Ahhh, the sweet sound of dramatic, alloyed, rhythmic accents; in other words… bring on the CRASH CYMBALS!!
Below you will find a consensus-driven list of the best out there currently, in four different price ranges. Enjoy!
(Disclosure: if you purchase any of these cymbals through my links, I get a commission at no extra cost to you. These small stipends allow me the time & focus to do these intensive articles for you while costing you zero extra. From one musician to another, your clicks are appreciated.)
Let’s face it: if you’re not gonna spend much, you’re probably not gonna get much. Unless you find some used piece somewhere on Craigslist. It has to be stated that as far as sustain, timbre and overall professional sound, you’re probably not going to find anything suitable here. I know I didn’t.
That being said, for the under $100 category, we DO have two solid options for you. Both have 5-star positive reviews, and both are, for the money, providing plenty of percussive punch, without necessarily making the pros line up outside before the store opens.
Also, both of these cymbals I chose because they can be used for diverse genres of music. There are lots of atypical cymbals under $100 that are described as ‘trash’, ‘metal’, ‘gong’, or other specialized niche sounds that are well off the beaten path. Instead, the following two picks are good choices if, for example, you’re buying your first crash cymbal and it needs to be used for many types of music and many different songs.
Along those same lines, your best bet for good, all-around crash cymbals, especially when first starting, is to invest in either 16″, 17, or 18″. Once you have those staple sounds then you can branch out from their into other sizes, larger or smaller.
- The Meinl 18″ Medium Crash: Though I was not aware of this company until the last decade or so, turns out they’ve been around making cymbals since 1952! They also currently use more diverse alloys in their cymbal production than any other cymbal company, given them a more diverse line.
They’re known as a “company of drummers making products for drummers”. I believe it – in 1974 Meinl was the first company to have the smarts to offer a start-up cymbal set so we all could save bucks on our first cymbal outing. Thanks, Meinl!
This particular crash I think sounds great. Certainly better than dozens of other crashes I listened to under $100! listen for yourself HERE.
All reviews I read on this particular cymbal were all five stars too, so… I’m not the only one who thinks so! If you’re ready for an inexpensive dip into the cool pool of ringing, accentuating tone, wait no longer… just go HERE.
- The Stagg 16″ SH Medium Crash: This Belgian company has been helping beginner musicians afford their first instruments and accessories since 1995. They’re still mostly an online company here in the States, so I’d never encountered their sound or products before.
Researching them this week, however, I was very pleasantly surprised! For the price I found very few that could compete with the well-rounded sound they deliver, at least when it comes to a 16″ crash. I can hear this one sitting in one of my mixes just fine on certain genres and songs.
Also, the reviews I read from others were all five star ratings on this particular cymbal. Way to stand up to the big dogs, Stagg!
If you want to hear how it sounds in full kit, go HERE, then skip to the 46-second mark. There you will hear this 16″, as well as the 18″ in the same line, within the context of a full drum set and growling groove.
Obviously, this one will be brighter than the Meinl, being that it’s a 16″, not an 18″. So, if ya wanna spread some tropical rays out to the world, let this cymbal be the sound of ocean to your fan’s ears! Get it HERE.
Movin’ On Up!
Our next level is the under $250 category. This amount of investment allows us a lot more options, and a lot higher quality! The selection in this price point definitely affords you a more professional sound as well as increased longevity.
This is also where we start to see the subtle variations in timbre shades and hues proliferate. You’ll have no lack of tonal permutations in this stratum of sound
- The Meinl Classics Custom Dark 18″ Crash: First up, an excellent, singular choice from the good Germans. This is not only a cymbal that sounds good, yet distinctive – it also turns heads ‘cuz of how it looks!
There’s a large, mega-church I’ve attended for years, and played for, that has a drum kit set up but players must bring their own cymbals. I have often seen (including just yesterday!) players bring complete sets of Meinl cymbals to use on the kit. Even if I’m just watching in the audience, I can identify them on the TV video feed through the cameras because of their distinctive, larger company icon. A lot of these players can afford anything, so that says a lot.
Veronica likes this one too. Here’s why she says it’s a no-brainer choice for the money:
“This one uses the B10 alloy formula, has machine hammering and a special chemical process done
at Meinl’s factory in Germany to give it its’s distinctive dark finish.
The deeper tones in this line on the larger-sized crashes are delicious and dissonant. It cuts, but still
retains the bite of the B10 formula.
The dark finish also keeps the cymbals dry, so they
are great for recording as well as live performance.”
Thanks, Veronica! Always good to get word from the trenches on what’s hot… and what’s NOT.
If you’re G.A.S.-in to ‘keep it dark’ (nod to my Genesis prog rock days!), you can hear it and get it HERE.
- The Zildjian A Series 16″ Medium Thin Crash: From the cymbal makers who’ve been doing this longer than anybody comes another dependable, consistent, pro-sounding cymbal. I looked at dozens of their line-up for this article, but this one was the clear winner.
In case you don’t know, Zildjian has been at this since 1623. they’ve tried just about everything in their search for the ‘perfect cymbal’ and have a global, loyal following amongst professionals and amateurs alike. In my career I’ve seen more musicians wearing Zildjian clothing of various types than probably any other. There’s a reason.
This is a cymbal no one in a studio setting will complain about; it’s going to give you a very traditional, expected cymbal sound. If you want something more on the fringe, go for the 17″ or the 18″ Rock Crash in this same line. Again, great clatter for your cash.
This beauty has an 89% 5-star rating from the user reviews, so you know it’s a dependable disc. In testing it in my studio, it fits comfortably in pretty much any mix I try it on.
Consider this one your golden, workaholic chameleon – you can pretty much use it on anything and get smiles and a nod from the engineers. What better at the end of the day?!
Paybacks are Swell!
When you get to the under $400 category you truly have reached professional level, and, for the most part, it’s really hard to land a lemon in this upper-crust land. Also, this to me is the price point where you get the most for the money; the biggest return on your investment. These cymbals will continue to pay you back in sweet, swishy sound recording after recording. So take that for what it’s worth.
There will always be some products that rise above the fray, and to me, these are your best bet:
- The Sabian AAX Series 17″ Studio Crash – This, ladies and gentlemen, is my favorite crash of all time. I love, love, love how this alloyed wonder sounds on all my recordings. Extremely well-balanced; perfectly pitched; resonant to just the right degree… I just can’t say enough about it.
I currently use eight different crashes on my two drum kits and, by far, this is the one I would say I cannot live without if I were forced to choose only one.
The bell is a bit smaller than most other crashes, which translates into a quicker response time. The sound is very full, not too bright or brittle at all. If you want a great all-around cymbal that’s going to sound excellent in the studio or live, you cannot go wrong with this cymbal.
Listen to its lusciousness HERE.
If you’re into a specific sub-genre of music, like death metal or rockabilly, then perhaps it might not be your perfect choice. Then again… it might be fine! As usual, it really comes down to what you define your personal sound as a drummer to be.
One thing’s for sure: this cymbal will always sound professional no matter what music type you throw at it.
The AAX I bought is the 17″ model, but it comes in a variety of sizes, from 14″ all the way up to 20″.
For specs, info and a cart to put it in, just click HERE.
- The Paiste Signature 17″ Fast Crash: As you heard from the pros above, the Paiste Signature line is full of great, all-around workhorse choices that you can’t go wrong on. HERE on Paiste’s site you can test drive all their cymbals, recorded with quality mics and their full sustain left for you to lean in and appreciate.
I honestly would be happy with most of the line, tho the Power Crash timbre didn’t thrill me. In the end, I chose this particular size and line because it sits in the mix of my recorded songs the best out of the many choices Paiste gives you.
I let a couple of my song mixes play and tested the various iterations of the Signature series, but in the end it was pretty clear: the 17″ Fast Crash sounded the most pro and sat in the mix better than any of ’em. I don’t think it was close, either.
Get one winging its ringing way to your own kit HERE.
Spared No Expense…!!
- The Paiste Formula 602 Modern Essentials 18″ Crash: I first came across this line of cymbals due to my familiarity with Vinnie Colaiuta, the extraordinary L.A. session player who has played on so many albums it’s crazy.
When I lived and had a band in L.A. (shout out to all “Reason Y” fans!!) our drummer was Vinnie’s drum tech and set-up technician for when he played a studio session.
I learned just how amazing he was by listening to Matt’s stories of his amazing consistency, creativity, control and finesse time and time again, and then buying the CDs he graced with his awesome sticking.
One time, Matt said they turned Vinnie’s click track off to see how long he could continue to match the metronome. It was well over 2 minutes before there was any hint of being off. Extraordinary!
This line of cymbals he personally co-designed with Paiste and has used them in hundreds of gigs across the globe. My own experience with them is simple: they ain’t playin’ around, people – these little gold discs will give you SERIOUS G.A.S.!
Vinnie uses these in the studio AND out live, so whatever venue you’re in, these will deliver. Stack these around your best kit and your F.O.H. or Control Room engineer will thank you…. and be jealous at the same time!
Listen to him describe the line HERE.
His comment about these being “the people’s cymbals” is a good way of describing them; they’re so versatile, yet silky, rich and warm, especially as you increase in sizes, that you could use this line in dozens of music genres and never sound out of place.
So, that, in a slightly larger nutshell, is why the 602 Modern crash cymbals are my top of the line cymbal of choice for the over $400 price point. If you’re ready to join Vinnie and the big dogs in the ‘impressive shimmer and shine’ category, go get ’em HERE!
“This is How We Dooo It…”
At the start of every year, I like to scan a panoramic view of the music instrument industry and give to you the best options I can find, in varying price points, that will take your music to the next level… and beyond!
Wanna know the parameters I use to judge? Simple – I consider three different avenues of instrument research:
- Advertised info from reliable suppliers
- First-hand accounts of gigging players with whom I’ve played
- Personal online reviews from forums and review sites
With this deliberately broad instrument analysis, I end up with a well-rounded and real-world-grounded recommendation for each instrument type.
I mean, we all work hard for our cash, so why not maximize what we get for it, right?!
Researching to bring you the 7 best crash cymbals for 2018 was no easy task. There are more cymbal manufacturers than ever this year, and some of the new boutique options are quite good, but, as is usually the case, more pricey.
I’ve been very impressed with some models from Amedia, Matt Nolan, Bettis Customs… but they’re a little out of most people’s prices ranges, so… if you want to look up how beautiful they are and G.A.S. away, be my guest. 😉
Also, I’m not limiting the picks to ‘dark’, ‘light’, or ‘exotic’ cymbals. I personally have all ranges of crashes because, when I go to record a song, I pick the cymbals to use based on how they sound with the basic tracks of the song. Sometimes even my favorite cymbal just doesn’t sound right for a particular song, so it’s good to have a wide variety of timbres and resonances in your cymbal arsenal.
Lastly, you must know that I have ZERO affiliation with any particular cymbal company, so I get no kick-backs, side-cash or free products from the manufacturers because of what I say here; my choices are simply what I find work best in the studio and/or live, and give me the professional sound I’m always aiming for.
So that’s how I was able to take you through the ongoing reconnaissance of the ‘crash cymbal’ market. With dizzying dozens of options out there, it helps to have a guide map through the maze of seismic sizzle. So… hope you found a winner for YOUR kit!
Desert Island Cymbals of the Pros
As a bonus insight for you, I started my research by asking a slew of friends who are professional drummers their opinions. I asked this one simple question:
“What is your favorite crash cymbal? The one you couldn’t live without if you could only use one?”
They all responded with the list you see below, as well as vivid descriptors of the lusciousness of their particular pick. Heck, their answers already have me G.A.S.-ing for a couple! Here are their choices, in no particular order:
Steve Nolton (“Simon Vitale Band”; “Aretha Franklin”):
The Paiste Signature 16″ and 18″ Medium Thin Crash.
He would love him some Zildjian K‘s though!
Gabe Helguera (DrumBeatsOnline.com; “I Prevail”):
The 20″ Meinl Byzance
extra thin, hand-hammered crash!!
Danny Cox (DannyCoxMusic.com):
“Depends on the music, but I’ve got a
nice set of the new Avedis ‘A’-s, and
I love them. I also like Avedis ‘K’-s.”
The Paiste Signature Series
15 or 16 ‘Fast Crash’,
or the same sizes in the
‘Full Crash’ series.
Brad Giamo (“Barbara Payton”;
“Mainstreet Soul”; “Allie Louise”):
“It really depends on what type of music
I’ll be playing, but for a non-specific-type gig…
any good medium 18″ with a good attack & sustain.”
Veronica Ellis ( ‘Trash Not Garbage’; C.M.U. Symphonic Band, Percussion Ensemble, Marching Band; student of Dr. Andrew Spencer):
Veronica knows her stuff; she works day in and day out with music equipment at Guitar Center in Allen Park. She loves music, and her knowledge and helpfulness stand out from the pack.
Why don’t more women go into drums, I ask you?! ;-0
Her pick is: “The Sabian 15″ AAX-Plosion Crash! One of my personal favorites. The thin design with the raw bell gives the perfect amount of swell, body, and decay. Great for recording, the softer, full cymbal sound is smooth, but the decay is short enough for it not to be too washy. Not to mention, raw bell for days!”
Can you tell she knows cymbals?! LOL
Sticking Your Own Stroke of Luck!
Alright, so now you have all the info you need to go nab a great, new investment towards a rich future of bashing, swiping, zinging, stroking, crashing, exhilerating fun!
In the final analysis, it’s all about bringing your music to life well, either on the stage, or in the recording sessions. Each of these options I’ve given you today will not let you down in those areas; instead, you’ll find yourself smiling about the sound, and having some money left over for your next G.A.S.-y dream buy!
Lemme know how these choices work for you, either live or in the studio, by writing us in the Comments section. Our shared stories weave an enlightening tapestry of experience that can point our sound in the right directions and keep our wallets… heavy with saved cash.
Think I’ll go bash on these for a while and get my blood movin’. In the meantime, expand your cymbal on the cheap with these great picks, and…
… go… make… sounds!!