Cymbals are loud! Well, cymbals themselves aren’t loud, but they’re certainly capable of projecting a whole lot of noise when we hit them. For drummers in residential settings, educators in small rooms, or players simply interested in protecting their hearing, regulating cymbal noise has long been a struggle with few solutions. Balancing feel with legitimate noise reduction for low volume cymbals is no easy task. 

Thankfully, the era of cymbal sound management is upon us. From classic pads and mutes to entire lines of cymbals specifically designed to reduce total noise output by as much as 80 percent, there’s something out there for almost every situation.

With that in mind, we figured it was time to get to work on a good old-fashioned roundup. We lassoed nine different products designed to address cymbal volume and put each to the test. We’re not talking winners, losers, firsts, or worsts, but more of a snapshot of what’s available today. Unless otherwise indicated, all prices are street prices, which means these are likely the lowest prices you’ll find them advertised. 


For those of us who aren’t professional acousticians, measuring sound is an imperfect science at best. But I did use a decibel meter, so there was at least some type of scientific instrumentation involved in these tests.

Played with a medium stroke and measured from right in front of my face when sitting behind the kit, the regular cymbals I tested for reference generally measured between 101 and 115 dB SPL (sound pressure level), but were easily capable of clearing 120 dB—the threshold of pain for the human ear. For reference, a typical conversation comes in around 60 dB, while a lawnmower from the operator’s perspective registers about 90 dB.

That means the cymbals you’re sitting on top of can easily generate 12–30 percent more sound than a lawnmower. No wonder our neighbors hate us. 

That also means that shaving a few dBs off your drum set’s regular sound output can do wonders for the long-term health of your hearing. We’ll continue to use these numbers as a reference to show how much impact the products covered in this article can bring down da noise. 

Low Volume Cymbals

Over the past year, we’ve seen a significant number of cymbal smiths jump into the low-volume space. We snagged selections from six different series designed to help control cymbal sound, and started a cymbal fight club—but I’m not supposed to talk about that. (Really, they just sat there in a circle while I made punching noises. It was rad.) Here are the results. 


CRX, the wallet-friendly arm of TRX, is one of the more recent players to join the field with the release of its new Air set. The perforated pieces feature white bronze builds with a chrome-ish finish on top, and a dense hole pattern that leaves only the center and outer half-inch sections of each cymbal whole.

The Air series was designed to offer a lower-cost alternative to some of the other volume control lines on the market. While they’re not the least expensive set here, they’re close, and there doesn’t seem to be much separation in sound and feel when compared to several of the others.

I’m not sure how any cost-saving measures applied here will impact durability, but the Air cymbals held up well to my extended tests and showed no signs of damage. 

I received one of the two available box sets, which included 14″ hi-hats, 16″ and 18″ crashes, and a 20″ ride. I really appreciated the selection of sizes for a starter box set that’s large enough to feel like a set of otherwise normal cymbals. 

Sonically, the Air cymbals are the brightest of all the truly low-volume lines I tested. It feels strange to refer to them as the “loudest” when they’re notching up to 30 dBs of sound reduction, but still they speak a tiny bit more forcefully than the others. They feel great under stick, and that bright shimmer adds some pleasing musical tone to the response. I’m particularly impressed by the ride cymbal here. It has a springy kind of give to it and a surprisingly serviceable bell.

MATERIAL: White bronze
NOTABLE FEATURES: Bright sound; larger holes around base of bell
RETAIL: 14″ hi-hats $93.49
16″ crash $60.49
18″ crash-ride $65.99
20″ ride $82.49
Set of 14″ hi-hats, 16″ crash, 18″ crash-ride, 20″ ride   $274.99


Istanbul Mehmet’s X-Ray Silence series is a real outlier among the products I tested. The X-Rays have a B20 bronze base, and feature what looks like half as many holes as some of the other models covered here. 

The result is a much warmer, fuller sound that feels significantly closer to a conventional cymbal. With that, they’re also louder than other truly low-volume lines. By my best estimate, they register a full 10 dB higher on average, and probably have headroom to generate even more noise. That said, they’re still quieter than untreated cymbals. 

The folks at Mehmet shipped over a pair of 14″ hats, 16″ and 18″ crashes, a 20″ ride, and a 10″ splash. All of them had a semi-trashy character that sort of split the difference between sampled and organic sounds. There’s a lot of real music in these cymbals, and I could easily see using them in a very low-volume gigging situation. They’re articulate and present enough to hang with a piano, and, with the right touch, balance out a softly played drum set. 

MATERIAL: B20 bronze
NOTABLE FEATURES: Bright sound; larger holes around base of bell
RETAIL: 14″ hi-hats $93.49
16″ crash $60.49
18″ crash-ride $65.99
20″ ride $82.49
Set of 14″ hi-hats, 16″ crash, 18″ crash-ride, 20″ ride   $274.99


Sabian dove head first into the volume-control market with the release of not one, but two different series that offer very different approaches to cymbal sound management. First, the Quiet Tone line uses heavily perforated, nickel-plated stainless steel as a foundation to deliver controlled yet responsive notes under stick. 

I received one of Sabian’s Quiet Tone box sets, which includes 13″ hi-hats, a 14″ crash, and an 18″ ride (a 14″, 16″, 18″, and 20″ pack is also available). Like many of the other series covered in this article, they have a spaghetti colander-esque array of small holes throughout the bell and bow.

They’re extremely light, and fairly flexible in hand. All profiles and cup shapes are roughly in line with standard cymbal sizes, if perhaps a hair shallower. 

In action, the Quiet Tones are very easy on the ears. They respond to tip taps and bell shanks with slightly sweetened tinks that sound a bit like old 808 samples. They’re responsive and reasonably crashable, and they feel bouncier than a conventional cymbal. Regarding noise reduction, they measured up to 30 dB less than my regular cymbals. That number might not leap off the page, but it’s a pretty significant drop in volume. 

MATERIAL: Nickel-plated stainless steel
NOTABLE FEATURES: Perforated playing surface for heavy volume reduction; only available in box sets
RETAIL: Set of 13″ hi-hats, 14″ crash, 18″ ride $234.99


The other half of Sabian’s two-pronged assault on cymbal sound management is the FRX (Frequency Reduction) series. Cut from B20 bronze, and featuring only a light application of those tone-sculpting holes, the FRX cymbals are not really geared toward low-volume play, per-se. Instead, they were created to be used in full-volume practice or performance settings that call for just a hair less cymbal sound in the overall mix. 

After a significant amount of R&D, Sabian discovered that small bands of holes around the outer edge and bell base can help cut or reduce some of the more cutting frequencies. The result is a set of otherwise normal, professional-caliber cymbals with a noticeably lessened presence in the upper and upper mid-range frequencies. 

FRX cymbals are modeled after Sabian’s popular HHX line, and share some of the same dark, smoky qualities that define those instruments. However, they just sit a little lower in the mix, and don’t cut quite as aggressively. I want to state again: These are not the low-volume cymbals your neighbors will thank you for using, but they can definitely provide some relief for bandmates of heavy hitters, or in situations where too much cymbal noise is a problem.

MATERIAL: B20 bronze
NOTABLE FEATURES: Slight volume reduction; natural finish; unlathed bells; 1/8″ holes mitigate most cutting frequencies
RETAIL: 14″ hi-hats $490; 16″ crash $295; 17″ crash $320; 18″ crash $345; 19″ crash $375; 20″ ride $400; 21″ ride $440; 22″ ride $475


WHD is the drums and percussion house brand of Gear4Music, one of Europe’s largest musical instrument retailers. G4M has a stateside arm that distributes their products in the US, so we included their Practice Cymbals line in this piece. 

The WHD low-volume cymbals look and feel very similar to some of the other lines in this article. They’ve got the same nickel-over-steel builds, heavy perforation patterns from just about the peak of the bell to barely a half-inch away from the outer edge, and slim profiles that are common to many of the cymbals in this space.

The primary difference seems to be price. That could mean there are some concessions made to materials, but during my testing period I saw no evidence of weakness or breakage. 

Expectedly, these have a sound and response that’s in-line with what I experienced from the other series I tested. They’re springy, and move well when played lightly but can also open up when hit firmly. The one difference I did notice is that they seem to sustain a little bit longer than the other steel options.

I enjoyed that, as it brought them closer to feeling like conventional cymbals. The hi-hats also have a slightly trashier tone that had me leaning into drum and bass grooves more heavily. 

MATERIAL: Nickel-plated stainless steel
NOTABLE FEATURES: Slightly longer sustain than competitors; low price
RETAIL: 14″ hi-hat $86.10
16″ crash $64.60
18″ ride $75.40
cymbal pack $215.50


Zildjian’s hybrid acoustic/electric Gen16 series seems to be the progenitor for much of the low-volume cymbal movement. Based on the line’s success and feedback from buyers who wanted the Gen16 feel and sound without the added electronic components, Zildjian revamped the holey hitters and added a matte bronze finish to create the L80 line. 

The result is a surprisingly musical set of instruments with warmer and mellower tones. Don’t get me wrong: The L80s still sound and feel very much like the other sound-control cymbals featured here, but the additional grit provided by the bronze finish adds some sonic weight. Plus, it makes them look more like regular cymbals, which—I was surprised to find—had an effect on my playing. 

Along with the standard pack consisting of 14″ hi-hats, a 16″ crash, and an 18″ crash-ride, Zildjian also shipped over a 20″ ride and a 10″ splash. All the cymbals responded with a twinkling tick that almost felt like a different instrument.

The hats were fairly tight and controlled, while the ride felt very natural under stick, with a slightly taller bell that added some range. The splash was a nice surprise, offering a quick, punchy accent with unexpected body. The L80s are more expensive than many other lines, but there’s a lot to like here. 

MATERIAL: Proprietary alloy
NOTABLE FEATURES: Matte bronze finish; looks like conventional cymbals; additional sizes and models can be ordered
RETAIL: 10″ splash $70; 14″ hi-hats $160; 16″ crash $110; 18″ crash-ride $130; 18″ China $140; 20″ ride $150; Set of 14″ hi-hats, 16″ crash, 18″ crash-ride $300

After-Market Muting Tools

In addition to low-volume cymbals, we rustled up a few muting tools that can be used on standard cymbals for volume control. It should be noted that these tools are not intended for live performance use, but rather for practice tools where volume control is critical.


Cymbomute’s stretchable fabric band mufflers are unique among the products included in this piece in that they are designed to let you play the actual cymbal surface rather than the mute itself. The elastic, flat fabric loops are slightly thinner than a seatbelt, and are meant to be folded and stretched around each cymbal’s outer edge.

Installing Cymbomutes for the first time isn’t super easy. The company acknowledges this and includes a link to its YouTube channel for instructional videos. The thing that eventually helped the most, however, was using bands that were slightly undersized for the cymbals I was muting. For example, the 13″/14″/15″ hi-hat Pro 360 fit comfortably on my 16″ hats, and similarly, the 16″/17″ size slipped right onto my 20″ crash. 

I received two different Cymbomute models: the updated Pro 360 band in three different sizes, and the jumbo Wide Ride band designed for use on—you guessed it—ride cymbals. The Pro 360 units build on the same foundation of original Cymbomutes, but incorporate the company’s new Silicone Bumper Technology (SBT) strip around the middle to receive the brunt of each stick impact.

Once installed, the bands really cinch up cymbal sounds. Even the edge crashes on large, thin rides are reduced to little more than a clunk with almost no sustain. Like the rest of the muting tools we covered, the hi-hat model is only applied to the top hat, but still proves very effective. One of the real plusses here is a consistent, nearly 30 dB reduction in sound pressure. 

MATERIAL: Stretchable synthetic fabric; silicone beads over high-density thread on Pro 360
NOTABLE FEATURES: Pro 360 features 2″ wide stripe with SBT strip; Wide Ride features 4″ strip
RETAIL (all direct sale): Pro 360 13/14/15″ cymbal mute $13.36
Pro 360 16/17″ cymbal mute $14.70
Pro 360 20/21/22″ cymbal mute $17.37
Wide Ride 22/23″ ride cymbal mute $25.40


Available individually or as part of a full drum set mute kit called Complete Set, Evans’ take on the classic, lay-over cymbal mute, offers an easy-to-install option for quickly reducing cymbal noise. 

There are two different types of SoundOff cymbal mutes. First, the classic keyhole-style synthetic pad made of high-density synthetic foam has two mounting holes to work with different cymbal sizes or customize the amount of playing surface covered. The circular top section is 5″ wide, while the semi-triangular drape section is 6.5″ long and 7″ across at its widest point.

They’re soft enough to sink some of the stick’s natural rebound, but not so much so that it’s impossible to play tight, uptempo figures. Even on larger cymbals, they soak up a significant amount of sound, letting little more than a subdued honk with a bit of tone on the end escape the treated cymbals’ edge. 

The SoundOff series also includes a trio of ultra-thin, easy-to-install rubber mutes that lay over the top of targeted cymbals and slip over the edge with a flanged lip for secure hold. The rubber mutes, which sort of look like black Ninja Turtle masks for a cyclops, have an exposed bell section and a shape that tapers toward the middle. They extend to both sides of the cymbal, offering more playing surface so there’s less room to miss.

Because they’re secured to the cymbal, the response feels just a little bit more natural under ride patterns. Plus, they’re incredibly effective sound reducers. Cymbals sporting the rubber mutes are extremely well-contained, and respond to even loud strokes with a very soft hunk. 

Currently, only 14″ hi-hat (treats top hat only) and 20″ and 22″ cymbal models are available. 

MATERIAL: High-density synthetic foam and thin rubber
NOTABLE FEATURES: Dual mounting holes for multiple cymbal sizes; rubber mounts have flanged edges for secure hold on cymbals; exposed bell on edge-to-edge rubber mutes
RETAIL:  ride mute 20″ $21.22; hi-hat mute 14″ $11.99; cymbal mute $6.99; complete set (drum mutes included) $89.99


Vic Firth’s keyhole-style overlay mutes are available individually or as part of a full set of drum kit muffling pads. The tried-and-true tone tamers are cut from non-slip pure rubber and feature a single mounting hole in the circular section of each unit. One nice touch in this group is the different component sizes for each model.

The hi-hat mute has a 5.5″ wide circular top with a draped playing section that’s only 4″ long, but about 9.5″ across at its widest point. That wide playing surface makes this pad extra comfortable to play without risk of a miss. 

Meanwhile, the pad designated for use on 16″–18″ crashes has a 5.5″ mounting section with a 5″ x 7.75″ semi-triangular drape, and the 20″–22″ ride model is 6.75″ in diameter up top, and 6.5″ x 9.5″ on the drape. 

Again, these are familiar feeling pads. They’re a little springier than comparable alternatives, and the fact that they bounce away from the cymbal, allowing it to breath for just a moment, before dropping back into place to silence the spread leaves some nice room for a musical response. The sound reduction is significant, but maybe the least among all of the mutes we tested.

That said, my wife was still unable to hear any cymbal noise coming through the walls of our small home when I had these installed. I would love to see longer versions of these pads with drapes that could exceed the edge of larger cymbals for even more controlled crashing.  

MATERIAL: Non-slip pure rubber
NOTABLE FEATURES: Keyhole shape with single mounting hole; wider playing surfaces for easy targeting
RETAIL: hi-hat 13″–14″ $14.99; crash 16″–18″ $9.99; ride 20″–22″ $9.99; prepack $72.99

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