Gear Review: Zildjian Cymbals
Producer Essentials

Gear Review: Zildjian Cymbals

9 min

What sets Zildjian cymbals apart in the world of music? In this exploration, we unveil how an ancient alchemist’s quest for gold birthed the iconic Zildjian sound, a mainstay on stages and studios worldwide. Discover the craft, the innovation, and the family behind the enduring legacy of the Zildjian brand.

Key Takeaways

  • Zildjian cymbals derive from a legacy dating back to 1623 with origins in the Ottoman Empire, deeply influenced by Avedis Zildjian’s Armenian heritage and focusing on innovation and quality in cymbal-making.
  • The company has evolved from crafting each cymbal by hand to employing modern manufacturing methods while maintaining traditional materials and processes, ensuring consistency and excellence of their products from the Norwell, Massachusetts facility.
  • Zildjian’s product range, including the K Custom Series, caters to a diverse array of drumming styles and needs, supported by artist endorsements and testimonials from top drummers who praise the dynamic and expressive qualities of the brand.

The Legacy of Avedis Zildjian

The Avedis Zildjian Company traces its origins to 1623 when Avedis, an Armenian alchemist living in Constantinople, inadvertently created a distinctive sounding alloy composed of copper, tin and small amounts of silver while attempting to manufacture gold. This new material produced a melodious ring upon impact that greatly impressed the Sultan who then bestowed upon Avedis the title of official royal cymbal maker—this moment marking the inception of what would become known as Zildjian cymbals. The moniker ‘Zildjian,’ which translates to ‘son of a cymbal maker,’ soon became synonymous with excellence in music circles for offering high-quality and dependable cymbals suitable for various musical genres.

Even centuries later, drummers across the globe continue to rely on the Zildjian company’s offerings as they produce resonant sounds fit for everything from smooth jazz sessions to pulsating rock performances. The commitment by this iconic brand towards innovation has helped perpetuate their foundational legacy into modern times, confirming their status as one of the leading names within the world’s community of professional cymbal makers.

The Ottoman Empire's Influence

During the vibrant cultural interchange of the early 1600s within the Ottoman Empire, music was a cornerstone activity. It is during this era that Zildjian originated, with its foundations significantly shaped by the empire’s musical demands. The company started out by serving mehter bands.Ottoman military ensembles—which underscored Zildjian’s dedication to meeting musician-specific needs from its inception.

The sound characteristic of Zildjian cymbals today has been heavily influenced by the traditional mehter tunes once prevalent in Ottoman times. These cymbals were meticulously fashioned to meet the distinct auditory requirements of such bands, thus endowing them with their unique timbre and features. Crafting these instruments transcended mere production—it encapsulated a richly integrated practice amidst the cultural tapestry of that time period—and it was this craftsmanship which honed what is now known as the iconic resonance associated with Zildjian cymbals when played.

The Armenian Roots and the Zildjian Name

The Armenian roots of Avedis Zildjian were crucial to the establishment of his cymbal-making enterprise. The surname “Zildjian,” ending with the distinctly Armenian suffix “-ian,” highlights both their ethnic background and their expertise in crafting cymbals. In recognition of Avedis’s innovative technique for creating cymbals, he was honored by the Sultan with this name—a testament to his skills being acknowledged by high authority during that era. His legacy carried on through Avedis II who made significant contributions towards advancing the industry of cymbal production.

Embedded deeply within its core values, the company proudly reflects its commitment to excellence and continuous innovation, a tribute to its rich Armenian tradition. By integrating Eastern influences from their heritage into Western musical practices, Zildjian has narrated a unique story across their product lines. As they transitioned from local mastery to worldwide acclaim—the diaspora proved instrumental for Zildjian—aiding them in carving out an international niche while keeping steadfastly connected to their traditional Armenian beginnings.

Crafting Cymbals Through Time

Since its modest inception in the Ottoman Empire, Zildjian cymbals have seen a significant evolution, leading up to their modern production site in Norwell, Massachusetts. Armenian craftsmen originally shaped each cymbal with great care by hand—a technique largely supplanted by today’s advanced manufacturing processes. The company continues to faithfully use its original alloy mix of copper, tin and a hint of silver—maintaining that unique sound quality which sets their cymbals apart.

Zildjian has undergone both geographical and historical transformation marked by its move from Constantinople to Norwell. Here it stands as the preeminent manufacturer of cymbals across the globe. Through all these changes—including different locations and updated techniques—the hallmark consistency and superior standard of Zildjian’s products persist because of rigorous quality control protocols at their Massachusetts facility.

From Constantinople to Norwell

In 1973, Zildjian marked a pivotal chapter in its history by moving from Constantinople to Norwell due to the necessity for expansion and the requirement of a more spacious facility that would accommodate their growing operations. Throughout the tribulations faced during the 1930s, Zildjian remained steadfast and adeptly maneuvered through this essential juncture.

Transferring to Norwell signified not just a change in location, but also embodied an evolution both culturally and industrially. To adapt to these changes, Zildjian took strategic steps which included:

  • Cultivating an international reach with its main office located in Norwell alongside additional offices worldwide
  • Supporting Development of the company
  • Initiating operations at its new administrative center and production premises

Innovations in Sound: The K Custom Series

At the core of Zildjian’s ethos is a dedication to innovation, exemplified by their K Custom Series cymbals. These instruments expand upon the classic darker and dryer tones of the renowned K line while introducing new finishes and tonal adjustments for unique acoustic properties. Skilled artisans hand-hammer and lathe each piece in this series with great precision, upholding Zildjian’s reputation for superior craftsmanship.

Drummers have warmly embraced the K Custom Series for its rich, mellow sounds and rapid decay that contribute uniquely to musical textures. Notably, crash cymbals from this collection offer more consistent projection punctuated by a distinct white noise characteristic that distinguishes them within the array of Zildjian cymbals available on the market.

The Zildjian Family Tree

The enduring heritage of the Avedis Zildjian Company is not only grounded in exceptional skill and product excellence, but also rooted in the commitment and foresight of its family members. Several influential personalities within the Zildjian lineage, including:

  • Avedis Zildjian
  • Armand Zildjian
  • Craigie Zildjian
  • Debbie Zildjian

They have been pivotal to molding the esteemed cymbal company’s destiny.

Among these notable characters stands Armand Zildilian as a prominent U.S. producer of cymbals and presiding figurehead at the helm of The Avedis ziljinjan Company.He earned recognition for his expertise over cymabl tones and was instrumental in providing innovative solutions tailored to musicians’ changing needs.

In partnership with him, Debbie has made an indelible mark on the business. As another force within the firm, she etched her name into its history books by climbing the ranks to become the first female chime executiev officier.

Armand Zildjian's Vision

Armand Zildjian, distinguished for his visionary leadership, significantly shaped Zildjian. His vision for the company was to inspire individuals and perpetuate the family cymbal business, a legacy that continues to thrive. Under his leadership, the company saw significant growth and development, with his commitment to sound experimentation and his advocacy for the use of more specialized cymbals.

Armand’s influence extended beyond Zildjian, impacting the cymbal manufacturing industry as a whole. His dedication to integrating traditional cymbal-making methods with contemporary technology and innovation earned him recognition as a significant figure in the industry. His innovations, which included the development and naming of key cymbal types such as the ‘Paper Thin Crash’, ‘Ride’, ‘Splash’, ‘HiHat’, and ‘Sizzle’ cymbals, further solidified Zildjian’s reputation as a leader in cymbal production.

Leading Ladies of Zildjian

Women have played a significant role in the Zildjian company, contributing to its success and growth. Craigie Zildjian, the first woman to be appointed as CEO of the company, and her niece Cady Zildjian, who currently holds the position of vice chair of the board of directors, are testaments to this. Their contributions, such as Craigie’s initiation of the Avedis Zildjian Percussion Scholarship program, have played a significant part in the company’s success.

The female members of Zildjian have not only been instrumental in driving significant milestones and innovations, but have also influenced product development. Through their leadership, Zildjian has been propelled forward, ensuring that the product lineup aligns with the changing needs of musicians and the industry.

The Symphony of Products

Zildjian delivers a wide array of product offerings, each one carefully created to cater to the varying demands of drummers from all corners of the world. The company offers an extensive selection including Ride, Crash, Hi-hat, Splash, China and FX cymbals. These are engineered with particular drumming styles and individual tastes in mind. Zildjian utilizes a unique blend of materials such as copper, tin and silver, which undergoes a specific tempering process when manufactured. This process ensures that each cymbal emanates its own distinctive melodious tone.

Beyond their renowned range of cymbals, Zildjian also produces percussion mallets along with drumsticks providing an even broader spectrum for drummer’s necessities. Whether it’s delivering smooth rhythms for jazz or powering through intense beats at rock gigs. Products by Zildian are designed meticulously ensuring they match every percussionist’s requirement for perfect sound delivery.

For Every Drummer's Needs

Zildjian provides an extensive selection of cymbals and other related percussion instruments for drummers at every skill level, all within the Zildjian category. They offer an assortment of cymbal types including:

  • Ride
  • Crash
  • Hi-Hat
  • Splash
  • China
  • FX cymbals

Crafted to cater to a variety of drummer needs, these cymbals serve both the professional musicians who value versatility and finesse as well as beginners or those on a budget with options like the ZBT series that offers sharp and bright sounds ideal for novices.

To their range of cymbals, Zildjian also produces drumsticks and percussion mallets, thereby broadening its offering to suit more aspects of a drummer’s toolkit. The company’s expansive collection features different product lines such as:

  • K Family
  • A Family
  • S Family
  • I Family
  • Planet Z
  • FX series

These selections accommodate numerous musical styles and meet the diverse requirements posed by drummers across genres through their comprehensive line-up of musical instruments.

Beyond Cymbals: The Beat of Drumsticks

Zildjian’s drumsticks showcase the brand’s dedication to a comprehensive percussion experience. Engineered to enhance their cymbals, these drumsticks boast:

  • Durable black nylon tips for distinct sound clarity
  • Ergonomically dipped classical cymbalist design with nylon tips for ease of playing
  • Oval-shaped ends ensuring expansive contact on both drums and cymbals that produce rich and resonant sounds.

Distinctively, Zildjian drumsticks are marked by strikingly colored finishes and come from an entity revered as the ‘Gold Standard’ in crafting cymbals. The company offers an array of sticks including models like 5A, 7A, and 5B within its Hickory Series – each stick is carefully fashioned from U.S. Select Hickory wood designed to execute precise rhythms.

Zildjian in Action

Zildjian cymbals are ubiquitously present, ranging from the seclusion of rehearsal spaces to the limelight of global concert stages. The commitment to excellence and adaptability has garnered patronage and acclaim from many esteemed performers, cementing their status in the realm of music. Esteemed drummers such as:

  • Dave Grohl
  • Gene Krupa
  • Chick Webb
  • Buddy Rich
  • Lars Ulrich

And not excluding the illustrious Haroutune II, have all selected Zildjian for its rhythmic accompaniment to their musical endeavors.

The widespread adoption of Zildjian cymbals by artists is Evidenced through a multitude of endorsements. From Ellie East, drawing inspiration from notable drummers like Keith Moon, Stewart Copeland, and Billy Cobham. To Guan Fei, who has identified with the Zildjian community for nearly two decades, the accolades serve as an affirmation of the brand’s persistent dedication towards excellence and ingenuity. Thanks to their vibrant resonance and capacity for expressionism within performances. Musicians favor these cymbals, allowing them full freedom in tailoring unique soundscapes reflective of individual artistry, which underscores why they’re embraced universally among perspicacious musicians.

From Practice Room to Stage

Zildjian caters to musicians, whether they’re refining their craft in a rehearsal space or enchanting an audience on stage. The brand boasts a diverse selection of cymbal series tailored for every occasion, including:

  • A Series
  • A Custom
  • K Series
  • K Custom
  • Constantinople
  • Kerope
  • ZBT

Each line is meticulously designed to foster unrestricted artistic creation. Zildjian combines modern technology and age-old artisanship by offering innovative items such as the L80 Low Volume cymbals and in-ear monitors that cater specifically to artists’ demands during both practice and performance.

Providing more than just superior quality instruments, Zildjian elevates the drumming journey for players. With tools like practice pads aimed at skill enhancement and carefully assembled box sets poised to help drummers unlock their full expressive capabilities (from the smooth grooves of jazz combos to thunderous rock concert percussions). Zildian’s offerings ensure optimal sound for every drummer’s style.

Artist Endorsements and Testimonials

Endorsements from renowned artists and musicians underscore the quality and versatility of Zildjian cymbals. A plethora of esteemed artists have publicly endorsed Zildjian products, thus demonstrating the widespread recognition and appreciation of the brand. Some of the iconic drummers who have chosen Zildjian to provide the rhythm to their music include:

  • Dave Grohl
  • Gene Krupa
  • Chick Webb
  • Buddy Rich
  • Lars Ulrich

Artists commend Zildjian cymbals for their dynamic and expressive nature, as well as their ability to highlight a drummer’s individuality without being overpowering. These testimonials emphasize the cymbals’ quality and versatility, further solidifying Zildjian’s reputation as a leader in cymbal production. Whether it’s the practice room or the world stage, Zildjian cymbals continue to deliver the beat that musicians around the world rely on.


Spanning from its origins in the Ottoman Empire to its prominent position as a premier cymbal manufacturer, Zildjian is synonymous with tradition, excellence in craft, and forward-thinking. The company has forged a legacy by providing impeccable sound quality that spans generations. Upholding their dedication to superior craftsmanship while embracing future possibilities, Zildjian remains at the forefront of setting tempo for musicians across the globe. They supply instruments tailored for both emerging drummers and expert percussionists alike to amplify their musical expression.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Zildjian the oldest company in the world?

Yes, the Avedis Zildjian Company, founded in 1623, is the oldest manufacturer of musical instruments in the world.

What does Zildjian mean in Turkish?

“Zildjian,” in the Turkish language, translates to “son of a cymbal smith” or simply put, it signifies someone who is a cymbal maker.

Why did Zildjian move to the US?

Avedis Zildjian, seeking to avoid the tangible dangers of returning to Turkey—where his family had been crafting cymbals for generations—relocated the company to the United States, which he viewed as the “Land of Opportunity”.

What makes Zildjian cymbals unique?

Catering to a wide variety of musical styles and the specific requirements of drummers, Zildjian cymbals stand out due to their unique sound qualities. These are derived from a special blend comprising copper, tin, and small amounts of silver—an exclusive alloy that contributes to their distinctiveness within the range of cymbals available on the market.

Who are some of the famous drummers who endorse Zildjian?

Zildjian is a favored brand among elite musicians, with notable drummers like Dave Grohl, Gene Krupa, Chick Webb, Buddy Rich, and Lars Ulrich giving it their endorsement.