Best Crash Cymbals – Dark & Fast for Rock, Metal & More

Updated on by Brett Clur | Please note that there may be affiliate links on this page.

Every drum kit has at least one crash cymbal. The crash cymbal is synonymous with drums. Think of people always making the “da dum tshhh” sound after a joke. Since the crash is so important in drumming, you should have a good one.

There are thousands of crash cymbals out there, all catering to different styles and sounds. So, I have put my focus on crash cymbals that cater to heavier styles of music for this list. This doesn’t mean they’re limited to just that, but they are focused more towards that.

Here is my list of the best crash cymbals for some loud and expressive playing.

8 Best Crash Cymbals for the Money

Zildjian’s Sweet line of cymbals are one of the most musically expressive cymbal lines on the market, with the 15” Sweet hi-hats being one of the most loved pair of hi-hats in recent times. Does the 18” crash have the same great qualities? You bet.

This crash is dark and musical. It produces a full sound that blooms quickly out of the tight initial impact of the stick. It’s smooth and moody.

It feels paper-thin when you hold it, but when played with a stick, it starts to feel medium-weighted. The thinness gives it the moody tone that blends into the mix of instruments.

This is one of the most versatile crash cymbals out there. It works well in rock, metal and softer styles. It doesn’t have enough punch to be a main accent cymbal, but it will act as a warm side crash to play when you want the sound to blend. The wash of it makes it great for riding in choruses.

One thing to note is that it’s kind of pricey for an 18” crash. However, the quality and versatility make up for it. So, it would be a great investment.

  • Versatile
  • Great for riding in choruses
  • Light-weighted, making it easy to transport
  • Expensive for an 18”

The Meinl Classics Custom Dark series of cymbals are designed to be loud and harsh. I’ve mainly seen metal drummers use these because they cater so well to that style of music. I’ve put the 19” crash on this list because the 19” option just sounds so big and loud.

It’s one of the loudest crash cymbals I’ve ever heard. Perfect for your loud and aggressive metal band.

It has a beautiful dark tone with great stick definition. This crash will cut right through a mix. You don’t even need to hit it hard to get a huge sound.

It’s pretty much made for one purpose and that is to be loud, meaning it’s not versatile. This crash will get in the way of music styles that aren’t along the metal spectrum.

The great thing about Meinl’s Classics Custom Dark series is that they’re affordable for mid-range buyers.

  • Loud and aggressive
  • Great for metal
  • Durable
  • Not versatile

The Zildjian 18” A Custom has one of the most classic cymbal sounds around. When someone thinks of a crash cymbal playing, they’ll usually hear the A Custom in their head. It’s your typical crash cymbal.

It produces a natural and full-bodied sound. It’s bright, without being too low or high.

It allows for delicate and nuanced playing, reacting to the slightest touch. It also sounds big and bright when you really lay into it, cutting right through any mix of instruments.

The 18” A Custom is very balanced and has a wide range of applications for all types of drummers. It’s going to fit right in with any style of music. It has been my go-to cymbal in the past when I’m playing in a band that covers a lot of different styles.

This crash doesn’t offer anything specific, making it a safe option. If you’re looking for some very specific sounds, then it won’t be the best choice for you. However, it will always be good to have a spare A Custom crash lying in your cymbal bag!

  • Not too low or high
  • Very versatile
  • None

Paiste’s PST 7s are traditional looking and sounding cymbals. They’re very reminiscent of Paiste’s famous 2002 series. However, they’re way more affordable.

The PST 7 18” has a bright and shimmering sound. Its medium weight gives it enough body and presence to sound full without being too clangy.

The lathing on the top and bottom helps this crash open up easily and speak clearly at any volume.

These qualities make it a pretty versatile crash cymbal. It’s one of the more affordable crashes on the market, falling somewhere between entry-level and mid-range. This makes it an easily accessible crash to get.

It doesn’t sound as good as some pro cymbals out there. So, if you’re on a budget, it’s a great option. If you have some cash to spend, it will be better to get a higher quality crash cymbal.

  • Affordable
  • Sounds clear at any volume
  • Versatile
  • Not as good as slightly higher priced cymbals

Sabian’s XSR series of cymbals are designed with the same high quality technology that they’re high end products are designed with. This gives you a high quality mid-range cymbal. The 18” XSR Fast crash is a cymbal that I have played on in my church for a while now.

It has a glossy, yet rich tone. It’s very bright and will cut through any mix it’s put in to. This makes it great for high energy styles of music like rock and gospel.

It works best as an accenting cymbal. So, when the music needs a punch to support the hits, this crash will do the job. This is because it has a sharp initial impact and a quick decay.

The Sabian 18” XSR gives you great quality at a low price.

  • Cuts through any mix
  • Good for rock and gospel
  • Good for accenting hits with a band
  • None

Meinl’s HCS series are their entry-level group of cymbals. These cymbals are included in a lot of entry-level drum kit packages. They’re really popular. This is because they’re some of the best sounding entry-level cymbals around.

The 16” HCS crash has a twangy brass tone that gives it a lot of character. It’s a bit dull sounding when hit softly. You have to hit quite hard to get the best sound out of it.

This means it’s not the best thing for subtle dynamics. However, it will give you good volume and projection when playing rock or metal.

This crash is for beginners. More experienced players will find it lacking in some needed cymbal qualities. However, I discovered a few years ago that this crash works really well for creating cymbal stacks. So, pro players could use it for that purpose.

I’ll confidently say that the Meinl HCS 16” is the best crash cymbal for beginners. It will take a beating and produce a solid tone that beginners will be happy with. It’s really inexpensive as well!

  • Highly inexpensive
  • Great for beginners
  • Works well for cymbal stacks
  • Not great for experienced drummers

The HHX is one of Sabian’s top lines of cymbals. They’re the high quality cymbals for the pros, meaning the 16” HHX thin crash is a crash cymbal for the pros. It’s available for you and me though, meaning we can sound like pros too!

It produces a dark sound that is very controlled. This makes it a highly musical crash cymbal. It has a small bell that ensures a fast attack, making it great for accents.

This crash is thin. The thinness gives it a shimmering tone. It’s lighter than most thin crashes, meaning it’s easy to carry around.

There’s a reason that famous drummers like Dave Weckl and Chad Smith use this crash, it’s one of the best sounding 16” crashes that money can buy. It is quite expensive though, so you’ll need to do some saving.

  • Controlled dark sound
  • Very musical
  • Great for accents
  • Expensive

I’m a huge advocate for Wuhan cymbals. They generally all sound quite good and they’re seriously affordable. The Wuhan 16” medium thin crash is no different.

It’s one of the darkest crash cymbals I’ve heard. Its darkness and washiness gives it a lot of character. These qualities make it ideal for riding on, filling choruses with a sweet crashing sound.

The stick articulation of this crash is very balanced and clear with the perfect amount of wash underneath.

The sound quality it produces is way above the price that it is sold for. However, Wuhan cymbals aren’t the most reliable cymbals on the market. You could buy two 16” medium thin crashes and they will sound very different to each other.

So, it’s a bit of a gamble if you’re looking for a very specific sound. The gamble is worth it though, and it definitely won’t break the bank!

  • Very dark
  • Balanced stick articulation
  • Highly inexpensive
  • Not all models sound the same

Crash Cymbal Size

A cymbal has to be between 14” and 20” to be considered a crash cymbal. Anything smaller than that would be called a splash and anything bigger would be called a ride.

14 and 15 inch crash cymbals aren’t common, but they are out there. They’re mainly included with kits for children, since those sizes are better suited for smaller people. I have also seen a lot of street performers use 14 and 15 inch crashes.

20” crashes aren’t too common either. They could be confused as ride cymbals. However, there are some 20” crashes that have been designed to give a huge crash sound and wouldn’t work too well as a ride cymbal. I had a 20” crash that I used for years. The unique big sound added so much depth to my drum setup.

The most common crash cymbals will be between 16” and 19”. This is the safest option to go with if you’re not too sure of what to get.

Crash Cymbal Properties

Crash cymbals will be designed to have specific sound qualities. Heavier crashes will sound bright and loud, while lighter crashes will sound dark and warm.

Bright cymbals will cut through a mix of instruments, making them great for rock and metal. Dark cymbals will blend into a mix, making them great for jazz.

Nothing is set in stone though, meaning you could use any cymbal for any style of music if you really want to.

How Many Crash Cymbals You Need

This debate could go on forever. Some drummers like a simple setup with just 2 crashes. Other drummers like to have 10. It really just depends on your personal preference along with what style of music you’re playing.

Styles like metal will require tonal differences to enhance the music, meaning you’ll need quite a few crash cymbals.

Rock only really requires 2. Some jazz drummers don’t even use crash cymbals, preferring to have 2 ride cymbals instead.

The safest option would be to have 2 crash cymbals. This will give you two different tonal options and also allow you to finish off fills on either side of you while playing.

Conclusion

Different types of crash cymbals will compliment each other. It would benefit you to have a mix of dark and bright cymbals. It would also benefit you to have a mix of crashes that blend into and crashes that cut through a mix.

If you play rock or metal, you’ll need one or two fast crashes. So, go and get some if you haven’t already.

Brett Clur

About Brett Clur

Brett has been playing drums for 18+ years. He's a huge drumming gear enthusiast and also teaches drumming to his students. He's most active on Instagram (@brettclurdrums), where he regularly uploads drumming videos.

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