Dark Crash 18 inch

You will not be disappointed if you’ve been struggling with what cymbal you need to round out your set. When placed up against Zildjians A Custom or K Custom Dark crash series they have a much more nuanced response.

Best for

The mature more toned-down player

Killer Feature

A blanketed dark tone that does not linger


  • Professional and seasoned sound
  • Mellow Sustain
  • Deep tonal power
  • Full-bodied attack


  • Chameleon-like adaptability
  • Handcrafted
  • Earthy and controlled


  • Pricey
  • Fragile
  • More of an acoustic blunted flavor and not suited for metal

Another installment from the Memphis Drum Shop has the charismatic Chris Coleman lay out the many advantages of the Meinl Dark Crash. He points out an unpolished appearance only to find the complex and disciplined sounds once he leans into this special and much more tranquil crash model.

Buying Options

5. Meinl Classics Custom Dark Set

German engineering rarely disappoints and it’s certainly not about to start when it comes to the attention-grabbing dark-toned Classic Customs Dark set from Meinl. Not only is the coloring a great design pleasing feature, but the tiger-like pattern is derived from the natural bronze alloy used in this B10 casting.

Meinl Classic Custom Dark Set

Within this pack, there is 14” Hi-Hats that are crisp and sharp but have a great slosh when opened. A 16” crash that lingers and leans out to the back rows and a 20” dark ride that any metal player would be proud to enjoy its heavy yet perfect ping tone. With a great mid-range price point this set is a winner and showstopper all in one.

Best for

“Put on a show” like drummers that hit hard and loud

Killer Feature

Dark and tiger-like motif with a headbanging volume range


  • Less stiff and warmer than sets in their class (Paiste Rudes)
  • Dry with a great decay
  • These aren’t your father’s cymbal set


  • Unique and cool coloring
  • Cost-effective and great sounding
  • Great for hard hits and even higher volume


  • Ride Cymbal lacks long sustain

The guys over at Drum Center of Portsmouth deliver the longest and deepest dive review of all the videos posted here. At just over 12 minutes these zestful and zealous reviewers show us not 1 but, 9 different pack offerings from Meinl. If you are in a rush, here are the cheat codes to let you know the video timing for each pack being reviewed.

Buying Options

4. Zildjian A Custom Pack

If you love a very bright sounding cymbal then you will be drawn in like a moth to this A Custom set from Zildjian.

It includes 14” Hi-Hats that kick out a very thin and chicky stick sound, 16” and 18” crash cymbals that are the Goldielocks of cymbal sound range with their “not too high, not too low, just right” tone, and finally a clear and crisp sounding 20” medium ride.

Zildjian A Custom Pack

The beautiful shimmering and shiny finish are nature’s way of telling us how cutting and clean these cymbals are. Perfectly matched to pierce through hard and loud metal guitar chords.

Best for

Clear-cutting metal bands. Not for beginners

Killer Feature

Glassy and super bright sound with premiere tone and projection


  • Radical Rotary Hammering
  • Thin weight
  • Rip through any larger-than-life riffs they may face


  • More durable than K Customs
  • Well priced
  • Purchasing a set of cymbals will have the same range


  • Weak Ride bell tone
  • 18” crash is lower quality than rest of set

Guitar Center puts on a great product spotlight for this A Custom cymbal set. Within their wood-paneled studio, they walk us through each cymbal’s characteristics with a stick strike as well as being paired with the bass drum. A simple yet super effective approach when demonstrating the power these cymbals possess and how well paired they are for hard rock and metal genres.

Buying Options

3. Sabian AAX Promotional Set

The promotional set is exactly what it sounds like. An opportunity for Sabian to show off their new logo and branding as well as flex their sonic spectrum muscles in the AAX series pack. These cymbals are truly technology in motion.

They have found the perfect blend of old-world crafting and married it with innovative technology by way of cutting-edge hammering and lathing techniques.

Sabian AAX Promotional Cymbal Set

With tight and bouncy 14” Medium Hi-Hats, a couple of thin crashes that prove to be the cornerstone of this sets punchiest of accents and topped off with a medium 21” amazingly washy ride. This promo set is well on its way to the main attraction of the Sabian lineup.

Best for

All stylings. Well suited for the stage or studio as well

Killer Feature

Spreads the wealth of tone from left to right of the kit with its thin to medium weights.


  • B20 Alloy
  • Well-rounded ride bell ring
  • Tight and articulate stick sounds


  • Extremely versatile
  • Tried tested and true
  • Top of the line quality and craftmanship


  • High price range

Soundattack opens its doors and welcomes this promotion set from Sabian with open arms. This combo of cymbals is really the prettiest girl at the ball, and it’s reinforced by a well-timed walkthrough of just what this new set series has up its sleeve.

Buying Options

2. Zildjian K Custom Hybrid Box Pack

The sky is the limit with this amazingly well-balanced set. The K Custom Box Pack has struck a sweet spot between dark and bright sounding cymbals all rolled into one package.

Zildjian K Custom Hybrid Cymbal Pack

This includes a rare sizing of 14 1/4” Hi-Hats, a 17” crash that rings loud and true to this set’s expectations, and a 21” ride that features an un-lathed bell with raw sound and heavy projection.

Best for

Well-versed rock and metal players, not fitting for jazz or pop-based groups.

Killer Feature

Various and unique sized cymbals provide a signature sound


  • More mellow than their A Custom counterparts
  • Designed by one of Japan’s top drummers Akira Jimbo
  • Dimensional sound


  • “Mastersound” hammering
  • Globally recognized and top drummer used brand
  • Available in Dark model


  • Ride is too bright and metallic
  • Harmonics can be irregular

Tobias Derer gives a brief sound overview of the K Custom Hybrid Box Set. It’s a little lighter in terms of depth compared to the other featured review videos, but we get to hear them played which is all we need at the end of the day.

Buying Options

1. Sabian HHX Evolution Promotional Set

It is hard to hold a candle to the Sabian HHX Evolution Promotional Set, but even harder for me to try and come up with a single “con” for this pack, let alone a few.

Designed in partnership with the one and only Dave Weckl, the evolution series was first conceptualized 15 years ago and has been living up to its name it by growing and improving to this masterful set we have today.

Sabian HHX Evolution Promotional Cymbal Set

It is the epitome of dark-sounding cymbals which is achieved from their high-profile shape and jumbo-sized hammering. There is a reason this set is our top pick. It truly does not disappoint or concede an ounce of quality, tone, or overall sound.

Best for

Top tier veterans

Killer Feature

A razor-sharp, grab you by the ears, melodic tone born out of Sabian’s experience and excellence in design and craftsmanship


  • High fidelity and precise sustain
  • Darkest of dark cymbals that cut
  • Peak performance with a complex tonality


  • Top of the line quality
  • 15 years of continual improvement
  • Large raw bell
  • Comes with an 18” Ozone


  • The set does not have any disadvantages!

Check out their great sound in the video below. Enjoy the brightness of the set!

Buying Options

If it is not enough learn more about cymbal companies from this article.

Must Haves

We can all remember MacGyver (if born before 1985) having his diversified and unsuspectingly helpful items to help save the day. Well instead of a rubber band and paper clip to diffuse a bomb I present to you some of my favorite go-to, can’t leave home or the studio without, accessories

Cymbal Boom Attachment Clamp →

Cymbal Boom Attachment ClampThe SC-CMBAC from Gibraltar has been a long-standing feature of my kit. I haven’t been one to have a large or elaborate cymbal set up, but this little 12” clamp has allowed me to sneak in an extra splash or crash while not having to increase my cymbal stand footprint.

Once locked in it remains steady, doesn’t budge or tilt. I highly recommend picking one of these up as it can always help you out or into a jam.

Boom Cymbal Stand →

Boom Cymbal StandI have been looking for an extremely stable and easily set up boom stand, and I have found it in the PDP by DW 800 Series. It can handle a lot of weight and punishment.

I would recommend this stand for beginners or intermediate players as an expert or metal drummer may want something with even more weight and durability to hold thicker and more heavily weighted cymbals. For the price point and quality that comes with this boom stand, it is hard to beat.

Cymbal Polish →

Who doesn’t want their cymbals sounding and looking their best? As a metal fan who loves to play hard, the brighter the better when it comes to my preferred sound.

With that glassy and beautiful shiny finish that accompanies bright cymbals, all the fingerprints, dust, and oxidization over the years can show if not properly cleaned.

This Zildjian polish is great, but remember to avoid inked logos as well as Gen16 nickel, ZXT Titanium, and Titanium cymbals. If unsure of proper application learn straight from the source from this video produced by Zildjian.

I love a crisp clean sounding cymbal and one that looks the part too. My motto has always been to play dirty but look and sound polished.

Learn more

Drum Roll Please

Now that we have hit the double bar on this quest to search for the ultimate cymbal to accompany all your percussive and sonic needs; I hope you have picked up some clear direction around the approach and the overall selection process for finding the best cymbals for metal.

Please leave a comment or check out my other reviews to keep building up all your musical acumen needs.

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