Best Cheap Cymbal Packs for Beginners & Intermediate Drummers

Author: Joseph Scarpino | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

You bought your first drum set. You set it up and now all you need to do is get the right set of cymbals so you can start playing.

Fortunately for you, there are quite a few potent cymbal packs made for beginners and intermediate drummers from some of the most popular cymbal manufacturers in the business.

Maybe you have some experience but haven’t played in a while. Now you’re looking to get back on the drum throne after a hiatus and need something a little better. If you’re unsure about which cymbal pack you should buy, worry no more!

I took a look at some of the most effective and affordable cymbal pack options available so you can make the right decision.

Best Budget Cymbal Packs (Bang for the Buck!)

1. Meinl Cymbals HCS Basic Set

While Meinl is a young cymbal manufacturer by comparison to its competition, they’ve quickly established themselves as a key player in the drumming world. You’ll find that their HCS cymbals are a popular choice for drumming school instructors and newcomers.

This cymbal pack from Meinl offers great value for our dollar. You’ll get a crash, a ride, hi-hats, and surprisingly a splash cymbal. I say, “surprisingly” because there aren’t many pre-package cymbal packs that offer a splash cymbal, so this is a pleasant addition for some added sonic diversity.

These Meinl cymbals are durable as they are made from MS63 brass alloy. Meaning their composition contains 63% copper.

Having durable cymbals for a beginner drummer who is learning the technique is very important. You don’t want to be replacing cymbals very often as that will put a strain on your wallet.

As expected, most of these cymbals aren’t very dynamic in terms of sound. At the least, they do have enough sound differentiation so you both feel and know what you’re hitting. I say “most” of the cymbals because the hi-hats weren’t bad at all.

I was surprised to find that the hi-hats actually are quite capable and sound a bit more expensive than they actually are. They aren’t annoyingly clangy and uncontrollably loud. You could actually get a nice little “schk” sound when playing with your foot.

The bottom line, these are good cymbals for the money. A newcomer to drums will enjoy playing these for a long time before they’re ready to upgrade.

2. Sabian B8X Performance Cymbal Set

Sabian offers new drummers an exciting and affordable option in the form of their B8X cymbals. These cymbals are replaced by both the standard B8 and B8 Pro line from Sabian cymbals.

B8X cymbals possess a bright and explosive tone all around. These B8X are impressively dynamic for starter cymbals. These also respond with a brilliant explosive sound when played.

I found the ride cymbal to be especially lovely in tone. The bell had a nice clean ping to it. The ride also didn’t build up any annoying ringing overtones when notes were played close together. This is something that often happens with budget cymbals.

The hi-hat also plays nicely as well. A nice clean, bright wash with a lovely stick response when played open or closed.

This pack comes with two fast crash cymbals. A 16” and an 18”. These cymbals explode with energy when struck! For those playing louder-style music, I can see great applications here.

The downside with these cymbals is that they may be a little bit too loud sometimes.

The crashes do get a little pitchy when struck with force. The tone could be offensive to the ears if played in the wrong style venue.

While I would not recommend these for a drummer who plays quieter music, anyone looking to play along to some rock n’ roll would find themselves very happy with this choice.

Sabian has once again provided a very respectable and affordable option for new drummers.

3. Wuhan Traditional Cymbal Set

Wuhan is a company that will surprise you over and over again. Most drummers will know Wuhan for their beautifully trashy sounding china cymbals, maybe their gongs too but, not much else. Once you play these cymbals you’ll be shocked at how good they sound!

These cymbals are made from B20 bronze, not B8 bronze like other starter cymbals. The B20 bronze gives these cymbals a warmer, softer sonic profile. There isn’t a lot of peaking or ringing from these as is found in most budget cymbal sets.

This is no hyperbole here, this  16” crash sounds like a cymbal twice its price. This crash produces a lower-frequency trashy sound that is enjoyable in multiple musical contexts. I can see some drummers not liking the trashy quality though.

You can also perform beautiful-sounding cymbal swells, and easily get multiple dynamic tones from this Wuhan crash.

The ride plays nicely as well. The bell has a clear lower pitch to it and the cymbal feels responsive overall. I did notice when I crashed this cymbal a bit it did give off some overtones that were less than desirable. When played very close to the bell you can easily keep the sound tight.

The hi-hats have a nice sizzle when played semi-closed. Stick rolls sound great on these. When played open they sound pretty darn good too.

For the price, this is a surprisingly great set for a beginner or an intermediate level player. I’d even venture to say experienced drummers might find something they love about these as well.

4. Paiste PST 7 Universal Cymbal Set

Straight out of the box, these Paiste PST 7 cymbals have a brilliant finish to them. They have a good weight to them that gives them a nice swing when struck.

The PST 7 hi-hats sound super clean and shimmery. While they are a little bit overpowering at times when played wide open they produce some very crisp barks when desired. The sticks felt good dancing on their brim. Especially if you play with wood-tipped sticks. Rolls when playing closed sound precise and energetic.

The PST 7 crash cymbals sound shimmery without being too hard on the ears. The two distinct pitches of the 18” crash and 16” crash complement each other nicely. Especially when hit in unison! The bell area of the 18” crash has a pleasant low metallic ping to it as well.

The ride is nice and heavy, it allows for easy play as it feeds the energy of your stick hitting right back into your hand. The PST 7 ride has a shimmering deep tone with each hit. Crashing on the ride will produce lower, washy tones, with some ringing overtones. Used in the right context it can be useful but it is a little overwhelming at times.

The PST 7 set of cymbals is a bit more costly than comparable packs on the market. Paiste does make quality cymbals; however, someone who is a beginner may end up going with a different set if it saves them $100-$150 for the same amount of cymbals.

5. Zildjian S Series Performer Cymbal Set

The S Series Performer set is Zildjian's replacement for the long-standing ZBT series cymbals.

It’s clear just by looking at the S series that more engineering took place when creating this line of cymbals.

The S series are made from Zildjian B12 bronze mix which falls between their lower-end B8 and higher-end B20 bronze-made cymbals. The difference in sound quality from a B8 cymbal to a B12 bronze cymbal is noticeable.

Zildjian includes in this pack a master sound style hi-hat, which is great! The master sound hi-hats have crimped edges to allow for air to escape. Giving drummers better sound quality and sound projection. This alone adds great value to this pack in my opinion.

The crashes are what Zildjian calls medium thin crashes. I believe drummers who lack knowledge of cymbal striking techniques could break this quickly. All cymbals waiver when struck but, these are very noticeable to the naked eye. Again, to preserve your cymbals learn the proper way to hit them.

The bell of the ride is great. Easily accessible, great tone, lots of fun to play on. The ride itself didn’t impress me. I just found it too all over the place tone-wise. It didn’t seem to have a defined sound. It was rather an unfocused cacophony of overtones. It can pass for a ride cymbal, sure but, something about this hit my ear wrong.

The master sound hi-hats add a nice touch to this pack. For the price, I would’ve hoped for something better sounding in this pack.

6. Zildjian A Series City Pack Cymbal Set Bundle

This is a very clever little pack of cymbals. While I would honestly say this is not a pack I’d deem fit for beginners, I wanted to include this because I think it’s a very special bundle from Zildjian.

This bundle comes with a 12” Zildjian A New Beat hi-hat. If you’re not familiar, Zildjian New Beat hi-hats are widely renowned for their versatility and these are perfect.

The 12” inch hi-hat is quick, precise, and a little dry in tone. It feels happy to be played. While it is a little on the quiet side, this is not a set of cymbals you play in an arena.

You’ll also get a 16” A series Fast Crash within this bundle as well. This is a crisp and explosive crash! You hit it, it’s in, it's out! Exactly what you want. A bright, dry, explosive sound with rapid decay. Do not hit this too hard as they are prone to cracks.

Last but not least the Zildjians 18” A series Uptown Ride. Zildjians Uptown Ride is a dry slightly choked sounding cymbal. The stick definition is of superior quality. Tight sticking patterns on the Uptown Ride are a joy. The Uptown Ride can also be crashed lightly for some resonance if so desired.

For three cymbals, this pack is quite expensive and it will only appeal to specific play styles. Jazz drummers, lounge players, and acoustic guitar accompaniers, this bundle would be an ideal choice. Just be ready to pay a little more for it.

Is One Cymbal Manufacturer Better Than the Other?

The short answer is, it depends.

There are some cymbal companies that keep things at a low price point because they use materials that are not the highest of quality. They won’t even hide this fact, they will outright state it. It’s not an attempt to fool you or steal your money, it’s just the way they do things based on their own philosophy.

There are also companies that draw comparisons to one another quite often like, Zildjian, Paiste, Meinl, Sabian, TRX, etc. These companies produce various tiers of cymbals with even more variations of sonic profile and modifications within their respective cymbal lines.

All of these companies basically utilize the same metals with slight adjustments to the content of tin, bronze, and maybe other metals they may be experimenting with at the time. It’s amazing how many different sounds can be made using the same materials but when they are subject to different manufacturing processes.

At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preference. Try some crashes or rides out from comparable cymbal lines from different companies. See which one you like best.

How Should I Set Up My Cymbals?

Ideally, you want your cymbals to be angled down and inward slightly towards where you are sitting. Depending on your seating height you should be able to see the entire face of the cymbal or at least most of it.

The slight angle will not only save your wrists from being put into strange positions but, the slight angle helps with sound projection and preserve the lifespan of your cymbals (more on that later).

You will see some drummers have their cymbals completely flat, some have them way above their heads, and some have them down low or close together. These drummers are often very experienced drummers who have developed their sticking technique and everything you see has a reason for how it is placed.

You as a beginner or intermediate drummer should be focused on proper technique and preserving your equipment above all.

For hi-hats specifically, we've previously published a detailed set up guide for hi-hat stands.

What is the Right Way to Hit My Cymbals?

Whether you’re just starting out, you need a refresher, or maybe you’ve never been told. Yes, there is a  proper way to strike your cymbals that will help them last longer.

Most people learn the hard way after they’ve cracked a few cymbals and hundreds of dollars spent. I’d like to help inform you of the right way early so that you save money and build a better technique.

Hopefully, you’ve set up your cymbals properly before you started hitting them. If not, it’s ok, just go and fix it later.

The proper way to strike your cymbals is not straight-on like you're swinging a hammer. Cymbals are flexible and yes they are meant to be hit, but they are still prone to breaks and cracks. We want to preserve all our tools and cymbals for as long as we can.

You should be striking your cymbals with a swiping-type motion. Kind of like a windshield wiper on a car. Glancing blows across the cymbal's brim or face distribute the energy across the cymbal and through it rather than in one location over and over again.

Try this technique and thank me later.

What Cymbals Do I Really Need to Get Started?

Let's say in this case you are a minimalist who is simply looking for the bare minimum to get started on the drums.

You really need only three cymbals. A ride, a crash, and a hi-hat (which is technically two cymbals). These three cymbals are the essentials to play any song, anywhere, anytime.

A good quality cymbal can produce multiple tonalities. A good cymbal paired with an experienced drummer can produce hundreds of different sounds.

Drummers like Buddy Rich famously performed solos only on a hi-hat. Yes really.

Go ahead, try it out for yourself.

Final Thoughts

I can say from experience that starter cymbals have dramatically improved over the years. It’s a very exciting time for beginners and for those returning to the drum throne after a short break.

The Wuhan cymbal pack was my unexpected favorite here. I can’t believe it but I’d like to keep things honest. For the price, they are a great value.

Meinl also has great value for the cymbals you get in their pack as well even if the sound isn’t the best.

For newcomers or intermediate players looking for an upgrade, the Sabian B8X and Zildjian S Performance are good choices.

Finding the best beginner cymbal pack to get you started can be a little daunting. I hope that this has helped you in your decision-making process.

Avatar photo

About Joseph Scarpino

Joseph is a drummer and lyricist from Asbury Park, New Jersey. When he is not on stage, on tour, or in the studio, you can find him behind a camera, directing, or in front of that camera, acting. Joseph enjoys many genres of music but he most frequently listens to Heavy Metal, Punk, and Hard Rock.

Leave a Comment