8 Best Hi Hat Cymbals for Rock, Jazz & Other Genres

Author: Brett Clur | Updated: | This post may contain affiliate links.

Hi-hats can make a huge difference to your drum sound. The tone of your hi-hat will establish the overall feel of grooves. With that being said, different genres require different tones. So, let’s have a look at some fitting hi-hats for different style situations.

8 Hi-Hats for Working Drummers 

Starting us off is one of the most versatile pairs of hi-hats in the world. If you’re unsure of what type of cymbal will fit your band, just know that a set of Zildjian A New Beats will do the job every time.

These hi-hats have a heavy bottom and medium top, producing a bright tone that will sit right in the pocket of any groove. The full-bodied sound has a fast response and sounds great in the context of a band. Whether you’re playing hard rock or soft indie, these hats will stand out.

They have an extended wash when open, making them a great option for smashing during loud choruses. Pair that up with the bright chick sound when closed and you have yourself a winner.

If you like listening to studio records, chances are that you’ve probably heard a set of New Beats being played at some point. They’re a fantastic set of cymbals for any drummer.

PROS

  • They work for all styles
  • Full-bodied tone
  • Bright and cutting

CONS

  • None

The Paiste 2002 Sound Edges were the hi-hats of choice for John Bonham, one of the most famous rock drummers of all time. The standout feature is the wavy bottom hat that causes them to produce a wide-open sound with a pronounced chick.

They’re fairly loud and have a bright tone. However, the 15-inch size adds some warmth to the mix, adding complexity to the sound. They easily cut through any loud stage mix, making them great options for rock and metal.

The wash can fill a room and they don’t need to be played too hard to make a solid impact.

There’s something special about these hi-hats and it’s reflected in the craftsmanship. You won’t want to play a cheaper pair after playing on these.

However, Paiste makes some expensive products, and the 2002 Sound Edges fall under that. So, you’ll be spending a fair bit of cash on these ones.

PROS

  • Great choice for rock and metal
  • Excellent craftsmanship
  • Unique wavy bottom hat design

CONS

  • Expensive

Meinl’s Classic Custom Dark hi-hats offer a unique quality in that they’re priced somewhere between high-end and low-end cymbals. They offer a high-end sound for a very specific purpose and that is aggressive playing.

The first thing you’ll notice about them is the black and gold coloration. It’s a bit out there for a cymbal but it does look seriously cool. When put under stage lights, you get a rocking aesthetic.

The tone these hats produce is loud and cutting. They’re so loud that you don’t really need to hit too hard to make a statement. It’s for this reason that you’ll mostly see metal drummers using these.

Metal drumming requires you to conserve as much energy as possible to keep the fast pace going. So, these hi-hats work wonders in that type of setup.

These hats are bright and chirpy when closed and they have a clear and defined wash when open. Along with the open sound are some great sounding overtones.

Unfortunately, they’re not dynamically responsive, meaning they don’t bring out their full tone when played softly. The Classics Custom Dark hi-hats will work perfectly for metal and not much else.

PROS

  • Great for metal and other aggressive music
  • Black and gold coloration looks cool
  • Very loud
  • High-quality sound at an affordable price

CONS

  • Not versatile

The Zildjian S Series is Zildjian’s intermediate line of cymbals. They’re a step up from entry-level products but aren’t as precise or expensive as the higher-end lines. With these 14 inch hi-hats, you have yourself a decent pair of cymbals that come at an affordable price point.

I’ve put the Mastersound versions of the S hi-hats on this list because they’re pretty versatile. They have a nice balance of frequency ranges and sit comfortably in any style.

The B12 alloy sits a bit on the aggressive side, but they’re mellow enough for any coffee shop gig.

The bottom hat is a bit jagged underneath, causing a heavy chick sound when you close the hi-hats with your foot. This is great for keeping time with the left foot while playing other cymbals with your hands.

The overall tone of these hi-hats is great for anyone needing an upgrade from entry-level cymbals. If you’re already accustomed to high-quality cymbals, you may find the sound from these lacking a bit.

PROS

  • Good upgrade from entry-level hi-hats
  • Versatile
  • Heavy sound when played with your foot

CONS

  • Tone may not be good enough for experienced players

Meinl’s HCS series of cymbals are arguably the best sounding entry-level cymbals on the market. They’re very inexpensive and they deliver everything you’d need from a cheap cymbal.

I fell in love with these 13-inch hi-hats a few years back. One of my students had them on his kit and I discovered that they have a lot more use than just being hi-hats for beginners.

Firstly, they have a bright tone that is seriously articulate. This means that all your fast notes will be heard very clearly, making them a great option for drummers with quick hands.

The bright tone along with the clean sound is perfect for styles like trap and drum & bass where fast hi-hat patterns are common.

They’re obviously a great option for beginners in any capacity. However, if you’re a more experienced player who has a small secondary kit, these 13-inch HCS hi-hats will work wonders.

A little secret is that they work beautifully in cymbal stacks. Stack some cymbals on top of these and you’ll get a great modern auxiliary hi-hat sound. Overall, everyone can use these hi-hats in some form or another, making them a staple on any best hi-hat list. 

Unfortunately, they don’t respond well to dynamics, meaning you have to play them hard to get a good sound. That’s the main thing that will stop pro players from using them as a main hi-hat option.

PROS

  • Inexpensive
  • Very articulate tone
  • Great for beginners or drummers with small secondary kits

CONS

  • They don’t respond well to dynamic playing

Moving back into the realm of high-end cymbals, the Zildjian K Sweet hi-hats are a highly popular choice amongst many professional drummers. They have an extra dark tone that has a complex character along with a musical nature.

The top hat is thin and provides a smooth wash while the bottom hat is noticeably heavy, providing a thick foot pump sound. These hats are hand-hammered in a way that makes them very responsive to all kinds of dynamics.

When thinking of styles of music, their dark tone is best suited for jazz situations. They blend smoothly into a mix of cymbals and feel warm to play on thanks to the 15-inch size. They’re soft and buttery, perfectly representing their “sweet” name.

They work exceptionally well in recording studios, giving the sound engineer a lot of control over their sound through microphones. Great sound and easy to mix - every sound engineer’s dream.

Seeing how these are high-end hi-hats, they cost a great deal of money. However, you’ll be playing them for years and you may just not look back. So, they’re highly worth the expense.

PROS

  • Extra dark tone with musical complexity
  • Very dynamically responsive
  • Great for jazz

CONS

  • Expensive

These Sabian AAX X-Plosion hi-hats produce a tight and articulate sound that is great for grooving. The bright tone cuts through mixes easily and provides a great platform for sharp accents. When played open, they have a seriously loud wash that is great for the aggressive sections in songs.

You’ll find that a lot of gospel players use the AAX cymbals. These hi-hats work great in the gospel setting with all the choirs and praise breaks. They reflect the high energy that you put into them.

The cymbals are made from a B20 bronze that gives them a wide frequency range depending on where you hit them. The brilliant finish and glassy shimmer give them a classic shiny cymbal look.

So, if you’re looking for a bright pair of hi-hats with a classic cymbal aesthetic, these are a great option. Just know that the bright sound won’t work too well in softer setups.

PROS

  • Cuts through mixes easily
  • Very loud wash
  • Brilliant finish and glassy shimmer gives a classic cymbal look

CONS

  • Not great for softer styles of music

The Paiste PST7 hi-hats lend some design qualities from the 2002s. They’re made using the same bronze alloy. However, they’re priced significantly lower, meaning they’re high-quality hi-hats that come at an affordable price.

They have a bright sound that is clean with a lively atmosphere. The closed sound is piercing while the open sound is smooth and washy. These two aspects together make these hi-hats great for rock and metal settings.

They have that high-end sizzle that you can expect from Paiste cymbals. The medium top along with the heavy bottom also causes them to have a heavy chick sound when closed.

Overall, they’re a good upgrade from entry-level cymbals and fall just short of any higher-end ones. If you want a pro sound at an affordable price, these will work for you.

PROS

  • Made from the same alloy as Paiste’s high-end cymbals
  • Great price to value ratio
  • They work well in rock and metal settings

CONS

  • Not a great option for jazz

Cymbal Qualities for Different Styles

Not every pair of hi-hats is going to fit all styles of music. The different instrumentation used in different styles means that your cymbals have to support the sounds and add to them. There are a few things to remember when choosing cymbals.

Firstly, rock and metal are loud styles, meaning you need bright cymbals that will cut through the mixes of distorted guitars and heavy vocals. If you use cymbals that aren’t bright, the crowd won’t end up hearing them.

Jazz and indie require cymbals that are a bit more mellow and washy. You’d need cymbals that blend into mixes instead of cutting through them. Bright cymbals will be too overpowering.

Every other style sits somewhere between metal and jazz. So, you need to use your discretion and decide what type of hi-hats will work. It may be a good idea to have two or more pairs of hi-hats if you plan on playing different styles frequently.

Conclusion

Your hi-hats are your most important cymbals as a drummer. You could play a gig with only them, a snare, and a bass drum. It’s important to think carefully about which hi-hats you choose to use. You’ll play them the most, so you need to love how they sound.

If you’re going to buy high-end cymbals, just know that the high price will guarantee that they’ll last a long time and serve you well at every gig.

If you decide on getting lower priced cymbals, you may end up wanting to upgrade in the future. You can never have enough gear as a drummer!

About Brett Clur

Brett has been drumming for almost two decades. He also helps his students get better at drumming. He can be found on Instagram (@brettclurdrums), where you can regularly catch glimpses of his drumming.

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