The 5 Best Hi-Hat Mics for All Budgets (2022)

hi-hat-mic

Cardioid condenser microphones are recommended as the best types of mics for hi-hats, while omnidirectional mics also do the job pretty well. Hi-hats have a rich sound, fast transients, and form a vital part of your drum kit, so you need a mic that will do it justice.

My main recommended product is the Shure SM81-LC Cardioid Condenser. It is a high-performance, professional mic that is built to last.

My second recommended product is the Behringer B-5 Condenser Microphone. A great budget microphone to get your money’s worth. 

Let’s get into details and explore more hi-hat mics.

The 5 Best Hi-Hat Mics (2022)

1. Shure SM81-LC
Editor's Choice - A durable, pro-quality mic that works great on hi-hats.
2. Behringer B-5
Affordable Option - A very decent hi-hat mic for those on a budget.
3. AKG P170 Small-Diaphragm
Rugged mic for all conditions
4. Rode M3
A versatile mic to record your hi-hat and more
5. Neumann KM184
A true studio mic to record your hi-hats

Let’s compare them in more detail:

1. Shure SM81-LC

Top Pick
A durable, pro-quality mic that works great on hi-hats.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The Shure SM81-LC is a cardioid condenser microphone and offers an incredible studio recording experience. It is great for recording acoustic guitars and pianos but works exceptionally well for hi-hats as well. 

The Shure SM81-LC has a cardioid polar pattern with a uniform frequency. It has a wide frequency response, ranging from 20 to 20,00 Hz. It also picks up very low noise and low distortion. Additionally, its high output and flat response curve ensure a natural reproduction of the sounds you intend to produce. 

Pros

  • High, professional-quality performance
  • Very durable
  • Low noise and distortion

Cons

  • A bit pricey

The mic requires a phantom cable and works best with a 48 VDC supply. So, make sure you take care of the power requirements.

The SM81-LC sports a rugged, metallic construction. It can withstand humidity and harsh conditions, so you know it will last you a while.

It is moderate in weight and comes with a clip, box, windscreen, etc. So, you can keep it safe and carry it along to pretty much anywhere. 

Battery PoweredNo
Includes ClampYes
Polar PatternCardioid
Switchable LowcutYes
Switchable PadNA

2. Behringer B-5

Budget Pick
Quality recording on a budget.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The Behringer B-5 is another brilliant condenser microphone that offers pro-level quality for recording your hi-hats. It is a very nice choice for home studios considering its output and the affordable price it carries. 

Pros

  • An affordable option
  • Interchangeable polar patterns
  • Switchable low cut and input attenuation

Cons

  • Sound quality doesn’t match the higher-range mics on this list.

At such an amateur price, the Behringer B-5 is one of the few microphones that comes with two interchangeable capsules, omnidirectional and cardioid. So, you can change the settings according to the kind of recording you will be doing.

Thanks to its gold sputtering, it delivered clean natural sounds. It is also capable of picking up loud signals sans distortion and filtering out low-ends of any turbulence it encounters.

Battery PoweredNo
Includes ClampYes
Polar PatternOmnidirectional & Cardioid
Switchable LowcutYes
Switchable PadYes

All in all, it’s a really nice microphone to record your hi-hats in your home studio without shelling out a lot of money. 

3. AKG P170 Small-Diaphragm

Rugged mic for all conditions.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The AKG P170 is another great microphone that is studio-quality and fairly cost-effective. It’s a small-diaphragm condenser mic, weighing just over a pound. So, it’s very convenient to place around your hi-hats.

Pros

  • Sturdy and durable design
  • Output has great clarity
  • Affordable price

Cons

  • Not much!

Despite being a small mic, it is very durable. Its body is all-metal after all. It can easily handle daily use, while also accompanying you anywhere on the road without suffering too much wear and tear.

It has an omnidirectional polar pattern. Thanks to its switchable attenuation pad, it is capable of high SPL applications of up to 155 dB. Delivering clear and high-quality sounds, the mic can also be used for several other instruments along with your hi-hats.

Battery PoweredNo
Includes ClampYes
Polar PatternOmnidirectional
Switchable LowcutNo
Switchable PadYes

The AKG P170 has been made with years of experience behind it and delivers top-notch sound at a very reasonable price. 

4. Rode M3

A versatile mic to record your hi-hat and more.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The Rode M3 is a really nice condenser microphone that you can use to record your hi-hats whether you’re at home, in a studio, or on the stage. It is also quite the versatile mic that can be used for any other instruments you play as well.

The mic has an omnidirectional polar pattern, so once you point it towards your hi-hat, the input will solely focus on it. It also does a great job of filtering out background low-ends and handling noise. 

Pros

  • Can be used for many instruments
  • Is battery and phantom powered
  • Rejects handling noise really well

Cons

  • Not the most dynamic

Since the Rode M3 is a condenser mic, it requires phantom power to operate. However, there is a slot for a 9V battery, which is always a plus to have especially when you’re on the road. 

The build quality of this microphone is excellent, featuring an all-metal body. Expect it to last a long time. The mic comes with a pouch, a mount, and a windscreen too. 

Battery PoweredYes
Includes ClampYes
Polar PatternOmnidirectional
Switchable LowcutNo
Switchable PadYes

5. Neumann KM184

A true studio mic to record your hi-hats.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

If you want a genuine hi-end studio mic that will do your hi-hats the justice they deserve, then you don’t have to look past the Neumann KM184. 

This is a very nice mic that can be used anywhere you wish to record. It makes your hi-hats sound concise, clear, and crisp. The tone it produces is warm with a lot of depth to it. You probably won’t even need any EQ on this. 

Pros

  • Professional-quality recording
  • Brilliant high-level response

Cons

  • A bit pricey
  • No switchable low cut or attenuation

The KM184 is a condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. It handles high pressures of up to 138 dB SPL seamlessly. This means you can play your hi-hats as loud as you want and the mic will still pick up all the nuances. It also deals with handling noise without fault. 

Battery PoweredNo
Includes ClampYes
Polar PatternCardioid
Switchable LowcutNo 
Switchable PadNo

The Neumann KM184 may be an expensive mic, but if you don’t have any limits to your budget, it’s a great pick for your home or professional studio. 

Do you need a hi-hat mic?

This is a debatable topic as many drummers deem hi-hat mics unnecessary. This is because hi-hats have a high enough frequency that they cut through overhead mics and sound just fine. 

However, if your style of playing features a lot of hi-hats, you would want your hi-hats to really shine. Then, a hi-hat mic may be the way to go. 

What type of mic do you need for a hi-hat?

Good hi-hat mics should be able to filter out noise and handle high-pressure SPL well. As such, small diaphragm condenser mics with a cardioid or supercardioid polar pattern make for very nice hi-hat mics. 

How many hi-hat mics do you need?

If you’ve decided that just overhead mics won’t be enough to record your hi-hats, then using a ha-hat mic is the right choice. As for the number of mics that you may need for your hi-hat, one is more than sufficient to do the job.

That being said, you can also experiment with multiple mics at once. This way, you can create a different sound at the time of mixing. 

How do you properly position your hi-hat mics?

A good way to position your hi-hat mic is by placing it around the edge of your hi-hats, at a height of about 5-10 cm from the top cymbal. You also want to make sure that your mic is facing away from the snare as you don’t want to pick up anything other than your hi-hats. Another helpful ti[ is to have a stable hi-hat stand as you want as little handling noise as possible/ 

How does a hi-hat mic improve your sound and performance?

Your hi-hat, along with the snare and bass drum is one of the most essential parts of your drum kit. Naturally, you want it to sound excellent. And hi-hat mics are a great way to go about it. 

Placing a mic makes sure that your hi-hat sounds precise and clear and is not muddled between any other sounds. Your playing will have much more clarity with hi-hat mics.

What size of hi-hat mic do you need?

Small diaphragm mics are the best option to record your hi-hats. They pick up clear, natural sounds and are very easy to install and carry around. Plus, they don’t feel bulky against the light nature of hi-hats. 

Verdict

Hi-hats are such an important organ of your drum kit that you want it to have its own character when you hear your playing. Placing a mic on your hi-hat can be a great way to ensure that. 

Even though my top pick is the Shure SM81-LC, all of the mics on this list are good options to choose from.

I have also included a buyer’s guide so that you have better knowledge on which mic to look for. I hope you found it helpful.

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Mike O'Connor

Drumming has been my passion for over 18 years. I play quite a few different genres and I really enjoy experimenting with hybrid kits that blend acoustic and electronic drums. I love all things drumming!

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