Your Guide to Buying Used Cymbals

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Your Guide to Buying Used Cymbals

Buying used cymbals can be a great way to get quality equipment without breaking the bank, both for new beginners and for seasoned professionals.

About Used Cymbals

Cymbals are just as important as other elements in a drum kit and should be chosen with the same amount of care as they make some of the most noticeable sounds. As long as they are in good condition, buying used as opposed to new cymbals can save money.

Choosing Used Cymbals

There is a great deal of variation between different cymbals, so it’s important to think very carefully about what precisely is required before making a decision.

Think about type, brand, range and perhaps most importantly of all, about condition. If a bargain looks too good to be true, then it quite possible is as even subtle damage can make a cymbal next to useless. Be very careful about buying from an individual. Choosing a dealer who offers a guarantee gives buyers significantly better recourse if something goes wrong. For example, online auction sites not only offer a wide range of used cymbals, many also offer a form of guarantee so that money will be refunded if the goods are not as described.

Types of Used Cymbal

The first thing to think about when buying used cymbals is what kind of instrument is needed. Here is a guide to the main basic types.

Hi Hat

This consists of two different cymbals mounted on top of one another with a specialist stand. It is operated with a foot pedal. It is very important for keeping time and is therefore a key element in drum kits.


This is the big cymbal which is the second most important time-keeper.

Clash cymbal

One cymbal is held in each, and they are clashed together. This kind can easily crack, so be careful about buying used clash cymbals.

Sizzle cymbal

Sizzle cymbals have rivets or chains attached to them to make an interesting ‘sizzling’ sound when they are played.

Crash cymbal

This is the kind that makes a loud dramatic noise – great for occasional accents. They can be played in various different ways; for example, with drumsticks, with a mallet, or simply by hand, depending on the effect required.

China cymbal

China cymbals are based on gongs: hence the name.

Cymbal brands

Cymbals are made by a large variety of manufacturers from all around the world. Here is a guide to some of the major ones:


Perhaps the most famous cymbal brand out there, with almost 400 years of history behind them. There are many percussionists who would never use a different brand. Their high quality does come at a price, but look out on online auction sites for secondhand bargains.


Canadian newcomer Sabian started selling cymbals in 1981, but in only 30 years, they have built up a reputation to rival Zildjian. They were, however, founded by a member of the Zildjian family, following a feud between two brothers. Sabian cymbals are available at mid-range budgets, great for those who want to compromise between quality and price.


The third giant in the world of cymbal making is Swiss firm Paiste, which was formed around the turn of the twentieth century.


German percussion company Meinl are famed for their innovation, making use of modern materials. Their cymbals have a similar sound to those of Paiste, known as ‘European’ rather than Turkish or Chinese: consistent, reliable and focused.


For those tight budgets, Stagg is an excellent choice, famed for reliable quality at low prices.

Istanbul Agop

No other cymbal brand has quite the mystique of Istanbul Agop, which are famed for cymbals with a unique sound, formed by the use of a secret manufacturing process and special alloy, known only to the firm’s owners.

Response and Sustain

Two pieces of vocabulary that often come up in descriptions of cymbals for sale are ‘response’ and ‘sustain’. Response refers to how quickly a cymbal reaches its peak sound level when it’s been it, and sustain refers to how long the sound continues afterwards.

Cymbal Size

Cymbals come in many sizes from around four inches to around 30 inches. The bigger the cymbal, the louder and deeper the sound will be, plus it will be sustained for longer. However, smaller cymbals are quicker to respond as well as quieter and higher.

Manufacturing material

All cymbals are made out of bronze, an alloy of tin and copper. They have a ‘B’ number that reveals the proportion of these. For example, a B10 is 10 per cent tin and 90 per cent copper. This makes a difference to the sound. B8s sound bright but brittle, whereas B20s have a warmer, richer sound to them.

Parts of a cymbal

Bell, Dome, Cup

These are three words for the raised part in the middle of the cymbal. It has a higher pitched tone than the rest.


The flatter circle close to the bell.


The section around the outer edge of the cymbal.


A word for the area that includes both the ride and the crash.


The number one thing to look out for when buying used cymbals is condition. Even a very good, very expensive cymbal is practically worthless once it is cracked or damaged.

If possible, buyers should always see and try out what they’re buying before closing the deal. If that isn’t possible, make sure there are clear photographs of the actual item being sold. If the description of the cymbals isn’t clear enough, never hesitate to ask for more information. On many online auction sites, there is a simple system for asking questions to the sellers.

Buying an All-rounder Cymbal

For those only planning to use one or two cymbals, perhaps because they’re just starting out or because a highly portable kit is needed, then it’s important to choose one in the middle ground of tonal frequency. Sabian HHX models are often recommended in this category, as is Zildjian Avedis.

Finding the Right Cymbal

When it comes down to it, all that really matters is what cymbals sound like. Unlike drums, which to a certain extent can be tuned and altered, with cymbals, the sound it makes on the first day is the sound it will make throughout its lifespan.

If possible, try out a wide variety of cymbals before buying to work out what will work best for the individual circumstances in which the cymbal will be used. This doesn’t mean it’s necessary to buy in a bricks and mortar shop though: trying out friends’ cymbals is another alternative, or listening to recordings, finding out which cymbals are being played and making a note of preferences. If nothing else, read widely on the internet about the characteristics of different cymbal brands and ranges.

Find Used Cymbals on eBay

It’s easy to search for used cymbals on eBay, either with a particular model in mind or just wanting to browse through what’s available. Head over to the eBay homepage, then open the All Categories tab and head over to Musical Instruments, then Percussion, then cymbals. The search can then be refined further, searching by type, brand, size, or price. Alternatively, for shoppers who already know what they’re looking for, simply type some key words into the search box at the top of all eBay pages. There is also a section for cymbal accessories; for example bags and mutes.

Buying through eBay also gives their Buyer Protection guarantee, so if the cymbal bought isn’t as described; for example, if it’s described as being in perfect condition but is cracked, then it’s easy to get refunded.


Good quality cymbals are a must for every percussionist, no matter what standard they’re playing at or what type of music they play. Buying used can be a very cost-effective way of building up or adding to a collection, but it’s important to be careful as so much depends on condition.

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