5 Best Hi-Hat Mics (For All Budgets)

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  • Discover which microphones are ideal for hi-hat miking
  • Find the right miking gear for your drum setup at any budget
  • Check out the FAQ down below for some helpful tips on hi-hat mics
  • Also check out 8 Best Hi-Hats (For Rock, Jazz, Metal & more)

Miking up a set of drums isn’t a walk in the park, even for seasoned studio engineers that have done it thousands of times.

Pinpointing the exact position of each microphone, using the right gear to achieve optimal synergy, and finding the right tone takes a lot of work.

Fortunately, it’s much easier if you’re using the right gear.

When it comes to hi-hats, you’ll need a microphone that can accurately capture high-frequency tones without “bleeding” over to your other microphones.

To help you do that, I’ve whipped up a list of some of the best hi-hat mics on the current market, so let’s have a look.

What are the Best Hi-Hat Mics?

Subjectively, Audio-Technica’s AT2021 is the best hi-hat microphone.

Its sound quality is outstanding; I love how accurate it remains even at super-loud volumes, and it’s decently approachable money-wise.

You may have a different taste, preferences, or budget, which is the reason why I handpicked four additional models I deem some of the best hi-hat mic products ever made, including:

  1. Audio-Technica AT2021 (Our Pick)
  2. AKG Perception 170
  3. Shure SM81-LC
  4. Nady CM-88
  5. Sennheiser SKM 835-XSW-A

1. Audio-Technica AT2021 Cardioid Condenser Microphone

Audio-Technica AT2021

The Audio-Technica AT2021 is an excellent, cost-effective way to capture acoustic guitar, overheads, and piano

Why We Love It:
  • Affordable
  • Yields a smooth, natural sound
  • Great build quality
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Famed for making some of the finest headphones, turntables, and microphones on the current market, Audio Technica is one of the longest-standing Japanese-based manufacturers of top-end audio equipment.

AT2021 is my pick of the day for several reasons; it excels at capturing the natural sonic characteristics of hi-hat sounds, sports a compact yet remarkably sturdy design, and has a cardioid pattern that eliminates sound bleeding to the rear and its sides.


  • Frequency response: 30 Hz to 20,000 Hz
  • Wired connectivity
  • Fixed back plate with a permanent polaroid condenser pattern
  • Picks up to 145 dB SPL (sound pressure level)
  • Corrosion-resistant connectors

Audio-Technica’s AT2021 is a cardioid condenser mic, meaning that you can use it for practically anything from streaming your gaming sessions to karaoke to miking your drums.

As for why it’s perfect for hi-hat miking, there are more than a few reasons, the main being its high SPL rating.

Audio bleeding is one of the main issues drummers face when amplifying and recording their instruments.

Since hi-hat cymbals produce razor-sharp sounds at super-high frequencies, AT2021 can effortlessly tolerate up to 145 decibels, making it deserving of the top slot in today’s list.

Frequency-wise, it can pick up on signals between 20 Hz and 20,000 kHz.

Cardioid microphones such as AT2021 are perfect for hi-hat miking.

In contrast to an average cardioid mic that can block a portion of the surrounding noises, Audio-Technica’s AT2021 will almost completely ignore them due to its low-mass pickup.

Compact, sturdy, and reliable, this microphone is one of the best hi-hat mics that you can find in the low-to-mid price range on the market.

It’s well-rounded enough to be used with different instruments, and aside from its exclusively wired connectivity, I have nothing bad to say about it.


  • Light pickups are laser-focused on the sounds coming in front of them
  • Affordable
  • Well-rounded and suitable for use with other instruments
  • Minimal audio bleeding


  • No major flaws aside from supporting only wired connectivity

2. AKG Perception 170 Professional Instrumental Microphone

AKG Perception 170

The P170 is a small-diaphragm condenser microphone for recording percussion, acoustic guitars and perhaps most typically, drum set from the overhead position.

Why We Love It:
  • Surprisingly lightweight construction
  • Selectable attenuation
  • Outstanding versatility
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AKG Pro Audio’s Perception 170 is a microphone that looks, sounds, and feels better than most similarly-priced models.

Equipped with an advanced mic chip, a selectable attenuation pad, and a host of other exquisite features, it’s a microphone that will give you the loudest bang for your back, both literally and figuratively.


  • Frequency response: 20 Hz to 20,000 Hz
  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • Switchable attenuation pad
  • Supports up to 155 decibels of SPL
  • Made of robust metal materials

If you value simplicity and power in your microphones, AKG’s Perception 170 is a perfect fit for you.

This microphone offers pristinely clear sonic performance, a robust metal casing, and switchable attenuation that makes it suitable for recording all genres of music on your hi-hat cymbals.

Weighing only 4.5 ounces, it’s one of the lightest microphones on the list, which wasn’t something I was expecting from a full-metal mic.

Its frequency response is average, but its SPL rating is all but; the selectable attenuation levels enable you to switch between low and high outputs with a click of a button.

This is especially handy for rock and metal drummers that need to shift to “quieter” playing during acoustic sections.

What I loved about this microphone the most is the combination of its easy-to-use, easy-to-set benefits, which makes it perfect for both beginners and seasoned veterans.


  • One of the sturdiest microphones on the list
  • Surprisingly lightweight construction
  • Selectable attenuation
  • Outstanding versatility


  • Only works with XLR cables

3. Shure SM81-LC Cardioid Condenser Instrument Microphone

Shure SM81-LC

This cardioid condenser instrument microphone offers a wide frequency response and low self-noise. 

Why We Love It:
  • A true microphone powerhouse
  • Superior sound quality
  • Low noise clipping
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05/29/2023 02:02 pm GMT

Shure has been reshaping the industry standards of quality for almost a century.

This American company specializes in manufacturing top-of-the-line microphones and SM81-LC represents it well.

It’s a cardioid condenser microphone designed for professionals.


  • Frequency response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Maximum SPL up to 136 decibels
  • Selectable low-freq roll-off and response
  • Up to 10-decibel attenuator switch
  • Made of premium quality steel materials
  • Comes with a steel case

Shure SM81-LC is a powerhouse of a microphone that is leagues above contemporary alternatives when it comes to miking hi-hat cymbals.

Its uncolored sonic signature vividly captures the sounds the cymbals are making, while the broad frequency response range ensures you’ll hear every detail in your recordings.

Even though it is marketed as an instrument microphone, it’s perfect for drum cymbals because of its high-output clipping power.

This means that no matter how loud your hi-hats are pounded, minimal distortion if any at all, will be introduced to the mix.

Like Audio-Technica’s AT2021, SM81-LC is a cardioid condenser hi-hat mic; the main difference is the latter’s design.

Shure’s SM81-LC is much taller and is compatible with a wider range of accessories, which allows you to customize its performance and adapt to different situations.

It’s one of the best hi-hat mics for gigs, recording in a studio, and even recording at home.

Even if there’s a lot of ambient hum and your bandmates are blasting at full power in front of you, this microphone will lock into the sounds attacking its head exclusively.

In terms of construction, Shure’s SM81-LC is made of the finest steel materials and was designed to last for years.

There aren’t many drawbacks worth mentioning aside from the hefty price tag. SM81-LC is the most expensive model on this list, but if you’re looking for a dependable high-performance microphone, look no further than this model.


  • Superior sound quality
  • Flat sonic signature
  • Selectable frequency response
  • Low noise clipping
  • No harmonic distortion at louder volumes
  • Remarkably sensitive and controllable


  • Very expensive
  • Requires a balanced XLR cable

4. Nady CM-88 Condenser Microphone

Nady CM-88 Condenser Microphone

The Nady CM-88 Condenser Microphone is a back electret microphone designed for cymbals of all types, reeds, acoustic guitars, piano, and vocals.

Why We Love It:
  • Highly affordable
  • Lightweight and decently durable
  • Sleek design
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05/29/2023 02:12 pm GMT

Nady’s CM-88 is almost a decade old, yet it remains a staple hi-hat mic for drummers on a cash-strapped budget.

It’s a sleek, lightweight microphone that can tolerate high noise levels and sound pressure, albeit its frequency range may not be the best.

Still, if you’re after a good-performing low-end microphone, CM-88 is the way to go.


  • Frequency response: 50 Hz to 18 kHz
  • Unidirectional polar pattern
  • Approximately 136 max SPL
  • Made of high-quality aluminum material
  • 3-pin XLR connectors
  • Complementary foam windscreen and microphone clip

Recording drums with entry-level equipment is generally not a good idea.

The price difference gap between low and mid-tier mics may only be a few bucks, so it’s usually a better idea to save up for a quality AT, Shure, AKG, or Beyerdynamic model.

However, I know what it’s like to have a passion for music and pockets too shallow to support it.

Nady’s CM-88 is among the handful of decent microphones that pretty much anyone can afford, so let’s see how it’s different from other budget mics.

First of all, it was specifically designed for use with drum cymbals, especially rides, hi-hats, and crashes.

The extended upper-frequency range minimizes (but does not eliminate audio bleeding) while SM-88’s unidirectional polar pattern takes care of feedback.

Secondly, it’s an excellent microphone for both gigging and recording.

It is portable, lightweight, and remarkably easy to mix. Furthermore, it has a housing made of lightweight aluminum, which boasts a surprisingly high sturdiness.

As with all budget microphones, there are a few things I thought could be improved.

Nady’s CM-88 requires up to 52V of phantom power, but you’ll get the power supply in the box; its frequency range is great when it comes to highs but isn’t as exemplary in its lows and mids.

All things considered, Nady’s CM-88 offers performance and versatility that you won’t find in similarly-priced products.

Aside from drummers on a tight budget, I also recommend CM-88 to touring musicians who can use it as a backup.


  • Highly affordable
  • Lightweight and decently durable
  • Great sound pressure levels
  • Sleek design
  • Gratis foam windscreen and microphone clip


  • Requires an XLR cable
  • Tight frequency response

5. Sennheiser Pro Audio Wireless Microphone SKM 835-XSW-A

Sennheiser Pro Audio SKM 835 835-XSW-A

or a great all-around stage mic, you can't beat the e835. This super dynamic mic's cardioid pickup pattern yields superior feedback and off-axis rejection.

Why We Love It:
  • Light as a feather
  • Auto switches to optimal frequency response
  • Exceptional audio quality
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05/29/2023 02:27 pm GMT

Veteran musicians and audiophiles turn to Sennheiser for their gear, and the brand has consistently delivered upon its promise of quality for over 70 years.

Even though it’s more popular as a headphone maker, Sennheiser’s catalog of recording equipment is comprised of a host of superb microphones.

SKM 835-XSW-A is a top-quality cardioid microphone that boasts a variety of premium technologies, such as fully automatic frequency management, super-reliable wireless connectivity, Evolution capsules, and more.


  • Frequency range: 80 Hz to 16 kHz
  • Eight frequency banks controlled by Auto Frequency Management tech
  • Cardioid pickups
  • Up to 103 decibels of SPL
  • NT 12-5 CW power supply
  • MZQ 1 microphone clamp
  • SKM 825-XSW handheld transmitter
  • Wireless connectivity

So far, I talked about “plug n’ play” microphones that you could simply install next to a hi-hat cymbal and rock on.

Sennheiser’s SKM 835-XSW-A is different in that you can customize virtually all aspects of its performance.

Its unparalleled versatility is the main reason why I recommend it to professionals.

The first thing I’d like to mention is that SKM 835-XSW-A does not have a “set” frequency range.

It sports eight frequency banks, all of which feature 10 preset channels.

These frequency banks have vastly different frequency ranges, which you can switch manually or let the Automatic Frequency Management technology do it for you.

As opposed to more traditional microphones, Sennheiser’s SKM 835-XSW-A sports a customizable audio adjustment range of up to 45 decibels (in increments of 5 decibels).

Instead of performing tweaks on your laptop and possibly pacing back and forth whenever a change needs to be made, you can simply use this feature to toggle the output volume.

As far as sound quality is of concern, Sennheiser’s SKM 835-XSW-A has a flat frequency response unblemished by jitter or distortion, even at louder volumes.

Another thing I should mention is that this is a wireless microphone bundle; aside from the SKM 835-XSW-A microphone, you will also receive an NT 12-5 CW power supply, MZQ 1 microphone clamp, and the SKM 825-XSW handheld transmitter.

The microphone boasts 10 hours of operating time per battery charge.

The only downside of this microphone is that you’ll need a bit more time to set it up, especially if you decide to manually switch between preset


  • Wireless microphone and transmitter
  • Light as a feather
  • Automatically switches to optimal frequency response
  • Offers up to 10 hours of operating time per charge
  • Fully adjustable audio range in increments of 5 decibels
  • Exceptional audio quality


  • Slightly more complex to use
  • Takes longer to setup


How do you stop a hi-hat from bleeding?

There are many ways to manually remove hi-hat audio bleeding, such as ramping up a highpass filter or positioning your microphones a bit differently.

The easiest way is to use cardioid mics since they only pick up the sounds directly in front of them.

What is the best hi-hat mic for beginner drummers?

If you aren’t too familiar with the technicalities of recording drums, you may want to consider a simpler microphone model; in the case of this list, everything except Sennheiser’s SKM 835-XSW-A fits the bill.


The best hi-hat mics are the ones that can aid your recording progress.

It may sound simple, but certain microphones are difficult to integrate into a recording session because they’re not suitable for your specific gear or drumming style.

If you’re keen on banging your drums loud, you’ll need a microphone with a high SPL rating.

In contrast, gentler drummers may need a mic with an extended frequency range that can pick up on mid and mid-high frequencies as well.

I hope my best hi-hat mic list has helped you find the perfect microphone for your style and preferences.