If you are a drummer, you’ll already know the importance of hi-hats. While the average layperson may assume that a cymbal is just the loud metal disc that drummers abuse during drum solos, any musician understands that the hi-hat is the glue that holds the drum kit together, keeping time and stopping the band from falling apart. Quite simply, you can’t have a drum kit without quality cymbals - particularly hi-hats. But with so many popular brands on the market, it is difficult to know where to start. Luckily, we have come up with this list of the best hi hats in 2021. We've also put together a detailed buying guide to help you scour through this list in an informed manner. Keep reading to find out more!
We have created this handy buying guide if you want to know more about what constitutes a pair of good-quality hi-hat cymbals. Here we will be diving into a list of things you need to consider before buying hi-hat cymbals, as well as how much you should expect to pay. We’ll also answer some frequently asked questions. Rest assured, you’ll be completely prepared to purchase by the end of this article.
What are Hi-Hat Cymbals?
Simply, a hi-hat is an essential combination of two cymbals and a foot pedal mounted on a stand. It is a standard part of most drum kits. The hi-hat is used by drummers of all styles, mostly rock, jazz, pop, and blues.
Things to Consider When Buying Hi-Hat Cymbals
There are a few things you need to consider when purchasing your next pair of hi-hats. These include:
It is vitally important that your hi-hats fit the style of music you play often. This is the most important piece of advice we can give you. For example, if you are a metal or rock drummer, you may want to invest in heavy, bright hi-hats that lend themselves to heavy music. Conversely, hi-hats that are dark and thin lend themselves to jazz and blues. And if you enjoy playing some funky beats, you’ll want hi-hats that are both precise and clean, as you’ll spend a lot of the song grooving on them in particular.
Other hi-hats will mix a variety of these qualities, making them a versatile option for numerous styles of music. While many people would assume it makes sense to choose one of those hi-hats, you still have to consider how authentic you want your sound to be or how experimental you are willing to go.
We would recommend deciding on your budget well ahead of time. Companies often sell hi-hats in three categories: entry, mid-range, and high-tier. All ranges offer plenty of value for money. As you may expect, the sound quality generally increases along with the price. Additionally, there are plenty of high-tier hi-hats that may cost a lot of money, but you still might end up hating the sound. Most of the time, your ideal hi-hat simply comes down to personal preference.
As much as I hate advocating brand loyalty, especially when so many companies make such fantastic-sounding equipment, some brand brands will often go that extra mile when designing cymbals. Some famous names in this regard are Zildjian, Paiste, Sabian, and Meinl.
If you are going to be gigging a lot with your hi-hat cymbals, it’s an excellent idea to invest in some insurance. So many things can happen when you’re on the road or at a music venue. There are many instances of bands having their gear stolen by opportunists or damaged by other musicians on the bill. If you take out some insurance, it’ll cover your significant investment and ensure you are not left without cymbals if faced with the worst-case scenario.
While purchasing your hi-hat cymbals online, you may want to check out some customer reviews to ensure they are of sufficient quality. This is the best way to determine if the cymbals will suit your style of play and whether they will stand the rigors of continuous use. You should also leave your feedback and help future buyers who may be looking at the same item.
What Hi-Hat Size Should I Go For?
Basically, hi-hat size comes down to personal taste above anything else. That being said, many hi-hats are 14”, so if you’re a beginner, that is a great place to get a feel for your instrument. Hi-hats can be found in sizes from 13” to 16”. If you’re looking for something smaller, it is generally considered an effects cymbal (like a splash cymbal). This is because the sound would be too unique and wouldn’t lend itself to the constant grooving that you do on the hi-hat.
If you are looking for a higher pitch, we recommend choosing a pair of 13” hi-hat cymbals. These hi-hats usually work well in gospel, fusion, and funk music.
Alternatively, 15” or 16” hi-hats provide a much deeper sound with more sustain, which many people prefer when playing rock and jazz music.
Still unsure? We suggest sticking with the 14” hi-hats as a good all-rounder until you know exactly what you want.
How Much Do Hi-Hats Usually Cost?
Hi-hat cymbals vary in price depending on the brand, size, and a whole range of other factors. If you are on a tight budget, you can find hi-hat cymbals for under $100. However, it is not uncommon for hi-hat cymbals to rise well over $500. If you are serious about your sound, consider a high-quality hi-hat as a worthwhile investment.
How Do We Choose the Best Hi-hat Cymbals?
We understand that preference is subjective. However, we still feel like we know a decent hi-hat when we see one. During the research for our list of recommendations, we considered things like brand, brightness, value for money, materials, and customer reviews.
Best Hi-Hat FAQ
Q: What is the best brand of hi-hat cymbal?
A: Without a doubt, the three biggest cymbal companies are Meinl, Sabian, and Zildjian. While none of them are significantly better than each other, they are trusted by drummers throughout the industry thanks to their ingenuity, reliability, and gorgeous-sounding cymbals. If you are new to drumming, we suggest sticking to one of these brands.
Q: Can you have a drum kit without hi-hat cymbals?
A: Of course, you can. While the hi-hat is a common part of most modern drum kits, you can construct your own kit any way you like, particularly if you are experimenting with style and sound.
Jack has been a touring guitarist for almost 20 years, playing in a number of country music and rock bands. Jack loves the road and defines himself as a never-ending student of the guitar and other important instruments or tools that make a musician.