It is useless to talk about the best ride cymbal overall because it depends on your taste. What is possible is to pick the best value for the money ride, the best ride for metal or the best ride for jazz, the most versatile ride and so on.
Also, every company has its candidates so, I decided to choose the best ride cymbals from Zildjian, Sabian, Meinl and Paiste and pick best in every category.
Best Jazz Ride Cymbal - 22" Kerope Medium
Although Zildjian has many rides that can be used for jazz I choose the Kerope because the entire series has a mellow sound with a soft attack. Steve Gad, Steve Smith, and many jazz drummers love the Kerope series.
In case you decide to look around more let me give you a few alternatives.
The Constantinople series is a great option if you play jazz. In comparison to the Kerope series, this one has a variety of options when it comes to ride cymbal.
K custom Flat top ride is the best for jazz in the K Custom series. Don’t forget about the K series, any ride from this series would fit in jazz.
In comparison to Kerope series both K custom and Constantinopole series are more versatile but the Kerope is just perfect for Jazz.
Best Rock and Metal Ride Cymbal - A Custom Projection
It is one of the heaviest rides made by Zildjian. The entire A custom series is made in Brilliant finish with a slightly higher pitch than the rest series.
Also, they have a strong attack and they are able to pass through heavy guitar riffs especially when played on the bell.
What is great about A custom series is the price. This series is not as expensive as the K series.
Drummers like Lars Urlich, Tommy Lee, Matt Greiner play this series.
A great alternative but slightly more expensive would be 20″ K Custom Session ride.
Most Versatile Ride Cymbal - K Custom Brilliant
The most versatile cymbal is the one in the middle. K custom is not in the middle of a price range but all the other factors are there.
It has a middle pitch with a not too aggressive attack. For jazz, it can be played on the body and it doesn’t sound too sharp. For rock, it can be played on the bell and get the strong attack.
It is not too dry but it doesn’t have the A Custom sound high pitch.
If you are looking for one cymbal to play all music genres this would be the one. You could dislike the weight of 3195g so the great alternative would be 20″ or 22″ K custom Medium.
Another great series is K series, the most versatile series from Zildjian except for rock. Neither one ride has a large bell and brilliant finish but they can easily fit in all other genres.
Best Value for the Money Ride - A Custom series
I didn’t want to seclude just one ride from the A custom series because they all have a similar price – little over $300.
I am not saying it is not expensive but not as the K series and for that price it offers a great sound, Zildjian’s historical quality and enough versatility to adapt almost every music genre except for jazz.
Best Jazz Ride Cymbal - 20" Manhattan Jazz
I choose this ride because it has the least amount of attack out of all Sabian cymbals I compared (over 20).
It is a light jazz cymbal with a dark tone. In comparison to some HHX rides it has a very good price; under $400.
It is dry just enough, not too much and sustain can be controlled. I would go with 20″ model for jazz because it is quieter than the 22″ one.
As an alternative try out Jack DeJohnette limited-edition ride, 20″ HHX Legacy ride.
Dave Weckl plays Legacy series on jazz gigs and it fits perfectly.
If we talk about the Jazz series that is Artisan but the most expensive one. These cymbals are not light as classic jazz cymbals and they have a dark tone and short sustain.
Best Rock and Metal Ride Cymbal - AAX X-Plosion
The AAX X-Plosion ride is not the heaviest ride made by Sabian but it is a ride with the strongest attack.
I like the AAX series because of the price and versatility, although HHX is premiums series AAX doesn’t fall too much behind.
The strong attack, large bell with high definition sound will cut trough guitar distortion easily.
It sounds like it needs a second to open up when you crash it but when it does, it provides a loud sound with long sustain.
The tone leans towards lower pitch but because of the great quality no matter how hard you hit it won’t’ produce uncomfortable sound.
Most Versatile Ride Cymbal - HHX Evolution
HHX Evolution series has a reputation as one of the most popular Sabian series. The reason behind this is the versatility and quality of the series.
Made in collaboration with Dave Weckl a long time ago it is well established series in Sabian lineup.
The brilliant finish will provide a decent amount of attack but retain a sweet, mellow tone. The tone, sustain, volume, everything is in the middle.
If you like dry cymbals it would be a good idea to skip this one, but if you want cymbals to cover at least a few music genres HHX Evolution is your go-to series.
Best Value for the Money Ride - AAX series
It is hard to pick just one out of all the great rides in the AAX series. The prices vary 30-50 bucks so it doesn’t matter much which one you choose.
The subtype I like best is definitely X-Plosion. I agree the series is not that cheap with a price little bit over $300, but this is a higher middle range series although it provides a premium sound.
It is made out of B20 Bronze, the same material they use to make Artisan or HHX. Also, many big cymbal companies use the same metal.
To find out more about Sabian check out my Sabian Cymbals best to worst article.
Best Jazz Ride Cymbal - Byzance Jazz Tradition Flat
This is the sweetest sounding ride I was able to dig up. Like many jazz rides it doesn’t have a bell.
It is so thin that when you play it you can see how it bends and makes waves. It is very quiet so playing up-tempo jazz comes naturally to this ride.
Byzance is the highest cymbal class that Meinl makes so the price goes trough the roof. I don’t know if you have almost $500 to spend on the ride but if you do and you like this kind of sound, go for it.
Byzance Jazz series is dedicated jazz cymbal series but the Sand ride and Pure Light ride under Byzance Vintage or Foundry reserve series are perfect choices for jazz drummers.
Best Rock and Metal Ride Cymbal - Byzance Brilliant Heavy Hammered
First I want to emphasize something I don’t like. You can get this kind of sound for less money with Sabian AAX or Zildjian A Custom. I don’t find these series to be better in any way.
All the new series from Meinl are focused on the dark, dry sound so the Brilliant series is a big exception. This cymbal has all features of rock or metal cymbals.
It is heavy, with a strong attack, dark sound, a large bell, and loud as hell. It is not as nearly versatile as A Custom and AAX, in matter a fact this would be something like Paiste Alpha Metal Ride for the rich people 🙂
If we put all cons aside this whole series is a perfect choice for heavy music. Check out 24″ Byzance Brilliant Pure Metal Ride also, they are very similar.
Most Versatile Ride Cymbal - Byzance Traditional Medium
I though Byzance Dual is the most versatile series because it has dual finish but the sound doesn’t change that much when you change the hitting surface.
I really like the Foundry Reserve series but it leans toward jazz sound. I picked Byzance Traditional series due to fact I can imagine every single ride playing jazz, rock, funk or latin.
Of course, you can’t play metal with either one of these rides but there is no such thing as a ride for all music genres.
21″ is somewhere in the middle as far as the pitch and attack go but I was surprised how soft some of these big rides sound.
Best Value for the Money Ride - Pure Alloy Custom Series
Pure Alloy rides cost little over $250 which is not too expensive having in mind that Classics Custom cost the same but are made from b10 Bronze instead B12 like Pure Alloy.
What I don’t like with Meinl is the fact they change material as soon as you step out of a top-class such as Byzance which is not the case with Zildjian and Sabian.
I personally don’t dig the Pure Alloy or the Pure Alloy Custom sound but the fact is, these are middle-quality cymbals at a great price. I would much rather go with Byzance but it is not as nearly affordable.
To find out more about Meinl check my article on Meinl cymbals best to worst.
Best Jazz Ride Cymbal - Signature Traditional
Love the sound, hate the price kinda situation. This ride cost almost $600, which is at least $150 more than you would need to pay for a good jazz ride by Zildjian, Sabian or Meinl.
I can’t find anything that justifies price this high. When it comes to sound it is very good but not through the roof if you ask me.
It doesn’t have the weigh of regular thin jazz cymbal but it does have the sound. sweet, soft, body playing friendly. As a good alternative, I found Paiste Signature Dark Energy Mark I and II.
Best Rock and Metal Ride Cymbal - Nicko McBrains's Signature Reflector "Powerslave" Bell
I always loved Nicko’s ride sound. The old model was in the Paiste Alpha series and it was great for heavy gigs.
With price over $500 can’t fall under affordable but it is one of the best rock rides I was able to find.
It has a great attack with a little bit lower pitch but just right for rock cymbal sound. Just go listen to Iron Maiden and you will hear how that ride sounds in the live situation with 3 guitars and a bass.
Few rides can cut that much distortion and with a lower price, it would be easily the number one rock ride in the world.
Most Versatile Ride Cymbal - 21" Signature Dark Energy Mark II
Like all cymbals from Signature series, this one also comes at a high price tag. The versatility makes it more affordable since you can use it in many music situations.
Dark Energy Mark II comes in three sizes: 20″, 21″ and 22″, I picked the middle one but whichever you choose it will not let you down.
To be honest I still don’t understand why the highest class by Paiste is more expensive than other companies since Zildjian has the biggest market share.
This is the only con I was able to find, other than that this cymbal is just perfect, not too loud, sustain and tone just right. I would play this cymbal at any time.
Best Value for the Money Ride - PST 8 Series
I criticized Paiste pricing a lot when it comes to premium categories. As far as the middle category goes, Paiste is actually the best.
The sound of PST 8 and the price that goes with it you can’t get with other cymbal companies.
I played PST 5 in the beginning, later on, they made PST 8 which is basically a newer version of PST 5 and they introduce PST 7 that I also find great for that price level.
It is more of a rock series so I wouldn’t suggest playing jazz with it but overall this is the best middle category cymbal series in the world.
Let’s wrap up! Every company has its pros and cons the same as every ride I analyzed. I will summarize each company like this:
- Zildjian – Overall one of the best with great middle series and versatile cymbals
- Sabian – Cool sounding cymbals with a sweetest sound, wide range of choices in the lineup
- Meinl – Very innovative company focus on dry cymbals with a lower pitch, the price can go very high on some pieces
- Paiste – The most expensive top series cymbals. The best price and the sound on middle-level cymbals.