Cymbals, unfortunately, don't come with a volume knob. If you live in an apartment or maybe with other people who aren’t a fan of the sounds coming from your practice space, this can cause a big problem.
Sure, you can play softer but, what fun is that? Luckily for drummers around the globe (and their neighbors) a brilliant innovation has arrived that allows drummers to maintain their style and feel of play, at much lower and less disruptive volumes.
Low volume cymbals are being produced by some of the most recognizable names in the industry like Zildjian, Sabian, and more. These low volume cymbals produce on average about 80% less sound than a traditional cymbal.
This is achieved simply by drilling thousands of small holes in a circular pattern all throughout the cymbal. The best part is this process allows drummers to have a quieter cymbal without completely sacrificing the responsiveness or natural feeling of how your sticks play off its edge.
Top 3 - Low Volume Cymbals
Let’s take a look at four different offerings of low volume cymbal packs that I’ve tested and can easily recommend.
4 Best Low Volume Cymbal Packs (Quietest Ones!)
1. Zildjian L80 Low Volume Cymbal Set
Zildjian offers a bundle of their L80 Low Volume cymbals that contains a 14 inch hi-hat, a 16 inch crash, and a 18 inch crash-ride. These are pretty much the essentials you’d need to set up and get some well rounded playtime around the kit.
If you are interested in purchasing low volume cymbals but want something that resembles a more traditional cymbal style, I’d say these Zildjians L80s would be the way to go.
L80s are made from bronze like a normal cymbal. Their finish is matte, unassuming, and very much resembles a traditional in its appearance.
These L80s are quiet, real quiet. Though they offer up enough sound so that you get a real sense of where you are striking without it being a distracting or unnatural feeling. Kind of like how some electronic kits' cymbals feel when hit. It’s just not the same.
Upon closer inspection I noticed the cymbals have graduated sized holes coming from the bell area outward toward the edge. This setup allowed the cymbals to have a wider range of pitches and more dynamic play. I did not expect to get a diverse array of tones from these. Even more surprising is that the crash-ride and crash bells do work as they should.
As good as these are, they are pricey for only three cymbals that are primarily for the sole purpose of practicing. These do feel a bit thin as well. I could see an owner worrying about cracking if they are not stored or treated properly, particularly from the bell area where holes are already present.
Some instances where I could really see the L80s shine is in a student and teacher setting. These L80s are so quiet you could actually speak and play at the same time! Making it very simple for a teacher to instruct their students during a lesson.
Maybe you live in an apartment or townhouse with neighbors close by? The L80s would make a great choice for your practice room kit.
2. Evans db One Low Volume
Honestly with the Evans db One pack I was skeptical. Evans is not a brand that has a foothold in the cymbal market although they do make other innovative and reliable drum products like drum heads. The fact remains that when I think of EVANS, I do not think of cymbals at all.
In the four pack of Evans db Ones you get; a 14 inch hi-hat, a 16 inch crash, an 18 inch crash, and a 20 inch ride.
These cymbals are unorthodox in terms of the materials used in their creation and their appearance. The Evans db One Low Volume cymbals are made from a perforated steel-alloy, not the traditional bronze that nearly all cymbals are made from, no matter who makes them.
These also utilize a wild looking spiraled perforated pattern that I thought was quite pleasing to look at but, I could see how it may turn some people off as it might be “too busy” of a design.
After bouncing the sticks off this set a few times I was pleasantly surprised at the variety of tones available in what’s supposed to be simply a quiet practice cymbal kit. While my eyes were aware that I was playing practice cymbals, my ears were occasionally tricked by the sounds I could get from these.
The bell on the ride sounded like a bell, although finding where to hit it was a little tough at times as it is not very prominent. The stick bouncing off the ride was solid feeling and natural. My body didn’t have to guess or figure out how to compensate for any loss of energy there.
The crashes are bright and responsive. I found that I could actually make the crashes swell and shimmer.
If I played this with my eyes closed the only thing that would remind me I was playing low volume cymbals would be the sound.
The response from each strike felt solid. The stick articulation is very clean and precise. Although the ride cymbal on a few occasions would give back some undesired, ringy overtones.
The hi-hats in this pack really stood out to me here. You can get a crisp bark from them, a delightful splash, or play them closed and they’ll still sound great. What they did absolutely right with this set of hi-hats was keep the bottom hat-heavy simply by not drilling as many holes. Brilliant engineering there.
One area where Evans really succeeded with the db One series is the sizes they are using. These sway, move, and bounce very much like real cymbals because they are large and heavy.
I don’t think I’m incorrect in saying that this set could work for a small acoustic type venue. Evans could be really gaining some market share in the low volume cymbal market. Especially at the price point of this four pack.
3. Sabian Quiet Tone Practice Cymbals Set
If we’re talking about Cymbals, Sabian was going to come up sooner or later right? Of course they were!
Sabian’s line of Low Volume Cymbals are called “Quiet Tone” Cymbals. You can get a four pack of Quiet Tones which includes 14 inch hi-hats, a 16 inch crash, a 18 inch crash/ride, and a 20 inch ride.
Sabian Quiet Tone cymbals set themselves apart from the rest as they are made from stainless steel which is said to be more durable. So, in theory, they should last longer, and they are stain resistant as well. Two things I think we can all get behind.
The Quiet Tones are spectacular looking as soon as you open them up. They shine with a brilliant polished-silvery color. They look really sharp, without a doubt these would be a conversation starter even before you play them.
Something I immediately noticed when trying these was they have a lot of high frequency range. The crash cymbals really POP when hit! The initial response to the strike is very much in line with a standard cymbal.
What’s additionally really nice here is the two crashes each have a distinct sound, which can be somewhat hard to achieve with practice cymbals. The crashes resonate with a washy sustain for a short time afterward as well. Depending on who you are, what you’re trying to achieve and how you play, that could be a good or bad thing.
A great feature of the ride cymbal is the pronounced bell. Sabian does say in their product description that they designed these cymbals to “encourage a natural playing technique”. I think they achieved their goal.
Playing on the ride cymbal didn’t feel strange or like I had to guess where to hit to get the right sound. While playing the ride did feel good, I did notice it would build up some ringing overtones that I didn’t expect from a low volume cymbal.
The Quiet Tone hi-hat has a really crisp bark to it when you want it. It was almost like playing a heavier hi-hat with the tone that came out of it effortlessly. Playing it closed is just as delightful and responsive. It doesn’t feel like you have to work too hard to get the right feeling through your fingers and up your arm. It’s a good hi-hat to practice your hi hat roles and sticking on for sure!
While the Sabian Quiet Tones are quieter than a standard cymbal, at times I didn’t think they were quiet enough. The Quiet Tones do have some high frequencies that make it to your eardrum depending on your proximity to them and some washy overtones as well.
I can see these being used for coffee houses or small venue gigs without any issue. I think they may even be great for band practice even if you play in a rock band as they are a bit louder than other low volume cymbals.
4. WUHAN ORA Cymbal Set
Wuhan is a name I was a bit surprised to see in the Low Volume Cymbal market. Maybe that’s because for years I always knew about Wuhan for their wonderfully loud, trashy sounding China cymbals? Which are polar opposites of Low Volume cymbals.
I do think Wuhan cymbals have been criminally underrated for quite a while. They’ve always offered decent quality cymbals at an affordable price. So, to see Wuhan products in space had my curiosity absolutely piqued!
This Wuhan ORA 3 Pack comes with a 14 inch hi-hat, a 16 inch crash, and a 20 inch ride cymbal. The ORA cymbals are made from the very familiar metal, B20 bronze. This pack is also, as expected, the least costly of the bunch by a significant margin. For anyone on a budget looking for some low volume cymbals purchasing this set would be a no-brainer.
The ORA cymbals have a good weight and feel to them. They sway predictably and they do have a feel that is satisfactory when playing. Where I started to run into some problems with the ORA set was with the sound quality. I’ll explain here.
While these are technically Low Volume cymbals there are some very evident sound issues present here. The Wuhan ORA cymbals do emit some audibly offensive high, pinging, ringing frequencies.
When stepping on the hi hat pedals to keep time with the hi-hats I noticed some very distinct ringing overtones coming through. It was impossible to ignore and actually ended up hurting my ear at times.
While the overall feel of the ride is pretty good, it too has some distinct sound issues that are unavoidable. The ride cymbal gets very pingy sounding when played and it can be heard from a pretty good distance away. I can confirm that the sound of the ride was heard through my first floor ceiling on the second floor.
We also run into the same issues with the crash. While the crash is lower in volume overall compared to a standard crash cymbal, the high frequency sounds are still very much present and I had a really hard time getting past this issue.
Sound issues aside, I do think the Wuhan ORA cymbals are built with quality and durability in mind. At the price point offered on the three pack they are an unbeatable deal for price conscious drummers who are just looking for some practice oriented, low volume accessories to add to their arsenal.
Alternative Ways to Quiet Your Cymbals
Maybe you don’t want to buy a whole set of low volume cymbals?
Maybe you just need to temporarily dampen the cymbals you already have for something like a music video shoot, or a show in a smaller, more intimate setting than you usually play?
Luckily there are a couple of techniques you can explore to meet your needs.
Evans SoundOff Cymbal Mute
In addition to their low volume cymbals, Evans does offer an alternative to help you control the volume of the cymbals you already own in the form of the SoundOff Cymbal Mute.
Cymbal mutes are an inexpensive and highly effective solution to cutting down the noise. They simply lay over your cymbals and by doing so cut down on the cymbals ability to resonate.
While you will feel a difference in how your cymbal plays a bit, these are a great accessory to have in your back pocket if needed.
This is a simple trick used by almost every drummer in every music video you’ve ever seen. If you don’t do this already then it’s time to start keeping a roll of Gaffers Tape as it has numerous applications, which include quieting down your cymbals.
Ripping off a couple strips of Gaffers Tape and applying it to the bottom of your cymbals will quickly quiet down even the noisiest Crash Ride or China cymbal.
Will it sound good? No. But you can effectively and convincingly play your cymbals if you’re shooting something like a music video and you want to save your bandmates' ear drums. I promise they’ll thank you.
Gaffers Tape can also be used more sparingly so that you can play a small indoor setting and not overpower the room.
There are some really great innovations coming from long-time cymbal manufacturers like Zildjian and newcomers to the cymbal space like Evans.
If you are looking strictly for the absolute quietest practice cymbals, I think Zildjian is the winner here. The L80s were the closest thing to a whisper compared to the rest. So, if silence is a must for you, then give those a look.
The Sabian and Evans entries were the most dynamic, playable cymbals. I’d say Evans even more so out of the bunch. I think what really set the Evans cymbals apart was the size/weight. Both Sabian and Evans had beautiful sounding hi-hats in their respective packs.
In terms of price point, Wuhan is the winner here. If you need a set of cymbals for just practice and you don’t want to break the bank, get yourself a pack of the Wuhan cymbals.
Although they are a bit ringy, I found applying a moongel over the top or maybe a small piece of gaffers tape will help kill the ringing sound.