4 Best Cymbals for Metal (2021) for Heavy Hitters

Updated on by Brett Clur | There may be affiliate links on this page.

Metal is one style of music that has the highest number of sub-genres. Heavy metal, extreme metal, and death metal- all have different sounds. There are a lot more sub-genres than just those. However, the drum sound needed is pretty similar across all of them.

Metal drumming is loud, fast, and powerful. You’re going to need a set of cymbals that can accurately reflect these qualities. They’re also going to need to be able to cut through a mix of distorted guitars and aggressive vocals.

Here are some of the best cymbals for metal.

Best Cymbals for Metal - My Top Picks

The Paiste 2002s are synonymous with the Paiste brand. Everyone seems to love these cymbals and they work great in a metal setting. This pack comes with a pair of 14” hi-hats, 18”, and 20” crashes and a 22” ride.

These cymbals flourish in heavy settings and have a heavy sound that is clean and crisp. They’re projected very well, making them fit well in a metal setting. Their larger sizes provide more sustain that helps in producing that big sound.

The crashes have a lot of wash to them. The washiness of the crashes makes them great for playing heavy beats with. You’ll often find yourself playing crashes instead of hi-hats in metal to get a heavier sound.

These cymbals are quite pricey, but they’re well worth it. 

  • Super clean and crisp sound
  • 22” ride is very loud
  • Crashes are washy and great for playing beats with
  • Expensive

The Zildjian A Customs are one of the most iconic sets of cymbals out there. They’ve been around for years and are great for many different styles of music, including metal.

This set of Zildjian A Customs includes a pair of 14” hi-hats, 16” and 18” crashes and a 20” ride. They have a bright tone with a shiny finish that will look great on any drum kit setup

The crashes have a short sustain and produce a quick sound, making them great for quick jabs when playing drum fills that involve the cymbals. 

The bell of the ride has a bright ping, making it great for loud choruses and blast beats. The hi-hats produce great chick sound, perfect for the softer grooves.

All these cymbals complement each other and produce a classic cymbal sound that will work great in a metal setting.

The brightness helps the cymbals to cut through a mix, meaning they’ll be heard within a loud and distorted metal sound.

The ride cymbal is a bit too ringy, but the ring can be softened with some thick tape.

  • Bright cutting sound
  • These cymbals complement each other very well
  • Bell of ride has a great ping to it
  • Ride is very ringy

I’ve seen so many metal drummers use these cymbals. They’ve become a favorite over recent years. The reason for that is that these cymbals were designed with metal music in mind.

The Meinl Classics Custom Dark box set includes a pair of 14” hi-hats, 16”, and 18” crashes along with a 20” ride. This box set offers really high quality cymbals for an affordable price.

These cymbals are boomy, dark and, cutting. The hi-hats and ride produce a defined sound while the crashes are responsive and get really loud when played hard. The bell of the ride is great for playing blast beats.

The cymbals together have a wide range of tones from low to high.

The one thing that's missing from this pack is the china cymbal. There is a china in the same series. You’ll just have to buy it separately.

These cymbals are synonymous with metal drumming. Their dark finish looks pretty hardcore as well!

  • Very affordable
  • Black finish looks cool
  • Bell of ride cymbal is great for blast beats
  • Box set doesn’t include the Classics Custom Dark china cymbal

This cymbal pack includes a pair of 14” hi-hats, 16” and 18” crashes and a 21” ride. These cymbals are larger than your standard set, making them loud and booming.

Their bright sound will cut through any metal mix that you throw at them.

The 21” ride cymbal can be crashed on, meaning you can play it to get a really heavy sound in break downs. It works dynamically well when paired with a china cymbal.

The crash cymbals are very responsive, giving a wholesome tone when played soft and hard. This is great for the softer sections in a song where you need to add some cymbal finesse.

All the cymbals are really durable, meaning you can hit really hard and aggressively and they’ll last a long time.

The downside to these cymbals is that they have Sabian’s new logo, which most people are not a fan of.

  • Very cutting
  • 21” ride can be crashed on
  • Crash cymbals are responsive
  • New Sabian logo

Why You Need Certain Cymbals for Metal

While most drum kits will work fairly well in a metal band, your choice of cymbals will make a huge impact on how you contribute to the band as a drummer. Cymbals that are too mellow will have no effect while cymbals that are too dry will blend too much.

So, there are a few things that you need to look out for. Each of them will elevate your sound within a metal band.

Strong Bells

Drummers tend to play cymbal bells more in metal than in any other style of music. Hitting the bell produces a sharp sound that often complements a distorted guitar part or a heavy break in a metal song.

When choosing cymbals, you should make sure that they have strong bell sounds, especially the bell of the ride cymbal. The Zildjian Mega Bell ride is incredibly popular amongst metal drummers as it has a huge bell to work with.

If the bell of the ride has a strong tone, having strong tones from the other cymbals would be a bonus.

China Cymbals

Most metal drummers use china cymbals. They’re not the most popular types of cymbals in the drumming community, but they’re often vital in metal setups. They produce an aggressively trashy sound that fits perfectly in the genre.

You should get a good china cymbal that has a loud tone that will pierce through all the other cymbal sounds. You need to find your tool to use in metal breakdowns.

Some great china cymbals are the Paiste 2002 and the Meinl Classics Custom Dark. Both these cymbals are loud and punchy, giving you powerful sound sources to pull from when playing.

Aggressiveness

One of the main qualities you need to look for in cymbals for metal is aggressiveness. They need to have heavy tones that are loud and cut through mixes easily. Metal music is full of distorted guitar riffs and screaming vocals, so the cymbals need to be harsh enough to compete with that.

Typically, bright cymbals would fit this description perfectly. You can never go wrong with bright cymbals such as the Zildjian A Customs. However, some darker cymbals are just as aggressive and cutting. A great example would be the Meinl Classics Custom Dark cymbals.

Popular Cymbal Brands

Meinl has gained huge popularity in the metal drumming community over the past decade. This is thanks to a combination of the company producing cymbals that cater to the style as well as the large number of metal bands that have started in European regions. Meinl cymbals tend to be popular over there.

Zildjian, Paiste, and Sabian are the other popular brands that get used by metal drummers. Each company has a line of cymbals that are bright and aggressive enough to fit perfectly in metal playing contexts.

I’d suggest you make a decision based on sound instead of loyalty to a brand. Your favorite cymbal brand may not deliver the cymbal you need, so you shouldn’t feel bad for going with another brand. Thankfully, the four top brands in the world all deliver, so you have a big selection!

Conclusion

Metal drum kit setups are usually quite big, having several drums and cymbals. Having a big setup allows a drummer to match the quick tonal changes that metal music has. A guitarist will play a riff and a drummer will need to play a fill that sounds heavy and dynamic.

The box sets on this list only come with 4 cymbals. This is a good place to start, but as a metal drummer, you may need some more cymbals. It’s also just a good thing to have multiple cymbals in your kit, giving you different options in different situations.

Metal music is quite complex. You’re going to need cymbals that help you truly reflect the loud style. They’re going to need to be really durable as well. So, go out and get some cymbals that will sound great when you’re playing blast beats.

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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