Sabian has been one of the leading cymbal brands since the early 80s. Their HHX and AAX cymbals are iconic in the drumming industry, and I’ve seen so many gigging drummers endorse the brand over the years.
This guide will serve as a complete breakdown of everything Sabian offer. I’ll take you through their entire product line as well as explain a few of my personal insights into the brand. Sabian cymbals are incredible, and you’ll understand why by the end of all my explanations.
Bottom Line Up Front:
The Sabian cymbal company was founded in 1981. It’s a popular story as the company was started by a family member of the Zildjian brand. Sabian’s product lineup includes many famous cymbals such as the B8X, SBr, AAX, HHX, and Artisan Series.
A few notable drummers who use Sabian cymbals are Jojo Mayer, Dave Weckl, Mike Portnoy, Chad Smith, and Ray Luzier.
Sabian Cymbals Overview
The history of Sabian cymbals is one of my favorite stories of any drum company. There was a bit of drama in the Zildjian family as Armand Zildjian and Robert Zildjian had a dispute over who would become the next CEO of the brand.
Robert Zildjian got the short end of the stick, so he left the Zildjian company to start his own cymbal brand known as Sabian. This was the beginning of a brand and family rivalry that is still ongoing today. Sabian was started in 1981, so it’s been four decades of competition.
Unfortunately, Robert Zildjian died in 2013 due to cancer. His son, Andy, succeeded him as the CEO of the company.
The rivalry between brothers is the reason that we have access to two amazing cymbal brands today. Many drummers still regard Zildjian and Sabian as the top two brands in the world. While I think they were for a long time, brands like Paiste and Meinl have proved to be strong competition.
Where Sabian Stands in Modern Times
In recent years, I’ve found that Sabian cymbals aren’t as popular as they used to be. As a young drummer, I dreamed of having either Sabian or Zildjian cymbals around my whole kit. However, I and many drummers I know have looked to other brands such as Meinl as their cymbals often seem more appealing.
I think the biggest reason that Sabian aren’t as popular is that they haven’t pushed advertising on social media as much as the other cymbal brands have. Sabian have a fantastic podcast selection on their YouTube channel. However, their overall brand aesthetic on their channel is nowhere near as attractive as Meinl’s or Zildjian’s.
Also, there aren’t too many high-quality production videos of drummers playing their products. Meinl, Zildjian, and Paiste have countless options in that area.
So, I feel that I tend to prefer the other brands, simply because I see them being played more often. Some drummers will argue that the cymbals speak for themselves. I agree with them on that, but we live in a world where social media marketing is everything, and I strongly feel that this has led to Sabian cymbals not being as popular as they used to be.
I’d love it if the brand released some modern videos of their well-known artists playing their products.
Speaking of artists, let’s look at the famous drummers that live and breathe Sabian cymbals. The first drummer I vividly remember seeing playing them was Chad Smith. I was the biggest Red Hot Chili Peppers fan as a young drummer, and Chad Smith was my hero.
As I got older, I started getting into the world of jazz and fusion. Dave Weckl was my next influence, and he had a drum kit crowded with Sabian HHX cymbals. I loved how dark, warm, and explosive they sounded.
The last huge influence to mention is Jojo Mayer. He has such a distinct drumming style that I’ve never seen another drummer quite like him. He was the biggest contributor to Sabian creating the Omni cymbals.
There are dozens of popular drummers who endorse Sabian that have been massive influences on many people in the drumming community.
Here is a list of some of them:
- Terry Bozzio
- Billy Cobham
- Todd Sucherman
- Rex Hardy Jr.
- Mike Portnoy
- Ray Luzier
- David Garibaldi
- Dave Elitch
- Gregg Bisonette
- Matt McGuire
- Tomas Haake
The Sabian company doesn’t only make cymbals for drum kits. They’re just as popular in the marching world as well. However, I’ve stuck with drum kit artists here.
Moving onto the goods that are produced over at the Sabian cymbal factory. Over the years, the brand has introduced and discontinued many lines of cymbals. I’m going to mention all the cymbal lines that are currently available. I’ll give a general price as well as explain which drummers those cymbals will be good for.
Entry-Level Sabian Cymbals
I’ve had a lot of experience with entry-level Sabian cymbals before, and I’m a big fan. The two current entry-level options are the SBr Series and the B8X Series.
The Sabian SBr cymbals are your cheapest options from the brand. They’re made of brass, and brass cymbals are rarely good. However, these sound decent for beginner players. Sabian’s marketing of them says ‘they’re made of brass, but they don’t suck’.
They have a bright sound with a shimmering ring once you’ve played them. My favorite thing about the cymbals in this series is that you get some unique cymbal type options. The 16” SBr Stack is one of my favorite Sabian cymbals overall. This is because it’s an affordable premade stack that sounds surprisingly good.
A set of SBr cymbals will cost around $200, which is an incredibly reasonable price for relatively okay cymbals.
I’d suggest staying far away from these cymbals if you’re an experienced drummer. They’re purely intended for new drummers to use. The problem with brass cymbals is that they sound far too harsh, and they’re not very responsive to dynamic playing. You won’t be able to play soft and intricate patterns on these as the tones don’t have much depth.
Here’s a video of the Sabian SBr Promotional Set being played:
I used to teach drums with a set of Sabian B8 cymbals. In my opinion, they were some of the best-sounding entry-level cymbals compared to options from competing brands. They were some of the most popular entry-level cymbals since Sabian’s early days.
The company did a complete overhaul of the cymbals and introduced the new B8X cymbals. The difference was that these new cymbals had fully hammered bells, making them sound slightly better. However, they still have the same price tag as the old B8s.
You can buy a set of B8X cymbals for around $300. I’d suggest getting these instead of the SBr cymbals if you’re willing to spend a bit more.
Here’s a video of the Sabian B8X Performance Set being played. Notice how much better the cymbals sound as they’re not made of brass, especially the ride cymbal. However, they still sound like beginner cymbals as B8 isn’t a high-quality alloy.
Mid-Range Sabian Cymbals
The only cymbals that I would classify as mid-range from Sabian are the XSR cymbals. All of Sabian’s other options would work well in professional settings, which is an impressive feat. So, let’s have a look at the mid-range cymbals first before we get to the stars of the show.
The XSR cymbals are quite a big jump in price compared to the previous entry-level cymbals. You can buy a pack of these for just under $700. While that may seem quite pricey, it’s a lot more affordable than the top-tier packs from Sabian, and you could potentially get away with using these cymbals in professional settings.
They’re made from B20 bronze, which is what most top-tier cymbals are made from. So, you get that excellent responsiveness that you could expect from higher-priced cymbals.
The tones of most of the XSR cymbals are bright and cutting. However, some of my favorite cymbals in this line are the Monarch cymbals. They have a dark aesthetic texture, and they produce more of a vintage sound.
If you want an affordable set of cymbals that will still work in many settings, these are a good option to look into. They’re the perfect upgrade from entry-level cymbals.
Here’s a clip of the Sabian XSR Performance Set being played:
Professional Sabian Cymbals
The cymbals that I’m about to mention are what most professional drummers who play Sabian use. There is an incredibly wide variety, giving you plenty of choices. Whether you want dry, dark, bright, warm, or trashy cymbals, those are all here.
All these cymbals will also be some of the priciest options from the brand.
The HH Series was introduced within the first year of the Sabian brand being around. These cymbals are classic options, and so many drummers have been using them for decades. HH stands for ‘hand hammered’, and hand-hammered cymbals always have complex tones that are beautiful to hear.
The HH cymbals have an overall dark sound that is quite moody. They’re made from a B20 alloy, and you can either find them with traditional or natural finishes. Since the cymbals have been around for so long, they have a strong vintage feel to them.
I’d highly suggest trying these out if you play jazz. The dark and vintage tones mixed with the clear stick definition makes them incredibly ideal for playing swing rhythms. They also tend to mix in quite well with jazz instrumentation.
A pack of these cymbals will cost just under $1500. That’s quite pricey, but they’re highly worth it!
Here’s a set of them being played.
The Sabian AA cymbals share a similar history with the HH cymbals as they were introduced at the same time all those years ago. However, the tones of the AA cymbals are completely different. These cymbals are bright, punchy, and extremely loud.
They’re also made from a B20 alloy, but most of them are a lot thicker, and they sing out violently when you hit them hard. They’re intended to be used by punk, metal, and rock drummers. They still have the vintage feel as well, though, compared to Sabian’s more modern cymbals which I’ll get to in a bit.
These were the cymbals that drummers in the classic rock era used. Think of Phil Collins playing grand drum fills with Genesis.
Thankfully, they’re a bit cheaper than the HH cymbals. You can get a set of them for just under $1000.
Here’s a video of a set of Sabian AA Raw Bell cymbals being played:
The FRX cymbals are some of the most unique cymbals in Sabian’s lineup. The idea behind these is that they’ve been made in a way that reduces harsh frequencies, causing them to be softer than regular cymbals. They’re intended to be used in venues where loud cymbal bashing isn’t an option.
They’re not low-volume cymbals that make no noise at all. They’re regular cymbals that aren’t as loud as what most drummers are used to. I love the concept, and these are the types of cymbals I’d love to use when playing in church. They allow you to play without holding back as you don’t have the risk of playing too loudly.
Lower-volume cymbals typically have dark tones. However, these are fairly bright, which is interesting!
My only gripe with these is that they cost around the same as regular pro-quality Sabian cymbals, and I think that the latter will always be a better option to get. You can get a huge set of FRX cymbals for around $2000.
Check this video of them being played:
The Sabian AAX cymbals are the modern version of the AA cymbals. They share the same explosive and powerful tones, but they have a much more modern sound. When you listen to styles such as hip-hop, R&B, and modern rock, these are the kinds of cymbals that you will hear.
The AAX line is one of Sabian’s most popular product lines, and these cymbals have been seen everywhere since the early 2000s.
There is an incredible number of options you have with the AAX cymbals. I checked on Sabian’s website and saw that there are 102 AAX cymbals in total that you can buy.
Like the AA cymbals, you can get a pack of these for around $1000.
I wouldn’t recommend using these for softer styles as their tones are a bit too loud and harsh to sound natural in the context.
Here’s a video of a drummer playing the Sabian AAX Praise & Worship cymbal set:
The HHX cymbals are seen as Sabian’s top-quality cymbals. Even though there are a few higher-priced options from the brand, these cymbals are what most drummers see as your most professional Sabian cymbals. They’re what competes directly with the famous Zildjian K Custom cymbals.
All the HHX products have dark and complex tones. Most of them are quite thin, and all of them are incredibly musical. They’re excellent cymbals to record with as they blend nicely within instrument mixes.
A set of them will cost anywhere between $1000 and $2000 depending on how many cymbals are included in the pack.
These are the cymbals that I grew up watching Dave Weckl play. I loved the sound of them then, and I love the sound of them now. Like the AAX cymbals, there are over one hundred HHX cymbals to choose from.
If you want a top-quality cymbal setup, these are the Sabian cymbals to get.
Here’s a clip of the Sabian HHX Evolution Performance Set being played:
The Sabian Paragon cymbals were made with the help of Neil Peart, the drummer from Rush. Sadly, Neil Peart died a few years ago, but he was a legendary drummer whose legacy will live on through his music.
These cymbals are great middle-ground cymbals. They do everything particularly well, but they don’t exactly specialize in anything. They’re not too dark, not too dry, not too bright, and not too warm.
If you play multiple styles of music, these will be a good option for you. However, if you specialize in a specific genre, I wouldn’t suggest using them. I’d say that they’re also fantastic cymbals for teaching as you can play just about every style with them at a surface level.
In terms of pricing, they cost around the same as the Sabian AAX cymbals. One interesting product to take note of is the Neil Peart Complete Cymbal Set. You get all the Paragon cymbals available with a custom case. Quite nifty, but it’s also the most expensive set of cymbals I’ve ever seen.
Here’s a clip of Neil Peart himself playing the cymbals:
The Artisan cymbals are Sabian’s luxury option. These are premium cymbals, and you won’t find many options that sound better. Most of them have incredibly rich tones that are dark and complex.
With the top-tier build quality comes an incredibly high price tag. All the artisan cymbals cost between $500 and $1000. Those prices are for single cymbals. If you wanted a full set of them all around your kit, you could be paying as high as $4000.
There are also only 16 Artisan cymbals to choose from. I’d only recommend these cymbals to pro drummers who will appreciate their craftsmanship and sound quality. Otherwise, you could save a lot of money by sticking with the Sabian HHX cymbals that also have dark and complex tones.
The biggest demographic of drummers that I’ve seen use these cymbals are jazz drummers. With that being said, here’s a clip of Mark Guiliana playing them. He’s one of the leading jazz drummers in modern times.
The Crescent cymbals are the final line offered by Sabian. Crescent used to be its own boutique cymbal company. They were acquired by Sabian in 2015, and they’ve been sold under the Sabian name since then.
The cymbals have a vintage vibe to them, and the tones are dark and complex. These cymbals are also a favorite of jazz drummers, just like the Artisan cymbals.
Within the Crescent line of cymbals, you get the Hammertone Collection and the Elements Collection. Both lines sound incredible.
The Sabian Crescent cymbals also come at incredibly high prices, making them luxury options for pro drummers.
Here are the Crescent Hammertone cymbals being played by Jeff Hamilton:
Other Sabian Products
While cymbals are the main attraction of the Sabian brand, they sell a few other things that you might want to know about. These include merch such as shirts, hoodies, hats, and backpacks.
You can also get Sabian cymbal bags, practice pads, snare wires, and stick bags.
I’d say that their cymbal bags are their most attractive accessory. Seeing as they’re a cymbal company, they make some seriously high-quality cymbal bags.
Alternative Cymbal Brands to Know About
Zildjian has always been the biggest competitor of Sabian. After all, the Sabian brand was started by one of the Zildjian family members after a dispute. Both the Zildjian and Sabian names are synonymous with drumming.
You’ll find that most of the cymbals in Zildjian’s product line directly compete with Sabian’s. Here are a few notable cymbals from Zildjian:
- Zildjian S Series
- Zildjian A Series
- Zildjian A Custom Series
- Zildjian K Series
- Zildjian K Custom Series
- Zildjian Constantinople Series
Meinl was the most recent addition to the big four cymbal brands. The brand was started in Germany, and their cymbal factory still runs from there today. The Meinl brand is a few decades older than Sabian. However, they didn’t share the same popularity that Sabian did.
I love Meinl cymbals mostly due to the sheer number of unique options you get. I first saw Meinl cymbals being posted as pictures on Instagram, and I thought they were some of the most beautiful cymbals I had ever seen.
Here are some notable cymbals from Meinl:
- Meinl HCS
- Meinl Classics Custom
- Meinl Pure Alloy Custom
- Meinl Classics Custom Dark
- Meinl Byzance
The final big competitor to Sabian is Paiste. They’re a cymbal brand based in Switzerland, and their cymbals were first put into production in 1906. However, the production started in Russia and a factory was eventually established in Switzerland in 1957.
Paiste cymbals have a strong reputation for being beautiful cymbals that are slightly more expensive than the other brands.
Here are some of the options from the Paiste product line:
- Paiste PST 7
- Pasite 900 Series
- Paiste RUDE
- Paiste 2002
- Paiste Formula 602 Classic
- Paiste Signature
Answer: Yes. Most of Sabian’s unlathed cymbals fall under the HH line, but you can find a few of them in most of the top-tier Sabian lines. Their unlathed cymbals have earthy tones and their surfaces are raw compared to the bright finishes of traditional cymbals.
My favorite unlathed cymbals from Sabian fall under the Crescent lines. The Element Distressed ride cymbals are amazing.
There aren’t as many unlathed cymbals from Sabian as there are from Meinl. Meinl tends to specialize in that area, so the brand has dozens of unlathed cymbal options.
Answer: There is a group of cymbal brands known as the big four. This group includes Meinl, Sabian, Paiste, and Zildjian. The biggest competitor brands to Sabian are the other brands that are included in this group.
You’ll find that each cymbal brand has cymbal lines that are quite similar in both price and tone. This means that it’s up to us drummers to choose which lines and brands that we prefer. Whichever brand you choose, you’ll easily find cymbals of all types and qualities that range in prices.
As I’ve grown as a drummer, my tastes have changed, and that has led my preference in cymbal brands to change as well. However, it’s most beneficial to mix and match cymbals from different brands so that you have a large pool of choices.
Answer: Since they’re part of the big four, they’re incredibly popular. However, I wouldn’t say that they’re as popular as Meinl or Zildjian in the modern drumming world. The Sabian brand hasn’t pushed social media campaigns as much as the two previously mentioned brands.
I realized this when some of my young students didn’t know Sabian cymbals too well as they only followed Meinl and Zildjian on Instagram. They saw famous drummers playing those two brands, and Sabian wasn’t on their radar.
This is a stark contrast from how popular Sabian cymbals used to be a decade ago. Before Meinl became popular, Zildjian and Sabian were the two large cymbal entities in the drumming world. Paiste was always there, but the brand never quite had as much attention.
Answer: All cymbals tend to get better with age, not just Sabian cymbals. The longer you have cymbals, the better they tend to sound. It’s one of the incredible things about cymbals and how they’re made. They tend to mature as time goes on.
Some drummers like to polish their cymbals to keep them as shiny and clean as possible. Other drummers protest this and claim that dirt and grime are what make the cymbals sound better. I tend to lean on the side of not cleaning my cymbals. This is especially true with darker cymbals. They’re not supposed to be polished.
Answer: Sabian had the same logo from 1981 until 2019. It was the classic insignia of an iconic cymbal brand. They decided to modernize the logo and have it as a hand-drawn logo instead.
Personally, I’m not a big fan of their new logo. Thankfully, it only appears on the bottom of the cymbals, so you don’t often see it! I know plenty of drummers who love it, though, so don’t let my opinion discourage you from getting Sabian cymbals. The logo has no effect on how they sound, and they sound incredible.
Sabian has an incredible lineup of cymbals that caters to all possible types of drummers. Over the years, I’ve been lucky enough to play most of them.
Here’s a quick summary of the 11 cymbal lines from the brand:
- Sabian SBr
- Sabian B8X
- Sabian XSR
- Sabian HH
- Sabian AA
- Sabian AAX
- Sabian HHX
- Sabian FRX
- Sabian Paragon
- Sabian Artisan
- Sabian Crescent
You can’t go wrong with Sabian cymbals. They’re a fantastic brand. While I wish they put their products out there a bit more on social media, they’ve managed to keep their place as one of the best cymbal brands in the world up to this point.
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