Home > Guides > Best crash cymbals: Give your playing the emphasis it deserves
best crash cymbals

Best crash cymbals: Give your playing the emphasis it deserves

Whether you like your crashes on the downbeat or the upbeat, crash cymbals are one of the most important elements of your cymbal selection.

This list will go over some of our top picks when it comes to the best crash cymbals. Let’s get to it!

Metallic Mojo

Cymbals are made of different alloys, or combinations of metals. Copper is large component, not only for how shapeable it is, but because of its sound properties. The most commonly used copper alloy is bronze.

You might see cymbals labeled B20 (80% copper, 20% tin), or B8 (92% copper, 8%tin). The ratio depends on the sound you want, the type of cymbal it is, and the manufacturer.

Size Matters

Crash cymbals range from 14”-20”. The “ideal” size most drummers prefer is around 18”. This size has good projection without have too slow of a decay. Once you get to 19” and above it tends to be more crash/ride territory (our choice in that category below!).

You also have to consider what you’re using it for. A lot of drummers prefer larger cymbals for live playing because they have stronger projection and a slower decay.

But for recording the opposite tends to be true. Smaller cymbals with a faster decay are preferable because they won’t sound overly “washy”, muddying up the mix.

Best crash cymbal overall: Paiste Signature Full Crash

Paiste Signature Full Crash
best crash cymbal overall
Paiste Signature Full Crash
A versatile, full-sounding crash cymbal that comes in a variety of sizes.
Full sound
Comes in a variety of sizes

What determines the best crash cymbals? Every drummer has their preference. Size, the type of metal or alloy, ported on not. There are a lot of factors that go into it.

Remember, every drummer is different. Every drummer has their own style. And not every cymbal will suit every style of music. We went with the Signature Full Crash because of its amazing sound quality, durability, and overall versatility.

It’s not the most expensive crash cymbal on the market, but a lot of drummers swear by the Paiste Signature Full Crash. Read reviews on any music distributor and you’ll find five stars across the board.

Using Paiste’s signature alloy you’ll get a sound that is full bodied, with a high end that shimmers and a very clean decay. It also comes in a number of sizes – 16”, 18”, 19”, and 20”. So no matter what size you prefer there’s an option for you.

Best crash/ride cymbal: Zildjian K Crash/Ride

Zildjian K Crash Ride
best crash/ride cymbal
Zildjian K Crash/Ride
This dual-purpose cymbal isn’t overly loud comes in three sizes.
Dual purpose
Versatile sound
Comes in three sizes
Great quality
Reduced volume might not be enough for some drummers
Fairly expensive

Crash/ride cymbals are unique, dual-purpose cymbals. They’re obviously a mix of both types, so you want one that doesn’t have too long of a decay but one that is versatile enough to be used in a variety of cymbal scenarios.

Much like the A series, Zildjian’s K line is a choice of top drummers worldwide. Their crash/ride is great for pretty much every style of music. It’s got a little darker tone, but  it responds well and has great definition. and the K logo is vented.

It comes in three sizes – 18”, 20”, and 21”. It’s a little pricey, but with the versatility it offers and Zildjian’s dedication to quality this K series model is a great choice.

Best crash cymbal for recording: Paiste 16” Signature Fast Crash

Paiste 16 inch Signature Fast Crash
best crash cymbal for recording
Paiste 16” Signature Fast Crash
This crash cymbal has a warm sound with reduced sustain that makes it great for recording.
Bronze alloy provides a warm sound
Reduced sustain works well for studio work
Might not be loud enough

When it comes to recording, ideally you want smaller cymbals due to their faster decay. A lot of the pros prefer thin crash cymbals for this very reason.

This fast crash from Swiss company Paiste has all of the features you could want in a studio crash. Made from the company’s signature bronze alloy it’s got a warm sound with a fast response and short sustain. This makes it perfect for minimizing wash.

It’s also got a little bit reduced volume so you don’t have to worry as much about clipping. And although it’s ideal for studio work, if you want a fast crash for playing live it’s still a top choice.

Best crash cymbal for rock: Zildjian 18” A Custom

Zildjian 18 inch A Custom
best crash cymbal for rock
Zildjian 18” A Custom
This cymbal is loud and great for the abuse of playing heavier styles.
Bright sound that stands out in a mix
Very durable
Doesn’t work for all styles

A lot of the best drummers in rock swear by the Zildjian A Custom series. And their preferred choice of crash cymbal from the set is the 18” A Custom.

It’s got a bright tone that cuts right through a dense mix. Great for rock and heavier styles like metal, this Zildjian is made of highly durable cast bronze. And if properly cared for it will last you for years.

It’s not cheap, but cymbals take such abuse that you want something that will hold up to a drummer that really goes for it.

It’s a thin weight, but has a lot of body to the sound. When you think of the best crash cymbals for rock, this one is the sound you imagine. When it comes to the best crash cymbals, especially for rock, it’s hard to beat it.

Best O-Zone crash cymbal: Sabian HHX Evolution Series O-Zone 18″

SABIAN HHX Evolution Series O-Zone Cymbal
Best O-Zone crash cymbal
Sabian HHX Evolution Series O-Zone 18″
One of the most unique types of crash cymbals adds a novel sound to any drummer’s cymbal setup.
Aggressive sound that cuts through a mix
Sound won’t suit every drummer

O-Zone cymbals are one of the most unique types of crash cymbals. This type of cymbal has small holes, in this case 2″ in diameter, to add a unique flair to the sound.

At 18″ it’s a larger crash with a thin weight, but they’re meant to stick out in a mix. O-Zone style cymbals don’t just come in crashes either. Rides, hi-hats, inverted, even smaller cymbals like splashes sound cool with the reduced surface area.

Raw, dark, dirty. Nasty, aggressive, trashy. Whatever adjectives you want to put on it this model from the HHX line adds a sound all its own to any cymbal setup.

Best affordable crash cymbal: Meinl HCS 18”

Meinl HCS 18 inch
best affordable crash cymbal
Meinl HCS 18”
An affordable crash cymbal that combines sound and quality.
Great sound for the price point
Good sound spread
Decent amount of sustain
Entry level cymbal that might not be enough for seasoned drummers

Good cymbals are not cheap. Manufacturing them is a painstaking process, but you want one that sounds as good as it is durable.

Meinl’s HCS series is their entry level line, but don’t think that means they don’t sound professional. Their HCS crash is a MS63 alloy that provides a balanced sound that’s got some warmth to it. It’s got a good sound spread with a medium sustain.

Don’t sleep on Meinl cymbals. They may not have the market share that companies like Zildjian and Paiste do, but the quality is really comparable. At under $100 this is a great option if budget is tight but you don’t want to skip on tone.


What is the best crash cymbal?

What does “best” mean to you? This is highly subjective. We went with the Paiste Signature Full Crash because of the reasons listed above.

Ideally you want something with a full body to the sound, a shimmering top end, and a decay that works best for your style and application.

What is the best size crash cymbal?

As mentioned above, crash cymbals generally range from 14”-20”. The best size depends on drummer preference. Again, decay and projection are usually the two most critical elements drummers look for. As mentioned, cymbals for playing live generally have the best sound if they’re larger, while drummers tend to prefer smaller cymbals for recording because of the faster decay.

Which cymbal brand is best?

Zildjian, Sabian, Paiste, and Meinl are the most popular. They sound fantastic, they’re durable, and whichever brand you prefer it’s a worthwhile investment.

Is Sabian better than Zildjian?

Sabian is actually an offshoot of Zildjian. Both brands are high quality and used worldwide by all types of drummers. Choosing one or the other is really up to personal preference.

Post navigation

NAMM 2021: Paiste brings power to the Signature series

Paiste has announced new models in its Signature series, including the new Paiste Signature Power models. There are a range of new models in the series.

Here are the best cymbal packs money can buy

There are plenty of good reasons to buy a cymbal pack, but once you know you want to, you'll need to find the right one. Here are the best cymbal packs.

Best hi hats: Get the perfect hats for your setup

Hi hats are one of the most important parts of the overall drum kit. Much like ride cymbals, they’re one of the most utilized members of any drummer’s cymbal collection....

Best ride cymbals: Find the perfect biggest cymbal in your lineup

Let’s face it – it’s not difficult to differentiate between well made cymbals and models that well…aren’t. Ride cymbals are an integral part of a drummer’s sound selection. Just like...