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Your hi-hats are arguably the most important set of cymbals in a drum kit setup. You play them the most, and they have some of the most versatile sounds out of any cymbal type.
If you want to have a fantastic drum sound, a lot of quality will need to come from the hats. So, here’s a list of some of the best hi-hats available to look through.
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Zildjian A New Beat Hi-Hats – Best Overall
The Zildjian A New Beat Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are one of the most popular pairs of hi-hats in the entire music industry. These are the go-to hats for recording studio albums, and most people have probably heard at least one album where they’ve been used.
They’re incredibly versatile, having a solid chick sound with a musical wash when you open them up. The tone sits somewhere between bright and dark, giving you a frequency that fits well in any musical context.
You get a few size versions of the New Beat hi-hats, but my top recommendation is the 14-inch ones. That’s the most standard size, giving you the most versatility possible.
These hats are made from a B20 alloy, which gives them an incredible tone that is highly responsive to varying levels of dynamic playing. You get a strong and sharp tone on the edge and a strong yet subtle tone from playing the surface.
The New Beat hats also have an excellent loud sound when you close them with your foot. This makes them excellent for keeping time while playing other cymbals.
There’s a very good reason that you can still find New Beat hi-hats that were around in the 80s. They’re timeless, and that makes them the best option on this list. They have a pro price tag, but they’re more affordable than many other high-end options out there.
If you want hi-hats that can fit with everything, these will be your best option.
Sound: Versatile chick sound
Meinl Foundry Reserve Hi-Hats – Premium Option
The Meinl Foundry Reserve Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are part of Meinl’s famous Foundry Reserve line. They’re the highest-quality cymbals that Meinl offers, and these are some of the best hi-hats on the market.
Starting with the price tag, it’s incredibly high and may be unreachable for many people. However, these hi-hats are worth every penny you spend on them, as they give you a premium playing experience.
The version of the hats that I have suggested here are the 15-inch ones. The extra inch of size gives them a warmer tone that sounds amazing. The overall tone of these hats is dark with plenty of complexity, as you can hit them around the surface to get varying sounds.
They sound buttery when you play them open, blending very musically into the sound of your other cymbals.
The top cymbal is quite thin, while the bottom one is medium size. This combination is what leads to such a good washy tone.
A lot of the complexity of tone comes from the hi-hat cymbals being hand-hammered. Hand-hammered cymbals always sound the best, and you get that experience from playing these hats.
When you buy the Foundry Reserve hi-hats, they come in a special box that includes a pair of sticks and gloves to hold the cymbals with. You get a premium experience right from the unboxing.
Sound: Dark and complex
Paiste PST 7 Hi-Hats – Best Budget Option
The Paiste PST 7 Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are excellent hi-hats for beginner drummers to get. They’re also a great option to put on a practice kit or a kit that your students will use while you teach.
They’re considered entry-level cymbals, but they’re some of the best-sounding entry-level hi-hats available on the market. Paiste uses the same CuSn8 bronze formula on these that they use on some of their high-end cymbals. So, you get very similar musical qualities. This makes them far superior to other beginner cymbals that are made from brass or a B8 alloy.
They have a bright sound that is very lively. When you open them, the washy tone is fairly aggressive, making these hats great for high-volume settings.
The sound you get when playing on the surface is very clear and precise, so every note you play will be very distinct.
Unfortunately, these hats aren’t as warm, rich, or musically responsive as high-end hats, but that’s the trade-off for getting an affordable pair. They’re not ideal for professional settings, but they’ll work well in other areas.
If you have an entry-level drum set that came with a set of brass cymbals, the Paiste PST 7 hi-hats would be a worthy upgrade to your kit. They have amazing value for money.
Material: CuSn8 bronze
Sabian HHX Evolution Hi-Hats
The Sabian HHX Evolution Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) were made by Sabian with the help of Dave Weckl. They’re part of the larger HHX Evolution line, but these hi-hats are a strong standout within that line.
They’re a high-end pair of hi-hats that work brilliantly for modern music as well as jazz settings. They have an overall dark tone, but they’re explosive enough to be effective in musical settings that are loud and dense.
The top hat is medium-weight, and the bottom hat is quite heavy. This combination gives you a powerful pair of hats that project incredibly well. While they cut easily through mixes, they aren’t so aggressive that they stand out.
The HHX Evolution hi-hats also feel fantastic to play. There’s something about the way that they’ve been hammered that makes striking them with sticks feel very satisfying.
The fact that they’re thick makes them good for playing fast patterns. This is why they’re such a popular pair of hi-hats amongst fusion and funk drummers. When you want to play fast doubles strokes, you’ll easily be able to pull them off. When you want to play strong quarter notes, the shoulder of the hi-hats will sound very strong.
The downside of these hi-hats is that they’re quite expensive, but I’d argue that they’re more than worth their high price tag.
Paiste 2002 Sound Edge Hi-Hats
The Paiste 2002 Sound Edge Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are the best hi-hats on this list for rock and metal music. These hats have incredibly powerful tones, roaring to life when you put energy into playing them.
The top cymbal has medium weight while the bottom cymbal is heavy. However, another defining aspect of the bottom cymbal is that it has a wavy edge around it. That wavy edge adds a lot of character to the sounds that you get.
The hi-hats closing sound is very strong, allowing you to keep time with your foot, even in bands with loud instrumentation.
While the overall sound of these hats isn’t as bright as some other options on this list, these definitely have the most aggressive sound.
The 2002 cymbals are arguably some of Paiste’s most popular, and the 2002 hi-hats have been used by countless rock drummers over the years. They’re made with Paiste’s special 2002 bronze alloy, which leads to hi-hat tones that are fairly unique.
With the hi-hats being 15”, they’re a bit more versatile compared to the 14-inch versions. The pitch is slightly lower, lowering the aggression a tad to make these fit within a wider range of musical contexts. However, I’d still say that these are straight-ahead rock hi-hats. That’s where they’ll sound the best.
Material: CuSn8 bronze
Sound: Balanced with a bit of aggression
Meinl Byzance Traditional Medium Hi-Hats
The Meinl Byzance Traditional Medium Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are one of the most versatile pairs of hi-hats in Meinl’s Byzance line. While most of the Byzance hats are quite artsy, these are traditional hi-hats with a sound that works well in every style of music.
Their B20 makeup and hand-hammered design give them warm and rich tones, but they’re powerful enough to easily cut through mixes. They have a strong sound when you play them on the shoulder, and the surface sound is very distinct.
In terms of tonal quality, I’d say that these hats fall somewhere in between medium and bright. They’re not high-pitched, but they’re cutting enough to fit well into energetic music.
They also have a wonderful chick sound when you close them together using your foot. It’s a bit darker than when you strike them with a stick, but it still cuts enough to be effective when grooving.
If you want a good professional pair of all-purpose hi-hats, the Meinl Byzance Traditional Medium hats are a good option. They’re not as bright as the Zildjian New Beats, so they’re a good option for drummers who want something versatile but a bit darker than those.
Sound: Between medium and bright
Paiste PST X Swiss Hi-Hats
The Paiste PST X Swiss Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are a very unique option on this list. They’re not a good pair of hi-hats to use in your full-time setup, but they’re an excellent option to use for occasions when you need some weird and whacky sounds.
They’re little 10-inch hi-hats that have an extremely trashy and aggressive tone. The tone is very high-pitched as well, allowing it to cut more easily through a mix than any other hi-hats that I’ve suggested so far.
These hats would work very well in experimental jazz setups, hip-hop setups, and electronic setups. The fuzzy sounds you get from them cater well to those styles.
If you don’t use them as your main hats, you could also use them as an auxiliary pair to get short and trashy tones whenever you need them.
The best thing about the 10-inch version of these hats is that they’re incredibly inexpensive. They’re part of an entry-level line of cymbals, but they sound good enough to be used in any professional setup as well.
If you don’t have an extra hi-hat stand, you could also attach them to a standard cymbal stand and close them tightly together to get a hi-hat stack.
Material: CuSn8 bronze and MS63 brass
Sound: Tight and trashy
Zildjian K Light Hi-Hats
The Zildjian K Light Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are my top suggestion if you’re looking for large 16-inch hi-hats. Many drummers like taking two 16-inch crash cymbals and using them as hi-hats. These give you a similar effect, but they offer more defined stick articulation and a better chick sound.
The Zildjian K Light hi-hats are most popular for being excellent jazz hi-hats. If that’s what you need them for, they’ll suit your setup perfectly. However, these larger ones are also excellent for styles of music where washy cymbals are needed. Contemporary worship music is one that instantly comes to mind.
These hi-hats look just as good as they sound, having a lathed and hammered surface that further boosts their tonal quality.
The one downside of them is that they’re quite pricey. The larger size adds to the price, so you’ll be spending a lot more on these than you will on most 14-inch hi-hats.
Also, they’re not very versatile. The washy tones are amazing in certain contexts, but the sound gets drowned out in heavier styles.
Sound: Dark and washy
Sabian FRX Hi-Hats
The Sabian FRX Hi-Hats (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are a unique set of hi-hats from Sabian’s lineup. These hats are designed to sound like regular hats, but they have reduced frequencies to make them softer than normal hi-hats.
They fall in between regular and low-volume cymbals. They’re an excellent option to consider if you play in gigging environments where you need to keep the volume down. Instead of doing your best to play quietly, you can play normally on the FRX hats and still keep the levels down.
These hi-hats are quite bright, having high-pitched tones that would normally cut through mixes. If you love bright hi-hats, these are a much better alternative to dry hi-hats that have similar low-volume qualities.
The drawback of the FRX cymbals is their high price tag. They are priced even higher than most of Sabian’s high-end HHX hi-hats, so you’ll be set back quite a bit. However, it’s well worth the cost to have bright hi-hats that aren’t overpowering.
What To Look For In Hi Hat Cymbals
When picking a set of hi-hats, size should always be your first deciding factor. The size of your hi-hats greatly determines how they sound and feel. It also determines how they can be placed at your drum kit.
The standard size for hi-hats is 14”, so that’s what you should go with if you want a normal sound and easy placement. If you go for bigger ones that are 15” or 16”, they’ll be a bit harder to place comfortably next to your snare drum.
However, the benefit of larger hi-hats is that they have a washier sound with a bit less volume. With more surface area to play on, many drummers also prefer how they feel.
Smaller hi-hats have sharper frequencies. This makes them sound louder in a mix due to their distinct cutting tones. The most common size for smaller hi-hats is 13”, but you can also get ones that are as small as 10”.
Smaller hi-hats are easier to place, but they don’t have as much surface area to play on, and that can be uncomfortable compared to standard or large hi-hats.
Small hi-hats work well for styles like experimental jazz and hip-hop. Larger hi-hats are great for worship and other contemporary styles. If you want versatile hi-hats to cover every area, 14-inch ones work the best.
The next thing to look out for is tonal quality. All cymbals have very distinct tones that fall under a select few types of sound qualities. Hi-hats also fall under these, especially when they’re played openly.
The main sound qualities to look out for are dry, bright, dark, and trashy. Dry hi-hats have almost no sustain, and they have a fantastic washing sound when you play them open that isn’t very loud.
Bright hi-hats have high-pitched tones that are loud and cutting. They get even louder when you open them up, and these hi-hats sit on top of a mix instead of blending within it.
Dark hi-hats have low-pitched tones. These hi-hats typically have rich character in their sound, and they also blend within mixes.
Trashy hi-hats have aggressive tones, but those tones are short and distinct. Trashy hi-hats typically get their sound from having holes drilled into them.
All these tonal qualities tend to cater to certain styles better than others. If you play rock, metal, or punk music, you’ll need to have a bright set of hi-hats that have enough volume and cut to be heard amongst the musicians around you.
Dark and dry hi-hats are better for jazz, country, and other mellower styles. They’re also ideal for studio recording settings as they’re easier to work within a mix.
Trashy hi-hats are the least versatile, but they sound incredible in musical styles that suit them.
The weight of your hi-hats determines their volume and how they feel to play. When buying a pair of hi-hats, you’ll be able to check their weight in the product description.
Weights tend to vary with hi-hats from the same line, especially in the higher-end lines where the cymbals are handmade. However, there’s always a general weight range within those lines to check out.
Also, many hi-hats have a heavy bottom hat with a light top hat. When the bottom hat is heavier, you get a strong chick sound from playing the hats with your foot.
The heavier the hi-hats are, the more volume they’ll have. They’ll also feel a lot thicker to play. The great thing about thick hi-hats is that they tend to have more rebound, but more volume isn’t always what drummers will want.
Light hi-hats are quieter, and they typically have better wash. The sound you get from playing open light hi-hats will blend within a mix instead of cutting right through it. The downside of lighter hi-hats is that they don’t have as much rebound, making it a bit harder to play fast notes.
The weight of the hi-hats you choose isn’t as important as the size and tonal quality, but it’s good to know the weight as that will also affect your playing experience.
Another thing to look at when buying hi-hats is the type of metal that they’re made from. The two big metals are brass and bronze. You’ll only find cheap hi-hats being made from brass. Every cymbal brand has an entry-level line of cymbals made from brass.
The hi-hats in these lines are okay for beginner drummers, but brass cymbals sound terrible compared to higher-quality bronze cymbals as they don’t have many musical characteristics.
If you want a good set of hi-hats, you should look for hi-hats made from a bronze alloy. The bronze alloys are always a combination of copper and tin. The more tin a cymbal has in its alloy, the higher its quality will be most of the time.
With most cymbal brands, the alloys used are B8, B10, B12, and B20. The number used in those refers to the percentage of tin used, along with the remaining part being copper. So, a B8 cymbal will have 92% copper and 8% tin. A B20 cymbal will have 80% copper and 20% tin.
B20 hi-hats will be your highest-quality options with most brands. They have the most musical depth and responsiveness. The only exception is Paiste, as many of their high-end hi-hats use a unique cymbal formula.
B8 hi-hats are the first step up from brass. They’re slightly higher in quality, but they’re still only good for beginner drummers. All the hi-hats in between increase in quality as the percentage of tin increases.
Once you’ve decided what tonal qualities, size, and the weight you want, you’ll need to establish a budget that you’re happy with. Unfortunately, hi-hats are the most expensive cymbals to buy next to ride cymbals. So, you’ll need to save up a good amount of money to get a high-end pair.
The easiest way to categorize them is into entry-level, intermediate, and professional options. Entry-level hi-hats will either be made from brass or a B8 alloy in most cases. They’ll be the most affordable options available.
Intermediate hi-hats are made from B10, B12, and B20 alloys in some instances. These hi-hats are a bit more expensive than entry-level ones, and their price increases with their size and weight.
B20 hi-hats are the most expensive, and most of them can easily be considered professional hi-hat options.
Again, Paiste is the one brand to which a lot of this information doesn’t relate to. Many of their beginner and professional cymbals are made from their CuSn8 metal, so you’d just need to check the prices of those in relation to each other.
The more you spend on a pair of hi-hats, the better they’ll sound and feel. Higher-quality hi-hats also tend to last a lot longer.
Best Hi Hat Cymbal Brands
If you want high-quality cymbals with trusted reputations, there are four big cymbal brands to check out. They’re the most popular, and their products are most abundant in every music store.
Zildjian is often seen as the king of cymbal brands. Their products have been played for centuries, and the Zildjian lineup has some seriously good cymbal options.
Whether you’re a beginner or professional, Zildjian has a series of cymbals perfectly catered to whatever style of music you like to play. The brand also has a successful drumstick line.
A few notable drummers that endorse Zildjian cymbals are Dennis Chambers, Larnell Lewis, Steve Gadd, Travis Barker, Eddy Thrower, and Peter Erskine.
Paiste is a popular cymbal brand that first gained massive clout in the 70s and 80s when famous rock drummers used their cymbals. The brand has several lines that are well-suited for rock drumming, but they also cater to other styles too.
The most impressive thing about Paiste is that they have several beginner cymbal lines that sound amazing for their price.
Popular drummers who endorse Paiste are Stewart Copeland, Jared Falk, Dave Lombardo, Danny Carey, Ian Paice, Nick Mason, and Eric Moore.
Sabian has always been the biggest rival company to Zildjian. While the brand started when a member of the Zildjian family went out on their own, the Sabian name has become a powerhouse in the drumming industry.
Many of Sabian’s cymbal lines are direct competitors to Zildjian’s, but they have their own tonal nuances that many drummers prefer. There are also plenty of unique cymbal and hi-hat options from Sabian that you won’t find available with any other brand.
Phil Collins, Dave Weckl, Chester Thompson, Mike Portnoy, and Gregg Bissonette are all popular Sabian artists.
Meinl is a German cymbal brand that is very well-known for making musical and artsy cymbals. They have plenty of standard options as well, but the brand’s strength lies with their Byzance line.
Meinl Cymbals is part of the larger Meinl company that also makes percussion and drumsticks. If you want a set of cymbals that both look amazing and provide unique and wonderful sounds, you can’t go wrong with Meinl.
A few popular drummers that endorse Meinl are Zack Graybeal, Matt Garstka, Aric Improta, Adam Tuminaro, and Gabe Helguera.
Top Hi Hat Cymbals, Final Thoughts
When picking a good set of hi-hats, choosing a size, sound quality, and weight will narrow your search down by a fair bit. After that, you can pick a matching pair that falls within your budget range.
Remember to listen to demos of the hi-hats very carefully, as that’s your best way of hearing all their tones. You’ll play your hi-hats the most, so choose the best ones you can.