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China cymbals are a unique type of FX cymbal with loud and explosive sonic characteristics.
With upturned edges and a cylindrical bell, they are manufactured to replicate the sound and aesthetics of traditional Chinese cymbals that have loud, sizzling, and trashy sounds.
China cymbals offer high intensity and are ideal for enunciating accents and signifying the ends of musical phrases. They are also very popular for rock and metal music.
In this guide, we’ll take a look at the best china cymbals for explosive sound effects. I’ve compared design, sound, alloy, and cost to give you my top recommendations.
- What are the Best China Cymbals?
- How I Tested and Selected the Best China Cymbals
- In-Depth China Cymbal Reviews
- China Cymbal Buyer’s Guide
- How Do China Cymbals Differ From Other Cymbals?
- What is a China Cymbal Used For?
- What Do Chinese Cymbals Sound Like?
- China Cymbal FAQs
What are the Best China Cymbals?
How I Tested and Selected the Best China Cymbals
As a metal drummer, I’ve played dozens of china cymbals throughout the years. I’ve always needed them in my setup to get aggressive tones for blast beats and breakdowns.
To create this list, I’ve tested out a wide range of popular china cymbals. When playing them, I wanted to see their sound quality, how they responded to different dynamic levels, and get an understanding of their overall versatility.
Through my experience and testing, I’ve selected china cymbals that provide a distinctive, cutting attack and an explosive sound that is sure to inject dynamic energy into your drumming.
I also assessed the materials and overall construction of each china cymbal to ensure they can withstand a beating, as china cymbals are often played aggressively and they need to be durable so that they don’t crack easily.
In-Depth China Cymbal Reviews
The winner of the best china cymbal available is this beautiful Sabian AA Holy China Cymbal. This china was developed by Sabian with Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith to create an innovative cymbal that is aggressive, explosive and seriously loud!
The Holy cymbal is crafted from B20 bronze and features 51 holes that provide this cymbal with a sharp and energetic sound. This china cymbal is not only aggressive but it’s also got a brilliant, clean sound to it as well.
The 19” AA Holy China is hands down my favorite china cymbal I’ve owned. I love how responsive it is, and the explosive power it offers. I’ve found it always gets compliments at gigs.
It features a brilliant finish that gives this cymbal some balanced shimmery overtones, and it has a moderate sustain which means this cymbal is far more versatile and musical than some other china cymbals which are far too brash and overpowering.
The Holy china is without a doubt one of the best china cymbals for a wide variety of musical genres.
Playing anything from funk to reggae, I’ve found that this cymbal will deliver crisp, cutting tones while offering a surprisingly smooth response.
I’ve found it also feels great to play and it offers an excellent playing response thanks to its flexible and rather lightweight construction.
This cymbal looks and sounds amazing, and is played by some of the biggest names in drumming today. Gene Hoglan (Fear Factory), and Ray Luzier (Korn) all swear by this china as the best china cymbal for high-volume performances.
- Highly musical and versatile china cymbal
- Balance of clean brilliance and trashiness
- Aggressive, explosive and loud!
- 51 holes have more opportunity for cracks
In second place for the best china cymbal we have this Meinl Classics Custom Dark China. This cymbal has a loud and aggressive tone that is designed to be able to cut through high sound levels.
It has an enormous projection whilst also having a dark, earthy, and complex character. It’s offered at an intermediate price point and yet it features in many pro drummer’s setups.
The Meinl Classics Custom Dark cymbals undergo a special finishing process that provides them with dark, warm tones and a dry sustain. The cymbal has a distinctive, raw and earthy sound.
This cymbal is perfect for drummers looking for a high impact and energetic china cymbal to cut through the distorted guitars within rock and metal music. This cymbal is also musical sounding enough to be played as an effects cymbal within funk, blues, jazz and even pop music.
This is one of the best china cymbals for the money. It delivers an explosive sound that’s combined with dark and raw tones that gives this model complex overtones and a dry sustain. This cymbal also represents excellent value for money, and allows you to achieve premium quality sounds at an affordable price.
- Raw and dark tonal flavors
- Excellent value for money
- Musical sounding china cymbal
This Zildjian ultra hammered china cymbal is another firm favorite of mine. I have used this china cymbal on plenty of recordings and it offers a great range of sounds.
This china cymbal sounds sharp and easily cuts through, whilst having a fine balance of clear and bright sounds as well trashy overtones.
The Zildjian ultra hammered china cymbal is not quite as trashy as Zildjian’s famous oriental china, and it has a smoother sound overall. But it is still just as loud, if not louder!
It features Zildjian’s innovative ‘volcano bell’ and extensive hammering to give this cymbal huge volume and projection.
This china cymbal is ideal for rock and metal, and it’s probably too loud for a wide range of musical styles. But it has a short sustain which means it makes a great effects cymbal for accents for styles such as funk and blues.
What I like most about this cymbal is that it’s a really durable model. This is the perfect china cymbal if you’re looking for a cymbal to cut through loud music and hold up to a serious amount of abuse!
- Highly durable model
- Good balance of clarity and trashiness
- Penetrative yet musical sounds
Next up for review we have Zildjian’s Oriental China Trash Cymbal and it is my personal weapon of choice being the best china cymbal for metal. This iconic china cymbal is the favored choice of countless metal drummers including Matt Greiner from August Burns Red and Stephen Kluesener from Wage War.
This cymbal has an incredibly strong impact with a very fast, explosive response.
I’ve always loved the distinctive sound this cymbal has, plus its short sustain, which makes it the perfect cymbal for articulating accents and fills, as well as for riding on for breakdowns.
The sound of this cymbal is definitely a trashier sound than the previous two china cymbals. It has an authentic oriental sound that is both dark and sizzling. This cymbal really cuts through and is able to enhance the sonic range of your drum set.
This china has a distinctive oriental tone that is perfect for driving the beat for aggressive styles of music.
This cymbal also offers great value for money and enormous sounds despite its smaller 16” size. For the money, this is definitely one of the best china cymbal varieties on the market.
- Best china cymbal for metal music
- Trashy and explosive sounds
- Authentic oriental sound
- Not the most versatile china cymbal
Lastly up for review, we have this authentic china cymbal from Wuhan, and it’s a fantastic china cymbal available on a budget. Despite its affordable price tag, this cymbal offers explosive and trashy sounds that compete with far more expensive china cymbals.
I’ve been stuck without a china before, so I bought this one to save my wallet and I was blown away by how good it sounded on some of my drum covers from years ago.
Wuhan is a traditional Chinese cymbal manufacturer who has been making their cymbals from quality B20 bronze to a two-thousand-year-old method!
The Wuhan Lion China Cymbal is dark sounding and explosive. The model itself is fairly light and it features a traditional ‘gong’ style conical bell that contributes to its trashiness and short sustain.
For the price you cannot go wrong with this model, this Wuhan china cymbal offers great value, with awesome sounding accents and effects that are perfect for rock and metal music.
This Wuhan china cymbal has a traditional trashy sound that might not perform well with most modern styles of music. It has an incredibly sharp pang that does not make this versatile china cymbal.
Overall it is still a great option for an affordable china cymbal for both experienced and beginner drummers and it also comes with a “no questions asked” 1-year guarantee.
- Best china cymbal on a budget
- Loud accents and effects
- Dark sounding and explosive
- Incredibly trashy and 'pang' sounding
- Not musically versatile
- Not very durable cymbals
China Cymbal Buyer’s Guide
China cymbals, also known as Chinese cymbals, are effects cymbals that have a very distinctive and easily recognizable sound.
China cymbals are loud and explosive and are played like crash cymbals to deliver a sharp musical attack.
They are used musically to enunciate accents and phrases and are also often played consistently in grooves within aggressive styles of music, commonly in ‘breakdowns’ of metalcore or heavy metal.
China cymbals and splash cymbals are both considered the main types of effects cymbals. They are used to provide bursts of tonal color and add expression to music.
Chinas are not the most versatile cymbals, but they have their place in music and can really contribute something fresh and new when used at the appropriate time.
How Do China Cymbals Differ From Other Cymbals?
The design of a china cymbal is very different from any other cymbal (besides gongs!). They feature upturned edges and a cylindrical bell that contributes to their unique tone.
China cymbals are also nearly always mounted upside down on a cymbal stand to prevent drumsticks from being cut on the sharp edges.
A recent trend among cymbal makers is to experiment with cymbal manufacturing in order to explore new sounds. Some manufacturers produce cymbals with holes cut into them intentionally, to create sharper and trashier sounds.
There are lots of varieties of china cymbals, and the manufacturing does not follow one strict protocol. The different manufacturing techniques and modifications including holes and rivets all alter the cymbals’ array of sounds.
China cymbals are designed to provide loud, sizzling, and cutting sounds to enhance a song and add some intensity.
What is a China Cymbal Used For?
Despite China cymbals being developed in China over 2000 years ago, they are now commonplace in rock and metal music. They are also frequently used as effects cymbals in fusion, Latin, funk, and electronic music.
China cymbals are typically played as an FX cymbal to provide accents at the end of fills or at the start of a groove.
China cymbals have an aggressive, roaring sound and are generally best known for being featured within heavier styles of music such as the various subgenres of rock and metal music.
Within metal music, the china cymbal plays a different role from the usual effects or accents role it’s known for. The china cymbal is played in time rhythmically in quarter notes over passages known as breakdowns.
What Do Chinese Cymbals Sound Like?
The term trashiness is used to describe cymbals that have a less pure and more aggressive sound. And china cymbals embody this trashy sound!
What you want from a china cymbal all depends on what works for the style of music, and what you like as a listener.
I believe that the best china cymbal possesses an optimal balance of the following sound qualities:
- Explosive loud tone
- Slight gong-like ‘pang’ sound
- Short-medium sustain
- Fast-talking response
- Subtle trashy overtones
- Musical tone
China Cymbal FAQs
What is the Best Sounding China Cymbal?
I think the Sabian Holy China is the best china cymbal, but ultimately it’s up to the individual to decide which is the best-sounding china cymbal. There are many different factors that influence the sound of a china cymbal including its weight, size, and alloy.
Where Can I hit a China Cymbal?
China cymbals feature upturned edges, so they are nearly always mounted upside down to help the longevity of your drumsticks as well as the cymbal itself. With regards to playing technique, you strike a china cymbal on the edge like a crash cymbal with a glancing blow diagonally rather than straight down through it.
What Size China Cymbal Should I Get?
China cymbals come in all different sizes. They range in size from 8-12 inches in diameter (known as mini-chinas) to extremely large 22 inches or larger in diameter. The best size china cymbal for most players is 17 or 18 inches in diameter, which has the best balance of tone, attack, sustain, and volume.