By Contributing Author Dango
Choosing the best ride cymbal for your setup is no small matter–read our comprehensive reviews to find out which is the best fit for your needs.
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Ride cymbals can be as personal to a drummer’s sound as their snare drum.
While it’s impossible to say there is one ride cymbal that will work best for every situation, it’s important to realize that a good-quality, versatile ride can fit well in most styles.
In today’s market there are several small companies making great stuff, but for the sake of accessibility, I am going to stick to the big companies with these recommendations, including Zildjian, Paiste, Sabian, and Meinl.
Zildjian has been around the longest and is still the most popular cymbal company.
Paiste is the second oldest and, though smaller, is still highly revered for their sound.
Sabian was started by a split in the Zildjian family and has become the second biggest company in the market.
And finally, Meinl is the fourth big company of cymbals and has created its own niche.
Ride cymbals range in size from 18 inches up to 26 inches, though most commonly used is 20- or 22-inches. All of our review models will be 22 inches in diameter.
I’ve narrowed it down to four quality options, so you can easily choose a cymbal that best suits your needs.
Zildjian 22” K Ride Cymbal
- Solid, all-around ride choice for any gig
- Traditional randomized hammer pattern
- Very low curvature for low crash sound
Zildjian was founded in 1623 and is the oldest company in the world!
The Zildjian K line has been around for a long time and remains super popular among drummers of all styles.
Initially seen as a jazz cymbal, this mid- to heavier-weight ride is often used in rock, pop, country, latin, etc. It is extremely versatile and remains a pro favorite.
Zildjian has an entire arsenal of great rides, but for the sake of picking one versatile option, the K ride cymbal has always been my favorite.
- Traditional randomized hammer pattern, low curvature, and smooth lathing
- Dark, warm sound
- Medium-weight, versatile ride for different styles of music
Sabian HHX 22” Complex Medium Ride Cymbal
Sabian is a Canadian company that is relatively new, only being founded in the early eighties.
After the family split from Zildjian, they quickly became popular in the rock world and expanded to several lines over the next decade, including the HHX and the AAX lines.
This is the only company I have personally never used on tour before, and therefore have the least professional experience with.
Today Sabian is a household name in cymbals and their Complex Medium ride cymbal has become a very popular ride choice for all-purpose use. They are popular in every genre including rock, Gospel, jazz, country, metal, and pop.
- Traditional finish with a hand-hammered bell
- Dark sound with a smooth wash
- Versatile in many genres
Paiste Formula 602 Modern Essentials 22” Ride
- The Formula 602 Modern Essentials Ride Cymbal offers a warm sparkling stick sound over a wide, deep wash
- This cymbal also delivers a fairly quick, hefty crash
- Overall, this extremely dynamic and lively Ride cymbal is suitable for many musical styles
Paiste is a Swiss company that got its start 115 years ago making cymbals and gongs.
Though being smaller than Zildjian, its unique sound has been the home of some of the most influential drummers in history, including John Bonham and Jeff Porcaro.
Similar to these other companies, Paiste has several rides that could easily be seen as their top choice.
The Modern Essentials line was developed specifically by Vinnie Colaiuta when he joined Paiste about a decade ago and all of the models are medium weight, all-purpose cymbals.
This Modern Essentials ride cymbal is smooth and buttery, making it a great choice.
- Suitable for many musical styles
- Medium weight
- Has a warm sparkling stick sound over a wide, deep wash
Meinl Byzance Traditional 22” Ride
- Hand hammered in Turkey from cast B20 Bronze — the Byzance Traditional Medium Ride connects with an earthy shine that lets your stick definition come through, along with a complex mosaic of...
- Fully lathed surfaces — Byzance Traditional cymbals are fully lathed to give them a classic sound and look — some of the deeper hand hammer craters are visible, but the surface has been lathed...
- Clear and pronounced bell — a mark of any good ride cymbal is having a bell that is easily activated and punches through with clarity — the bell on this ride sits on top of the mix of the cymbal,...
Meinl is a German company founded about 70 years ago.
Initially, it was super popular among metal drummers for their heavy lines, as well as Latin drummers for all of their effects cymbals.
They have since expanded into darker lines of cymbals and are very popular among educational drummers and virtuoso players.
Hand-hammered and hand-lathed in Turkey, the Byzance line is mid-weight and this Traditional Medium ride is a great-all-around model. They have several solid options just as good as this one, it simply depends on your personal taste.
- Hand-forged in Turkey by skilled cymbal smiths
- Medium weight
- All-purpose cymbal for different musical styles
- Includes a 2-year warranty
Which Cymbal Weight is Best for a Ride Cymbal?
Ride cymbals come in various weights and sizes that change the sound drastically for different styles of play.
Heavier rides are more pingy and are often used for jazz and metal due to the articulation needed.
Thinner rides are much more washy and often used in rock and other styles where they can be crashed as well as used for riding.
What’s the Difference Between a Crash and a Ride Cymbal?
Drummers typically have just one ride cymbal, though they often can have multiple crashes.
A basic setup should include a crash, a ride, and hi hats.
The ride cymbal is most often the biggest and heaviest of the setup. Rides are used most when playing a groove, while crashes are more often for accents.
Things to Consider When Buying a Ride Cymbal
Searching for the best ride cymbal can feel like an overwhelming task because there are so many to choose from. To narrow down your choices, consider these factors.
Cost of the Cymbal
From a practical standpoint, your budget is going to guide your buying options.
Cymbals are expensive and ride cymbals are usually the most expensive due to their larger size.
If you are purchasing your first set of cymbals, I always suggest getting the best you can afford.
Cheaper cymbals sound much harsher and cheaper than pro models. Each of these four brands featured in my recommendations is equally professional in sound and quality and would make a solid choice.
Type of Music
Besides the initial budget, the biggest factor for any cymbals should be the type of music being played.
For this list of recommendations, I purposely suggested general models that will work in most settings.
This is important because you don’t want to buy models designed for metal music if you will primarily be playing in church or a school band.
Similarly, you won’t want a super specific dry model if you are playing styles where you need more volume.
Until the player is able to have multiple options, it’s best to stick with a general-purpose line and a mid-weight model, which includes all of the models on my list.
What if I’m Just Starting Out?
Each of these big four companies also offer beginner packs at much cheaper prices. Those can be a good, cost-effective option for a brand new student.
However, by the time the student is performing in some capacity outside of their home, I highly suggest upgrading and investing in at least semi-pro quality cymbals.
RECAP: Our 4 Top PickS for Versatile Ride Cymbals
The fact is, there isn’t just one best ride cymbal to buy, so that’s why I suggest all four of these options as versatile rides. They’re all really solid choices, so you can let your ears be the deciding factor.