If your hi-hats are the backbone of your drum set, and your crash cymbals are exclamation points, then your ride cymbal is the style and voice of your drum kit. Perhaps more than any of your other cymbals, your ride cymbal is inexorably linked to the type and style of music that you play.
Whether you are a metal drummer, hammering away at a ride cymbal with an oversized bell, a jazz drummer subtly massaging a seemingly paper-thin ride, or a rock drummer steadily striking a bright sounding ride, what type of ride cymbal you choose for your drum kit will undoubtedly signal to your audience what type of drummer you ultimately are. With such a large impact on your overall sound, it stands to reason that choosing a ride cymbal is an important choice.
So, what is the best ride cymbal for you? You’re in luck because we’ve compiled a list of some of the best ride cymbals in 2019. We’ll take a look at some of the top ride cymbal brands for rock, metal, jazz, and more. We’ll also talk a little bit about how the size of the cymbal and the size of the bell shape your sound as well as some of the production techniques that go into making a ride cymbal.
Ready to find the best ride cymbal out there for you? Then let’s go!
- Best Ride Cymbal for Metal – Meinl 20" Ride Cymbal - Classics Custom Extreme Metal
- Best Ride Cymbal for Rock – Zildjian A Series 21" Sweet Ride Cymbal
- Best Ride Cymbal for Jazz – Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals Jazz Series N70-R24 70's Nostalgia Ride 24-Inch Cymbal
- Best Ride Cymbal for Beginners – Paiste PST 7 Cymbal Ride 20-inch
- Best Ride Cymbal on a Budget – Sabian SBR2012 SBR Series Pure Brass 20-Inch Ride Cymbal
Best Ride Cymbal for Metal – Meinl 20" Ride Cymbal - Classics Custom Extreme Metal
We’ll start our review of the best ride cymbals in 2019 with the best ride cymbal for metal, the Meinl 20” Ride Cymbal. Meinl is a German percussion company widely considered to be one of the best cymbal makers on the market today and this 20” ride cymbal is one of their most exceptional offers. If you are a metal drummer, you’d be hard pressed to find a better ride cymbal for your drum kit. Aggressive and loud, it is the perfect ride cymbal for music’s most brutal genre.
Check it out in action around 1:43 in the video below:
Best Ride Cymbal for Rock – Zildjian A Series 21" Sweet Ride Cymbal
Zildjian cymbals are synonymous with quality and durability. The company does nothing but produce incredible sounding and long-lasting cymbals. While the company offers an incredible variety of ride cymbals, their Zildjian A Series 21” Sweet Ride Cymbal is perhaps the best ride cymbal for rock.
A favorite among some of the top rock drummers, this ride cymbal is at home on any stage or in any recording studio. Here are some of the highlights:
Best Ride Cymbal for Jazz – Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals Jazz Series N70-R24 70's Nostalgia Ride 24-Inch Cymbal
Designed and handcrafted in Istanbul, Turkey, The Istanbul Mehmet Cymbals Jazz Series is the ultimate ride cymbal for jazz drummers. Made with production techniques that are centuries old, these ride cymbals have a wonderful combination of sound, feel, and style that will impress even the most discerning jazz drummers. Considered the best ride cymbal for jazz drumming, this cymbal delivers. Some features:
Best Ride Cymbal for Beginners – Paiste PST 7 Cymbal Ride 20-inch
Are you just getting started and don’t know what type of ride cymbal is best for you? You can’t go wrong with a Paiste PST 7 20-inch Ride Cymbal. Considered one of the “big four” cymbal companies, Paiste is a very well-respected cymbal manufacturer with an established lineage of professional products. Day in and day out, multitudes of drummers count on Paiste for a variety of different musical styles.
Best Ride Cymbal on a Budget – Sabian SBR2012 SBR Series Pure Brass 20-Inch Ride Cymbal
The last of our best ride cymbals in 2019 comes from yet another giant in the cymbal industry. Sabian cymbals are widely used and entrusted amongst music professionals and drummers alike. Their SBR2012 SBR Series Pure Brass 20” Ride Cymbal is not only an incredible ride cymbal, but also priced to fit any budget. Don’t be fooled by its low price… you’ll find lots of professional drummers that incorporate this ride cymbal into their kit.
Cymbal Brands - Overview and History
As you can see, no matter what style of music you play, or how hard or light hitting a drummer you are, there are plenty of amazing ride cymbals available for you to consider. From aggressive and loud to light and bright, there is the perfect ride cymbal out there to fit your needs. Still not convinced? Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the industry leaders in cymbal manufacturing to give you a better idea on which ride cymbal is the best for you!
With a long and storied history, this German based cymbal and percussion manufacturer got its start back in the 1950’s. Meticulously constructed, and hand built, these cymbals were initially considered an entry level cymbal. The company was all also one of the first to offer pre-pack cymbal sets. In the mid 80’s, Meinl began to focus on offering more professional sounding cymbals and the company is considered one of best on the market today, especially when it comes to hard rock and metal. Come on, the logo even looks evil!
Zildjian is an American-based cymbal manufacturer, but the company can trace its roots back to Istanbul, Turkey. In fact, Zildjian is actually one of the oldest companies in the world and owes a lot of its success to its founder and his influential alloy which he developed to create stronger, longer lasting, cymbals. With the introduction of cutting edge, meticulously designed cymbals, the company firmly established a foothold in the cymbal making industry and continues to thrive to this day. Many of the most prolific drummers of all-time have relied on Zildjian for their cymbals.
Yet another “old” cymbal manufacturer, Paiste has been crafting cymbals and metal percussion for over 100 years. A leader and innovator in the industry, the company has introduced some remarkable products through the years including the flat ride, flat bells, inverted bells, colored cymbals, and various new alloys. With a history of innovation and quality, you’re sure to be getting an excellent ride cymbal with Paiste. The company has been pegged as having perhaps the “brightest” sounding ride cymbal you can buy.
Proving that cymbal manufacturing is truly a worldwide affair, Canadian-based Sabian rounds out our review of the “big four” cymbal manufacturers. Ironically, the company was founded by Robert Zildjian who had a conflict with this brother and decided to strike out on his own. With such a storied lineage, Sabian quickly grew to be one of the leading cymbal manufacturers in the world and their products make for an excellent choice when looking for the best ride cymbal. Drummers that prefer a “darker” sounding ride cymbal will be pleased with a Sabian ride cymbal.
This brand name was established by two cymbalsmiths, Mehmet Tamdeger and Agop Tomurcuk, who actually used to work at Zildjian's K cymbal factory. They named their company after the city that has been home to high quality cymbals for many, many years: Istanbul. These cymbals were exported over to the United States in 1984, first under the name “Zildjiler”, and soon afterwards as “Istanbul”. Istanbul Mehmet has really picked up steam these past few years, picking up some world-renown drummers like Rick Latham.
Ride Cymbal Construction and Sound
Your ride cymbal is generally the biggest cymbal in your drum kit with sizes ranging anywhere from 20” to 26” (with some larger offerings available as well). Unlike hi-hats or crash cymbals, ride cymbals tend to have more sustain-like qualities. The sound you can get from the cymbals depends primarily on where you hit it. A hit to the bell of the ride cymbal produces a sharp “ping” sound while a strike near the edge of the ride cymbal produces a more familiar bright cymbal tone.
Like other cymbals, “thinner” construction tends to provide a lighter, brighter sound while “thicker” construction will usually sound a little “darker.” While there may be other types of production, cymbals are most usually manufactured via sheet or cast production. Sheet cymbals are manufactured by stamping sheets of metal while cast cymbals are made by casting molten metal in the mold, rolled, hammered, and lathed.
With their ease of production, sheet cymbals are generally less expensive than cast cymbals. You can usually hear a quality in the difference of sound as well. However, which one sounds better to your ear is most always personal preference. You’ll have to play a few different types or watch a few different videos clips of each to hear which kind is best for you.
Hand Hammering vs. Machine Hammering
Regardless of which type of cast you prefer (cast vs. sheet), at some point, the cymbal will have to be hammered into its final shape. Before the advent of modern technology, this type of hammering had to be done by hand. As such, fans of hand-hammered cymbals consider the process as a more traditional one, producing a more artisan-like product.
In contrast, machine hammered symbols are constructed almost entirely without human labor. In this process, computer-controlled software usually ensures that each cymbal produced is nearly identical in quality of construction and provides the same type of sound regardless of which cymbal you end up purchasing.
So, which type is better? Hand hammered or machine hammered?
You’d be surprised how polarizing this argument can actually be within the drum community. Again, there isn’t any right answer, it boils down to the kind of sound and build quality you’re looking for. For instance, you can argue that hand hammered, via the very process, produces very “unique” cymbals, with no two cymbals being exactly alike. This can be a very exciting prospect, especially if you’re looking for a specific type of sound to fit your drum kit.
Like all of the different woods and construction techniques that go into making a guitar sound different from others, you can literally play hundreds of different hand hammered cymbals and each one of them would sound different.
But what happens when you crack a cymbal? It’s going to be near impossible to find another one that sounds exactly like it. Uniformity is one of the benefits of machine hammered cymbals in that the process ensures identical cymbals that will (presumably) produce identical like sounds. This is especially helpful if you tend to go through cymbals quickly, or if you find your ideal sounding ride cymbal and you want to buy a backup or two.
If you’re still on the fence, most manufacturers offer cymbals that are both hand and machine hammered. While this may just be a creative marketing ploy, you can see that there are more than enough types of cymbals to choose from. In the end, you need to focus and find the best sounding cymbal to your ears regardless of who makes it or how it’s made.
As you can see, there are lots of options when looking for the best ride cymbal. However, the amount of choices shouldn’t be overwhelming. It really boils down to deciding on your type of drumming style, sound preference, application and use, and budget in deciding which one is the best ride cymbal for you.
Because ride cymbals generally sound very different from one another, make sure to do your research. Peruse cymbal manufacturer’s websites to see if they have videos or sound samples of the ride cymbal you’re considering. YouTube is also an excellent resource for this as well.
Lastly, if you do have the chance to go into music store and physically try out these ride cymbals, do so. There is perhaps no better way to get a feel of the construction and the sound of the cymbal.
Once you do make a choice, make sure to set your cymbals up the best possible way and make sure to keep your cymbals clean. Doing both will keep your cymbals sounding great and lasting long. There’s no sense in not taking care of your investment, especially if you decide on one of the pricier ride cymbals on our list!
Whichever ride cymbal you choose, you’re sure to get a quality product that’s not only made well but also sounds amazing. Good luck and happy drumming!