One of the most expensive aspects of drum kits is the cymbal setup. Drummers are constantly getting new cymbals, changing how they’re positioned, and developing new tastes.
Cymbal shopping doesn’t need to cost that much. There are some great cymbal sets out there at affordable prices, especially for beginners.
Some well-known cymbal manufacturers offer high-quality budget cymbal packs. I have picked out a few of them for you to choose from.
5 Best Budget Cymbal Packs - Affordable Sets
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The HCS line is an entry-level series of cymbals from Meinl. They’re quite popular since they’re included with many entry-level drum kits. This cymbal set includes a pair of 14” hi-hats, a 16” crash, a 20” ride, and a 10” splash cymbal.
The cymbals are made from a brass alloy which keeps their price low. The hi-hats are the standout cymbal in this set. They boast a smooth wash when you play them open and are pretty sensitive to foot pressure when closed. They have a solid chick, allowing you to play solid beats.
The ride has great stick definition and a heavy tone. It provides plenty of wash when you hit hard, filling up the overall sound around you. The splash cymbal is a great add-on. It has a punchy sound that is great for accenting parts in a song. You don’t often see splash cymbals in box sets.
The 16” crash is the weak point of this cymbal set. It opens up too quickly with a short sustain. It doesn’t sound like a typical crash cymbal, potentially leaving some drummers unsatisfied.
This set of cymbals is seriously affordable. However, if it’s still out of your budget, Meinl offers an even cheaper HCS cymbal set.
The Sabian SBR Performance set is aimed specifically at drummers looking for budget cymbals. These SBR cymbals produce a bright tone that is incredibly focused.
The 14” hi-hats deliver a tight, clean sound when closed and a large wash when open. They’re quite soft when closed, meaning you’ll have to hit them hard if you want them to be distinctly heard.
The 16” crash produces a wonderfully bright crash sound. It’s light, yet very sturdy. The 20” ride has a full tone that gets louder the closer you hit to the edge. The bell of the ride is significantly louder than any other part of this cymbal set.
The 10” splash is a great addition, but it doesn’t feel good to play. It’s designed in a way that makes it feel quite flimsy.
Zildjian has been the leading cymbal company for decades. With this reputation, it’s clear that they produce some good cymbals. The Planet Z cymbals are their cheapest ones, giving first-time cymbal buyers an opportunity to experience some Zildjian quality.
I used to own a set of Planet Zs which I absolutely hated. They were too tinny and aggressive. However, Zildjian has redesigned and re-released the Planet Zs and they sound fantastic.
The 14” hi-hats have a crisp tone that opens up when you loosen your foot. The 16” crash has an explosive attack with a large amount of sustain. The 20” ride is very articulate with the bell sounding clean and bright.
These cymbals aren’t for pro players. They make a great sound but they lack the musicality and responsiveness needed by experienced drummers.
I have quite a few drummer friends and we’ve all bonded over how we all started out with Paiste cymbals on our first drum kits. Paiste makes some great budget cymbals.
The PST3 cymbals are dry with a bright tone. They’re great for beginners or intermediates and the best thing about this set is that it comes with two crash cymbals.
The 14” hi-hats sound amazing and are the definite highlight of this set. They have a warm slosh when open, making them great for playing heavy choruses. The 18” crash has an impressive bright tone that packs a lot of depth. It isn’t common for a budget cymbal set to include an 18” crash, making it a great addition.
The 20” ride has a short decay, meaning there isn’t much ring when you hit it. It can be crashed on to get a heavy crash sound. The bell sounds thick and punchy. It’s light, making it a great cymbal for playing jazz.
The 16” crash isn’t great. It’s too high-pitched, sounding more like a splash than a crash cymbal.
The PST3s are some of the most musical budget cymbals out there. If you’re looking for a set of cymbals to play light styles like jazz or indie, they’re a great option.
Wuhan has become a bit of a secret weapon in the drumming world. They make dark cymbals at budget prices which is something that isn’t common at all.
Dark, musical cymbals usually have elaborate production processes, making them quite expensive. The Wuhan Traditional cymbal set packs a pair of 14” hi-hats, a 16” crash, and a 20” ride.
The 14” hi-hats offer a trashy and fairly loose sound. They sit well within a mix, blending musically into the background. The 16” crash has a dark tone that is responsive and musical, reacting well to different dynamics. The dynamic range is crazy for a 16” crash.
The 20” ride has amazing stick definition, allowing you to hear every note extremely clearly. The ride doesn’t have a great bell. It’s too warm and gets lost in a mix. You’d usually want a bell to sound bright and pingy.
To top it all off, the Wuhan Traditional cymbal set comes with a cymbal bag. These cymbals are great for playing both jazz and rock, making them very versatile. If you’re looking for cymbals on a budget, you won’t find better sounding products than the Wuhan Traditionals.
Budget Cymbal Packs - What You Need to Know
A basic drum kit setup would need a pair of hi-hats, a crash cymbal, and a ride cymbal. Every cymbal pack will come with these. Most drummers prefer to have more than one crash cymbal. Luckily, some cymbal packs include two crashes. Splashes and chinas are some other types of cymbals.
Cymbal companies will sometimes produce wacky cymbals with innovative designs. This could include having rivets or a bunch of holes. These are called effects cymbals. It’s called stacking when you layer cymbals on top of each other. Cymbal stacks are very popular in modern drumming.
Cymbals give you a unique voice on the drum kit. Many drums tend to sound similar. However, almost no cymbal sounds the same. Even duplicates of cymbals have minor sound differences. The way cymbals are made affects their tone.
Thick cymbals will produce a high-pitched bright tone. Cymbals that are thin tend to produce a warm, low sounding dark tone.
When cymbals are made, they're hammered. The hammering causes them to produce overtones. Expensive cymbals will have pleasant overtones while cheap cymbals sometimes have harsh overtones.
Some cymbals have a dry tone, hence they don’t resonate for long. Dry cymbals are generally quite musical, making them great for jazz. Some drummers don’t like dry cymbals, claiming that they don’t have enough ring.
Every drummer has different cymbal preferences. You’ll develop your own the more you play.
The standard size for hi-hats is 14” while the standard size for a crash is 16” or 18”. Budget crash cymbals are often 16”, saving on costs because they are smaller.
A standard ride cymbal is 20”. Some rides are 21” or 22”, producing a louder sound.
As you can see from the cymbals in this list, there are some high-quality options out there that aren’t going to break your bank. Even pro players could put these cymbals to good use.
As a beginner, you shouldn’t be worrying too much about the quality of your cymbals.
These cymbals will be great for you. They’re not great options for recording in studios and playing high-profile gigs, however.
If you need some new cymbals, consider investing in one of these best cheap cymbal packs from this list.