Zildjian vs Sabian – Which Cymbals are Better for You?

Author: Brett Clur | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Zildjian and Sabian are the two powerhouse brands in the cymbal world. They’ve been the most popular cymbals amongst drummers for decades thanks to their high quality and desirable sounds.

There is often a debate that takes place over which brand is better. Which company makes the best cymbals and why are they so good? Let’s find out.

Zildjian Cymbals

The greatest thing about Zildjian is that they’re one of the oldest companies in the world, meaning they have a huge empire that has been built over many years. Starting in 1623, Zildjian cymbals have been the primary choice for many people since then.

Zildjian’s most well-known lines of cymbals are the A Customs and K Customs. These are their top-tier products that are produced on a mass scale for people to buy. Other top-tier cymbals such as the K Constantinoples aren’t as easy to find.

If you’re looking for warm and smooth cymbals with lots of character, the K Custom line is the place to look. They range from dark to dry to sweet. Each K Custom cymbal tends to work extremely well in studio recordings.

The A Customs are on the brighter sound of the sound spectrum. They’re mostly used for high-energy styles like rock and metal. The Zildjian A line is very similar, yet a bit more affordable.

Zildjian’s intermediate cymbals would be the S Series and I series. These cymbals are a lot heavier and made from cheaper metal, making them more affordable. They’re bright and work well for rock. They wouldn’t work too well in jazz settings.

The ZBTs are the entry-level cymbals from Zildjian. They’re the most affordable line and they’re extremely bright. They produce more of a tin-like sound than the other cymbals. However, they work fantastically well for beginners.

When it comes to endorsements, Zildjian has one of the best artist rosters out of all the cymbal companies. So many legendary drummers have played their cymbals over the years. Some notable names from the past would be Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa.

Other popular artists that currently use Zildjian are JD Beck, Mark Guiliana, Larnell Lewis, and Aaron Spears.

Sabian Cymbals

Recommended Sabian Cymbals


The Sabian company has some heavy ties to Zildjian. In fact, the founder was someone from the famous Zildjian family. Robert Zildjian started Sabian in 1981 after a dispute over not becoming the CEO of the Zildjian company.

Since then, Sabian has made a huge impact in the drumming world. They have constantly produced high-quality products that rival the ones from Zildjian.

 They were the main competitor for a long time. However, Meinl, and Paiste have started to take the reigns in recent times.

Sabian’s top lines of cymbals are the AAX and HHX Series. The HHX cymbals have a modern dark tone while the AAX are a bit brighter and more explosive. Every cymbal in these lines just oozes quality and great tone.

The AA and HH cymbals are similar, but they’re more affordable and aren’t as subtle in their unique tonal qualities. Sabian’s SXr and SBr are the most affordable cymbals. The SXr cymbals sit in the intermediate range while the SBr cymbals are their entry-level line.

Sabian cymbals aren’t as popular as they were in the previous decades. One of the biggest reasons for this is arguably due to social media. Where other companies such as Zildjian and Meinl push social media marketing strategies, Sabian tends not to put as much focus there.

However, this doesn’t affect or change how good their cymbals sound. So, they’re still very much a main player in the cymbal market. They recently updated their logo which not many people are a fan of.

Some popular drummers who endorse Sabian cymbals are Jojo Mayer, George Kollias, Dave Elitch, Brian Fraser-Moore, and Daniel Adair.

Musical Styles

Both companies make cymbals that are excellent for a wide range of musical styles. No matter what type of drummer you are, there’s a cymbal for you on either side. However, there are some popular choices amongst drummers in particular spaces.

Some of the most famous cymbals for jazz drumming are the Zildjian K Constantinoples. These cymbals have a vintage tone that subtly reflects how cymbals sounding in the olden days. They’re so warm and smooth that they blend perfectly in jazz settings.

Sabian AAX cymbals are extremely popular in the gospel drumming scene. These cymbals are bright and explosive, delivering an impact that wonderfully supports high-intensity gospel music. The music is fast and energetic and so are these cymbals.

Price and Similar Models

By looking at the prices of the different cymbal lines, you can distinguish which cymbals are similar from each brand. Zildjian’s K Customs can be compared to Sabian’s HHX cymbals while the A Customs are similar to the AAX line.

The SBr are similar to the ZBTs while the SXr cymbals are similar to the S Series. If you have a particular budget, you should listen to each set of cymbals that are similar from each brand. You’ll start to develop presences and then you can go from there.

Remember, there’s no harm in mixing and matching cymbals from each brand.

Conclusion

The answer to which brand is better is highly subjective. As you’ve hopefully seen from the previous points, both companies offer products that are relatively similar to each other.

You can find cymbals of all kinds from each side of the argument and they will all sound fantastic. The answer to which brand is better will just depend on how much you personally like the products.

Zildjian has a huge social media presence. They tend to show off their artists a bit better than Sabian does thanks to things like Zildjian Live and Performances.

Sabian, on the other hand, doesn’t pump marketing into social media as much. This may just be one of those solid determining factors for preference.

You need to make the decision and go from there. They’re both fantastic companies!

About Brett Clur

Brett has been drumming for almost two decades. He also helps his students get better at drumming. He can be found on Instagram (@brettclurdrums), where you can regularly catch glimpses of his drumming.

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