Why are Dirty Cymbals More Expensive

Have you seen cymbals, be it at a practice studio or our school, that look dirty, rusty, dented, or in a “bad condition” and thought to yourself – why don’t they change or upgrade their equipment to better new “shiny” ones, are they running out of budget?! Fret not for today; we will let you in on the running trends in the cymbal market and the types of cymbal finishes that you will see out there, along with the type of sound. Once you acquire all this knowledge, you will see these dented, rusty, and dirty cymbals in a new light and might even add them to your collection in the future! You will be surprised that these “dirty” cymbals sometimes cost way more than your regular “shiny” cymbals.

As mentioned in our previous articles, while reading more about drums is helpful for you to gain different perspectives and understanding, be sure to head on down to your local store to try out the cymbals and understand what the terms we mention mean. 

If you are in Singapore, or a student with us, be sure to speak to your instructors or our staff to learn more. We are official retailers for all products under Yamaha, Singapore Drum Shop, and Pantheon Percussion. These include brands like DW, Pantheon Percussion, Paiste, PDP, Yamaha, Zildjian, etc.


Introduction to cymbal finishes

In the cymbal market now, cymbal finishes are generally split into two different finishes – lathed and unlathed. These are terms to describe the process of cymbal creation (or lack thereof) and the sound they produce.

Most cymbals go through a few standard processes in creating the size, shape, and thickness to create and shape the type of sound they want. After the cymbals take their shape through a process called casting, they then move to the finishing stage, where they will receive different treatments to give them a different “look.” These treatments don’t only give a visual advantage to the cymbals but also drastically alter the sound through tapering and manipulation of the materials.

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Lathing as a process

The most common process that manufacturers use is called lathing. Lathing is also how most traditional cymbals are finished. This process allows manufacturers to refine the shape and taper of the cymbals to provide for the kind of tonal qualities they desire. The lathing process creates grooves in the cymbals, which helps the cymbal have a focused, brighter, and more cutting sound as the process shaves off the surface “dirt” and reveals the “shine” of the underlying alloy. The cymbals are then further buffed to strengthen the shine of the cymbals you see.

Unlathed Cymbals

As you might have guessed, with the lathing process removing the “dirt” on the surface to produce the basis for the “shine,” then for us to produce the “dirty” finish, all we have to do is not go through the lathing process, and you would be right.

Without going through the lathing process, the cymbal receives a more “original” look, often referred to as a more “earthy” or “unfinished” look. As you might guess, the lack of lathing also drastically affects the sound of the cymbals.

As lathing is a process that not only affects the finish, it affects the sound by removing mass from the cymbals and by creating grooves through the cymbals, these unfinished cymbals very often need other processes to help manipulate the sound to their desired tonal qualities.

Hammered (Dents) Cymbals

Hammering is a prevalent process in the industry to manipulate the tone of the cymbals. Given that the unlathed cymbals are short of an additional process to help manipulate the sound, other techniques are used to achieve that purpose. Hammering is one of the most common processes used.

Hammering is a very common process for lathed cymbals as well. This process is done for lathed cymbals before the lathing process.

Hammering compresses the cymbal, increasing its density and adding additional tension to the cymbal itself, enhancing the cymbal tonal complexity. You would often find hammered cymbals to have a drier or a darker sound, which is also the hallmark of the unlathed cymbal lines.

Traditional cymbals are very often hand-hammered by master cymbal smiths. Over time, technology has developed for cymbals to be machine hammered instead. Today, most cymbals in the market are machine hammered. With the advancement of cymbal-making technology, it still produces excellent sound.

Source Hammered Cymbals

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Recommended unlathed cymbals

Unlathed cymbals were always a thing on the market, but there was a massive surge in popularity in recent times. Lots of companies have since produced major lines of unlathed cymbals to capture this demand. Some of the top recommended unlathed cymbals that we have tried and loved are,

Meinl Byzance Extra Dry Series

Featured in room 2 of our Dhoby Ghaut branch, this cymbal is well-loved by students and instructors alike.




Zildjian K Special Dry series









Pantheon Percussion Dry cymbals

From one of our most loved local custom drum makers, Pantheon Percussion offers various cymbal choices, including unlathed cymbals. Their cymbals are widely popular among drummers from Singapore


Although these “dirty” cymbals may not look attractive to some, at first sight, we highly recommend you explore that territory to gain more insights into why so many other drummers love them. The general rule of thumb for shiny vs. dirty cymbals is that shiny cymbals are often more cutting, bright, and sharper in tone. Dirty cymbals generally have a more complex, dry, less cutting, and darker tone. Some manufacturers also treat cymbals with unique finishing processes to enhance the dark and dry sound. One of the popular models for this is the Meinl Byzance Sand Ride, which is sandblasted to produce a unique sound.