Let’s start by making a very clear statement about cymbals. Cymbals vary in durability and voice and are all over the map. If you want to know how to choose the right cymbals, you have to think about both the types of music you play and also your playing style.
Factoring in the price is also crucial. Are you a beginner, gigging intermediate, or touring pro? The types of cymbals you choose will be a balance between what you can afford and how perfect you need your sound to be.
Enter the Zildjian ZBT and ZHT cymbal lines. These affordable, entry-level cymbals get you started in the game without breaking your budget. But are they worth it?
The Zildjian Company
In case the name is new to you, Zildjian is something of a cymbal legend. They were started by Armenian Avedis Zildjian in Constantinople back when it was still Constantinople (not Istanbul). We’re talking 400 years ago!
Now based in Massachusetts, Zildjian makes over 400 different types of cymbals. From machine lathed cheaper models to hand-hammered masterpieces using that old Armenian know-how. They also produce great sticks under their own brand and the Vic Firth brand, which they took over in 2010.
ZBT and ZHT Cymbals
Cymbals, though, have always been Zildjian’s bread and butter. In this Zildjian ZBT and ZHT cymbals review, we’re going to look at two of the many entry series of cymbals that Zildjian has offered.
Full disclosure: The ZBT Series and ZHT Series have been discontinued and replaced by the I Series and S Series, respectively. However, there are still plenty of both new and used ZBT and ZHT cymbals on the market.
And unlike bread or milk, never-used cymbals don’t come with an expiration date. Because you can still get your hands on them, we’re still going to review them for you.
What’s the difference between Zildjian ZBT and ZHT cymbals?
Bother series of cymbals are made from hot-rolled sheets of metal that are then stamped and both lathed and machine hammered into shape. The difference is in the quality of the bronze used to make them. While ZBT cymbals are made from B8 bronze (this is 8 % tin mixed with copper), the ZHT line are made from B12 (12% tin in copper).
As a general rule, less tin means a brighter, clearer cymbal with fewer overtones. More tin in your bronze mix means a warmer, lusher sound with a wider range of overtones.
Metallurgy? Seriously? Wasn’t this supposed to just be a cymbal review?
Okay, let’s get to some products. Not all of these lines are easy to get a hold of, so we’ve chosen a few select pieces from each to help you get a general assessment.
The ZBT 13” hi-hat cymbals come as a slightly mismatched pair like most hi-hats do. The bottom cymbal is a touch heavier and rings at a slightly lower pitch than the top hat. Still, both are really bright and surprisingly loud for smaller hi-hats.
Play them closed, and you get a nice high-pitched click. Loosely closed, they sizzle brightly, though perhaps not clearly. Open, you get a loud crashing sound with a fair bit of sustain. Too much sustain, if you ask us. The two cymbals being off-tone from each other creates a strange interference that’s not extremely pleasant but gets drowned out easily by the rest of the kit.
These cymbals are certainly sturdy enough to hold up to a beginner’s beatings and sound decent in a live band setting. For recording, though, you’d want to find something with more tone and clearer ring when open.
- Smaller and brighter than most hi-hats.
- Sound nice and bright closed.
- Too much muddy ring when played open.
Another ZBT standby, the 16” crash, is again bright and loud for its size. For an entry-level cymbal, the sound is mediocre, while the construction is solid enough to get started. Let’s break the sound down a bit.
The face of the cymbal…
Crashing on the face gives a loud wash that’s bright and loud. The sound seems to lack depth, though, with no real low end to speak of. It’s reminiscent of a splash, except that there is way too much sustain in it.
If you crash on the rim, you get a quick, explosive response and a lot of wash. That’s good, and so is the volume. However, the general sound is lacking in depth once again. The bell is pretty much useless. You get a bright but tiny little ping from this bell which is probably what you should expect based on how small it is.
In general, this cymbal is ok and only ok. They could be decent cymbals for practice or a beginner band’s live show. But we think there are some better cheap options out there.
- Bright and loud.
- Lacking in overtones and depth.
- Bell is useless.
Hard to find on its own, this ride can be picked up in a pack with 16” crash and 14” hats. At 20 inches, this is a medium-large ride. Normally what you’d expect is a good bit of volume, a good deal of weight, and a decent wash if you let it ring out.
That’s sort of what you get here. This cymbal is thick and heavy enough to give you the volume and weight that you need to hit it heavy like a rock ride.
At the same time…
The sound is once again below expectations. Yes, it does its job as a basic ride with a strong ping sound. It has pretty good definition. It’s just that the ping is overly bright and lacking in dimension. Like the crash, there’s not a lot of overtones here and almost nothing in the low end.
On the other hand, the bell redeems it a bit. You get a nice, loud and clear tone from the bell, and it’s the only place you can hit this cymbal where it sings out without being overly bright.
- Nice tone in the bell.
- Decent weight for playing rock.
- Overly bright.
- Lacking overtones and low end.
Now we flip over to the ZHT Series with its B12 bronze. You can still find some pieces in this series floating around, and some are on for great deals.
The Zildjian ZHT 20” Rock Ride is a good place to start to get a feel for the ZHT sound. This cymbal is not as bright as the ZBT ride we saw earlier. Not only is it a different alloy, but it’s also a much heavier cymbal. You’re going to need a decent, heavy-duty stand to play hard on this cymbal.
The sound quality is okay…
You get very nice stick definition here and a good bit of volume playing on the face. The bell is loud and clear and pierces well through loud rock. One complaint, though, is that it rings out forever. We mean forever. If you try to do a heavy crash on this cymbal, expect it to ring until the end of the song.
Still, this is a strange hybrid cymbal. It’s not beefy enough to cut through heavier styles. And it’s a bit too heavy to bounce and fade properly in lighter styles. If you’re a hybrid player, though, it might be right in your range.
- Heavy and solid with good volume.
- Good stick definition and decent tone.
- Way too much sustain.
Here we are at the end of our Zildjian ZBT And ZHT Cymbals Review. Now, if you’re thinking this is one of the weirdest packs you’ve ever seen, that’s exactly what I thought when I saw these strange bedfellows put together. After all, who’s going to use tiny mini hats together with a medium-heavy, 22-inch ride?
What’s happening here is that as these cymbals slowly get bought up, leftovers in stock are getting packaged together for a low price just to clear them out. OK, that’s great news! But do you really want these cymbals?
Let’s look at the 10” mini hats. While 14” is a standard size and jazz or fusion drummers might delve into a 12” pair, 10” is pretty weird. But if weird is what you want, here you go.
These hats are really high-pitched and quite bright, but they do have enough character to flesh out the sound a bit. Loosely closed, they give a pretty nice high-end sizzle. Open, you almost get a splash cymbal sound out of them, which is cool if you need to add these sounds to your kit. But as your main hi-hats? Probably not the right sound for most drummers.
The 22” ride cymbal…
More low-pitched than the 20” ride we looked at already. You get a lower voice, but also less definition here. It’s heavy and solid, so even though the sound is low, it’s also loud.
That’s good for heavier styles, but there’s the problem of sustain here once again. It’s loooooooooong, oh so long. If you want to create a full, deeper sound, this can work, but for most drummers, it’s going to get a bit too muddy.
- Mini-hats are bright and splashy.
- The ride is loud and heavy.
- Cheap – you’re getting cymbals and stands here for a really low price.
- Mini hats are pretty low volume, especially compared to the ride in this pack.
- Ride’s sustain is way too long.
Need Cymbals, Drums, or other Percussion Instruments?
We can help you find just what you’re after. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Cymbal Packs, the Best Jazz Drum Sets, the Best Drumsticks, the Best Beginner Drum Set, the Best Portable Drum Kits, the Best Drum Thrones, the Best Snare Drums, and the Best Drum Practice Pads you can buy in 2023.
Zildjian ZBT and ZHT Cymbals Review – Final Thoughts
We’ve come to the end of our ZBT and ZHT cymbals review, and in general, things were only mediocre here. Some of the pieces, like the ZHT mini hi-hats, sounded nice and refreshing. But most of what you can find in both the ZBT and ZHT ranges suffer from overly long sustain and lack of overtones.
Still, if you’re looking to pick up some cheap cymbals, these discontinued series can be found in cheap packages. They might be odd combinations, but if you just need cymbals for practice, they’ll be alright.
Until next time, may the beat go on.