If you’re shopping for ride cymbals, but not quite sure what you’re looking for….
Or how to tell the difference between one and the next…you’ve come to the right place.
Because in this ultimate guide, we’ve made a list of the 9 best ride cymbals on the market to show you exactly how they compare.
So here’s what we’re about to cover:
Table of Contents:
- A Beginner Ride that Sounds Good In Every Situation
- An Affordable Dark Ride for Aspiring Jazz Drummers
- An Affordable Ride Made from High End Bronze
- The Perfect Ride Cymbal for Rock Drummers
- A Unique Flat Ride for Jazz and Funk
- Hand-Hammered Ride Cymbals for the Ultimate Sonic Complexity
- An “Unlathed” Ride for Ultimate Stick Response
- A Crash-Ride Cymbal for Mini Drumkits
- A Low-Volume Ride for Silent Practice
- Chains and Rivets for More Sizzle
A Beginner Ride that Sounds Good In Every Situation
When you’re just starting out with drumming, and haven’t quite committed to a style yet…
Choosing the right cymbals can be tricky, since different sounds work best in different genres.
So common wisdom states that it’s best to use a versatile ride that will sound acceptably good, regardless of style.
Entry-level ride cymbals such as these usually come with the following characteristics:
- 18″ to 22″ diameter – the range used by 99% of drummers
- Brass Alloy – which is the least expensive of the commonly-used alloys
- Medium thickness – which offers a good balance of wash and ping for either jazz or rock
Since there aren’t huge differences between any two cymbals at this level, it isn’t really worth looking too closely at different models.
So instead, just choose one you think looks cool, and get back to playing. So here are the 3 options I’d recommend:
An Affordable Dark Ride for Aspiring Jazz Drummers
At the entry-level, most cymbals tend to lean towards the louder/brighter side, which works better in the most popular styles of today, like pop/rock.
However, in the more “grown-up” styles of music, like jazz for example, darker sounding cymbals tend to work better.
Cymbals such as these are thinner and less-tapered, resulting in a longer wash and richer sound.
Which sounds like it would be good on any cymbal…but there’s a cost:
- Thinner cymbals also mean less volume and stick definition, which makes it harder to cut through a loud band.
- It also means less stick rebound, which makes it harder for fast playing
But ultimately, all these potential downsides are acceptable compromises, tha’ts the sound you’re looking for.
If it is, here are two entry-level models you’ll be more than happy with:
An Affordable Ride Made from High End Bronze
The single most important factor that determines the quality of a ride’s sound, is the alloy it’s made from.
In short, there’s Brass, which is the cheapest…
Then B8 Bronze…
And finally B20 Bronze, which is the most expensive and best-sounding of all…with the widest range of harmonics.
It’s also much more fragile and challenging to shape, which again makes it even more expensive.
And so…the vast majority of B20 bronze cymbals are on the high-end of the price spectrum, but there are a few good exceptions.
The most notable one being: the Millenium B20.
In terms of sound, it’s a dark ride, so it will be particularly suited for jazz and its derivatives.
So if you want a premium cymbal alloy at a budget price, this ride is worth a look.
- Millenium B20 ride 20″ – (Thomann)
The Perfect Ride Cymbal for Rock Drummers
When shopping for individual cymbals (rather than packs)…
The majority of drummers are looking for something in the mid-high price range, that’s loud, bright and perfect for Rock n Roll.
With ride cymbals, that classic Rock n Roll sound is achieved with the following features:
- Thickness – greater thickness increases brightness and volume
- Larger bell – bigger bells have more overtones and high frequencies. Some bells can be as big as half the ride’s diameter.
- Increased curvature – the bigger the curve, the higher-pitched the fundamental of the ride
Among the top models in this category, here are 3 that I’m sure you’ll love:
- Zildjian A-Series Mega Bell – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Meinl Extreme Metal Big Bell – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Paiste 2002 Giga Bell – (Amazon/Thomann)
A Unique Flat Ride for Jazz and Funk
Originally developed by Paiste in the 1960’s, with the help of Jazz drumming legend Joe Morello…
The flat ride design eliminates the bell entirely…
Resulting in the highly-defined stick sound you’d normally get a bright ride, but with the strong wash of a dark ride.
While they still aren’t bright and loud enough for Rock, their hybrid sound definitely makes for an interesting texture in the jazz/funk genres.
Among the most popular models in this category, here are the ones I recommend:
- Bosphorus Black pearl (18″) – (Amazon)
- Istanbul Mehmet Traditional (18″) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Zildjian K Light Flat – (Amazon/Thomann)
Hand-Hammered Ride Cymbals for the Ultimate Sonic Complexity
At the very high-end of ride cymbals, you’ll often see hand-hammered models dominating the market.
These rides are famous for their old-world dimpled texture, and unrivaled sound.
And while it’s not entirely intuitive as to why hammering makes such a big difference…
The simple explanation is: the dimples create tiny variations in thickness over the surface of the cymbal, which shift both the timing and pitch of the sound. This results in an overall richer and more complex sound.
No surprise, hand-hammered rides the most expensive of all, since each one is handcrafted and entirely unique.
While most of these cymbals are made by small boutique manufacturers, here’s a list of the best-selling models made by the biggest brand-names:
- Zildjian K Constantinople Series – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Paiste Signature Dark Energy – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Meinl 22″ Byzance Foundry Reserve R – (Amazon/Thomann)
An “Unlathed” Ride for Ultimate Stick Response
In the manufacturing process, the vast majority of cymbals go through a process known as lathing.
Lathing essentially removes the outer layer of the cymbal by carving grooves into it. Sort of like the needle on a vinyl record.
While lathing techniques are outside the scope of this article, just know that the process is a cornerstone of all cymbal manufacturing (not just rides).
Some cymbals however (certain rides in particular)…remained unlathed, in order to add a unique characteristic to its sound.
Unlathed cymbals typically produce minimal to no wash and a dramatically increased stick response. They also have a vintage, raw look.
Among the top models in this category, here are several that I recommend:
- Bosphorus Turk Series
- Bosphorus Antique Series (Partly lathed/20″) – (Amazon)
- Istanbul Mehmet Turk Series
- Meinl Byzance Extra Thin and Dry 22″ – (Amazon/Thomann)
A Crash-Ride Cymbal for Mini Drumkits
While rides and crashes are normally two separate things…
The crash-ride cymbal can be a convenient hybrid for any drummer looking to keep his kit size down to a minimum.
Crash rides are typically smaller than normal rides (though not always), and have a much thinner edge.
This combinations of features allows them to be used as either one or the other, depending on how you strike it.
If that sounds like something you’re looking for, here are the models I recommend:
- Sabian B8X (18″) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Istanbul Agop Traditional Crash Medium 20″ – (Thomann)
- Zildjian A – (Amazon)
- Meinl Byzance (22″) – (Amazon/Thomann)
A Low-Volume Ride for Silent Practice
As every drummer knows… biggest challenge of consistent practice is dealing with the ridiculously loud volume of a drum kit.
And while there are many potential solutions to this problem that we won’t go into now…
One potential solution worth mentioning is the low-volume rides that have emerged in the market over recent years.
In terms of look, feel, and sound, they’re basically real cymbals. The only difference is: they have tiny holes drilled into them which lowers the volume up to 80% on some models.
So if you practice in an area where too much volume is a problem, this could be a perfect solution.
These are the models I recommend:
Chains and Rivets for More Sizzle
While definitely not essential, two interesting cymbal gimmicks worth mentioning are chains and rivets.
Both of these are added to rides with the goal of increasing the length of the wash by adding extra sensitive devices that move with the slightest of vibrations.
Chains are easier to install, as you only need to place it on top of your ride.
Rivets however, require you to drill holes in the cymbal, which is obviously something you wouldn’t want to do unless you’re absolutely sure.
Either way, here are some links for you to check out:
- Meinl Cymbal Rivets (3pcs) – (Amazon/Thomann)
- Zildjian Rivets (12pcs) – (Thomann)
- Oruga Sizzler – (Thomann)
- Oruga Ring-O Rivets – (Thomann)
More Drum/Percussion Posts in this Series:
Drum Sets | Electronic Drums | Snares | Drumheads | Cymbals | Djembe | Bongos | Cajon | Conga | Cowbell | Tambourines | Vibraphones | Xylophones | Marimbas | Glockenspiels | Metronomes | Drum Thrones | Drumsticks | Ride Cymbals