Top 13 Cymbal Companies: Creators of the Finest Cymbals on the Current Market

Non-drumming musicians, commonly referred to as “muggles” in my circles, sometimes think all cymbals do the same thing. Moreover, they believe that they also sound the same and that “there’s no point” in investing when entry-level ones do the job. This can’t be any further from the truth.

After reading this article, you will most likely find a new appreciation for masterwork cymbals and their creators. Before we dive any deeper, let me tell you what this article is about:

  • Paying homage to the top 13 manufacturers of top-tier cymbals
  • Introducing the leading players in the market to new drummers
  • Recommending very specific cymbal models that represent their makers the best
  • Helping drummers understand the things that set different cymbal firms apart

This article is not an endorsement, although I really wouldn’t mind finally getting that well-deserved sponsorship already.


It is not a review, and it is not about the best cymbal in the world. It’s about the brands that you can buy the finest cymbals from, but more importantly, the brands that continue to release top-quality models that you may want to know more about.

Top Cymbal Makers – Criteria

I believe all musicians in love with drumming, like myself, are constantly on the lookout for the latest news in the drumming world. Whether it be talking to other drummers over social media, visiting forums, watching YT clips of drumming legends, or all of the above.

I discover a new drumming thread at least once a week while I’m a regular at the Drummer Café, Modern Drummer, and Music Radar. You’ll find plenty of drum panning tricks there too.

Being awfully familiar with top X lists from various drumming websites, I wanted to make one to give you, dear percussive reader, another lens to observe the biggest cymbal companies through.

The requirements to be featured in this list were fairly simple:

  1. I am actively and presently using the cymbals from this brand
  2. I own, have owned, or have at least once used a cymbal from this brand
  3. I have heard or discussed this brand with a fellow drummer whom I trust

The best, and in my opinion, the only way to test a cymbal-making firm is to hold their physical products, mount them on your kit, and jam some of your favorite tunes. If the difference between your earlier and current sound is noticeable, the cymbal did its part, and you’ve bought a good piece.

That’s why I strived to cover the brands I’ve purchased cymbals from while keeping an open mind to the new cymbal firms out there.

Top 13 Cymbal Companies

There are far more than just thirteen that would qualify for the title of the best cymbal brand or firm. However, I’ve decided to narrow the list down to keep it practical for newbies while offering value to more experienced players as well. In my opinion, these are the names that are making the best quality, sturdiest, and best-sounding cymbals on the market.

The Big Four

For metal fans like myself, the Big Four will always be Metallica, Slayer, Megadeth, and Anthrax. Although more snare-driven, some of their drummers are actually using the drum sets and sticks from the Big Four of Cymbals, which we’ll talk about in the section below:

Zildjian

If with practice comes perfection, Zildjian is arguably the closest to achieving it. This brand is going to celebrate its 400th anniversary next year and is among the longest-standing cymbal manufacturers on the planet.

The brand was founded by a metalsmith by the name of Avedis Zildjian who is believed to have been an alchemist. The story is remarkably interesting, and you can read all about it on Zildjian’s official website. In short, Zildjian translates to “cymbal smith”; with nearly four centuries of experience, they certainly are deserving of the top spot on this list.

Prominent series and flagship models

Zildjian is remarkably popular, even among non-drummer musicians, although the names of their collections aren’t as well defined as they are well built. Zildjian offers K Family, A Family, S Family, I Family, Planet Z, and FX series, which house totally different cymbals made from different materials.

The A-Series is possibly a bit better-known, purely due to the fact that it’s home to all-rounded cymbals meant for practically anyone and everyone. Children, beginners, seasoned veterans, and established icons of drumming can find what they’re after there.

I’d take a second to touch on Zildjian A Custom category, which was built with a unique technique (rotary hammering) that is largely responsible for its crisp sound and excellent responsiveness.

With a brilliant finish and otherworldly sustain, A-Custom cymbals are a cut above the rest. I own and recommend the 21-inch Custom Ride, although you can’t make a mistake, whichever model from the catalog you pick.

Famous artist endorsees

What speaks volumes about Zildjian’s versatility is the fact that professionals from all music genres and styles are using their cymbals.

The great late Charlie Watts of The Rolling Stones used to play the all-time rock classics with his mates on Zildjian cymbals. Ben Barter, who’s drumming for Lorde “pops” to mind, but so does Devon Taylor who’s playing drums for Justin Bieber’s live band.

A variety of drummers performing in famous orchestras are also using Zildjians, such as Andrew Reamer from Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and Andrey Martynov from Tchaikovsky Symphony Orchestra, for instance.

Sabian

SabianSabian came to be after Robert Zildjian had a business dispute with Armand Zildjian, his brother. The name Sabian is actually derived from the names of his children – SA from Sally, BI from Billy, and AN from Andy.

This firm was launched in 1981 and is yet to reach the 50-year milestone. However, with Robert helming the operations, Sabian produced roughly 45,000 models that same year and entered the big league with style. Although the firm is still fairly young and fresh, Sabian’s competitiveness and first-hand experiences with Zildjian allowed the brand to compete with the top players in the industry.

Prominent series and flagship models

Sabian’s catalog is comprised of both “basic” drum sets (which I found to be amazingly great, even for professional standards) and Band & Orchestra cymbal kits. Now, there are over a dozen unique series on the menu, and although I do recommend checking each and every model Sabian ever released, personally, I fell for XSR the most.

You’ll hear drummers say that this is Sabian’s collection of entry-level cymbals, and they’re not wrong. XSR cymbals are low-cost , but they’re made of the, quoting Sabian’s artisans now, “exact same” material as the brand’s most expensive cymbals (B20 metal).

XSR may be a bit too dark-sounding for your taste, in which case I recommend checking out the AAX Series – cymbals belonging to this house are engineered to provide versatility and accommodate any playing style and dynamic. You’ll probably need to save up a bit of cash, though.

Famous artist endorsees

Sabian has supplied the biggest icons of metal and rock & roll for decades, including Chad Smith of RHCP, Dokken’s Mick Brown, Phil Collins from Genesis, GNR’s Frank Ferrer, Korn’s Ray Luzier, and more.

Mike Portnoy, one of the most versatile drummers who has been a part of nearly a hundred bands and projects is proudly sporting Sabian cymbals. As a lifelong Dream Theater fan, this was good enough of a reason for me to pick up on the brand.

Meinl

MeinlWhile Zildjian and Sabian dedicated their companies to producing top-quality cymbals, Meinl diversified into the realms of tambourines, djembes, bongos, and congas, establishing the company as the leader in percussive instruments and accessories quite early on.

Meinl’s story begins in 1951 with Roland Meinl, who originally intended Meinl to craft wind instruments. Merely a year after, the founder switched over to cymbals, which makes their bread and butter to this day.

One interesting thing about this company is that they were the first brand to provide pre-packed bundles of cymbal sets. They pioneered what is now a standard in the music industry in 1974, merely a few years before focusing on the development of the fabled King Beat Series, one of the most popular vinyl cymbal collections available.

Prominent series and flagship models

Meinl’s menu consists of numerous acclaimed series, including Generation X, HCS, several iterations of Classics series, and the unparalleled Byzance. There are eight subgroups of the Byzance series, and my personal favorite is Byzance Dual. I have an eye for cool aesthetics, but I fell in love with this series for its roaring sound.

I have a Byzance Dual splash, and I can only say it’s been a core component of my kit ever since it arrived at my doorstep.

Famous artist endorsees

You probably won’t be surprised at this point that Meinl is another favorite of rockers, metalheads, and lovers of heavy music. Some of the most prominent Meinl artists are hard-rocking drummers, melodic death metal gentlemen, power metal savages, and thrash metal maniacs.

Tom Hunting of Exodus was my first Meinl cymbal discovery, followed by Amon Amarth’s Fredrik, Children of Bodom’s Jaska, and Mike Justian of Unearth.

A huge number of drummers with worldwide acclaim use Meinl cymbals, including Chris Adler from Lamb of God, Tommy Clufetos that played with the Prince of Darkness himself (Ozzy Osbourne), Kai Hahto of Wintersun, Brann Dailor of Mastodon, and more.

Paiste

PaistePaiste’s story begins with an Estonian musician living in St. Petersburg in 1906. Toomas Paiste, an ex-soldier of Imperial Russia decided to open a music shop and turned to cymbal making some years after opening his store.

During 116 of its existence, Paiste brought a variety of revolutionary inventions to the world. Their Sound Edge cymbal introduced edge ripples to prevent hi-hat airlock; Paiste was among the first firms to use B8 bronze material for cymbals, and their RUDE (flat) cymbals brought another dimension for players who value performance over flair.

Prominent series and flagship models

Paiste had launched more than a dozen series over the years, including Paiste Masters, the flat-belled Rude series, Giant Beat, Signature, and the acclaimed 2002 Series. Widely regarded as the crispiest bright-sounding cymbal family, 2002 is perfectly suited for metal, rock, and all percussion-heavy styles of music.

Famous artist endorsees

One of the possibly most famous Paiste artists is the infamous Alex Van Halen. Simon Dawson of British Lion (Steve Harris’s side project), Mike Luce of Drowning Pool, and Charlie Benante of Anthrax are some of the musicians whose names you probably recognize if you’re into hard-hitting tunes.

Other Notable Cymbal Manufacturers

Although you can’t make a mistake by going with any of the Big Four, it’s always good to have more options and variety, which is why I’ve decided to expand my initial idea with a couple of other successful cymbal companies, including:

Stagg

StaggStagg is a manufacturer of all kinds of instruments; from stringed instruments, over reed, to percussion gear, you’ll find quite a few gems on their menu. Stagg Music was launched 27 years ago, and they’ve had the most success with their cymbals.

Prominent series and flagship models

Stagg’s Sensa and Myra are the company’s most popular cymbal series. They also sport a broad catalog of classic chinas, hi-hats, and splashes for drummers that are searching for a more familiar tone.

As someone who absolutely adores experimenting with sonic shapes, Stagg catered to my needs in full.

Famous artist endorsees

Ariel Batu Martin and VK Lynne are definitely the most famous drummers using Stagg gear. After checking the brand’s Facebook, I’ve noticed that dozens of music teachers have nothing but words of praise about these versatile cymbals.

Soultone

SoultoneOne of the fresher cymbal makers based in Los Angeles, CA, Soultone came to the music scene around the same time when grunge left. With the revival of live rock and roll, Soultone came to reinvigorate household acts and aspiring drummers with affordable high-quality cymbals.

Prominent series and flagship models

There are roughly eleven Soultone cymbal series, three prototypes, and two exquisite cymbal packs.

As a fan of heavy and extreme music, I would be remiss if I didn’t recommend the Extreme series to like-minded individuals. Strong and controllable, the utility of Soultone Extremes is on par with their absolutely bone-shattering sound.

Famous artist endorsees

Steven Adler, whom I mentioned a minute ago, used to drum for Guns N’ Roses, and several Soultone cymbals were in his rig throughout the years. Megadeth’s late Nick Menza was also sporting this brand’s gear, just like Dave Goode from Mahogany Rush, Rico H from Stoneman, and Snoop Dogg’s live drummer, Nick Smith.

Wuhan

WuhanWuhan Cymbals utilizes traditional eastern cymbal making technologies to create uniquely-sounding gongs and high-quality, albeit entry-level cymbals. They’re the go-to brand of beginners and drummers who want something miles away from the norm, and that’s precisely what this firm is focused on addressing.

Prominent series and flagship models

KOI, ORA, Chrome, and three 457s are the most popular collections of Wuhan cymbals. I’ve been curious about the brand’s promise of “affordable high-end” products and ordered a Koi china. Although it may look simplistic and basic, its sound was on a level with my upper-echelon gear.

Famous artist endorsees

Neil Peart was, to my knowledge, the most popular representative of Wuhan cymbals. Rush’s complex progressive music requires cymbals that allow details to shine while maintaining the groove, and Wuhan china cymbals fit the description perfectly. Aside from Neil, Chad Sexton and Jeff Hamilton are prominent drummers that use Wuhan gear.

UFiP

UFiPUFiP will celebrate 92 years of existence this year, and it’s one of the most popular Italian cymbal companies. They’ve reached global fame after pioneering the Rotocasting – a special form of centrifugal casting that was, for the first time, used to craft cymbals.

Prominent series and flagship models

Despite my opinion that Omnia, Vibra, and Bionic series offer far more versatile cymbals, most of my drummer friends were very vocal about the Natural collection being the dominant one.

In all fairness, the models from this house are better-rounded and can fit any play style and music genre. If you’re looking for something a bit less conventional, go with a 17-inch Omnia crash, and you won’t be disappointed.

Famous artist endorsees

I discovered UFiP through Giuseppe Sangiorgio, a phenomenal drummer with outstandingly exquisite fusion, jazz, and rock sensibilities. As I often spend mornings exploring my Instagram feed, searching for inspiring drummers and drum gear, Paolo Rubboli’s post practicing with UFiP gear came one day, and I decided to give them ago.

Zion

ZionIf you’re into louder-than-life drum sound and are actively pursuing it, there’s a fat chance you’ll find it with Zion cymbals. This brand offers some of the finest B20-made cymbals and a myriad of hand-crafted exclusive models, and to top it all, they’re not too expensive either.

Prominent series and flagship models

What sets Zion apart from other cymbal makers is that they offer something for everyone.

If you’re looking for a high-end hi-hat that will serve you for decades, check out Zion’s Dominion. If you’re looking for something with a bit more flair and flamboyance sound-wise, the Epic line has what you’re after. There are nine unique Zion series, all of which I thoroughly recommend to drummers on a budget.

Famous artist endorsees

Just like I stumbled upon UFiP, I was browsing through my Instagram feed and came across Justin Collins and Chris Singleton, two of the freshest additions to the Zion Cymbals Artists roster. After a bit of research, I discovered Javier Jay Ruiz, the man behind Mid October’s drum set.

Turkish Cymbal Companies

Most drummers know that Turkey is producing and supplying the drumming industry with the best cymbals human hands have made. Even so, I feel certain Turkish cymbal companies are a bit underappreciated and wanted to share my opinions of a few, starting with:

Istanbul Agop

Istanbul AgopIstanbul Cymbals (Istanbul Agop) was founded in 1980 by Agop Tomurcuk. It’s a family-run cymbal-making business that has been operating for four decades. Istanbul Cymbals were among the first modern companies to utilize traditional Turkish bell-making techniques to craft top-tier cymbals.

Prominent series and flagship models

I’ve borrowed the 8-inch Sultan Splash from a friend after hearing how amazing it sounded during his band practice.

Having been massively intrigued, I went on Istanbul’s website and immediately ordered a 10-inch Xist Brilliant Splash. I warmly recommend the Custom series, especially Bell models.

Famous artist endorsees

I’ve been a fan of Scott Amendola’s take on progressive drumming, and through him, I came across Istanbul Agop Cymbals. Similarly, fans of jazz fusion have an opportunity to learn a trick or two from Yussef Dayes’s trick box. Other prominent names on the brand’s list of signed artists include Charlie Hall, Colby Owens, Cully Symington, Clint Kirby, Freddy Sheed, Fiona Campbell, and more.

Bosphorus Cymbals

BosphorusBosphorus Cymbals came to the scene in 1996, and they’re among the freshest brands in the industry. Three master artisans, including Ibrahim Yakici, Hasan Ozdemir & Hasan Seker, have helped Bosphorus create exquisite pieces of metal, tin, and bronze art.

A prolific firm that proved its worth time and time again.

Prominent series and flagship models

I was taken aback by how beautiful Black Pearl Series cymbals are, and then I came across Master Vintage bells. Although they’re my personal favorites, I got to say that most of my drummer friends praise the Traditional series. Although they don’t look as flamboyant as Master Vintage or as spooky as Black Pearl, XIST cymbals are much better-rounded and sound more professional.

Famous artist endorsees

If you’re a fan of John Wilson, Francesco Renga, or Coco Montoya, you’ll probably be thrilled to hear that all of their drummers use Bosphorus cymbals. Soen’s Martin Lopez is another big one, right next to Themis Tolis, Marcel Millot of Mosses P, and Bertram Engel of Udo Lindenberg’s band.

Amedia Cymbal

AmediaAmedia Cymbals was founded in 2005 by the Amedia family. They have been delivering the world premium-quality hand-hammered crashes, chinas, hi-hats, and bells ever since. For drummers that want a distinctive sound and control, give this brand a shot, and I guarantee you won’t regret it.

Prominent series and flagship models

Amedia offers a myriad of exotic cymbal lines and series, but I can only speak about the Classics hi-hat that’s sitting in my practice room. With a big tone and a shallow price tag, there’s really no reason not to implement it in your rig for that next show.

Famous artist endorsees

The Canadian drumming schools have a magnetism about them that I have immense respect for. Amedia Cymbal’s artists are largely from either Canada or Europe, including Jeremy Burton, Keith Heppler, Renee Couture, Marco Baresi, and more.

Diril Cymbals

DirilDiril Cymbals is a heartwarming success story of a talented, inspired, and driven individual by the name of Ibrahim Diril who has seen his vision of establishing a reputable Turkish cymbal company through. Ibrahim built Diril Cymbals upon the pillars of transparency, affordability, and quality products, which are some of the many reasons I have the utmost respect for the firm, and several of their bells on the hooks.

Prominent series and flagship models

I’ve felt that my Crashes weren’t cutting it when I jammed Sepultura. Diril’s Primitive Series came on my feed, and lo and behold, all of my problems were gone. This monster pummeled the air out of my lungs immediately, and it quickly became my go-to.

Famous artist endorsees

As a brand that came under my radar after (virtually) attending the NAMM 2019, I had tons of fun watching Franco Mitchell, Koquino Mendez, Byron Chaney, and Mikolaj Tomzik showcase the latest Diril Cymbals.

There are dozens of esteemed artists endorsed by this firm, including Leonardo De Lorenzo, Akeem Patterson, Luke Sigua, Alberto Vargas, Cindy Goldberg, Kevin Padilla, Isaac Valenzuela, Alex Alvarez, and numerous other professional drummers.

Useful Links

Conclusion

Good cymbal makers will give you a sturdy piece of metal that sounds great when hit with a stick, but that’s not what we’re after, is it?

Aside from durability, sustain, sound, and aesthetics, there’s the “X-Factor” that is hard to put into words. To some, it’s how the cymbal feels, and it’s a deeply personal thing. To me, it’s how it sits with the rest of the rig. Maybe it’s both, but what I do know is that the best brands have something unique that sets them apart.

These are the 13 best cymbal companies in my honest opinion, based on personal experiences or recommendations from close friends that did. What’s your favorite cymbal maker? Do you have a Zildjian or a Sabian in your rig? I’d like to hear all about it in the comments, so feel free to share your thoughts below.

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