6 Top Hi-Hat Microphones

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Although the hi-hat is arguably a drum kit most important component when it comes to setting the tempo of a song, many drummers often use generic overhead drum microphone configurations and expect the hi-hat to be picked up along with the snare, bass, tom, etc. as one, complete, drum sound.

It works, any good stereo microphone configuration placed over a drum kit will pick up the sound evenly from all of the drums, but you will not experience true individuality or clarity from every drum type.

For instance, the other cymbals will tend to meld in with your hi-hats and the snares will also be picked up along with the cymbals since the lower frequency range of a cymbal tends to overlap with the high-frequency response from a snare.

As a result, what happens is, you lose out on sound quality and tempo control, which may not matter that much on a small stage or during a practice session, but if you’re recording at a studio, it could make a lot of difference.

Other mics reviews: Bass/Kick Drum Microphones, Overhead Drum Microphones, and Tom Microphones.

Hi-Hat Mics We Recommend

ImageHi-Hat MicsTypePolar PatternFrequency ResponseImpedance
Shure SM57-LCE...
Our Pick

$99.00 at Amazon
DynamicCardioid40Hz-15kHz150 ohms
AKG PERCEPTION 170...$83.49 at AmazonCondenserCardioid20Hz-20kHz200 ohms
Samson C02 Pencil...$119.95 at AmazonCondenserCardioid50Hz-20kHz200 ohms
Rode NT5 - Matched...$429.00 at AmazonCondenserCardioid20Hz-20kHz100 ohms

Shure SM57-LC

Microphone Type: Dynamic
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Frequency Response: 40Hz-15kHz
Output Impedance: 150 ohms
Connector: XLR

What’s good: Amazing frequency response

Not so good: Doesn’t live up to its legacy

Probably the best budget hi-hat microphone in the market right now, the Shure SM-57LC delivers clean, contoured, and responsive instrumental sound pickup.

It also scores high on vocals, due to its polar cardioid design and wide-range frequency response (40 Hz to 15000 Hz).

The exterior construction is super durable, and Shure does multiple drop tests on their microphones, by dropping them ten times from a height of ten feet.

To pass, a microphone must show zero loss in input quality. It can handle painfully loud sound pressure levels, and will even work for close-up recording on half-stack amps.

This microphone includes a small capacitive membrane and a really good FET amplifier, which does not change the input sound quality whatsoever, delivering the cleanest, most natural percussion sound you can get at this price.

Samson C02 Pencil

Microphone Type: Condenser
Mono/Stereo: Stereo Pair
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Diaphragm Size: 0.47″ (12mm)
Frequency Response: 50Hz-20kHz
Max SPL: 134dB
Output Impedance: 200 ohms
Self Noise: 22dB (A weighted)
Connector: XLR

What’s good: Compact, shock mount included, gold plated XLR connectors

Not so good: Tend to sometimes pick up noise

With its cardioid pickup pattern, gold plated XLR connectors, and high-quality condenser diaphragm, the CO2 from Samson is an amazing hi-hat microphone setup that you can buy for a very reasonable price.

It is tuned to be used with percussion instruments such as cymbals, hi-hats, snares, etc. The low mass capsule features an all-metal housing for durability, and the narrow pick-up area in the front makes this perfect for close up usage, it has a pretty high sound pressure level rating too for that purpose.

This microphone sports a wide, linear frequency response, in order to minimize noise pickup and delivers clean, white-noise free sound. Make sure to mount it close to the cymbals or hi-hat though, since it is still susceptible to surrounding noise if placed too far away.

AKG Perception 170 Professional

Microphone Type: Condenser
Mono/Stereo: Mono
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Diaphragm Size: 0.5″ (12.7mm)
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
Max SPL: 135dB (155dB w/Pad)
Output Impedance: 200 ohms
Signal to Noise Ratio: 75dB (A weighted)
Self Noise: 19dB (A weighted)
Sensitivity: 15 mV/Pa
Pads: -20dB
Connector: XLR

What’s good: All metal body, switchable attenuation pad

Not so good: Tends to pick up slight amounts of surrounding noise

Sporting an all-metal body and a polar cardioid pickup pattern, this cheap condenser microphone from AKG embodies all the important qualities of a good hi-hat microphone, and it also comes with an adjustable attenuation pad built-in, which can add a 10 dB attenuation in order to damp the volume if you decide to mount your microphone close to the hi-hat.

This will only reduce the volume, so you’ll still enjoy all the original sound quality, without killing your eardrums. It is a small-diaphragm microphone, so it comes with an incredibly crisp sound response and picks up almost every small note from the hi-hat.

The sound pressure capacity is 155 SPL, meaning that you can easily mount it as close as you want to your hi-hat or cymbal, without causing a flat drop in the recorded sound. The .5” condenser diaphragm scores high on clarity and transient response, just like a good hi-hat microphone should do.

Rode NT5 MP

Microphone Type: Condenser
Mono/Stereo: Stereo Pair
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Diaphragm Size: 0.5″ (12.5mm)
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
Max SPL: 143dB
Output Impedance: 100 ohms
Signal to Noise Ratio: 78dB (A weighted)
Self Noise: 16dB (A weighted)

What’s good: Gold-sputtered, low noise

Not so good: Sound maybe a little too bright, might need EQ

With the Rode NT5 MP condenser microphone, you get unmatched build quality, consistent high-level audio, and it boasts one of the lowest noise levels we have ever seen on any microphone.

The externally biased condenser diaphragm is designed to deliver a bright, sharp response, which is especially good for recording high pitched percussion, such as that of a cymbal or hi-hat. The gold-sputtered 1/2 “capsule greatly improves overall transient response and sound quality, while the satin nickel-plated body keeps the microphone rust free and gives it a premium looking shine.

Surface-mounted circuitry ensures low noise levels, and while the sound may seem a little too bright at times, it can easily be fixed with a little touch of EQ.

Audio-Technica ATM450 Cardioid Condenser

Microphone Type: Condenser
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Frequency Response: 40Hz-18kHz
Max SPL: 152dB
Output Impedance: 200 ohms
Signal to Noise Ratio: 69dB
Low Cut Filter: 80Hz (-12dB/octave)
Pads: -10 dB

What’s good: Built-in 10 dB attenuation pad, and 80 Hz HPF switch

Not so good: Low-end response

The ATM450 features a really smart side-address stick design, so you can mount your microphone more comfortable than an end-addressed model.

It also packs a built-in 10 dB attenuation pad, which can come in handy during those overhead microphone placements, or side-by-side configurations. An integrated 80 Hz HPF switch takes care of frequency response, and ensures high quality, non-tampered audio at all times.

The polar cardioid pickup pattern minimizes cancels out sounds coming from the rear and sides, so there will be no sound bleeding while recording. Its extended flat frequency response makes it ideal for recording high sound pressure levels.

Neumann KM 184

Microphone Type: Condenser
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
Max SPL: 138dB
Output Impedance: 50 ohms
Signal to Noise Ratio: 81dB (A weighted)
Self Noise: 13dB (A weighted)

What’s good: Transformerless circuitry, amazing sound pressure handling ability

Not so good: Price

If you’re looking to spare no expenses and want to get the absolute best hi-hat microphone for percussion recording, then get the Neumann KM 184.

It is recognized by professionals and studio managers alike, as one of the most incredible pieces of microphone technology to ever be produced, which is something that only Neumann can do. They have been making instrumental microphones for quite some time now, and their microphones are the gold standard when it comes to recording snares, cymbals, hi-hats, or just about any drum.

The amplification and audio output circuits are free from transformers, meaning that there will be absolutely no white noise or hissing, and the sound pressure handling offered by the small- size gold-sputtered condenser diaphragm is incredible. It is perfectly compatible even with unbalanced equipment and provides a stable output at all times.

So, how do you choose a good microphone for your hi-hat?

Well, let’s start off with the basics. A hi-hat, like any cymbal, tends to produce high-frequency sound more than it does low, or medium frequency sound. And any industry professional will tell you that a small diaphragm condenser microphone is the best when it comes to recording high frequency from stuff like cymbals, acoustic guitars, and in this case, the hi-hat.

Next, you need to make sure that your microphone is capable of handling at least ~120 SPL of sound pressure. If you want to place it closer to the hi-hat, it should be able to tolerate, even more, about 140 SPL, since any decent hi-hat will easily output that much sound during closed operation. Always try to get a polar cardioid pattern microphone to pick up the cleanest, most noise-free sound from your hi-hat. Finally, you need to check if your microphone has features such as attenuation pads, air noise filters, etc.