The 5 Best Hi-Hat Cymbals (2021 Guide)

hi-hat

A set of hi-hats are the most important cymbals in your drum set. I’m here to guide you in your quest to find the right pair of hi-hats for you.

My top hi-hat recommendation of the best hi-hats are the Zildjian 14 ¼” K Custom Hybrid hi-hats. They’re dark, washy, and have a nice sustain to them.

My top budget recommendation would be the Meinl HCS 13” hi-hats. Great for students and beginners, they pack quite a punch for their price.

The 5 Best Hi-Hats (2021)

1. Zildjian K Custom Hybrid 14 1/4th”
Editor's Choice - Dark, washy sound with versatile applications
2. Meinl HCS 13”
Affordable Option - Great value for money
3. Sabian 14” AAX X-Plosion
Top-quality hi-hats personified
4. Zildjian A New Beat 14”
A chick sound for the modern drummer
5. Sabian 14” HHX Evolution
Dark, expressive cymbals redefined

Let’s look at them in more detail.

1. Zildjian K Custom Hybrid 14 1/4th”

Top Pick
Dark, washy sound with versatile applications.
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The K Custom Hybrid Hi-hat is a collaboration between Zildjian and the Japanese jazz fusion drummer, Akira Jimbo. The cymbal had a mix of tradition and brilliant finish that tends to produce different sounds, depending on where you hit it. 

Pros

  • Crisp, powerful sound
  • Nice control
  • Great stick definition
  • Good for a variety of settings

Cons

  • Pricey

The cymbals feature reversed Mastersound hybrid hammering, which contains the wash and sustain. It gives a controlled sound when closed and a rich sound when opened. The darkness with brilliance combination is great for live sessions and recording.

The K Custom Hybrid Hi-hats are 14 ¼”, made from cast bronze. Another reason behind their crisp, ideal hi-hat sound. 

AlloyB20, Cast Bronze
SoundWashy and warmer chick
Size14 ¼”

Despite their high price tag, the Zildjian K Custom Hybrid Hi-hats are really nice hi-hats to own if you’re looking for a crisp and powerful sound.

2. Meinl HCS 13”

Top Budget Pick
Great value for money.
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Meinl does a really good job on affordable, entry-level cymbals that are great for beginner players to get started on. The 13” Meinl HCS Hi-hats are no different either. These cymbals provide nice value for money considering how inexpensive they are. 

Pros

  • Incredibly affordable
  • Clean sound
  • Good for rock and metal

Cons

  • The sound doesn’t match the higher-end cymbals on this list

The price isn’t the only good thing about these HCS hi-hats, though. They sound decent as well, particularly for heavier music. A warm chick sound that is clean and crisp is a nice addition to have in a starter drum kit. 

Made of the MS63 brass alloy, the HCS hi-hats are quite durable. This works well for new students and teachers alike. 

AlloyMS63 Brass
SoundClean, bright
Size13”

Of course, you can’t expect the Meinl HCS hi-hats to sound like a high-end, professional cymbal. However, given their price tag, I’d say they’re definitely worth a buy if you’re on a budget.

3. Sabian 14” AAX X-Plosion

Top-quality hi-hats.
View Price at SweetwaterView Price at Amazon

The Sabian 14” AAX X-Plosion Hi-hats are simply one of those options where you can’t go wrong. There is a reason why Sabian has been supplying their cymbals to world-class players over the decades and their award-winning AAX X-Plosion hi-hats are proof of that.

Pros

  • Professional look and tone
  • Versatile sound
  • Hand-hammered with brilliant finish

Cons

The medium top and heavy bottom combo in these hi-hats give them a nice, bright sound. They’re good for a wide range of music. Plus, they’re hand-hammered from B20 bronze and feature a brilliant finish. So not only do they sound great, but also look great. 

AlloyB20 Bronze
SoundBright
Size14”

4. Zildjian A New Beat 14”

A chick sound for the modern drummer.
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The Zildjian A New Beat hi-hats are considered the hi-hats for the modern drummer because of their versatility. Zildjian designed these cymbals with the help of the legendary jazz drummer Louie Bellson.

Pros

  • Great for all-purpose playing
  • Clear, expressive sound
  • Value for money

Cons

  • None

These hi-hats are jack-of-all-trades with their nice stick definition and chick sound. They are made from B20 bronze alloy and symmetrically machine hammered and lathed with traditional wide groove, giving them a bright expression. 

AlloyB20 Bronze
SoundPronounced chick
Size14”

If you’re unsure about what your sound is or you dabble a little bit in a variety of genres, then the Zildjian A New Beat 14” hi-hats might be a good choice for you. 

5. Sabian 14” HHX Evolution

Dark, expressive cymbals.
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There’s something about great drummers teaming up with cymbal companies to create great cymbals. The Sabian HHX Evolution 14” hi-hat is a brainchild of none other than the masterful Dave Weckl. These HHX Evolution hi-hats are as clear, expressive, and electric as Dave himself. 

Pros

  • Incredible response
  • Brilliant modern dark tone
  • Hand-hammered to perfection
  • Crisp sound with clear stick definition

Cons

The hi-hats are B20 Bronze and carefully crafted by hand. They have a glossy, brilliant finish with pinpoint lathing to give it a nice response. 

Sabian HHX hi-hats are played by legends like Tomas Haake, Jojo Mayer, and Mike Portnoy, just to name a few. And the reason is that they are simply incredible cymbals. 

AlloyB20 Bronze
SoundModern Dark
Size14”

The Sabian HHX Evolution hi-hats are the cymbals of a professional drummer. If price is not a factor for you, there are hardly any better hi-hats on the market. 

Buyer’s Guide

Hi-Hat Sizes

While the most common hi-hats size can be considered 13” or 14”, non-traditional sizes like 12”, 13”, and 16” are also gaining attention. The general rule of thumb is, the smaller the hi-hat, the higher its pitch, the bigger it is, the longer its sustain. 

But at the end of the day, it comes down to your personal preference. The size of your hi-hats depends on what kind of music you want to play. However, if you’re unsure, just go with a 14” one. They are probably the most flexible.

Hi-Hat Materials

Hi-hats are generally made of three materials – brass, B8 bronze, and B20 bronze. The brass ones being the cheapest and decent for beginners, while B20 being the best, but more expensive. 

Along with the material, a hi-hat’s sound is also determined by how it’s made. A sheet cymbal is made by cutting a large sheet of metal. It’s the most efficient way to make a cymbal, but the sounds are quite harsh. 

The cast cymbals, made with B20 bronze are first melted and hand hammered into a shiny, bright cymbal. They are expensive to make, but their crisp, professional sound is unmatched. 

Hi-Hat Weights

Hi-hats come in different weights like 900g, 1000g, 1300g, and 1500g. Many hi-hat pairs have the same weight, but the tone can often be underwhelming, especially when opened. To get the crisp closed hi-hats sound and a washy open hi-hats sound, I would suggest using a lighter cymbal on top and a heavier one on the bottom.

Hi-Hat Brands

Some of the best brands that make hi-hats are Zildjian, Sabian, and Meinl, and Paiste. It all comes down to your personal preference. Zildjian and Sabian are more traditional and defined the 20th-century cymbal sound, whereas Meinl is more prominent amongst modern drummers, be it jazz or rock.

All of them produce top-quality hit-hats with a range of products that have something for all kinds of drummers. That being said, brands like Stagg, Istanbul, Wuhan, and Soultone also produce some great-sounding hand-hammered cymbals that are worth exploring. 

Types of Hi-Hat Stands and Clutches

The importance of good, sturdy hi-hat stands and clutches is very underrated. Even though clutched are a relatively modern concept, hi-hat stands are as old as the cymbal itself. 

The hardware may not directly affect the sound of the cymbal, but you need an optimal stand to make sure you’re hitting the hi-hat as you intend to produce the sound you want. 

As for the clutch, you want to make sure the tension is right. Too much can kill the sound while too little can make it go out of control. 

Verdict

Hi-hats are an important part of any drum set. When buying a pair, you want to make sure that it’s best suited for you. Take your sound and budget into consideration before purchasing one.

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