If you’re looking to add a loud and dynamic addition to your cymbal setup, you should consider getting a china cymbal. They’re not the most popular types of cymbals, but they have the power to add massive force to your overall drum set sound.
Top 3 - China Cymbals
I’ve handpicked a few china cymbals from each major cymbal brand that you should check out. These are some of the best chinas that you can find on the drum and cymbal market.
Best China Cymbals - My 5 Favorites
Table of Contents
- Best China Cymbals - My 5 Favorites
- Why Should You Get a China Cymbal?
- Alternative Uses for Chinas
- Should You Spend Big Money on a China?
- Which Way Should You Mount a China Cymbal?
I’ll start off the list with an incredibly popular china cymbal in the metal drumming world. The 18” Meinl Classics Custom Dark is a staple option in many metal drummer’s cymbal bags.
The first thing you’ll notice about the china is the dark color. I’ve noticed how the black and gold coloring has made this particular line of cymbals very recognizable.
I know what type of cymbal it is as soon as I see it and I think that’s great branding from Meinl. You’ll catch many people’s attention when using this china on stage.
I’m always surprised by how sharp this china is. It has an incredible piercing sound that will shoot through any mix you put it in. That’s the biggest reason why it’s such a great option for metal drummers.
It’s incredibly satisfying when hitting it as hard as you can. It will be one of your best weapons when playing breakdowns.
Even though it has a strong sharp sound, I found that you can get a low rumbling trashy tone if you hit the edge of the china gently. So, it’s a bit more versatile than you may think. Out of all the Meinl Classics Custom cymbals I’ve heard, I think this china exhibits the most versatility.
With that being said, it’s not a soft cymbal. If you want something light and trashy to get varying tones in quieter settings, this isn’t the china to get. It’s not to everyone’s taste which is why you’ll mainly see metal drummers rocking this in their setup.
I once watched a gig where the drummer was using a particular china. I couldn’t help but notice that he smiled a bit every time he played it. The sound of the cymbal gave him a small emotional reaction every single time he hit it.
After talking to him after the show, I found out that he was using the Zildjian Ultra Hammered A Series china. There are a few things that make this china cymbal as good as it is.
Firstly, its tight and cutting tone is like music to your ears. It has a grand sound that even comes through clearly when you play it gently. I love that you don’t need to hit it hard to hear the full force of it. It’s great for drummers who aren’t hard hitters.
I think the best quality of the china is the quick decay once you’ve hit it. I found that it gets out of the way very quickly. There aren’t too many 19” cymbals that have that quality. You can hit it multiple times without having it mix too strongly with other cymbals. It’s also great for playing strong jabbing accents.
The final thing that I think is worth mentioning about the A Series china is the fact that it looks awesome. The hand hammering process gives you a unique surface that makes the cymbal look great.
It costs over $300, meaning it’s quite an expensive option. However, it’s highly worth the price, and it’s one of my favorite 19” china cymbals available.
Another popular china cymbal option would be the Sabian AA Holy China. It has a bit of a reputation for being one of the loudest cymbals in existence. However, that’s mostly referring to the 19” version of the cymbal. I’ve put the 17” version here instead.
I chose this version as it’s a bit softer, giving it more variety in its uses. It has a bright and trashy tone. The large number of holes on the surface are what make it sound even trashier than most china cymbals.
I love how the raw bell of the cymbal gives it a bit of earthiness as well. This is true in terms of looks and sound. You can hear a slight bit of dark dryness with every strike.
Sabian raw bells are also one of my favorite visual aesthetics. I’ve found that all their raw bell cymbals are my most liked products in the Sabian brand.
Speaking of striking, it feels like lightning is hitting the stage every time you play this china. That’s how effective it is. It’s yet another perfect tool for metal breakdowns or for sharp accents.
I found the 17” version to be very thin. It’s quite unusual for a china as most of them are fairly thick. It means you’ll need to go easy on it and not hit as hard as you would with other chinas. That won’t be a problem, though as this particular one is still very loud when played softly.
The Zildjian 17” K china is arguably the most unique option on this list. While all the other ones typically work as loud and proud breakdown machines, this one has a lot more complexity to it. I’ve put it on the list as I think it’s a fantastic alternative china to consider getting.
I would describe the sound as being bright, but not too trashy. It’s a bit more musical than the other chinas due to the longer sustain that it has. I also found that it sits nicely in a mix instead of dominating it.
Don’t get me wrong, it will be heard loudly and clearly when you hit it hard, but softer touches will blend in with the rest of your cymbals. It’s for this reason that I think it’s one of the best china cymbals for jazz.
Sometimes you need that trashy sound, but you don’t want it to be too aggressive compared to the rest of your cymbals. The K china is great for that.
It also opens up very nicely when you play it with mallets. That’s something I can’t see most metal drummers doing!
This is the most expensive cymbal on this list. That’s typically the case with cymbals that are tonally complex and dynamically responsive. I wouldn’t suggest getting this china if you just need a trashy option for loud breakdowns.
Instead, you should get it if you need something that sings a bit more than other chinas do.
5. Wuhan 16”
If you’ve never heard of the Wuhan brand, get ready to be excited. I see this 16” Wuhan china as a hidden gem that not many drummers know about. It’s arguably the most affordable high-quality sounding china cymbal on the market.
When I say affordable, I really mean it. This thing only costs around $50 to $60. That seems like an absolute steal when you listen to the sound quality that it has. So, if you’re needing a china cymbal and you’re on a tight budget, this is the best option that you could possibly have.
The tone quality is obviously not as great as all the higher priced cymbals that I’ve listed before this. However, it’s way better than what you’re paying for. The price-to-value for this china is unreal.
I’d suggest getting this china if you just need something trashy to play. If you’re playing in something like a punk rock band where quality of sound isn’t the most important thing, this china is the perfect option.
The biggest downside is that it’s not as durable as more expensive chinas. It’ll start cracking much sooner than you’d like. However, you can easily replace it as it’s so cheap.
Why Should You Get a China Cymbal?
Chinas are the main options to go with if you want a trashy and aggressive tone. Because of this, some drummers don’t like them. However, there are certain styles of music that require chinas to be present in the songs. The biggest example would be metal. They’re needed in the breakdowns.
Other popular styles of music that have drummers using chinas are rock, punk, and even jazz. At the end of the day, you should get a china cymbal if you either like the sound or if you’re required to use one in the band you’re playing with.
Alternative Uses for Chinas
China cymbals make fantastic bases for cymbal stacks. Since they have an inverted structure, other cymbals often fit very comfortably on top of them.
If you want to have a cymbal stack that has a trashy character to it, using a china cymbal as the base will work perfectly most of the time.
Just know that some chinas work better than others due to their structure. I’ve had a few frustrating moments in my life where no cymbals would fit on top of the chinas I had at the time.
Should You Spend Big Money on a China?
If you’re looking for complex tones and durable designs, you should invest a bit of money into a high-quality china. If you just need something to whack that has a trashy tone, you can save that money by going for something much cheaper.
Chinas are quite different from regular crash and ride cymbals. It’s much harder to hear the difference in quality, meaning cheaper china cymbals are often a better option to go with.
Just remember to always test the sounds of a china cymbal before you buy it. There’s nothing worse than buying a cymbal and realizing that you don’t like how it sounds later on.
Which Way Should You Mount a China Cymbal?
Chinas can be mounted onto a cymbal stand in two ways. Since they have an inverted design, both ways are perfectly viable options. I always used to think that mounting it the one way was wrong until I saw a jazz drummer using it that way perfectly well at a gig once.
You’re going to get slightly different sound qualities depending on how you mount the china cymbal. If you mount it with the lip facing up, you’ll get more attack as you’ll be directly hitting the edge of the cymbal. The big downside to this placement is that it will eat away at your drum sticks very quickly.
The more popular way of mounting chinas is to face the lip of the cymbal downward. You’ll get a bit more blunt force from the cymbal. You’ll also protect your drum sticks in the long run. This method of mounting the cymbal looks a lot more aesthetically pleasing, in my opinion.
However, you should test both ways with your china to see which one you think sounds and feels the best for you.
If you don’t have a china cymbal yet, I highly suggest you consider getting one from the list above. The powerful trashy tone adds such a unique dynamic to any cymbal setup. You’re going to need one to play metal. However, you could also fit one perfectly into a jazz context.
While they don’t seem that diverse when you first think about it, chinas can be fairly versatile cymbals to have. They all sound trashy, so you’ll need to look for other qualities to distinguish which ones you like better.