Most of the popular cymbal companies have been around for decades. Through the years, they’ve created cymbals of all types, sounds, and sizes. It often makes me wonder how they keep coming up with new ideas, yet they always seem to do so.
One of Sabian’s latest lines of cymbals is the Anthology Series. These are a top-quality line of cymbals that look and sound amazing. In this review, we’re going to look at why they were made, and I’ll explain which drummers they’ll be good for.
Bottom Line Up Front: The Sabian Anthology cymbals were made by Sabian with the help of Jojo Mayer. These cymbals fall under the HHX line, and they’re some of Sabian’s highest-quality and most expensive cymbals.
The unique thing about them is that you get Low Bell and High bell versions, and there’s no specific label of whether the larger cymbals are rides or crashes. They’re meant to be used as both.
Background on Sabian
Sabian is one of the most popular cymbal brands in the world, and it’s largely because they’ve been around for so long. What started as a small rival business to Zildjian in 1981 has turned into a mega-corporation.
Every drummer knows of Sabian cymbals, and Sabian cymbals have found their way to most drummers at one point or another. The Anthology cymbals were designed as part of their 40th anniversary celebration.
The idea behind them is that they’re a unique set of cymbals that pro drummers will love. They’re a top-quality line, perfectly worthy of celebrating Sabian’s forty years of existence.
The Anthology cymbals fall under Sabian’s HHX line. The HHX cymbals are one of the highest-quality lines from Sabian, and many of their most popular cymbals form part of this line.
The previously released HHX cymbals before the Anthology cymbals were the HHX Complex line. Those cymbals are incredibly popular, and I’ve seen so many famous drummers using them over the past few years.
The HHX cymbals are mostly known to have dark tones that are musical and warm. The Anthology cymbals follow in that path, adding a bit of variation to all the HHX cymbals that came before them.
Anthology Cymbals and Jojo Mayer
Jojo Mayer played a huge role in the making of the Anthology cymbals. He’s one of Sabian’s biggest artists, and he’s contributed a lot to the company in the past.
I remember learning about Sabian’s Omni cymbals and thinking that they were the coolest cymbals I had seen or heard in a while. Jojo Mayer played a huge role in developing those as well.
I always love it when professional drummers help in the production of cymbals. While cymbal makers are amazing, most of them aren’t gigging drummers.
So, it’s good to know that a drummer helped produce the cymbal after knowing exactly what they wanted. You get a feeling that these cymbals will work well on a stage as that was the intention of the drummer who helped.
With all that being said, let’s take a deep dive into the cymbals themselves.
Sabian HHX Anthology Review
Overview and Key Features
My favorite thing about the Sabian HHX Anthology cymbals is that they’re loosely labeled. While the hi-hats are definite, there’s no clear distinction between the 18” cymbal and the 22” one. You could use both as either a ride or a crash.
Sabian and Jojo Mayer’s idea behind this is that it’s up to the drummer to decide. They’re giving us artistic choices with sizes and sounds, which is interesting!
There are only 3 cymbal sizes available in the Anthology Series. However, you get two options with each size – a low bell and a high bell. The sound of the cymbal will differ depending on which bell you get.
Here is a breakdown of each cymbal in the Anthology line:
HHX Anthology 14” High Bell Hi-Hats
The overall tone of all these cymbals is warm with a vintage touch. However, the High Bell hi-hat has an incredibly explosive sound as well. When looking at these hi-hats, you’ll see that the center bell is raised higher than most hi-hats will have it.
If you’ve never played a set of hi-hats like this before, you’ll have a lot of fun experimenting with playing that bell in the middle. Thinking of all the unique patterns I could play makes me quite excited!
The larger bell makes these hi-hats louder than their Low Bell counterpart. This is also because the inside of each hi-hat cymbal isn’t lathed.
HHX Anthology 14” Low Bell Hi-Hats
While the tonal qualities are mostly the same between each set of hi-hats, you’ll find that the Low Bell version is a bit lower in pitch. You may think that this causes the hats to blend more within your cymbal sounds, but I found that both sets have mostly the same effect.
I would get these if you’re more of a traditionalist, while the High Bell hi-hats are a more exciting option for drummers wanting to try something different.
HHX Anthology 18” High Bell
The High Bell 18” cymbal has an incredible boldness to it. It’s the type of cymbal that makes me want to crash on it during a transition from a verse to a chorus.
Since the bell is so pronounced in the structure of the cymbal, I’d say that this cymbal works better as a crash/ride. You can play grooves while doing accents on the bell for a bit of flavor.
Like with the hi-hats, the High Bell 18” cymbal has a high-pitched tone with volume to it as well.
HHX Anthology 18” Low Bell
This cymbal is a bit softer than the previous 18” crash, making it a more suitable option when you’re not looking for as much power.
The great thing about both these cymbals is that if you love their tones, you can use both in your cymbal setup. There’s enough of a difference between them to have some contrast in your sound. I’d play constant crash hits on the Low Bell version and then finish parts off with a power hit on the High Bell version.
HHX Anthology 22” High Bell
The larger 22” cymbals follow the same tonal qualities as the previous cymbals. However, they sing for a lot longer, and they have better stick articulation due to their larger size.
The High Bell version has an incredible crash sound. When you hit it, you get a powerful crashing presence that quickly disappears and leaves only the beautiful sustaining tone of the cymbal afterward.
The larger bell is perfect for playing bell-focused grooves. I’d suggest this version if you’re a Latin or rock drummer.
Although the cymbal is brighter thanks to the large bell, it’s still a dark and complex overall cymbal thanks to its size.
HHX Anthology 22” Low Bell
The lower tone makes this cymbal perfect for crashing on. You get a huge washy sound that isn’t overbearing. I’d use this cymbal for playing in church settings.
Both 22” cymbals are beautifully hand-hammered, and you can see the hammered texture all along the surfaces of the cymbals right until their edges.
I’ve often found 22” cymbals to be a bit too big for me, but the tonal depth and buttery feeling of these cymbals make me want to use them!
The price of the Sabian Anthology cymbals is going to be the scariest aspect of them for most drummers. The hi-hats cost around $650, the 18” cymbals cost about $450, and the 22” cymbals cost around $630.
You don’t get many cymbals on the market that are more expensive than that, especially compared to the Anthology hi-hats.
You need to know, though, that these cymbals are the cream of the crop in Sabian’s current cymbal lineup. They’re a celebration of forty years of expert craftsmanship, and Sabian have reflected that in the making of them.
If you’re a pro drummer looking for the best cymbals you can get your hands on, their price won’t be new to you. If you’ve never purchased top-of-the-range cymbals before, these may be too expensive to consider getting.
While I’m not a fan of the high price tag, I understand why Sabian needs to sell them at that much.
- Beautiful vintage tones with a mixture of modern washiness
- Made with the help of Jojo Mayer
- Unique choice between High Bell and Low Bell for each cymbal size
- Top-quality craftsmanship from Sabian
- Very expensive
- Only available sizes are 14”, 18”, and 22”
If you have the budget for these cymbals, I highly recommend getting them. In the past, cymbal companies would release cymbals of varying sizes without classifying them as certain cymbal types. I love how Sabian has brought that back with the Anthology Series.
I’d say that these cymbals will work well for every style of music. I think the High Bell versions would be good for styles where a bit of power is needed, and the Low Bell cymbals would be great for softer styles.
The cymbals also record beautifully. You’ll hear them distinctly in every video you see of them, and their musicality shines through tremendously.
They are very expensive, though. If you’re not keen on spending so much money on professional cymbals, there are cheaper options from Sabian to check out. Let’s look at a few of those as well as some of the competitor cymbal lines from different brands.
Alternative Cymbals to Consider
Sabian HHX Complex
They’re called the Complex line because of the tones they produce. Sabian designed them to have a unique mixture of multiple cymbal qualities. They have an overall dark sound quality, but the unique hammering and raw bells on each cymbal add a lot of depth to their tones.
You get a bit of glassiness added with their dark texture, and that makes them more suited for varying styles of music than standard dark cymbals would be.
The benefit of the HHX Complex cymbals compared to the Anthology cymbals is that there are more cymbal choices. You get more sizes and cymbal types.
A personal favorite of mine is the HHX Complex O-Zone crash. This is a Complex crash with holes drilled into it to add an extra layer of trashiness to the overall sound. You also get splashes in china cymbals in the series.
While the cost is high, you can get the HHX Complex Promotional set to save a bit of cash. It comes with a pair of hi-hats, two crash cymbals, and a ride cymbal.
- Slightly more affordable than the Sabian Anthology cymbals
- More choices when it comes to cymbal type and size
- Excellent choice for most styles of music
- Still relatively expensive
Paiste Signature Series
I’d say the Signature Series is the Paiste equivalent to both the Anthology and Complex lines from Sabian. These are some of the most beautiful cymbals that I’ve ever heard, and you can easily buy a whole set of them with the Paiste Signature Classic Cymbal Set.
They have a sound that I can best describe as “studio ready”. By that, I mean they sound as if they’ve been recorded and EQ’d in a professional recording studio, even if you’re just playing them on a kit in your bedroom.
They have a brilliant finish, making them shine under lights. Even the Signature Dark cymbals are bright in appearance. While I’m a huge fan of wacky cymbals, some drummers aren’t, and they just want a traditional appearance. These cymbals are perfect for that.
There is a huge array of Paiste Signature cymbals to choose from. It’s a whole line of cymbals, like the HHX line from Sabian. Some of them are just as expensive as the Anthology cymbals, while others are slightly more affordable.
However, Paiste has a bit of a reputation for being an expensive brand. You’ll find that there are more expensive options than there are cheap ones.
- Beautiful classic aesthetic
- Sound as if they’ve already been EQ’d
- Large choice of cymbal types and sounds
Zildjian K Constantinople
The K Constantinoples are some of my favorite cymbals from Zildjian. Like the Anthology cymbals, they’re some of the top options from this particular brand. Another quality they share is that you get varying options from the same cymbal sizes.
The other strength they have is the sheer number of ride cymbal options you get with them. While many drummers use Constantinople hi-hats and crashes, you’ll mostly see Constantinople ride cymbals being used.
The available ride cymbal options are Thin Overhammered Rides, Renaissance Rides, Bounce Rides, Crash Rides, Medium Rides, and Medium Thin Rides.
If you’re a jazz drummer, getting a Constantinople ride is almost becoming a staple for Zildjian players.
Be prepared for the price tag on these cymbals as well, though. While the crashes and smaller rides are decently priced, the hi-hats and larger ride cymbals cost over $600 each.
- Top-quality cymbals from Zildjian, the most popular cymbal brand there is
- Great for jazz drummers
- Several ride cymbal options
Meinl Byzance Foundry Reserve
My final alternate suggestion is the Foundry Reserve cymbals from Meinl. They’re the top-quality options in the popular Byzance line of cymbals.
I’d argue that these are the best-sounding cymbals that Meinl offers, making them incredibly popular amongst many drummers. It also makes them a strong competitor to the Sabian HHX Anthology cymbals.
You only get to choose between hi-hats, crash cymbals, and ride cymbals. However, there are more size options than with the Anthology cymbals. The hi-hats range from 14” to 16”, the crashes range from 18” to 20”, and the rides range from 20” to 24”.
The 16” hi-hats and the 24” ride are the most expensive cymbals I’ve personally seen, and they both cost over $700.
When you buy a Foundry Reserve cymbal, it comes in a special box with Meinl sticks and gloves, so it’s a unique experience. However, I’d love to have an option of not getting the extras so that the price would drop a bit.
Overall, the Foundry Reserve cymbals have a dark and explosive sound. That sound is backed by a bit of dryness that Meinl cymbals are known for.
If you’re happy to pay the price of the Sabian Anthology cymbals, I’d suggest looking into these as well.
- Highest-quality cymbals from Meinl
- Dark and explosive sounds
- Great for most styles of music
- Very expensive
Answer: Many of the most famous drummers in the world use Sabian cymbals. The list of endorsers includes Phil Collins, Jojo Mayer, Gregg Bisonette, Ray Luzier, Cobus Potgieter, Brian Fraser-Moore, Dave Weckl, Bernard Purdie, and Mike Portnoy.
If you’re wondering whether to get Sabian cymbals, the best way to get an idea of the brand is to watch popular drummers play their products. You’ll get to see what the cymbals sound like in the hands of pros, allowing you to experience their full sound potential.
I always do this before buying a new cymbal, and it’s worked really well. The above list of names is small compared to the full list of Sabian endorsers. If you want to see all the affiliated drummers, you should check out the artist page on Sabian’s website.
Answer: The Sabian AAX and Sabian HHX cymbal lines are vastly different from each other. The biggest difference is that all the AAX cymbals are bright and explosive while most of the HHX cymbals are dark and warm.
The HHX cymbals are often regarded as higher-quality options. They cost more, so it’s understandable to assume that. However, there are plenty of musical settings that need bright sounds that only the AAX cymbals can deliver.
You’ll see rock and Gospel drummers using AAX cymbals more than they’ll use HHX cymbals. The most ideal cymbal setup would have a mixture of both.
Answer: The Sabian company was started by one of the Zildjian family members. Robert Zildjian wasn’t happy with how things were running at the Zildjian company, and he hoped to become the next CEO in the early 80s.
When things didn’t work out, he left the company and started Sabian. The name derives from his 3 children – Sally, Billy, and Andy. Andy Zildjian is the current CEO of Sabian, and the family feud has continued since then in the form of competing cymbal companies.
The two brands have been in tight competition ever since Sabian’s creation. In the early 2000s, most drummers played either Sabian or Zildjian. Nowadays, other cymbal brands have gained more popularity.
One of the biggest comparisons that can be made between the two brands is that they both have a line of bright cymbals and another line of higher-quality dark cymbals. Sabian has the AAX and HHX, while Zildjian has the A Customs and K Customs.
Answer: Sabian’s cheapest cymbals are the SBr Series. They’re brass cymbals intended for beginners to use. I’m not the biggest fan of how they sound, though. Sabian has a few superior options that are also affordable and accessible for most drummers.
My top suggestion for cheap cymbals from Sabian would be the B8X line. These cymbals are made from a B8 alloy, which makes the tone of the cymbals far superior to anything made from brass.
I used to teach with a set of them, and they sounded perfectly decent for that purpose. I wouldn’t use them to play a gig, but I’d easily recommend them for beginner drummers.
The next step up in Sabian’s list of cymbals is the XSR line. These cymbals sound much better, and there’s a wider array of options. A full set of them costs just under $700, and I would happily use these in professional settings. They may not sound as good as the top-tier cymbals, but they’ll get the job done.
Answer: While Sabian and Zildjian have been the leading brands in the drum industry for decades, the other two major competing brands are Meinl and Paiste. Collectively, these brands are known as the Big Four.
If you’re looking for new cymbals, I’d suggest looking for options from these four brands first. It’s the easiest way of finding exactly what you want as the brands have covered all the bases of different sounds and cymbal types.
There are other brands to check out as well, though. Companies such as Istanbul Agop have been making some excellent cymbals recently, and many drummers are switching over to their products.
A few other brands to mention are Soultone, Anatolian, Bosphorus, Heartbeat, TRX, and Wuhan.
I love the idea of the Sabian Anthology cymbals. While the word anthology means a published collection of works, the Anthology cymbals are a collection of the ideas from Jojo Mayer and the cymbal-making techniques from Sabian. It’s the perfect way of celebrating forty years of successful cymbal production.
If you’re in the market for some new cymbals, these are as good as you can get from Sabian. I can’t see a drummer using a full set of them, though. Rather, it would be good to buy one or two of them to complement the rest of your cymbal setup.
Check out the alternate products I suggested as well. You may like the sound of them more, and save a bit of cash from buying them instead of the Anthology cymbals. It’s always good to compare your options from varying brands.
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