China cymbals are one of the weirdest parts of a drum setup. Most of them look like you’re playing a crash cymbal upside down. Some are uniquely designed, but most follow the pattern of having the outer part of the cymbal rising up.
They’re used to get a trashy sound. This trashy sound adds a cool effect to your cymbal setup. You’ll mainly see chinas in heavy metal drum setups, but they can be used for other styles.
I’ve put together a list of my favorite china cymbals to help you decide on one.
6 Best China Cymbals - Budget & Premium
Wuhan is a cymbal manufacturer in China. It’s quite promising to have a china cymbal from China and Wuhan delivers quality cymbals for a low cost.
The Wuhan 16” Wuhan china cymbal is made from B20 metal. It sounds dirty and trashy, just like a china should. It has relatively unnoticeable overtones, which are non existent when played within a fill. It has a crispy cutting sound when choked, which is one of its best qualities.
Its not the most durable cymbal out there. However, cracks don’t affect the sound. So, you can carry on playing this the Wuhan china long after it has been cracked.
It gives a punchy accent when played together with a snare. It has a relatively long sustain, which makes playing constant notes on it a bit muddy. This Wuhan china is better used as an effects cymbal that you hit every now and then.
The Wuhan 16” china is undoubtedly the best sounding china in its price range.
The Meinl Classics Custom 18” Dark China was pretty much designed just for metal drummers. It’s made of B10 bronze, which gives it a bright and clear attack. The classic china design of the cymbal is what gives it a trashy tone.
The bright attack mixes with the dark tone of the cymbal, making it sound great for accented hits and having the sustain quickly blend into the mix. This is great for aggressive styles, which is why it’s a perfect china for metal.
The dark finish of this china looks really cool on stage. It’s pretty metal to have a black cymbal!
This china is loud, meaning it will cut through distorted guitars and heavy vocals.
It’s not the most versatile china out there. So, it won’t fit well in softer styles of music like jazz or indie.
The Zildjian S series of cymbals were designed to be an affordable intermediate option of cymbals that will work across different styles of music. I’m quite impressed with the 18” china, which is why it’s on this list.
It’s made from a B12 alloy which gives it a balanced sound across frequency ranges. The way it has been hammered allows it to respond well to dynamics. So, this china will sound just as good when played softly as it will when played loudly.
It’s sound is bright, meaning it’s high pitched. This brightness opens up with a short sustain. This tone will work in many different styles of music. It has a brilliant finish, which is what adds to that bright tone.
The S series china is thin, making it a good option to add to a cymbal stack.
The Sabian 17” AA Holy china was designed with the help of Chad Smith, who is the drummer for the Red Hot Chili Peppers. When a cymbal is designed by someone in a high energy funk band, you know it’s going to be good.
It’s made from B20 bronze, making it a durable and musical china. It’s very loud. Loud enough to be heard clearly through the mix of a funk band. It will work well for metal too. The loudness won’t fit into softer styles of music though.
The Holy china has several holes drilled into it, giving it the trashy and bright sound.
It’s a bit pricey. So, if you don’t need a super loud bright china, then consider a cheaper alternative.
Paiste’s PST 7 series of cymbals were designed to give the quality Paiste sound at an affordable price. Paiste isn’t one of the most well known cymbal brands out there. However, they deliver high quality the cymbals that definitely match up with more popular brands.
The PST 7 china gives a clear tone with powerful projection. Its sweet tone works well in several styles of music. It is dynamically responsive with medium sustain.
The PST 7 china works well when you play constant notes on it. The washiness gives it character that is unique.
You’re getting a really trashy sound for a good price with this china. Trashiness being exactly what you want.
It doesn’t respond too well to being played very softly. The tone doesn’t come through.
The Meinl HCS series of cymbals are Meinl’s entry-level product. They are cymbals designed for beginners to purchase without spending too much money. I’ve added the HCS 12” china to this list for two reasons. Firstly, it’s a smaller china option, which will add some size variety to your setup. Secondly, it sounds pretty good for the price!
The HCS 12” china has a bright attack, with dark trashy undertones. I wouldn’t use this as my main china cymbal. It’s small, so I’d fit it in somewhere as a side effects cymbal.
The design and sound quality are aimed specifically at beginners. If you’re a beginner, this is a pretty good china option. However, it still has uses for intermediate and advanced players. You could use it for a cymbal stack. The small size makes it a good option to stack with a splash cymbal to get a tight and punchy accent sound.
The HCS 12” china is very inexpensive, meaning it won’t last as long as higher priced cymbals. It also won’t sound as good.
It’s a great option for beginners. It’s also a great option to have as a spare china lying around to be used for certain situations, with its 12” size giving it a unique edge.
Cymbals will be made in certain ways that will dramatically affect how they sound. If a cymbal is thick, it will generally have a brighter sound. Bright cymbals have a high pitch. If a cymbal is thin, it will generally have a darker sound. Dark cymbals have a low pitch.
Some cymbals will have holes in them. The holes make the cymbal sound trashy, which basically means it sustains for longer and has a loose, uncontrolled sound.
Dry cymbals will have a lot of overtones, giving them a washy sound.
China Cymbal Sizes
China cymbals range from 6” to 22”. The smaller the china, the higher the pitch, and the bigger the china, the lower the pitch. Certain chinas will have lots of sustain, while others will have almost no sustain.
You’ll generally want a main china cymbal that ranges from 16” to 20”. Any cymbal that is smaller than that won’t have the same presence and would be better suited as an effects cymbal to be played occasionally.
Chinas for Certain Styles
Chinas are most popular in metal music due to their trashy sound. There’s nothing like a good china sound in a hardcore breakdown.
However, chinas can be used for other styles. They are effects cymbals, meaning you can use them anywhere where you want an effect. I’ve seen a few jazz drummers use china cymbals. A china is going to sound too harsh if played often, so you don’t need to use it as much as your crash or ride cymbals.
A china cymbals’s inverted design makes it a good base for a cymbal stack. Drummers will often use a large china as a base, then stack smaller crashes and splashes on top of it. Stacking is a good way to get rid of some sustain from the china.
China cymbals aren’t the most necessary cymbals out there. However, if you want a large cymbal setup, then you’re going to want to have a china cymbal. It will add an extra dynamic sound option to your drum kit. It’s also just a great option to have lying in your cymbal bag.
If you play metal, you need a china cymbal. No excuses.
So, go out and get a china cymbal to expand your personal drum voice.