7 Best Mics For Hi-Hats 2022

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Best Mics for Hi-Hats

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Hi-hat mics allow you to get a crispy clear sound from your hi-hats at live gigs and in the studio. While the overhead mics do a great job of picking those sounds up, a dedicated hi-hat mic adds a bit more definition and depth.

If you already have overhead mics and you’re looking for something a bit more with your sound, a hi-hat mic could be your next option.

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Shure SM81 – Best Overall

Shure SM81

The Shure SM81 (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is one of Shure’s top sellers. While it works amazingly as an overhead mic, it’s my top suggestion if you’re looking for a solid hi-hat mic that will give you absolute clarity.

The Shure SM81 has a very flat frequency response, making it quite easy to work within a mix. While hi-hats sometimes benefit from having frequency response in the upper ranges, you can easily get a good sound from this mic without editing your mix a lot.

It also has a low-frequency switch to utilize that will alter its frequency response to make it quieter in certain settings.

Its pickup pattern also does a brilliant job of rejecting outside sounds. So, if you put position this mic close to the top or bottom of your hi-hats, you won’t get unwanted sounds from the snare drum and rack toms.

If you don’t want to alter the frequency response, you can lock the -10dB pad so that the mic can handle louder sounds. That’s incredibly ideal for hard and heavy hi-hats with strong tones.

I love the construction of the SM81. It’s well-built, and it looks sleek and aesthetically pleasing as well. It has a vinyl-coated steel exterior, which is very durable and can handle stray stick hits with no issue.

Overall, it’s a solid option with many uses other than just being a hi-hat mic. If you regularly record drums and other instruments, this is a mic that you should have.

Mic Type: Condenser

Pickup Pattern: Cardioid

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz

Weight: 0.5 lbs.

Earthworks SR25 – Premium Option

Earthworks SR25

The Earthworks SR25 (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is an amazing microphone to use with your hi-hats. If you have a high budget, this mic is one of your best options. Earthworks is a luxury microphone brand, and you have guaranteed quality with all their mics.

The SR25 is instantly recognizable with its thick base and thinner tube where the mic picks up sounds. This design structure has become a signature aspect of many of Earthworks’ mics.

The most impressive thing about the SR25 is how accurately it will pick your hi-hats up. You’ll get a clear tone that is very true to how your hi-hats sound in front of you, whereas many other mics give you sounds that slightly alter the original ones.

This mic will pick up every little detail, from playing the edge to playing the bell. Whether you play hard and fast or subtly and smoothly, the SR25 will give put out exactly what you put in. The flat response of the mic allows you to choose whether you want a natural or processed sound, making it highly versatile.

The downside of the SR25 is that it’s very expensive, costing more than most matched pairs of condenser mics that work well for hi-hats. That’s why it’s only a viable option for someone with a large budget who is willing to get a luxury microphone just for their hi-hats.

Mic Type: Condenser

Pickup Pattern: Cardioid

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 25 kHz

Weight: 0.35 lbs.

AKG P170 – Best Budget Option

AKG P170

The AKG P170 (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) falls on the opposite of the price spectrum, having a price tag that is amazingly affordable.

It’s a value mic, meaning it gives you excellent features at an attainable cost. If you just want something small and easy to add a bit of extra depth to your drum mic setup, this may be the mic for you.

While you won’t get the same clarity and depth that you’d get from the previous mics I mentioned, you’re still able to get a strong hi-hat sound from the AKG P170 that will stand out in a mix.

The only built-in feature this mic has is a 20dB preattenuation pad. You can turn that on when using the mic on a loud sound source so that it won’t get overloaded. It depends on what type of drummer you are to whether you’ll need to use that or not, but it’s great to have!

The one impressive thing about this mic is its build quality. While it’s an inexpensive option, it’s very durable due to its heavy-duty metal construction.

You could easily take this on the road and not worry about it getting damaged. That makes it an excellent mic to use for live gigs where you’re worried about taking high-end mics.

The drawback of a mic like this is that you need to do a bit more work in the mix to get your hi-hats to sound as best they can. If you’re an inexperienced mixer, that may be challenging, but it’s a good way to improve your skills.

The mic is also quite a bit heavier than most other options on this list.

Mic Type: Condenser

Pickup Pattern: Cardioid

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz

Weight: 1.72 lbs.

Rode M3

Rode M3

The Rode M3 (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a great example of a mic that seems to be made for hi-hats. While all the other mics on this list are mostly used as overheads, this one exhibits qualities that perfectly suit it for close-miking a pair of hats.

It appears to be quite large, but its rounder casing is a bit deceiving. When using the mic with your kit, you’ll find that it’s the same size as most of the other condenser mics on this list. You can easily place it on top or underneath your hi-hats.

The mic performs well in both live and studio settings. It brings out plenty of warmth from your hats, which is quite unique to the M3, but it’s also versatile enough to work well with hi-hats with all the different tonal qualities.

Another unique thing about the M3 is that it has the option of being battery-powered. While that isn’t the most relevant feature for drumming, it adds a bit of value to the mic, and you may find yourself in a situation where phantom power isn’t available.

It’s an excellent mic worth considering that sounds a lot more expensive than it actually is. Just note that it’s fairly heavy, but it’s not as heavy as the AKG P170.

Mic Type: Condenser

Pickup Pattern: Cardioid

Frequency Response: 40 Hz – 20 kHz

Weight: 0.86 lbs.

sE Electronics sE7

sE Electronics sE7

The sE Electronics sE7 (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is an incredibly small microphone that many drummers love using as a hi-hat mic. Its small body makes it easier to position than many other mics, so it’s ideal if you have a kit situated in a tight space.

The sE7 offers an incredible number of features considering the price it comes at. The sound quality is fairly balanced with excellent transient response. That comes from its thin diaphragm.

The cardioid polar pattern, like with all the other mics on this list, makes it ideal for hi-hat applications. It does a superb job of blocking unwanted sounds from the rest of your drum kit out.

It has a switchable 20dB pad for hard-hitting drummers to use if they feel that their hi-hats will overload the mic. It also has a gold-plated XLR connecter that ensures a strong connection at all times.

With all these features, you’d assume that this was a high-end microphone. It has amazing value for the money, making it a strong option to consider. You just need to do a bit of work with the EQ to get a professional sound from your hats.

Mic Type: Condenser

Pickup Pattern: Cardioid

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz

Weight: 0.28 lbs.

Audix ADX51

Audix ADX51

The Audix ADX51 (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is often seen as the biggest rival to the Shure SM81. This mic is a bit cheaper, but it has compelling features that make it stand out in the crowd of condenser microphones.

The amazing thing about Audix microphones is that they always tend to make your drums sound good, even without setting a mix up and altering EQ settings. You get that same effect with the ADX51, as your hi-hats come out sounding great as soon as you set the mic up.

You’ll get a better tone after doing a bit of tweaking, but it’s a fantastic feature to take note of for drummers who aren’t very experienced with sound production. If you want an easy hi-hat microphone that doesn’t require a lot of work, this is a good option.

It makes your hi-hats sound very crisp, which is amazing for styles of music where tight hi-hat sounds are essential. It has a switchable 10dB pad, which isn’t quite as versatile as the 20dB switchable pads, but it’s still relatively useful.

Overall, it’s a good mic to consider that will save you a bit of money if you get this instead of the Shure SM81. However, note that the SM81 offers slightly superior sound quality and features.

Mic Type: Condenser

Pickup Pattern: Cardioid

Frequency Response: 40 Hz – 18 kHz

Weight: 0.41 lbs.

AKG C 451 B

AKG C 451 B

The AKG C 451 B (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another top-quality microphone from AKG. If you liked the sound of the AKG P170, but you want something a bit higher in quality, you can’t go wrong with this one.

Before I get to the nitty-gritty, just take note that this mic is expensive. It’s on par with the Earthworks SR25, so it won’t be an easy buy. However, the quality you get from the C 451 is incredible, so it’s well worth the investment.

This mic has excellent transient response, giving you amazing sound quality no matter where you place it around your hi-hats. It perfectly captures the tonal qualities of your hats, and it allows you to easily work with them in your mix.

One of the most impressive things about this mic is how light it is. High-end mics typically have weighty bodies, but this mic is a lot lighter than most of the other options on this list. That also makes it a good gigging option.

It includes a switchable dB pad and a highpass filter to stop distortion. These two switches make the mic very versatile.

The AKG C 451 was an amazing microphone that many people loved. This B version is even better, as it takes the same design and adds a few improvements.

I highly suggest considering this mic if you’re okay with spending a significant amount of money on getting a good hi-hat sound.

Mic Type: Condenser

Pickup Pattern: Cardioid

Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz

Weight: 0.27 lbs.

What To Look For In a Hi-Hat Mic

Dynamic vs Condenser Mics

Dynamic and condenser are your two choices when it comes to drum microphones, and you may be wondering which one works better for hi-hats. In my experience, condenser mics are better for hi-hats as they have faster transient response, which makes the high frequencies of the hi-hats sound a lot better.

When comparing a dynamic and condenser mic on a pair of hi-hats, the condenser will make the hats sound clearer and more articulate. You’ll also get more dynamics and body. Dynamic mics tend to work better on drums due to their lower tones. It’s the same reason why condenser mics work best as overheads for cymbals. That and the fact that they have wider pickup patterns.

However, it’s not completely wrong to use dynamic microphones for hi-hats. You’ll still be able to get a decent hi-hat sound in your mix. It will just be a bit trickier to manage, and the sound won’t be as good with a comparable condenser mic.

So, look for a condenser mic first before considering using a dynamic mic on your hi-hats. That’s why all my suggestions above are condenser microphones.

Frequency Response

All mics have a frequency response range listed when you buy them. This range refers to the frequencies that the mic can pick up. Different frequency response ranges suit different sound sources, and hi-hats do best with mics that have response ranges in the higher registers.

Since hi-hats have high-pitched sounds that are crisp and punchy, mics with high frequency response ranges pick their tones up the best. This is another reason why condenser mics are better, as dynamic mics typically have smaller response ranges.

This is why you should seek out specific microphones for your hi-hats. If you just use the same mic that you use for your drums, it may not have the frequency response range that suits the high tones of your hats.

The frequencies from hi-hats are typically between 300 and 3000 Hz. So, any microphone with a frequency response range that fits those numbers will be a good option to consider.

Size

The size of a hi-hat mic affects how comfortably you can place it at your kit. There are two methods to placing a hi-hat mic. The first is to put it facing the top hat, and the second is to point it at the bottom and point upward at the bottom hat.

There are benefits to both placement methods, and some drummers prefer one over the other. If you want to place your mic above your hi-hats, you’ll need to get one that is quite small. A large mic will get in the way of your crash cymbal, and it can also get in the way of your range of motion with your sticks.

If you want to place the mic underneath your hats, size won’t matter as much. The microphone will be out of the way, so you won’t need to worry about accidentally hitting it.

Sound Quality

Sound quality plays a huge role when it comes to selecting a good hi-hat mic. You’ll find that microphones with great sound quality are easier to work with. They’re the types of mics that you can set up and play without needing to do much tweaking in the mix.

Microphones with lower sound quality are a lot harder to work with. You may have the best sounding pair of hi-hats ever, but a mic with poor quality won’t reflect the nuances of your hi-hats in the mix. You’ll need to do a lot of work in the EQ to get to that stage.

Experienced sound engineers will know how to work poor-quality microphones, but they can get quite frustrating for drummers who don’t know exactly what they’re doing.

All the mics I’ve suggested in the list above have fantastic sound quality, but some of them have better sound quality than others. Things like transient and frequency response play a big role in establishing the sound quality of a mic.

Durability

Durability is something that many drummers don’t think of when choosing drum microphones. They get placed out of the way of your strike zones, so they won’t get hit when you play, right? That’s not always the case. Mistakes happen, and drumsticks can do some serious damage to microphones that don’t have durable casings.

That’s why it’s so important to get a hi-hat mic that comes from a reputable brand. All the big microphone brands make mics that are extremely durable. You can hit them multiple times, and they won’t even show scratches. You can also take them with you to gigs, and they’ll hold up nicely.

Another aspect of durability is the cases that come with the mics. Some mics have more durable carry cases than others, so make sure to check those out before buying a hi-hat mic. If you gig a lot, then I’d suggest getting a durable case if your hi-hat mic doesn’t already come with one.

Drum microphones should last decades of frequent use, so make sure to choose a mic that you think will stay true to that. Mics from lesser-known brands tend to break a lot quicker, mostly due to faults with their internal wiring.

Price

The last thing to think about when buying a mic is cost. All the features I’ve mentioned above have an effect on how much a hi-hat microphone costs.

Mics with wider frequency response ranges cost more, and that’s why condenser mics are typically more expensive than dynamic mics. It’s worth spending the extra money to get a microphone that brings an excellent sound out of your hi-hats.

Mics with better sound quality also cost more. You’ll get the best sounds from microphones that have high-tier price tags. However, note that you may not notice the finer details of sound quality if you’re not experienced with mixing and EQing.

In that case, it would be better to get a more affordable hi-hat microphone so that you can learn to recognize and manipulate sounds in the mix.

Most microphone brands have excellent hi-hat mics at every price point. So, stay within your budget and find the best option for whatever your drum kit setup is.

Best Hi Hat Mic Brands

There are several amazing microphone brands out there. None of them focus specifically on drums, but all of them offer mics that work very well for drum kits. Here are a few notable brands to check out.

Shure

Shure is a household name in the microphone world. The brand has been putting out high-tier mics for years, and there are several Shure microphones that are considered “industry-standard.” The Shure SM57 is a classic example of this.

The brand is very popular amongst drummers, mostly due to the fact that Shure has always offered drum mic kits at very reasonable prices.

If you want to go with a trusted brand name, Shure is one of the best brands to consider.

AKG

AKG is an epic brand that sells microphones, headphones, and monitoring systems. AKG’s microphones arguably aren’t as popular as the other brands in the drumming world, but they’re not to be underestimated.

AKG makes amazing microphones in both the entry-level and professional range. So, whether you’re new to using drum mics or you’re a seasoned audiophile, you’ll find something good in AKG’s lineup. The brand has a few excellent options for hi-hats.

Earthworks Audio

Earthworks Audio is a brand that took the drumming community by storm. The brand offers high-end mics that have amazing clarity and sound quality. They’re all luxury options, and you’ll find these mics being used by professionals all over the world.

You won’t find affordable mics in the Earthworks lineup, so it’s not a brand that beginner drummers and inexperienced mic users should consider.

Earthworks microphones have become so popular that you’ll see them being used by dozens of drummers with big profiles on social media.

Audix

Audix is another brand that is very popular amongst drummers. The Audix mics are often seen as rivals to the drum mics from Shure.

The cool thing about Audix microphones is that they are very easy to use with drums. Whenever you plug them in, your drum mix will always sound decent straight away. This makes them excellent options for drummers who are new to using microphones.

Audix also has a few excellent drum microphone kits, and several of their mics are brilliant when used for hi-hats.

sE Electronics

sE Electronics is a smaller microphone brand compared to the other ones that I’ve mentioned, but it’s worth mentioning as they put out some brilliant mics. Their microphones are very affordable, and I find them to be quite stylish as well.

One of my favorite things about sE Electronics is that the brand regularly does competitions and giveaways. These have built a strong community on social media, making more drummers aware of the brand. I love the kind of marketing, and it’s worked well for sE Electronics.

It doesn’t hurt that they have some good hi-hat mic options as well.

Sennheiser

Sennheiser is a powerhouse audio company. They sell everything from mics to headphones to speakers. If you want a good set of drum microphones, Sennheiser has some top-tier options. They also have an impressive number of mics that will work excellently for hi-hats.

They cover both affordable and expensive ranges, so drummers of all stages will be able to find something good in the Sennheiser lineup.     

Top Hi Hat Mics, Final Thoughts

As you can see from the above list, there are several fantastic mics to choose that will work brilliantly with hi-hats. I suggest using a condenser mic, but the options open even wider if you want to use a dynamic one.

All the mics I’ve suggested have similar qualities to them. The trick to choosing the best one is to find the slight differences and choose your favorite of those.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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