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Best hi hats: Get the perfect hats for your setup

Hi hats are one of the most important parts of the overall drum kit. Much like ride cymbals, they’re one of the most utilized members of any drummer’s cymbal collection. Some drummers even use two hi hats of different sizes for even more sonic options! But when shopping for the best hi hats, things can get a little confusing.

Considering size, weight, alloy, and sound quickly narrows down your options. Cymbals in general are as varied as the metals they’re made from and the companies that make them.

Here are some of the best hi hats and the reasons we like them.

Best hi hats overall: Zildjian A 15” New Beat

Zildjian A 15” New Beat
best overall
Zildjian A 15” New Beat
A series is a great investment and the New Beat hi hats are a balanced medium/heavy combination.
A series is a top choice of drummers everywhere
Good mix of volume and sustain
Responds well to stick articulation

The A Series New Beat hats are the preferred choice by a lot of drummers. They’re a balanced, medium/heavy combination with good volume and sustain. The B20 cast bronze alloy is a good blend that works well for multiple playing styles.

Considering how loud they are, they respond really well to stick articulations. Open, closed, and any tightness in between these cast bronze hi hats molded from Zildjian’s centuries-old alloy sound full and bright. Just like great rock hi hats should. They’re an investment, but a worthy one.

Best premium hi hats: Zildjian A Custom Mastersound

Zildjian A Custom Mastersound
best premium
Zildjian A Custom Mastersound
Balanced hi hats with good sustain, volume, and pitch.
Good pitch, volume, and sustain
Good alloy combination of copper, tin, and silver
Only comes in 14u0022 option

Balanced, cutting, and well-made, Zildjian’s A Custom series is a top choice of drummers worldwide. Their 14” Mastersound hats are tonally balanced across the board in pitch, sustain, and volume. Whatever your playing style or genre the sound of this set will fit right in to your cymbal collection.

They’re an alloy of 80% copper and 20% tin with traces of silver. These are another set that only comes in a 14” size. But considering the stellar combination of build quality and sound profile they are a perfect pair if you have some cash to spend.

Most versatile hi hats: Paiste 900 Series Sound Edge

Paiste 900 Series Sound Edge
most versatile
Paiste 900 Series Sound Edge
Good mix of quality and price point. Bottom hat has additional machine hammering during manufacture with a warm and bright sound.
Warm and bright across frequencies
Extra machine hammering creates good response between top and bottom hats
Longer sustain than some might prefer

With over 100 years of cymbal-crafting experience, Paiste has a versatile cymbal lineup. And if you’re on a budget, the 900 Series Sound Edge 14” hi hats are a great choice. What sets them apart from other budget hi hats is the slight differential between the top and bottom hats – a medium top hat and medium-heavy bottom hat.

The bottom hat has extra machine hammering around the edge that creates better response between the two. The model name is derived from this unique matchup. The sound is complex, as hi hats should be.

It’s warm and bright at the same time, with a pleasing width. Sustain is critical for a hi hat sound, and the sustain is on the longer side than many others. Volume won’t be an issue, as these are meant to project.

They only come in a 14” size, but Paiste clearly made sure that extreme care went into crafting these hi hats.

Best hi hats for recording: Sabian HHX Click Hats

Sabian HHX Click Hats
best for recording
Sabian HHX Click Hats
14u0022 hi hats that are great for work in the recording studio. The darker sound can save time during production.
Smaller size is great for recording
Darker sound means less processing during mixing
Thick sound fills up sonic space
Darker sound might be a turnoff

When you’re choosing hi hats for recording, most drummers (and producers!) prefer smaller sizes. Larger cymbals sound that way, and the studio is all about the right sound. The stage is where you get loud, the studio is where you get precise.

This is an interesting choice, and here’s why this was our choice for the best hi hats for recording. They’re 14”, which is a great balance of volume and sustain. Cymbals can often be captured as too bright, causing the recording engineers to have to use certain microphones or additional post-processing to reel them in.

HHX hi hats are darker – a perfect pairing with the microphones usually used to record drums. The sound is thick without being too weighty and there’s a pleasant resonance. A good range across the length of the cymbal gives you additional tonal options – perfect for the studio.

Expensive, finely-crafted, versatile? Check. Great for pretty much any recording scenario? Absolutely.

Best hi hats for live performance: Meinl Byzance Extra-Dry Medium

Meinl Byzance Extra-Dry Medium hi hats
Best hi hats for live performance
Meinl Byzance Extra-Dry Medium
The best hi-hats for live performance have great projection, the right amount of sustain, and are dry enough to let the room and front-of-house sound do their thing.
Good projection and sustain
Not overly bright
Raw-hammered bronze alloy
Expensive for hi-hats
Too dark for some players

In general, it’s best practice to use smaller cymbals for recording and larger cymbals for live performance. This is due to the fact that bigger cymbals offer more projection and sustain, two things that can be counterproductive in a recording environment.

This model from Meinl presents a lot of features that make them great for live performance. With a 16″ diameter they have weight to the sound without being too overpowering. The stick response is considered “dark”, which prevents them from being too bright. And with a drier sound than most hi-hats the character of the playing environment shines through.

The raw-hammered B20 bronze alloy offers a shorter sustain and easy playing feel that’s great for rock, country, pop, jazz, even metal.

Best hi hats for rock: Paiste Giant Beat

Paiste Giant Beat
best for rock
paiste giant beat
These larger cymbals have a lot of power and volume and were the preferred hi hats for John Bonham of Led Zeppelin
A lot of power and volume
15u0022 and 16u0022 options
Might be too loud for some genres

Rock is all about power and projection. So why not go with a model of cymbals preferred by one of the greatest drummers of all time – John “Bonzo” Bonham? These monsters will have no problem getting you there. A medium top and heavy bottom gives a little separation to the overall sound and cuts right through a dense rock mix.

As big as they are, they’re more about volume than a sharp, cutting sound. There’s a mellow bottom and a shimmery top end that fits into the mix context anywhere from open to closed. With a great overall balance you’ll be able to play precisely without worrying about hitting a little harder due to their inherent projection.

You can choose from 15” or 16” so there’s not much room there, but they’re meant to be monsters. Giant Beat cymbals first came out in 1967. And over the years they still sound as great as ever.

Best budget hi hats: Paiste PST 3

Paiste PST 3
best budget
Paiste PST 3
Smaller-sized hi hats with a moderate but focused sound that anyone can afford.
Works equally well for recording and live playing
Full, focused sound thanks to the MS63 brass alloy
Smaller 13u0022 and 14u0022 sizes won’t suit every drummer

If you’re a beginner to the drum world, you’re probably looking for an affordable cymbals to put in your set up. The PST 3 might be smaller, but they never lack in excitement. The MS63 Brass alloy offers a medium sustain with a full, focused, and clear sound. They have a good wash too, and the smaller size helps to keep that in check.

They’re a little smaller, coming in 13” and 14” options. But don’t let the smaller size fool you. Their volume rating is “soft to loud”. So the volume is really dependent on the player.  The smaller size also makes them great for studio work.

Which hi-hat is best?

Our choice is the Zildjian A Custom Mastersound. There’s a reason Zildjian is generally considered to be the best of the best. But this really depends on your needs. Are you looking to use them for recording, live work, or both? Size, weight, and alloy all affect sound characteristics.

What hi-hats should I get?

You have to evaluate what type of sound you’re going for. Smaller hats, like 13” and 14” have a brighter tone. Larger 15” and 16” hats are warmer and darker.

What are the best hi-hats for jazz?

Jazz players are choosy about their hats, there’s no doubt about it. Larger, darker high hats work well because they have a good mix of definition and articulation. Many jazz players like 14” or 15” hi hats. The weight and size matter more than the brand – as long as it’s a good one.

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