The best crash cymbal
Crash cymbals make a sharp "crash" sound when hit and are used to accent certain parts of a song, as opposed to ride cymbals, which are used for steady beats. The crash cymbal is an important part of a drum kit, though it's occasionally used in orchestral music.
Our buying guide contains all the basic information you need to pick out the right crash cymbal for you, whether you're just starting out or you're an experienced musician. Our favorite option is Zildjian's A Custom 18-Inch Projection Crash Cymbal, which is more than loud enough to cut through when playing live.
Considerations when choosing crash cymbals
Most crash cymbals on the market are made from various copper alloys of which brass is the lowest quality. Brass is a blend of copper and zinc, and although it does its job, you shouldn't expect the best sound quality and durability from a brass crash cymbal.
Higher-quality crash cymbals are made from bronze, which is an alloy of copper and tin. The most common types of bronze cymbals are B20s (which contain 80% copper and 20% tin) and B8s (which contain 92% copper and 8% tin). B20 crash cymbals are considered higher quality and more versatile, but some people prefer the bright sound of B8 cymbals.
The size of a crash cymbal is measured across the diameter and can range from 8 to 24 inches. The larger your crash cymbal, the lower the pitch, the louder it is, and the longer the sustain. Most new drummers should opt for crash cymbals between 14 and 18 inches.
The thickness or weight of a crash cymbal affects its sonic properties. Thicker crash cymbals generally have higher pitches, but thinner cymbals have brighter tones. If you're unsure, start with a medium weight cymbal and change it up when you know more about the kind of sound you want from your crash.
As the name suggests, hand-hammered crash cymbals are hammered by hand. This makes them more expensive, but in return you get vastly improved sound quality, so it's worth the extra cash if you have it.
Aged cymbals are kept in the factory for a number of years before being sold. This aging time is said to improve the tone, but only the most discerning of ears will notice a significant difference.
Crash cymbals can cost anywhere between $20 and $500. You won't find many decent options for under $60, but you can buy some very good mid-range options in the $100 to $200 range.
Q. What's the difference between cast metal and sheet metal crash cymbals?
A. Cast metal crash cymbals are made by casting hot liquid metal in a mold, whereas sheet metal crash cymbals are stamped out from a sheet of metal. As a rule, cast cymbals are of better quality overall, so they're used by experienced drummers and those picky about their sound. Sheet metal crash cymbals might be of a slightly lower quality, but they're fine for most casual players.
Q. How do hammering and lathing affect the sound of a crash cymbal?
A. Hammering the surface of a crash cymbal, either mechanically or by hand, adds a depth of sound that you just don't get from a perfectly smooth cymbal. Lathed cymbals have concentric grooves cut into their surface. They affect the sound by changing the way vibrations move through the metal. Those with lathed circles close together produce a tight, focused sound, whereas cymbals with widely spaced lathed circles produce a darker sound.
Crash cymbals we recommend
Best of the best: Zildjian's A Custom 18-Inch Projection Crash Cymbal
Our take: This powerful cymbal has plenty of body and excellent high end that cuts through the mix.
What we like: Very loud, so great for live music. Available in sizes from 16 to 20 inches. Bright and explosive sound. Brilliant finish.
What we dislike: Dulls over time.
Best bang for your buck: Sabian's SBR Series Pure Brass 18-Inch Crash/Ride Cymbal
Our take: A blended crash/ride cymbal that's great if you have a limited budget or want your drum kit to be as compact as possible.
What we like: Made from pure brass. Hammered and lathed surface. Bright, focused sound. Medium weight.
What we dislike: Compromises on sound for both crash and ride effects.
Choice 3: Meinl's 16-Inch Trash Crash Cymbal
Our take: Different from most crash cymbals, this one has holes bored into it for a "trashy" sound with less sustain.
What we like: Great for accenting fills when you don't want the ringing sustain of a regular crash. Also works well in stacks. Reasonably priced.
What we dislike: Good at what it does, but it isn't for everybody.
Lauren Corona is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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