7 Best Hi-Hats For All Styles and Budgets

Best Hi-Hats For All Styles and Budgets

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The hi-hat cymbals are the most played cymbals within a drum set and are essential for creating all different types of grooves on the drums.

An excellent pair of hi-hats will be supremely versatile and deliver a great range of sounds, whether played closed, open, or with the pedal.

The best hi-hats will also have a clean stick definition, be quick to respond, and produce beautifully expressive sounds.

In this article, I’ve compared performance, musicality, versatility, and cost to give you my top hi-hat cymbals to suit a range of different budgets.

What are the Best Hi Hat Cymbals?

Image Recommended ProductsProduct Features Price
Best Dark Tones
Zildjian 14” K Light Hi-Hat Cymbals
  • B20 bronze alloy 
  • Dark and low pitch 
  • Medium weight 
Most versatile
Zildjian 14” A New Beat Hi Hat Cymbals
  • B20 bronze alloy
  • Best selling Zildjian hi hats
  • Incredibly versatile cymbals
Best modern sounds
Sabian 14” HHX Evolution Hi Hat Cymbals
  • B20 bronze alloy
  • Brilliant finish
  • Dark yet modern sound
Best value for money
Meinl 14” Classics Custom Dark Hi Hat Cymbals
  • B10 bronze alloy
  • Powerful character
  • Premium, dry tone
Best articulation
Sabian 14” AAX Medium Hi Hat Cymbals
  • B20 bronze alloy
  • Truly professional quality
  • Warm and musical sound
Best bright sounds
Paiste 14” PST7 Hi Hat Cymbals
  • CuSn8 bronze alloy
  • Premium quality sounds
  • Highly affordable price
Best beginner hi-hats
Meinl 13” HCS Hi Hat Cymbals
  • Durable brass alloy
  • Best hi hats for beginners
  • Full range of sounds

How I Tested and Selected the Best Hi-Hats

All of the hi hat cymbals I recommend in this guide are models that I have tried and tested throughout my drumming career.

When reviewing the best hi-hats, I focused on their tonal characteristics, responsiveness, and versatility to perform well for a diverse range of music styles.

I paid particular attention to each pair of hi-hats’ tonal spectrum, stick response, and articulation; ensuring they respond well to various playing techniques.

When played in a closed position, I needed the hi-hats to produce a clean, crisp “chick” sound. And when played open, the hi-hats showed they were able to deliver a lush, shimmering sizzle sound.

In-Depth Hi Hat Cymbal Reviews

Best Dark Tones

Zildjian 14” K Light Hi-Hat Cymbals

High-quality hi-hats with dark and cutting tones. The pitch and timbre lend well to jazz, but they sound great in other styles as well. The washy sounds when played open are particularly good.
Sounds
5.0
Versatility
4.5
Build Quality
4.5
Value
4.0

    Zildjian 14” K Light Hi-Hat Cymbals Review

    Zildjian’s 14” K Light Hi-Hats have been a go-to professional option for over a decade. These are some top-end cymbals, producing musical tones that are diverse and responsive. 

    When I got to play these for the first time, the sounds were much brighter than I assumed they would be, but I loved how they cut through without sounding very harsh. 

    I also love how musical these hats sound when you play them open. The washy tones sit nicely in between the mix when playing grooves with your kick drum and snare drum. 

    I’ve mostly seen these hi-hats being used by jazz and worship drummers. In those settings, the hi-hat chick sound with your foot is really important, and the K Lights produce quite a strong tone. 

    They’re also easily heard within a mix of instruments, sounding great when you play a variety of dynamics across the edge and surface. 

    With that said, I think these hi-hats are very versatile. They won’t get lost in a mix of rock instruments, and they won’t be too harsh in a softer setting. They’re just a great set of hats that most drummers would enjoy playing. 

    The high price tag is the one downside, especially when comparing them to other pairs of 14” hi-hats. However, I always think that versatility is one thing that makes a high price tag worth it, as you won’t need to use any other hi-hats for any situation. 

    Features:

    • B20 bronze alloy 
    • Dark and low pitch 
    • Medium weight 

    Pros

    • Very popular option for jazz drummers, as they blend nicely but still have a strong chick sound
    • Great sound quality when recorded through microphones
    • Strong and punchy tones, but they’re not as harsh as what you get with Zildjian A or A Custom hi-hats
    • Really versatile for a range of musical styles

    Cons

    • Quite expensive for a pair of 14” hi-hats
    Most versatile

    Zildjian 14” A New Beat Hi Hat Cymbals

    Well regarded as the best and most versatile hi-hat cymbals, the A New Beat hi-hats have a fantastic all-purpose sound that works well for all musical genres.
    Sounds
    4.5
    Versatility
    5.0
    Build Quality
    4.8
    Value
    4.5

      Zildjian 14” A New Beat Hi Hat Cymbals Review

      The legendary Zildjian A New Beat hi-hats are some of my favorite Zildjian hi-hat cymbals of all time.

      I’ve personally owned these hi-hats for many years and I’ve used them to record a very wide range of musical styles.

      I’ve played these A New Beat hi-hats for recording metalcore albums, right through to pop drum covers, and even reggae and blues songs. They have a brilliant all-purpose sound and balanced tonal response.

      These cymbals deliver an unmistakable rock-solid “chick” when closed and they produce a smooth yet crisp sizzle sound when open. They are very dynamic, and can even produce a loud roar when struck hard.

      The sound of these cymbals is mellow, expressive, clean and rich. They have a medium weight and an excellent stick definition.

      I think the Zildian A New Beat hats are quite simply the most versatile hi-hat cymbals you can buy. They sound great for jazz, metal, pop, RnB and absolutely everything in between!

      The composition of these cymbals is a premium B20 bronze that Zildjian uses for all of its professional cymbal ranges. They are machine hammered and lathed to give the cymbal a smooth, pure sound.

      I recommend the A New Beats for any drummer looking for a versatile and balanced sounding pair of hats. They will sound great alongside any existing cymbal setup. You really can’t go wrong with these hi-hats.

      Features:

      • B20 bronze alloy
      • Best selling Zildjian hi hats
      • Incredibly versatile cymbals

      Pros

      • Legendary tone and classic sound suitable for many music genres
      • Well-balanced tonal response with a clear "chick" sound closed and a warm, full sound when played open
      • Played by countless professionals, testifying to their enduring popularity

      Cons

      • Expensive cymbals, but worth the investment
      Best modern sounds

      Sabian 14” HHX Evolution Hi Hat Cymbals

      A beautiful-sounding set of hi-hats with a vibrant dark yet modern sound. These hi-hats have very clean yet exquisite sound characteristics.
      Sounds
      5.0
      Versatility
      5.0
      Build Quality
      5.0
      Value
      4.0

        Sabian 14” HHX Evolution Hi Hat Cymbals Review

        The Sabian Evolution Hi-Hats are some of the most dynamic and responsive hi-hat cymbals I’ve played.

        My university equipped all of the music studios with Sabian Evolution cymbals, so I had the pleasure of performing with these day in and day out!

        The Sabian HHX Evolution hi-hats produce a wonderful tone; responding exceptionally well to all different playing techniques:

        The Evolution line has a dark yet modern sound, and the cymbals are quite thin which makes them feel responsive and they open up very easily to varying playing dynamics.

        The brilliant finish of the Evolution line provides these cymbals with a modern and bold tone that allows them to project remarkably well for live music.

        These HHX 14-inch Evolution hats in particular produce a very clean and refined sound.

        They deliver a defined and clean stick response, and when opened with the hi-hat pedal they have a well-balanced chick sound.

        These cymbals work exceptionally well both for studio recordings and live performances alike thanks to their dynamic responsiveness and bright projection. 

        I can attest to these hi-hat cymbals sounding fantastic for a wide range of styles, particularly contemporary music such as electronica, dance, pop, rock, funk, rap, and more.

        These really are some of the best and most versatile sounding hi-hat cymbals on the market that deliver glassy, pure tones with a vibrant modern sound.

        Features:

        • B20 bronze alloy
        • Brilliant finish
        • Dark yet modern sound

        Pros

        • Clean and precise sounds with a clear stick definition
        • Very balanced and versatile sound is ideal for studio sessions and live performances
        • Excellent for virtually any style of music

        Cons

        • No negatives besides the price tag
        Best value for money

        Meinl 14” Classics Custom Dark Hi Hat Cymbals

        A premium-sounding set of hi-hats at an affordable price point, these hi-hats possess dark and earthy characteristics usually unheard of at this price.
        Sounds
        4.0
        Versatility
        4.5
        Build Quality
        4.5
        Value
        4.0

          Meinl 14” Classics Custom Dark Hi Hat Cymbals Review

          Considering both quality and price, the Meinl Classic Custom Dark hi-hat cymbals are by far some of the best hi-hats available on the drum market.

          What sets these hi-hats apart from other intermediate-level hi-hats such as the Paiste PST7 and Zildjian S Line is their unique darkness.

          These cymbals deliver a sound that is dark, crisp, and explosive. They have a refined tone and powerful character due to the extra hammering on the quality B10 bronze alloy.

          These hi-hats are super responsive and have a premium, dry tone. The dark finish, in addition to the extra hammering provides these cymbals with an earthy, complex and rich sound that works well with all music styles.

          The dark finish on these hi-hats not only provides your drum set with a unique look, but it is also responsible for providing a premium, drier sustain that is a desirable quality found in sought-after cymbals.

          I can testify that these hi-hats are an absolute joy to play, and they have a musical tone with a good level of attack that also sits perfectly in the overall natural mix of the drum kit when recorded with a hi-hat mic.

          The sound is great for pop, rock, hip-hop, fusion, funk, metal, and many other popular styles of music!

          Features:

          • B10 bronze alloy
          • Powerful character
          • Premium, dry tone

          Pros

          • Rich tonal palette with a touch of complexity due to dark finish
          • Ultra clean and crisp stick response sounds excellent
          • Incredible value for money - providing dark premium sounds at an intermediate price point

          Cons

          • Not B20 bronze alloy
          Best articulation

          Sabian 14” AAX Medium Hi Hat Cymbals

          Crafted from B20 bronze, the AAX hi-hats are a popular choice amongst pro drummers. They offer rich, high-end sonics and sound great while grooving.
          Sounds
          4.5
          Versatility
          4.5
          Build Quality
          4.5
          Value
          4.0

            Sabian 14” AAX Medium Hi Hat Cymbals Review

            The Sabian AAX hi hat cymbals possess a versatile and musical sound that is enjoyed by professional drummers around the world.

            I’ve owned several pairs of Sabian AAX hi-hats, in 13 inch and 14 inch diameters, and they always deliver wonderful tones that complement a wide range of styles musically.

            This pair of 14″ medium hi hat cymbals are responsive and articulate whilst being expressive but not overly loud. They are very musical and will easily fit in amongst any existing cymbal setup.

            These hi hats produce a very satisfying stick definition with a tight sound that really helps to bring grooves to life.

            There are no ringy overtones from the closed hi-hats, and the open hi-hats provide a washy yet musical sound.

            This is a premium set of hi-hat cymbals that won’t require an upgrade. They blend in seamlessly with all musical styles and have a well-balanced presence within the drum set.

            If you are looking for the best hi-hat cymbals for modern styles of music and live performances, these make an excellent choice.

            Features:

            • B20 bronze alloy
            • Truly professional quality
            • Warm and musical sound

            Pros

            • Crisp, articulate, and highly musical playing response that allows for dynamic playing
            • Strong, satisfying stick definition and 'chick' sound when closed with the foot
            • Professional quality cymbals that excel in many genres

            Cons

            • Very little negatives!
            Best bright sounds

            Paiste 14” PST7 Hi Hat Cymbals

            Made with the same unique CuSn8 bronze alloy as the legendary 2002 series, these cymbals deliver premium clarity, tone, and musicality.
            Sounds
            4.0
            Versatility
            4.5
            Build Quality
            4.5
            Value
            4.5

              Paiste 14” PST7 Hi Hat Cymbals Review

              The Paiste 14” PST7 Hi Hat Cymbals are offered at an attractive price, yet they possess the clarity and premium tonal qualities of a far more expensive cymbals.

              The Paiste PST7 Hi Hat Cymbals are characterized by their bright, crisp, and versatile sounds.

              When closed tight, these hi-hats produce a clean and defined chick sound that is perfect for pop, rock and other contemporary musical styles. When played open, these hi-hats roar with an energetic and bright sound.

              These cymbals have a wonderful tone, and they are really versatile. They are crafted from a unique CuSn8 bronze alloy that stems from the legendary 2002 series. These cymbals are lathed to a traditional finish for a distinctive and smooth tone.

              This is a fantastic set of hi-hat cymbals that offers premium quality sounds at a highly affordable price. They are versatile and expressive, making them an excellent choice for both professional and developing drummers alike.

              With such great bright sounds, these are definitely some of the best hi-hat cymbals available for the money.

              Features:

              • CuSn8 bronze alloy
              • Premium quality sounds
              • Highly affordable price

              Pros

              • Sharp and well-defined "chick" sound with played with a stick or operated by foot
              • Bright and articulate sounds with a pronounced and cutting tone
              • Premium sounds at affordable price

              Cons

              • Bright sound may not be the best choice for drummers seeking a warmer or darker tone, particularly in jazz or blues settings
              • These hi-hats don't offer the greatest sound projection
              • Not constructed with B20 bronze alloy
              Best beginner hi-hats

              Meinl 13” HCS Hi Hat Cymbals

              These durable and musical-sounding entry-level hi-hats will help beginner drummers learn new skills on the drum set.
              Sounds
              3.0
              Versatility
              3.5
              Build Quality
              3.5
              Value
              4.5

                Meinl 13” HCS Hi Hat Cymbals Review

                Lastly up for review is a pair of entry-level Meinl HCS hi-hat cymbals that are constructed of a brass alloy.

                Brass cymbals are typically associated with poor quality, but Meinl has produced a set of brass cymbals with the HCS hats that sounds bright and musical.

                These affordable cymbals are designed for beginners and students, so they don’t compete with the other hi-hat cymbals within this guide in terms of sound or quality. But these are the best budget hi-hat cymbals to buy for the complete beginner.

                These are manufactured in Germany in the same factory as the premium lines of cymbals, and they are offered with the same 2 year guarantee as a reflection of their quality.

                These cymbals deliver a good “chick” when closed with the foot. When played with a stick whilst closed, they offer a clear sound without any unwanted overtones or buzzing.

                Although these cymbals don’t match the quality of bronze-level cymbals, they are more than adequate for beginners. They are responsive cymbals that sound reasonably decent for most styles of music.

                They are durable and have a good tone that will help beginner drummers find their feet behind the kit.

                Features:

                • Durable brass alloy
                • Best hi hats for beginners
                • Full range of sounds

                Pros

                • Crisp and versatile beginner cymbals
                • Manufactured in Germany
                • Sturdy craftsmanship with a 2-Year guarantee

                Cons

                • Brass cymbals are inferior to bronze tonally and sonically
                • Lacks the quality of premium cymbals featured in this guide
                • Will require upgrading eventually

                Hi Hat Cymbals Buyer’s Guide

                Hi-hat cymbals are one of the most essential pieces of equipment in a drummer’s arsenal. They are used to create a wide range of sounds and textures for nearly all styles of music.

                They are one of the fundamental parts of the kit, and thus investing in quality hi-hats should be a priority when looking at purchasing or upgrading new cymbals.

                Hi-hat cymbals come in various alloys, sizes, shapes, and weights, so choosing the right pair for your playing style is crucial.

                This guide will show you everything you need to know about hi-hat cymbals and what to look for when choosing the right pair for your setup.

                Characteristics to Look For in Hi-Hats

                A good pair of hi-hats is able to respond exceptionally well to various playing techniques. Here are some desirable features and characteristics to look for in a set of quality hi-hat cymbals.

                • A clean, crisp “chick” sound when closing the hi-hat stand pedal with your foot. There shouldn’t be too many harsh overtones or unwanted resonance- it should be a clean and defined sound.
                • A smooth, musical tone when playing open hi-hats. Anything too shrill or piercingly loud is distracting and cheap sounding.
                • A clear, defined drumstick response when playing closed hi-hats with the tip of a drumstick. The pitch should not be too high, because this is reflective of cheap and poor-quality cymbals.
                • A heavier bottom cymbal helps provide a tight and responsive sound while playing the hi-hats both open and closed.
                • Quality cast bronze construction with hand hammering and lathing. Premium hi-hat cymbals from the top cymbal brands such as Meinl, Zildjian, and Sabian are forged, hammered, and lathed from B20 bronze, leading to a very desirable and sonically rich sound.

                Features to Consider When Buying Hi-Hat Cymbals

                Hi-hat cymbals can offer a variety of different tones, depending on the alloy, size, finish, and weight of the cymbals. When looking for hi-hat cymbals, these are the things to consider.

                Cymbal Size

                The most popular and widely available size for hi-hats is 14” in diameter. The other two fairly common sizes are 13” and 15” hi-hats.

                • 14″ inch hi-hats are widely regarded as the optimal size to suit a wide range of musical genres. Most drummers play 14” hi-hats because they are versatile and have a good balance of tone and pitch.
                • 13” hi-hats are popular as a secondary pair of hi-hats because they have a faster and tighter sound than 14” hi-hats. They are often described as having a ‘quicker’ sound because they are more responsive, lighter, and higher in pitch.
                • 15” Hi-hats are becoming increasingly popular. They have a darker tone, a lower pitch, and a ‘sloshier’ sound with more resonance than 14” hi-hats. They also have a little more power and volume than 14” cymbals due to their increase in size. Some drummers say they are easier to play than 14” hi-hats because they are larger and, therefore, slightly closer to you whilst playing.

                Cymbal Alloy

                All cymbals are made from different metal alloys, and those alloys determine the cost of the cymbal, as well as the quality of sound.

                It is widely regarded that the best alloy for professional-sounding cymbals is B20 bronze: a formula that is comprised of 80% copper and 20% tin, with traces of silver.

                Adding more tin to a bronze alloy is known to darken the tone and lead to a sonically richer-sounding cymbal. 

                The cheapest cymbals are made from brass, and these are found on the most basic drum sets.

                Inexpensive cymbals are made from either B8 or B10 bronze, and these are a good choice for beginners or those operating on a smaller budget.

                B20 bronze cymbals still dominate the cymbal market and are still the professional’s choice. But it’s important to use your ears over your eyes when it comes to choosing a pair of hi-hat cymbals.

                Cymbal Finish

                The type of finish a cymbal has (as a result of lathing and hammering) will affect its sound- particularly when it comes to the tonal qualities of bright or dark sounds.

                Unlathed, traditional finish cymbals do not produce the same bright sound as reflective, brilliant finish cymbals.

                Brilliant finish cymbals offer a bright, cutting tone that is ideal for rock and metal music, while traditional finish cymbals with a raw, earthy surface possess a more mellow, warmer sound that is better suited for jazz and blues.

                Traditional finish cymbals are more mellow and darker sounding and are more frequently used for styles of music such as jazz, soul, blues, R&B, hip hop, fusion, gospel, and pop.

                Brilliant finish cymbals are ideal for live music as they can through music better with their modern, punchy, bright sounds. They are also ideal for more contemporary styles of music such as rock, metal and electronic music.

                Hi-Hat Cymbals FAQs

                Are Hi-Hat Cymbals Durable?

                Yes, hi-hat cymbals are durable, and it is very uncommon to break hi-hat cymbals. If you invest in a high-quality pair of hi-hats, it is unlikely you will ever need to replace or upgrade them unless you wish to.

                I have never broken a set of hi-hat cymbals. I believe they are the most durable of all cymbal types because of the way they are played and how affixed they are in place with a hi-hat clutch. I personally know drummers in possession of hi-hat cymbals that are over 50 years old.

                What are Auxiliary Hi-Hats?

                Auxiliary hi-hats are a secondary pair of hi-hats that exist within a drum set to add multiple sonic textures. They are played by drummers that wish to expand their existing setup and diversify their sounds.

                Auxiliary hi-hats are generally set up on the other side of the drum set, to be played ‘open-handed’. They are normally set up without the ability to open or close them on an auxiliary hi-hat stand. However, some drummers use a ‘remote hi-hat stand’ to operate a secondary pair of hi-hats within a drum set.

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