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 Best Hi Hats for the Money - Quality Cymbals!

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.

My favorite thing about these hi-hats is the massive reputation they have in the music world. I’ve seen so many drummers use these over the years and they’re generally a favorite of many studio producers.

Some drummers even refer to them as “the alpha and omega of hi-hats”. You’d need to listen and decide whether that’s true for yourself, but it most definitely highlights how good these hats sound.

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.

Although they’ll work adequately in every scenario, you could get a better option in settings where you need wash and musicality. These hats are pretty bright, so they’re going to stick out more than you may like them to if you’re going for a musical and washy tone across your cymbals.

PROS

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

CONS

  • Not as washy as some drummers may prefer

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. This sound is iconic to many drummers and the 2002 Series cymbals are a huge drawcard for drummers who play Paiste cymbals.

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.

I’m surprised at how articulate they sound considering the large sound. While 15” hats are typically quite washy, fast patterns can easily be heard with these. I think it’s due to how heavy they are. The weight is great if you’re planning on really digging into these.

I’d only suggest getting these hats if you’re a rock or metal drummer. They’ll sound way too aggressive in softer settings. Even though the chick sound when you close your foot is great for jazz, I found that the sound of the stick hitting the surface was a bit too loud.

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. Paiste has a reputation for making some highly expensive cymbals. These 2002 hi-hats fall right into that, so you’ll be spending a fair bit of cash on these.

PROS

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

CONS

  • Expensive

Sticking to the topic of heavier cymbals, these Meinl Classics Custom Dark hi-hats are incredibly popular amongst metal drummers. When I first saw these, I was shocked by how bold the black color looked. However, it’s the boldness that seems to give these hats such character.

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 biggest drawcard for most drummers is the black and gold coloration. Again, 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, I didn’t find them to be 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.

Overall, they’re a good option to go with if you’re looking for affordable hi-hats that will slice through mixes incredibly easily. I’ll never get over how well-priced the Classics Custom Dark cymbals are.

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

I remember when Zildjian announced their new S Series cymbals. They seemed to be a revamp of the ZHTs, adding a few small upgrades. I couldn’t wait to give them a try and replace the cymbals at my church at the time. The standout cymbals were undoubtedly the hi-hats.

Before I move onto the hats, just know that they’re intermediate cymbals. I’d say that they’re the cheapest cymbal you can get from Zildjian that won’t get on anyone’s nerves with aggressive tones.  With these 14 inch hi-hats, you have yourself a decent pair of cymbals that come at a highly 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 I love how they can 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 a seasoned drummer, I’d suggest you move on as the aggressive nature of these hi-hats will make them sound very similar to entry-level cymbals. I’d personally put them on one of the drum kits for my students to play on in the teaching studio, but I wouldn’t use them to record albums with.

 However, they’re a great option for anyone wanting something more than the cymbals that their drum set came with.  

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

Speaking of entry-level cymbals, Meinl’s HCS series of cymbals are arguably the best sounding entry-level cymbals on the market (click the link to read my full review). 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 that I discovered 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. I’ve seen a few pro drummers do this, my favorite one being Robert ‘Sput’ Searight.

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 the best sound. That’s the main thing that will stop pro players from using them as a main hi-hat option. They just don’t open up nicely when you play them subtly.

The HCS series from Meinl is arguably the most extensive entry-level cymbal line on the market. You can easily find 14” and 15” HCS hi-hats as well. They have the exact same qualities as these 13” ones. They just have slightly deeper tones depending on the size.

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. This basically means that you can produce more sounds from these hats with dynamic playing than you would be able to with cheaper hi-hats.

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.

One thing that I’m particularly fond of with the Sweet Ks is that every model has its own personality. The general tone sounds the same across all sweet K hi-hats.

However, there are a few nuanced overtones that may be different when using separate pairs of these. I feel that it adds character to your hi-hats that will aid in giving you a personal sound. This generally happens with many higher-end cymbals.

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. I also found the foot splashing sound to be effective in jazz settings.

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.

I personally feel that the selling point of these hi-hats is the impact they have when played open. They have a seriously loud wash that is great for aggressive sections in songs. You won’t have any trouble being heard and the tones aren’t harsh to the ears like many other hats that are played wide open.

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. I also found them to be pretty high-pitched, so the tight sounds are fantastic for all the complicated hi-hat grooving that goes into that setting.

The cymbals also have a pretty broad frequency range depending on where you hit them. I particularly love how they sound when you hit the stick on the shoulder. The harsher sound from doing that brings out the aggressiveness of these hi-hats.

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. These aren’t going to be cymbals for a versatile drummer. They do their one specific job very well and that is to be loud and out there.

I’m also not the biggest fan of Sabian’s new updated logo that appears on the bottom of the cymbals. I know I’m not the only one who has this gripe, but it’s just something to think about if you’re one for aesthetics.

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.

I’d only suggest getting these if you’re a beginner drummer who’s jumping to an intermediate level and looking for slightly better gear.

I’d place them a bit above the Meinl HCS hi-hats and just below the Zildjian S hi-hats. They’re undoubtedly better than any stock cymbals that will come with a drum kit. So, they’re worth checking out.

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. Although the open sound is fairly adequate, I found myself wanting more from it. That’ll always be the case with cheaper cymbals, though.

The hats, however, do 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 love the sound of Paiste cymbals but can’t afford to spend cash on the top-quality ones, these PST7 hi-hats share many qualities from them and are incredibly affordable. They’re a great option for anyone on a budget.

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

Hi Hat 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.

Hi Hat Cymbal Sizes

While the most common size for hi-hats is 14”, you’ll sometimes find a pair that is slightly larger all smaller, giving you a different dynamic in terms of sound and weight. I’d suggest you go with a pair of 14” hi-hats if you’re looking for versatility. It’s the go-to size and it will continue to be that way for years to come.

If you want something a little different, you could look for 15” or 13” hi-hats. Any hats that are bigger or smaller than those would be considered as specialty hats and would typically be used in an auxiliary setup.

You’ll typically see 13” hi-hats being used in hip-hop, rap, and R&B settings. I’ve also seen many drummers use them in electronic environments where your drum setup can be a bit more experimental.

The shorter sound of the 13” hats is very effective when you need cutting drum parts that have bright grooves. I’ve also found that it’s easier to play fast patterns on 13” hi-hats as they have more rebound than larger hats.

15” hi-hats are great for getting a sound that is fuller and washier. Many rock drummers use these hats as the open hi-hat sound fills the drum parts wonderfully. I’ve also seen plenty of jazz drummers use bigger hi-hats. It’s one of the jazziest things to do to use larger cymbals than the average drummer.

Price Considerations

Cymbal prices always come as the biggest shock to me when I’m looking for drum gear. Especially hi hat prices as they’re an essential piece of gear that you need to bite the bullet to get. I’ve been contemplating getting a set of Meinl Byzance Foundry Reserve hats for a few years, but I’ve never been able to pull the trigger with a calm and settled conscience.

Thankfully, there are dozens of affordable options on the market to get. I tried my best to give a wide variety of decently priced hi hats on the above list so that you can see that you don’t need to break your bank to get a great set of hats.

In general, all cymbal companies have different tiers of hi-hats that will determine how much you’ll spend. The higher tiers will also sound the best. Let’s take Zildjian for example. The S Mastersound hi-hats are their intermediate option for drummers while the A’s and K’s are more expensive and aimed at mostly pros.

You could benefit greatly by finding out all the different tiers of hi-hats from each cymbal brand so that you can make an informed decision on how you spend.

Conclusion

Your hi hats are your most important cymbals as a drummer. You could play a gig with only those, 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 looking for the absolute best hi hats for your needs and thus open to buying 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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