With each year comes new advancements in the electronic cymbals space. Each year the lines between the cast brass cymbals and the rubber-lathed electronically triggered pads are blurring.
If you’re in the market for an upgrade or maybe you’re just curious to see what's out there then keep on reading.
Top 3 - Electronic Cymbals
I looked at a number of electronic cymbals and chose 6 that I think are the best new options available.
Best Electronic Cymbal Pads for the Money
Table of Contents
- Best Electronic Cymbal Pads for the Money
- What Makes an Electronic Cymbal Pad Good?
- What’s the Best Electronic Hi-Hat?
- What is the Best Electronic Ride Cymbal?
- What are the Best Electronic Cymbals for Playing Metal?
1. Roland V-Pad VH-14D Hi-hat
If you’ve been searching for an upgrade for your drum kit hi-hat you may find it in the form of VH-14D from Roland.
Roland VH-14D comes in a set of two pads. These pads like most standard metal hi-hats measure 14” in diameter.
These two pads are actually meant to be mounted to a real-deal hardware hi-hat stand. There is no phony electronic foot pedal involved here.
When playing the VH-14D, it is so responsive that it sometimes feels like you’re playing real metal hi-hat. Roland achieves this fantastic feat by having two cymbal pads that communicate with one another.
You could leave the hi-hat slightly open for a nice sizzle when playing and it’ll register precisely what you want. You can effortlessly make it bark. You can even keep time as you would a real hi-hat or even splash if you want.
You’ll have no trouble at all playing with these pads either. They are very expressive with lightning-fast response time. The stick articulation feels almost natural to playing on a metal hi-hat.
While the VH-14D pads are impressive, their cost is bound to be prohibitive for many buyers. You could get an entire e-kit for the same price.
2. Yamaha PCY135 13" 3-Zone Cymbal Pad
As a replacement, upgrade, or addition you can’t really go wrong with the PCY135 from Yamaha.
What’s nice about this cymbal is it has good build quality as well as utility.
The PCY135s 13” diameter makes it just the right size for playability and a more natural way without obstructing your kit's function.
Although the PCY135 can be used as a crash, a ride, or even a hi-hat, it seems best suited to play the role of a ride cymbal.
The reason being is that the PCY135 is a 3-zone cymbal pad. It has sensors in the bell, edge, and outer rim area. It can also be choked if so needed.
The entire cymbal’s surface is playable. So you don’t need to worry if it moves a bit when you’re playing, you’ll always be able to get the sounds you’re looking for when you want it.
Something I realized through some trial and error is that you have to be careful with what e-kit you combine this cymbal with. With some modules, this cymbal will revert to a single-zone, non-choke-able cymbal.
I’d highly recommend it if you aren’t using a Yamaha DTX kit to double-check its compatibility before you purchase.
3. Lemon 18" 3-Zone Electronic Cymbal
I honestly hadn’t heard of Lemon until I finally took this cymbal pad for a spin, and that is because Lemon is very new to the market.
Despite being a rather unknown brand, Lemon claims to manufacture this themselves instead of rebranding someone else’s product, which allows them to keep their products very reasonably priced. This 18” 3-zone e-cymbal from Lemon is no exception.
This 18” e-cymbal from Lemon is on average 1/4 of the cost of similar cymbals offered by other brands.
The zone triggers respond nicely when played. The bell is displayed prominently and makes for easy playing when you want that bell tone.
I liked that this is a bigger e-cymbal with some real size and weight to it. Although this says 18”, if you measure this cymbal across, it's actually 17”. Wrong size aside, I continued testing this cymbal.
I really loved the fact that this is sized like a real brass cymbal. Its larger size adds some weight that allows this cymbal to sway and play with a more realistic feel.
These Lemon cymbals have a nice build quality. They aren’t the best and also aren’t the worst cymbals I’ve felt. For the price, these Lemon e-cymbals are a low-risk purchase with great play potential.
4. Roland V-Cymbal CY-5
The CY-5 from Roland has the quality and function that you’d expect from a Roland V-Cymbal.
The CY-5 is a highly-versatile cymbal. The CY-5 would be at home on your e-kit as a hi-hat. Because of its unobtrusive size, you can also easily utilize this 9.5” cymbal as a splash, crash, cowbell, tambourine, or any you’d like!
While this is not a V-Cymbal with a fully playable face, the CY-5’s trigger-ready surface area is responsive. The CY-5 is a dual-trigger cymbal with ample response on its bow and face area.
Rolands CY-5 does have its limitations and it may not be the best choice for everyone. Because the CY-5 is not a fully playable cymbal it does exactly play or move like you’d want a cymbal to move. Unfortunately the nature of this type of e-cymbal builds.
However, if you don’t mind the inherent limits of the CY-5 you’ll be just fine. Utilizing the Roland CY-5 in the applications described above and you should be a highly satisfied customer with this addition to your electronic drum kit.
5. Roland V-Cymbal CY-8 Crash Cymbal
Drummers should love Roland’s 12” CY-8, which is a dual zone V-cymbal with choke ability!
Roland gave this crash cymbal a thick strike pad for a weightier feel that assists with the sway and response. That extra beefy strike pad also gives players a more satisfying feel when their stick strikes the cymbals pad.
You’ll like that CY-8’s choke response can be easily achieved. Simply treat it like a real brass cymbal and you’ll get the response you want. That extra padding also makes it easy to grab, a nice touch by Roland!
The CY-8 while it feels sturdy does suffer from that stale feeling motion these types of e-cymbals just tend to have. It works fine but I feel it takes away from the fun of playing just a little bit.
While Roland's brand name isn’t always synonymous with “affordability”, the CY-8 is an exception. The CY-8 from Roland is a viable, affordable, high-quality, v-cymbal that players will enjoy crashing on for hours.
You can sleep soundly knowing you have a reputable company like Roland that stands behind their products should you need any assistance with your CY-8.
6. Roland V-Cymbal CY-18DR Ride Cymbal
Roland is making leaps in their ability to translate the feel of real cast cymbals to electronic cymbals. If you’re skeptical, just take a look at the CY-18DR electronic ride cymbal.
Roland’s CY-18DR is a magnificent piece of equipment. It may sound like an exaggeration but I think this cymbal can add a new world of dynamic play to your electronic drum kit.
The build quality is what you’d expect from Roland. High quality, durable, with a little bit of weight for better play. The CY-18DR provides excellent sticking responses and feedback while playing. It does a nice job of swaying like a real bronze cymbal.
This whole cymbal is highly playable. The sensitivity response is so good you could play it with your fingers. Swelling, crashing, tight ride patterns, choking, and a playable bell, the CY-18DR can pretty much do whatever you ask it to do.
While the size may be inconvenient for some, I think most players will enjoy the efforts Roland put into making this feel like playing a real-ride cymbal.
Unfortunately, it does cost about as much as an actual ride cymbal as well. If you’re a serious electronic drum kit player, only then this is worth the investment.
What Makes an Electronic Cymbal Pad Good?
The best cymbal pads are pads that allow you to play as authentically close to an acoustic drum kit as possible.
Multiple triggers or zones paired with a capable module are crucial in replicating the authentic sound. 3-zone pads like the Lemon and Yamaha models we discussed are good quality and affordable pads available to the average drummer.
You also want to pay attention to the feel of the electronic cymbal. Some are flimsy and tend to absorb the energy of the sticks when struck. This makes playing a bit cumbersome and unsatisfying.
Playing electric cymbals with a more natural feel like the Roland CY-8 and CY-18DR add to your quality of performance and overall sound.
What’s the Best Electronic Hi-Hat?
That depends on what you would consider, “best”. In this case, we’ll put cost aside and pay attention to function, authenticity, feel, response, and capability.
First, we’ll look at what could be considered the best option for dollars spent.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking something simple like the Roland CY-5 and using it as a hi-hat.
A cymbal pad like the Roland CY-5 is easily transported, and easily hooked up to your kit, and there is virtually no worry about losing any small parts.
A CY-5 paired with a good drum module can adequately provide you with hours or even years of playtime.
When taking into account the desire to play an electronic hi-hat with an authentic feel and with more capability, we have to talk about the Roland VH-14D.
Roland’s VH-14D hi-hat nearly completely captures the feel of playing a real bronze hi-hat. Its capability to mimic hi-hat sizzles, barks, a tight or open wash, and register the subtitles of tight stick rolls is really something amazing.
What is the Best Electronic Ride Cymbal?
We’ll apply the same standards here as we did on the hi-hat. Again it’s important to note everyone will have a different definition of what they’d consider being “best”. So we want to be conscious of value for dollars spent as well as overall function.
Lemon’s electronic 3-zone cymbal is highly affordable and also capable. For a low-risk investment, you could get a versatile nearly full-sized electronic cymbal that plays very closely to an actual cast cymbal.
If we want to look at the best overall and not consider the cost, then the CY-18DR from Roland is the undisputed champ. The CY-18DR costs about 4x as much as the Lemon or even the Yamaha 3-zone PCY135 but, as I’ve said earlier it is really an amazing electronic cymbal.
Keep in mind when you are thinking about purchasing a new cymbal pad to replace or upgrade your ride you want something that is dynamically capable and that can provide you with superior stick articulation for those tight rhythms.
What are the Best Electronic Cymbals for Playing Metal?
We Metal drummers ask a lot of their cymbals. We often utilize a variety of sounds like bell tones, a hi-hat that keeps up with blast beats, crashes that can register different velocity hits appropriately, choke-able crashes, and even a durable highly responsive pad to act like a china or splash cymbal is needed.
Metal drummers should be looking for multi-zoned cymbals with a quick response time and superior build quality that will withstand the thousands of hits you will inevitably place upon them.
In my opinion, your hi-hat and ride cymbals should take priority. The crash cymbals would be secondary as would pads that would act as splashes or effects cymbals.
Something like the Yamaha PCY135 3-zone and the Lemon 18” 3-zone cymbal could be a great choice. Each of these could potentially fill the role of a crash or ride as they possess the capabilities needed to execute each role effectively.
If you want to go all out and are prepared to drop some more money for an amazing electronic ride cymbal then the Roland CY-18DR is the optimal choice.
For your hi-hats ideally, you’d want the most capable pads possible. I’d have to refer to the Roland VH-14D.
The CY-8 and CY-5 would be decent choices for playing the role of splash or a fast crash, maybe even a china as those do not require much dynamic range.