The 4 Best Hi Hats on the Market – Reviews 2017

best hi hat, hihat, 14 hi hat

Photo by Bran van der Meer / CC BY

The hi-hat is arguably the most important cymbal on your rack when it comes to shaping the overall sound of your groove. It’s an especially distinctive sound in jazz music but has an equally important role in rock, funk, or pretty much any other style you can name. While you can find hi-hats in a variety of styles, the majority of players use a 14” set, and that’s the size most hi-hat stands will be designed to work best with.

While most modern cymbal makers design the lower hi-hat to be slightly heavier than the top, there are exceptions to this rule. The relative weight of the two cymbals, along with the material and techniques used in the construction, are the factors that have the biggest impact on the overall tone. Keep that in mind while you’re scoping out the 4 options on the list—which we consider the best hi hats on the market—which represent an array of tonal options.

Zildjian A Series 14” New Beat

The A Series from Zildjian is one of the most popular lines of cymbals worldwide, in large part because of the versatility of their sound. The New Beat cymbals use a bronze alloy made of 80% copper and 20% tin with traces of silver, a combination of metals that gives them a bright, almost singing quality. They’re symmetrically hammered with a traditional wide groove (see full specs), bringing the consistency Zildjian equipment is known for. It’s a durable and expressive cymbal that gives you an equally full sound whether you’re playing with your sticks on the cymbal surface or getting more sound from the footpedal.

Zildjian ZBT 14” Hi Hat Pair

If you’re looking for the tone control and reliability of Zildjian but are feeling a bit more constrained by your budget, check out their ZBT-Plus cymbals, which give you the same quality materials and craftsmanship for less than half the price of the model above. The sound is intense and bright, with a cutting projection and a clean decay.

The bronze alloy Zildjian uses for these cymbals has a remarkable uniformity, giving you a controlled but powerful strike. This hi-hat is perhaps more geared to harder and more driving styles than the cymbal above. It has the sharp, intense articulation that can cut through even when your bandmates crank their gain, keeping everybody locked into the rhythm no matter how loud it gets. This is one of the best hi hats in my book.

Sabian 14” B8 Hi-Hat Cymbals

At a similar price-point to the Zildjian ZBTs above is this Sabian pair of 14” hi-hat cymbals. The overall sound profile is relatively similar to the ZBTs, as well, generally bright and clear with a crisp attack and a cutting edge to the sound that makes sure you’re heard over the rest of the band. The most noteworthy thing about these Sabian cymbals is the feel, which is lively and responsive to sensitive dynamic shifts.

With a slightly longer decay than other hi-hats, these Sabian cymbals (see full specs) strike a nice balance between tone and intensity. If you’ve never experimented with bronze cymbals before, the B8 series from Sabian is a great place to start—affordable and durable with a cutting sound you’ll love.

Meinl Cymbals HCS13H 13” HI Hat Pair

If you’re looking for an affordable piece of equipment that still has the power to drive your groove, give a listen to this Meinl hi-hat pair. Drummers everywhere turn to Meinl when they’re looking for value. They’re one of the few companies who offer professional-level hi-hat cymbals for less than $100.

These medium-weight cymbals produce a sound that’s got both warmth and clarity, with a crisp articulation that gives you good projection even in a big space. The bright character and medium sustain of the tone make it perfectly suited for players in rock and pop styles, while the machine tooling ensures every cymbal is durable and consistent. These are among the best hi hats for the money.

Hi-hat Stands

Most cymbals come in a variety of sizes, and while there’s some variation in hi-hat diameters, most of the models you find (and all of those given on this list) are 14” across, the standard size that the majority of players use. This is good news if you’re buying upgraded cymbals for an existing rack. If you like your hi-hat stand, your new cymbals are likely to fit on it the same way as the old ones did, even if you change brands or styles.

That being said, if you’re using the hi-hat stand that came with your kit, you may find it worth it to shop around for a new, upgraded stand (see our article on stands) when you buy your new cymbals. Consider the relative balance and weight of your cymbals to each other. If you buy heavier cymbals than you were using before, a stand with a more efficient opening mechanism could make your playing smoother and easier.

Cymbal Metals

Most cymbals are made of a metallic alloy, which is another way of saying that they’re made of two different metals that have been fused through melting them and mixing them together. The vast majority of cymbals are made of an alloy that’s predominantly copper with other metals mixed in.

Copper is not only very malleable and easy to work with but also has a pleasing tone when struck. Most copper alloys used in cymbal construction go by the better-known name of bronze, which is a category of alloy consisting mostly of copper mixed with tin and occasionally other metals like nickel, aluminum, or silver. Some particular bronze alloys are so common that they have their own separate names, like bell bronze (which consists of around 80% copper and 20% tin) and B8 bronze (92% copper, 8% tin).

The ratio of copper to other metals and the exact metals included in the alloy will have the most impact on how the cymbal sounds. Generally speaking, when there is less tin in the alloy blend, the sound has a brighter, tighter profile with more emphasis on higher frequencies. Alloys that have more tin in the mix tend to have better sustain and a warmer, deeper overall sound. They also tend to be more expensive, largely because the alloy is more difficult to work with the more tin is added to the mix.

Bell bronze—also called B20 bronze—is the most popular alloy for cymbals largely because of its versatility. It gives the cymbal makers a wide frequency range to work with and can be worked to bring out either a bright, clear tone or a warmer, more sustained sound.

If you’re not sure which alloy will work well for your sound, cymbals made with B20 are a good place to start for the so-called best hi hats, especially when worked by trusted cymbal makers like those on the list above.

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