5 Best Hi-Hat Cymbals (Look No Further) | Reviews 2018

Posted in Cymbals | Last Updated on October 4, 2018

picture of 5 different models of cymbals
As a drummer, your hi-hat setup is critical to your overall sound. There are many different hi-hat cymbals that you can buy, and it can be hard as a drummer to find the best hi-hat cymbal for your current needs. You need to look at a wide range of products before you buy one. This guide will help you make that choice as it answers common questions that you might have about hi-hat cymbals and it also provides you several choices that you might want to own.

You should only buy a cymbal that works for you. The type of hi-hat cymbal that you buy may be totally different from the needs of another drummer. Your current skill level, musical style and how you practice are all factors that you must consider before you buy your new hi-hat cymbal. This guide will help answer all your common cymbal questions and give you a solid lead on what you might want to buy as a drummer.

What to Look for in a Hi-Hat?

There are several things you need to know about hi-hat symbols before you buy one. Just remember that your needs may vary from someone else so some of these questions may not apply to you. You have a lot of choice and things to consider so here are a few of the top questions that people ask about hi-hats to help you make an informed buying decision.

What is a Hi-Hat?

The hi-hat is a drum cymbal that's needed around for around a century. Percussionists were looking for ways to add new sounds to their drum kits. The hi-hat was originally called the sock cymbal and they came in smaller sizes than the ones we know today. Over time, the hi-hat became a large part of the modern drum set and it was used in many genres of music and styles. The hi-hat is used as a sound effect, to keep time when drumming, and to decrease or increase the dynamics of a song.

The hi-hat is used with th snare and the bass drum in musical performances. There are tow cymbals which are mounted on a stand. One is on the bottom and the other one is on the top. A pedal is pushed down with the foot that opens and closes the pair. This produces the familiar “chick” sound we hear. A drum stick is used to strike the cymbal, or the pedal is pushed down. The drummer will control the sound of the hi-hat by varying their foot pressure on the hi-hat and will vary the pedal position.

The hi-hat is used to produce many different sounds such as the shuffle feel where the drummer will hit the top of the cymbal twice. The first time is when the cymbal is clouded and the second when it’s open. This pattern is very popular and one of the signature sounds of the hi-hat. The hi-hat helps the drummer produce many different rhythm patterns. The normal size of the hi-hat cymbal is 14” although some hard rock players may use larger 14-15” hi-hat cymbals. Some players will use different cymbal sizes such as a 13” on the top and a 14” on the bottom. There is no real rule as every drummer is different and will have their own hi-hat cymbal needs.

How Do I Pick a Basic Hi-Hat?

The one you choose will largely be determined by your individual needs. You should make note of the material that the cymbal is made from, the design of the cymbal and how it compliments your drum setup now. There are many different hi-hats and sizes that you can choose from. You will need to evaluate a wide range of products and manufacturers. This will help you pick the right hi-hat for your individual needs as your requirement might be different from someone else.

You want an instrument that’s made with high-quality materials so the cymbal resists cracking. If you buy a low-quality product it will crack easily because it’s put through a lot of abuse. Try to avoid lesser known brands as they might not be the best for your needs. You should go for a cymbal that works for you not what others may recommend as their sound preferences might not appeal to you. One thing you need to do is try out some hi-hats to determine the various sounds you can get out of them. You want a cymbal that produces a nice and clear sound so you have to do some research before you make that final buying decision.

Does the Size Matter?

The sound and the pitch of the cymbal is relative to the weight, how the cymbal is made and the size of the cymbal. A cymbal with a smaller size of say 13-14” provides a crisp and bright tone. If you want warmer tones a 15-16” hi-hat is ideal. Some people will mix and match the top and the bottom hi-hat in different sizes. You should experiment to find the size that works the best for you. The size will matter depending upon your needs as a drummer and what works for you.

How is it Made?

There are many different production methods to make hi-hats and each offers up different sound variations. You will find machine hammered cymbals as well as hand hammered ones. A hand hammered will have an individual sound and a warmer tone. They are hammered with a ball peen hammer and each cymbal will vary in pitch, look, and overall sound.

Machine hammered cymbals are constructed by automatic machines or a human running the machine. You will get the same instrument for the most part with the same sound. There will be small variations in the sound still but not as widespread as with human hammering.

What Material is Best?

There are both cast as well as sheet cymbals. Those are made with an industrial process where a combination of brass, malleable bronze, and nickel and sized and shaped to form the cymbal. This type is bright sounding and ideal for rock, pop, and metal styles as well as other genres.

The more traditional way of making cymbals is with cast production. This is where bell bronze is melted down and then poured into a mold. This cast cymbal is then put through a lathe and this flattens and shapes the cymbal as it’s hammered by hand. Cast cymbals are more sought after because of how they are made. They are used by orchestra percussionists as well as jazz musicians because of their sound characteristics.

What Brand Should I Buy?

There are many cymbal brands such as Zildjian and Sabian to name a few. The brand you go for is entirely up to you. It’s important to try several cymbal brands to determine what the best hi-hat is going to be for your individual needs. You will find a wide range of sounds, size options and other characteristics depending upon the cymbal brand and there are different price ranges as well. Use our handy guide below which highlights a few popular products, so you can make a more informed buying decision.

What Type Should I Buy for My Music Style?

There are far too many musical styles of recommend any one cymbal type. You need to try out a wide range of products. Many hi-hats can cover a wide range of musical styles, so the type you buy will largely be determined by your own ear and sound preferences. You will need to try out multiple hi-hats to determine the best one for your own musical style.

Will it Suit my Setup Now?

There are many factors which will determine how well the cymbal works with your current setup. You will have to consider the other drums you use, the sticks you play with and so on. You should ensure the hi-hat you buy is going to sound good with your setup now. The sticks you use will also determine your overall sound so be sure the sticks you use work with he hi-hat you decide to buy. If you have large drums, you will benefit from a larger one. You also must take into consideration the size of the rehearsal space and whether the cymbal is going to fit into the space you have. If the space is small, you may have to go with a smaller for practice and then use a large one as you hit the stage for live performances so in some cases, you should buy a few different hi-hat cymbal sizes for various needs you may have.


Best Hi-Hat Cymbals of 2018


Editor's badge - budget choice

Meinl Cymbals HCS13H 13" 

 

If you’re a beginner drummer, you may not have a very large budget to spend on cymbals. A drum kit can cost you a lot of money as you have to buy a lot of parts for it. Meinl is a company that offers a range of affordable hi-hat cymbals designed for beginners or those on a very tight budget. The HCS13H 13" HCS Brass Hi- hat is a solid option.

Overview

This hi-hat comes in both a 13” as well as a 14” size and is perfect for a beginner or someone that has a limited budget. This hi-hat is durable, versatile and has a crisp sound. This brass alloy hi-hat sounds great and the sound quality is superior even at such a low price. If you’re a student or a musician that just need a quality cymbal to practice on, you can’t go wrong with this cymbal by Meinl. It’s great for jazz, rock, funk and many other styles of music. The cymbals have the heavy feel for rock music as well as the brighter accents you want for jazz. A younger player can enjoy the sounds of a professional without the added expense that come with other hi-hat cymbals. You get a two-year warrant yon your cymbals from Meinl when you buy from authorized Meinl dealers.

The cymbal is made in Germany ad it’s a 13” brass alloy. You can also get a 14” version if you prefer. It works with various drum sets and the Meinl logo is engraved on the cymbal for an attractive look. The bottom is heavier, and the top is light to give a superior sound and it makes the hi-hat easier to play. This cymbal is also ideal for instructors that are helping their student learn how to use a hi-hat as these cymbals are designed for beginners in mind.

  • Ideal for beginners and those that have a small budget
  • Easy to play and sound great at this price
  • Other sizes available

  • Lacks a professional sound
  • Not ideal for recording or live situations
  • More beginner oriented or for simple practice

Final Verdict

The HCS13H 13" HCS Brass Hi-Hat Is a great choice for anyone on a budget or just looking for a solid hi-hat for practicing. This product isn’t a stage or a studio quality cymbal, but it has everything that you need as a beginner that needs to practice. It sounds great for many different musical styles and you will get a lot of mileage out of it.


Zildjian ZBT 14"

Zildjian is a great cymbal brand and they are used professional worldwide. Cymbals including hi-hats can be expensive, but there are several models on the market which are ideal choices for beginners and those with a limited budget such as the Zildjian ZBT 14".

Overview

This model comes in both a 13” and 14” sizes and it’s the ideal choice for those with a medium budget or for those that just want a good cymbal for practicing. ZBT 14" has a great volume and sounds great. It’s suitable for many different styles of music. This cymbal uses new manufacturing techniques that were developed in the Zildjian Sound Lab. You get a high volume sound that is bright and fast. The hi-hat sounds perfect in both the closed and open position. The ZBT alloy is very durable and it will last a long time. Thy are inexpensive and perfect for those with a moderate budget.

The cymbals are powerful enough to cut through other instruments. They are made with precision lathing techniques that produce a bright and vibrant sound. They are made with high quality bronze alloy that for a consistent sound. These ones are made with Zildjian advanced lathing and hammering.

  • Moderate price
  • Sound great
  • Ideal for practice

  • Not a professional performance
  • Not as much tone as other products

Bottom Line

For those that need a solid hi-hat with a moderate price, the Zildjian ZBT 14 is the right one for you. This cymbal is perfect for practicing and for students. This model isn’t a professional grade and or suitable for recording but it is a solid practice cymbal. You can get by with them if you have a lower than normal budget in a live performance, but they will suffer sound wise when compared to expensive cymbals. You get a solid lower cost product that is ideal for most tasks but not the ideal choice for the professional.


[Medium Budget Hi-Hat]  - Sabian 14-Inch AA Regular

Lower cost hi-hat cymbals are fine for students and those that just want to practice but if you’re an intermediate player and are looking for a bit more you need a solid medium budget cymbal that will give you the sound you want. Sabian produces a wide range of different cymbals for hi-hats including the excellent Sabian 14-Inch AA Regular which is a great option for those with a moderate budget.

Overview

The Sabian 14 AA Regular is a bright sounding. It’s the perfect choice for the modern drum player. It’s great for the classic sounds of funk, rock, blues, and jazz music as well as many other styles. This cymbal is a moderate price and perfect for intermediates as well as professional payers that have a lower budget. The cymbal is 14” and the weight is medium/heavy. The cymbal has gone through automatic hammering so it’s versatile and produces a bright sound. The cymbal is hand cut and the wide-blade lathing used to create the cymbal improves the durability. It will cut through other instruments, so you’re heard, and it increases the response of your drumsticks. The Sabian AA Regular is made with B20 bronze, 80% copper, silver traces, and 20% tin. It comes with a two-year warranty. Players love this model as it’s the ideal choice for recreating classic sounds from the 50s-70s. If you want vintage sounds, this is the right cymbal for you.

  • Medium price for intermediate or pro players
  • Sounds great
  • Vintage sounds possible with it

  • Could be a little expensive for some players
  • Not a beginner product

Bottom Line

The Sabian 14 Inch AA Regular Hi-Hat has a nice bright sound and it’s an ideal cymbal for many musical styles. Its strong suit is that it’s perfect for playing many of th classic musical styles form the past. It’s an affordable cymbal for both intermediate and professional payers that are looking for a hi-hat cymbal that not only sounds great but won’t break the bank.


Editor's choice best pick badge

[Overall Best] - Zildjian K Custom 14" Dark

Zildjian K Custom cymbals are the ideal choice for advanced and professional drum players as they have everything you need to sound great on stage, in the studio or practicing your craft at home. These cymbals have a lot going for them.

Overview

The Zildjian K Custom 14" is an excellent professional sounding full-bodied sounding instrument. The sound will cut through the mix. The 14” size is perfect for many different musical styles. This cymbal will help you define your musical style and bring out the best in your individual musical style. For those that need a smaller size, this cymbal is also available in a 13” size so you have even more tonal variations with it. It gives you great cymbal projection and premium tone at this price. The instrument offers modern voices and was specially constructed by Zildjian to meet the needs of today’s modern drummer. Each cymbal is designed to produce an amazing tone and sound.

This model is cast form molten metal and then the cast is cooled and put through rolling, heating, lathing, hammering, and shaping to create the ultimate cymbal. The sound of this cymbal will get better with age and it is more durable than other products in the same class. The K line from Zildjian is the ideal choice for the professional or intermediate drummer that needs a high quality. It’s made from 20% tin; 80% copper and it also contains some silver traces. It comes with a traditional finish.

  • Professional cymbal sound
  • Great for many musical styles

  • Could be too expensive for many players
  • Not a beginner style model

Final Verdict

You can’t go wrong with Zildjian. The K custom is an excellent cymbal for today’s modern drummer. It has a crisp and solid sound that is suitable for many musical styles. It’s a durable and it will last you a log time. If you care about your sound and want a cymbal you can rely on time and time again, try the K Custom from Zildjian.


[Best Hi-Hat for the Money] - Zildjian K Custom 14 1/4" Hybrid

There are a lot of cymbals you can choose for on the market. It’s a good idea to spend as much as you can when buying a one because you want tone that will last you a long time. You also want to get a lot of value for your money and you can get that with the Zildjian K Custom 14 1/4" Hybrid.

Overview

Sometimes you want a hybrid cymbal that gives you more than the standard hi-hat does. You get that with the Zildjian K Custom 14 1/4" Hybrid as it gives you the power of a 14” cymbal and the control of a 13”. This hi-hat pair is ideal for both live and recording applications. The model features hybrid hammering called Mastersound. The surface area where the cymbals contact each other has been increased so you get a warmer “chick” sound when you play the hi-hat. It is perfect for many contemporary styles and the cast bronze allows for great projection and solid performance when playing live or recording.

The Zildjian Sound Lab worked to create the amazing K series and you’ll find that the sounds these cymbals project are a cut above many other major cymbal manufacturers. You get unique sounds out of these which will cover a huge range of different musical styles. Many players rely on the K series and this hybrid cymbal from Zildjian is the ideal choice for any player including professionals that need a high quality product to cover a wide range of playing styles. The K series is more durable than others in the same class and they have greater projection as well as clarity. They are made with 80% copper, traces of silver, and 20% tin.

  • Solid professional sound
  • Unique hybrid style of multiple musical styles and needs

  • Not a beginner model
  • Expensive

Bottom Line

The K series Zildjian K Custom 14 1/4" Hybrid is ideal for many players and this is why it’s the best cymbal in our guide. It gives you plenty of tonal variations and its well suited for many musical styles. You will find out that this one will work for you because it sounds great and it’s a very durable.


Conclusion

Your Hi-hat is a vert big part of your drum sound. There are great products in the market and you’ll find them at various price points. Just remember that some are only suited for beginners and those that just learning to play the drums. The more expensive ones give you more options and they are more suited for live performances as well as studio work and home recording. Try several hi-hats to find your own signature sound as there are a lot of differences between individual models and manufacturers.

Take your time and find a hi-hat that works for you. Listen to the sound of each cymbal and make a determination to figure out if it’s going to be one that you can use with your drum kit. The hi-hat has come a long way over the years and there are now many choices in th market that can help you grow as a player and shape your individua drum sound so have fun experimenting with the best hi-hat and never stop jamming.