What are the best hi-hat cymbals?
While it’s often overlooked next to the kick drum or snare, the hi-hat is one of the most important parts of the drum set. A combination of two cymbals controlled by a foot pedal, the hi-hat can provide a tight tempo like a metronome or a sustained, shimmering tone, depending on how you play it.
The hi-hat provides versatility and an unmistakable tone that can elevate nearly any song, but finding the right hi-hat cymbals can be tricky. The Zildjian A New Beat 14-inch Hi-Hat is a powerful, high-quality choice for nearly any drummer, but there are many things to consider before making your purchase.
What to know before you buy hi-hat cymbals
Hi-hat vs. crash vs. ride cymbals
There are usually three types of cymbals found in a drum kit:
Hi-hat: Two, relatively small cymbals that can be opened and closed with a foot pedal. This function delivers a short, crisp sound that’s perfect for keeping tempo and filling out a song. Adjusting the gap between the two cymbals can produce a sustained tone that’s akin to a ride cymbal.
Crash cymbal: As its name suggests, the crash produces a loud, sharp, “crashing” sound. It’s typically used to deliver a sustained, accent tone and is commonly found in rock music.
Ride cymbal: Like the hi-hat, the ride can be used to keep tempo, but the sound produced is often more sandy and sustained. It also lacks the open and closed sound variation provided by the hi-hat. Instead of a pedal, the ride is played with sticks.
Hi-hat cymbals are almost always made from brass or bronze. Brass cymbals are inexpensive and durable, but the sound produced is usually of poorer quality. Bronze is pricier, but great if you want a clean, professional tone. Bronze cymbals are cast with a percentage of tin, and higher tin content is an indicator of higher-quality sound. It also means a higher price tag. B8 bronze contains 8% tin and is a solid choice for beginner and intermediate drummers, while B20 bronze contains 20% tin and is the highest quality available.
The thickness and weight of a cymbal will play a huge role in its sound. Thicker cymbals are louder and deliver a higher-frequency tone, while a thin cymbal has a low tone and is considerably quieter. Consider the style of music that you intend to play when looking at thickness. A thicker cymbal is typically better suited for rock music, while a thinner cymbal might be preferred for jazz or other styles that use subtler percussion.
In the manufacturing process, after the cymbal is cast and allowed to set, the instrument is reheated and hammered either by hand or machine. This hammering treatment can affect the hi-hat’s tone in myriad ways. A hand-hammered cymbal, while expensive, produces a richer, more complex tone. A machine-hammered cymbal is more common and delivers a consistent, uniform tone across the entire surface of the hi-hat.
As with buying other musical instruments online, verify the brand before selecting a hi-hat. You might be tempted to purchase an affordable hi-hat that’s being sold by an obscure manufacturer, but the result could be an instrument that sounds bad or breaks easily. Look for trusted names such as Zildjian, Sabian or Paiste.
Hi-hat stands typically have two or three legs. Three legs offer additional stability, while two legs give you the space to customize your setup with additional pedals. If you play loud music, look for a heavy stand that will remain stationary and stable during vigorous sets. Jazz drummers often prefer lighter stands.
How much you can expect to spend on hi-hat cymbals
The cost of hi-hat cymbals will depend on their size, materials and the manufacturing process involved. Affordable, brass cymbals will range from $50-$100, while high-end B20 or hand-hammered cymbals can cost over $400.
Hi-hat cymbals FAQ
Can I use a ride or crash cymbal instead of hi-hats?
A. While some drummers choose to alternate between the ride, crash and hi-hat cymbals when keeping time, the hi-hat’s foot pedal provides unique percussive control that’s difficult to achieve otherwise. It’s usually recommended to learn the benefits of all three cymbal types as you develop your own style.
How do I maintain my hi-hat cymbals?
A. Hi-hats attract dust and grime over time, which can diminish the cymbals’ shine but won’t negatively impact the instrument’s tone. In fact, some drummers believe that a patina improves the cymbals’ sound. Either way, if you prefer a shiny look, use nonabrasive cleaners and a microfiber cloth to wipe down surfaces. When transporting your cymbals, use a padded cymbal bag to prevent any accidental dents or scratches.
What are the best hi-hat cymbals to buy?
Best of the best hi-hat cymbals
Zildjian A New Beat 14-inch Hi-Hat
What you need to know: Backed by Zildjian’s stellar reputation, this loud 14-inch hi-hat is great for rock music.
What you’ll love: These cymbals are uniformly hammered and crafted from B20 bronze, delivering consistent sound no matter how you play them.
What you should consider: A bit pricey, and professional drummers may prefer a more complex tone.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Best hi-hat cymbals for the money
Sabian SBR 13-inch Hi-Hat Cymbals
What you need to know: This pair of no-frills, brass cymbals is perfect for beginners.
What you’ll love: These 13-inch cymbals are affordable and durable, meaning students can play all day without damaging them.
What you should consider: The sound is a bit dull and on the quieter side, definitely not ideal in a live or studio setting.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Hi-hat cymbals worth checking out
What you need to know: These reliable, 14-inch hi-hats are well-suited for any style of music.
What you’ll love: AAX hi-hats are famous for being versatile, and the pinpoint lathing process gives the cymbals enhanced responsiveness.
What you should consider: The sensitivity might be difficult for beginners to control.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Patrick Farmer writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
Copyright 2021 BestReviews, a Nexstar company. All rights reserved.