Hihat Question

Thanks in advance for your opinion-

My system is:

Anthem Integrated 225

Musical Fidelity Cd as Transport

Schiit Modi Multibit

Technics Sl 1200 mk2

Usher Cp6311

Morrow Cables

I like the system overall, plenty of bass, voices sound realistic, highs are not strident, etc.

As a drummer, I love to hear hihats, cymbals, etc. On some systems in the past I’ve heard more of this than through my setup. Most of these setups have been in the past on equipment I perceive is a lower grade than mine.

My question is: 

Should I be hearing most every hihat strike, close? Is hearing these sounds consistently the sound of a revealing system or a ‘tipped up’ presentation that I would likely tire of?

Live music varies to me in this respect, and the music on my my system varies as well. Unfortunately, I’m not able to demo where I live, so I’m interested in your opinion. Fwiw- I hear all a lot more treble in my automobile, but could be due to the euphoric goal of the manufacturer. I’m in my late 50’s, so that may play a part-

On many jazz albums, it’s all there, others not so much.

Sorry for the one post.

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Another drummer here.  How cymbals are reproduced is also very important to me as part of a system's performance.  I can't listen to a system where cymbals are highlighted, distorted, or muted.  Of course this is heavily recording dependent, so I'll just mention a couple recordings I've used in the past to help me assess whether a system is getting cymbals right -- at least for my tastes.

One is Patricia Barber's "Companion."  It's a live recording at the Green Mill in Chicago, which is an intimate bar setting where I saw her play with her band.  The drums are well recorded so you can clearly locate them in space on stage, and they are of appropriate size as opposed to some recordings where the drums span the entire width of my room.  The cymbals are really well recorded and are situated in their proper positions in the context of the set.  The drums are set back behind the speakers a bit and toward the right side, which is where they were located when I saw them play.  The cymbals sound very clear, distinct, and dynamic.  As a drummer you'll just know it sounds right.

Another recording I've used is Keb' Mo's "Slow Down."  This is a good studio recording where the drums and cymbals sound bigger and more explosive.  Here the drums are in the center rear of the soundstage and sound slightly raised to me.  Crashes are very dynamic, but you can still hear the tone and various weights of the cymbals. 

I mention these recordings because they're readily available if you don't already have them, the music is good, and since you can't get out and demo you might be able to use them as a benchmark of sorts.  If the cymbals sound real and right to you (and certainly not muted) in these recordings then your system is fine IMHO and the other systems are likely emphasizing and/or pulling the cymbals unnaturally forward in the mix.  Given your equipment my money's on your system being just fine.  If you think you might still want more detail and bite, I'd play around with some used silver interconnects like Acoustic Zen Silver Reference or something similar since they're so easy and inexpensive to send through the mail.  Hope this helps. 
I can hear ya...as a crappy bass player, live sound guy and mobile recording idiot without savant...
and you have some superb advice above...
linking back to a reference you know and trust well will keep you from chasing your tail...
hoping Eric Jerde posts here, he plays and has a great ear, some of his references would be valuable...
me ?
i have a nice Sangiovese open, Levon Helm playing on The Last Waltz... some really nice work there....
And the Acoustic Zen are very hard to beat without spending crazy ( as some would even say essential) money $$$$$$
Thanks everybody. I’ll check those recordings out in the next few days. 

The Patricia Barber (A Fortnight in France) disc I own sounds great, drums and all.

I’ll gut check my speaker positioning and listening distance as well to insure I’m not sacrificing treble detail for bass, etc.

Also, I have some various cables to experiment with, nothing exotic, but at least different.

Thanks again for your thoughtful comments and guidance.

Kind regards-
You need a great tube preamp with the right tube. Anthem is good but the hihat will be buried in most mixes because most pop/rock producers feel that a hi-hat is an irritant. Jazz, reggae, funk and disco will have more hi-hat because it fits those genres well.

I am a drummer and I use a McIntosh C2600 with a 12AX7 RCA Long Black Plate from about 1957 in the line stage. This particular tube has the magic you need. I can hear hi-hat detail on everything with this setup.

The hi-hat tends to get buried in rock and pop as there is a lot going on in the mid range with vocals and a couple of guitars. Stuart Copeland’s work with The Police is a rare example where the hi-hat isn’t buried.

The trick with a tube is that it adds harmonics. The hi-hat overtones like most cymbals are not related to the fundamental (they don’t have a pitch or tone). The tube if chosen correctly will add a bit of harmonic overtones to the hi-hat. It is amazing but your ear will hear the fundamental more clearly when you get just a little extra harmonic overtones.

I probably shouldn’t share this trick - it was like a trade secret of Doug Sax at Sheffield Labs. Listen to his remaster of Toys in the Attic and compare it to the original! Doug’s brother built his tube preamplifier.
i can hear the beginings of the AFB..audiogon forum band...

I call dibs on the board...probably have to fight ieales for it...
maybe I can just be the roadie..ha
My Infinity Monitors with Walsh tweeters sounded astonishingly real with cymbals and high hats! Same for my Walsh Sound Cylinders!

Can’t swing a dead cat around here without hitting a drummer....(another drummer here).

I too faced the same issue as you. I wanted more detail and was struggling to obtain it from my Vandersteen 2ce Sig II’s. The answer for me was to change speaker.

I auditioned Paradigm 75F (too bright and boomy at the same time); Focal 936 (very warm but where’s the detail?; Tekton Electron (slightly more detailed than the Vandersteen but had other issues for me); Triton One (again boomy, sounded like it would be a good home theatre speaker), and a few others that escape me at the moment.

Ultimately I settled on the Kef R7. Plently of detail. Perhaps slightly recessed in the mid-range. I find it to be a very forgiving speaker. I now have access to Rush and Journey recordings which I could never play on the Vandersteens.

I believe the vast majority of sound you hear is influenced by your choice of speaker. You can play around on the margins with different cables and amps; but in the end it’s hard to make up for a speaker that lacks the qualities you're looking for.



I understand, one of my previous speakers were Vandersteen 2 sigs, and my experience seems similar. I also agree, in my system anyway, speakers make the biggest difference. 

Thanks for the feedback on the other models and your findings, I wondered about one of them in particular.

Good to know you can get the detail you want with the Kef and still consider them forgiving. Some of the popular vintage speakers I’ve owned had stronger highs, but that came with an irritating upper midrange to my ears. May be my hearing, my buddy never noticed the issues, and bought most of them.

Roberjerman, I have some Walsh ll I can rotate through, thanks for the feedback.

Shadorne, thanks for the tip, I own some 10 wpc tube monos I can try out to see if it helps any- but they are not up to grade of gear you suggest. 

Tomic601, I better bow out of the drummers role now, especially after hearing Patricia Barber’s drummer for a few minutes last night. I can help haul gear...
Dude, how about the tone controls on your integrated??
One quick test you should do is sit about 1-2 feet away from your speakers. Can you hear the balance improve?

If the answer is yes, then you need better room acoustics. If the answer is no, then your speakers to source are to blame.
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Many of my past components had no tone controls, so I’m in the habit of bypassing them on the Anthem. However, when I dial up the treble on the integrated, it still falls short, to my ears-

I can hear it ‘all’ when I am close to the speaker. My room may very well be the issue. It’s a very open floor plan. Kitchen, foyer, and dining room adjoin my listening area.

Good joke! I’d be very skinny if I had to drum for a living!

See also:

What's the difference between a drummer and a pizza?
A pizza will feed a family of four.

How do you make a drummer's car more aerodynamic?
Take the pizza sign off the roof.

What has 3 legs and an asshole?
A drum stool.

Sorry to go OT. @viridian started it!!!

I rarely use my Schiit Loki but it's there when I need it, and one thing it does amazingly well is provide a "cymbal" boost with its 8khz pot. On some fave LPs from the 70s there can be some reticence in the high end and the Loki instantly fixes that issue. One beef I've had for years, especially with some fave jazz trios, is the drums are mixed at too low a level (I mix live shows, and for many jazzers it's somehow accepted to not mic live drums at all in cases where everything else is miked, even though recordings by that same group may have hotter drums), and the ridiculous drum mixing choices of recording producers and engineers who think it's "cute" or something to stick some parts of the kit to the far left or right for some sort of stereo feel...resulting in what appears to be a 37 foot wide kit played by a very long armed drummer, or "hey...let's get a guy at the far wall to play that cymbal." Sticking the drum kit in a proper spot in the soundstage always sounds better than otherwise...John Atkinson (I think) made some comment about how he puts a cymbal or some other part of the kit way outside the drum soundstage image because he can, but he shouldn't. Ever.
not hucking a broken stick, but I saw some interesting settings on the mid and tweeter level controls in the Vandersteen for sales of late.....
IF they sound right in the near field, then IT is the room, not front end components.
BTW, rush is unlistenable on my TREO CT here in the condo, the carbon tweeter is quite revealing....but I normally take exception to most Rush mixes..there are some where they discover the bass amp has a volume control...but not many...ha. Before ya whack me with the kick drum, I have like 12 Rush albums...perhaps you can recommend a reference analog there ?

sometimes stuff only sounds right on whatever monitor was sued in the mastering process, chasing that will lead to endless frustration..
and I can assure you, certain high end ultra purity speaker and amp designers I talk to are VERY aware of this issue...rumor has it the Vandersteen preamp will have..wait for it.....tone controls...., defeatable and inaudible when not needed, useful as others have pointed out, when we are fixing stuff, in the mix, shall we say...
So, where's @bdp24? 
I think the idea of very near field listening to ascertain what your room is doing is a good one. You might buy Jim Smith's book Get Better Sound, which has all kinds of ideas about set up that don't cost money. Positioning in the room is pretty critical.
For me (not a drummer, a keyboard player), much has to do with the source material. Those jazz recordings that often sound great are typically less cluttered and more simply recorded.
I think there's a temptation to 'buy more gear, wire, etc.' as a solution in the never ending quest. I'd start with the room, and positioning (not treatment as such, which you can get to later to the extent needed). 

Thanks for all the great feedback.

I have more than enough bass as is, so I’ll see if some changes in positioning will help me with the highs. 

If if I can gain a little more in the treble region I’ll be happy. Overall, I enjoy my system, so hopefully some adjustments will get me there. 

I appreciate your comments and opinions. Have a great weekend.

As a drummer, for over 45 years when demoing audio systems I always have listened how the cymbals sound. I used to own the usher cp6381’s which were very good especially for the money. If you want to hear a true cymbal sound, go listen to the usher diamond DMD tweeters in their top of the line speakers. I went from the 6381’s to the Mini Dancer ii’s Then to the X-Towers. I have driven them with tubes and solid state, it doesn’t matter. You will see a big improvement in sound going to an usher speaker with the DMD tweeters
I can hear it ‘all’ when I am close to the speaker. My room may very well be the issue. It’s a very open floor plan. Kitchen, foyer, and dining room adjoin my listening area.

I strongly recommend you talk to GIK if you can improve the room acoustics.

If you cannot, then you need to find speakers with more controlled dispersion. Horns, ESLs, line arrays and wide baffle speakers may work much better for you given your room characteristics.


@uncledemp, is it what's on the recording you want to hear, or is it "hearing every hihat stroke, close", even if that is not what is contained in the recording? Hihat cymbals are recorded in a few different ways, or even not at all. John Bonham's drums and cymbals were recorded with no close mics; do you want his cymbals to sound "close"? Boost the highs.

I've had hihats recorded mostly via close-micing with a small diaphram condenser mic; sometimes the same mic as the two overheads, sometimes different. And with no mic at all, the bleed from the snare mic capturing enough of the hihat sound.

And then there is the mix. Different engineers and producers prefer different drumset/cymbal/hihat balances, so why would you expect all recordings to have the same hihat sound on your hi-fi? They not only don't, they shouldn't. If they do, something is very wrong.

Search out recordings known for their lifelike drum sound. I recommend any of the early Sheffield Labs direct-to-disc LP's. Jim Keltner and Ron Tutt have great sounding A. Zildjian cymbals, and a speaker with good high end will make them sound as they do in person. Go to a drum shop and listen to some, to get a reference.

Hi Uncledemp

The answer is Tunable Speakers, Tunable Room and Tunable System.



What I do is tune my systems (per recording if wanted) to bring out any particulars on the recording.

Michael Green


I’m fine hearing the music as it was recorded/mastered. My integrated has tone controls, but I utilize the bypass mode.

I was given some music suggestions earlier in the thread to use as a guide. Hopefully, I’ll listen to some of them today. 

Many recordings sound great, and overall I’m happy. I was just curious to ask other’s opinions. Much of the feedback mirrored yours regarding what I should hear.

When positioning my speakers initially, I remember the speakers having a little too much bite in one area of the room - hopefully I can adjust position and maximize my speakers balance.

Thanks for the reply-

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Folks are missing the point.

You need a good tube preamp not a good recording or a treble heavy speaker.

All the suggestions here to raise the treble will just ruin the balance of the overall musical presentation. Most hi-hat sound is 2-3KHz - treble will only add shimmer.

A good well selected tube preamp will add some harmonics to the 2-3KHz range and allow you to better hear the hi-hat. Our hearing uses both fundamental tones and harmonics. Amazingly our ears can work out the fundamental even if it is totally absent provided the harmonics are audible enough!!! Hi-hat has little in the way of natural harmonics - a judicious choice of tube will add the necessary touch.

(The use of tubes in this manner was Doug Sax secret sauce in the Mastering Lab - it is the main reason why his masters seem to extract so much more sound than his competitors ever did)
Thanks again.

I fine tuned my positioning and adjusted the speaker rake a bit. I sit low on a modern style sofa, so that adjustment helped. 

I’m happy with the sound now, especially after reading these posts and getting a sense of how recordings differ. I listened to your suggested music and am pleased with how it sounds.

I’ll keep the tube preamp suggestion in mind as well as Usher’s DMD speakers in the future if the upgrade bug bites.



I have a Furman conditioner and use after market power cords- some are Pangea.

Thanks for the Kimber suggestion, I’ll keep it in mind going forward.


That's great news Gary! Here's what I tell & show my clients. It's all there, just have to find a method of fine tuning that works for you.

have fun

Michael Green

Hey Gary, have you ever heard the original JBL L-100 loudspeakers? They sound very much like the Shure SM-57 mic that a lot of the snare drums (and therefore hihats, to some degree) you hear on albums were recorded with. A nice, big fat presence peak built in that accentuates the frequencies right were cymbals reside. You might like them. I don't know if the new L-100 reissue retains that peak.
Who’s your drumming inspiration, your favorite drummer?
It’s not just the hi hat, it’s all the cymbals. In 78’ I purchased a pair of ess speakers with the heil air transformer because of their clarity. The heil air transformer is still being used in many speakers today. I’m listening to some old Kansas right now and you can pick out what cymbal is playing and what type/size it is. 
‘Watch out for cheap power cords/conditioners, they can do more harm than good. I had the power company put a whole house surge protector on the outside meter. Since then I plug my PS Audio BHK amp directly into a dedicated 20amp circuit. Before buying a Pangea power cable, do a in-house comparison with a good quality cable and there is a big difference. Pangea was a little bit better than the stock cable and it’s cheap. If you have many thousands invested in good quality equipment, get better power cables and power conditioners/transformers like the newer AQ Niagra series or the PS Audio Pxx products.
Bdp24- I have not heard them, but see them around infrequently for sale. I owned some 4312’s a few years back. Are they similar? 

Rbstehno- I agree, it is all cymbals. Your remarks encouraged me to put on some Kansas, I always enjoyed his drumming. There is a video of Kansas performing Down the Road for a soundcheck in the last few years, it’s awesome if you haven’t seen it. Thanks for your remarks on components, wiring as well.
M-db- I was inspired by my neighbor, Al, he played drums.

His extended family was in the music promotion business. They booked The Allman Brothers, and many acts of that caliber in the 70’s. He ended up with hundreds of promo albums, got concert tickets, etc.

He is two years older than me and he and his brothers and sisters are like family.

Al got me into Hifi as well. His was the first real stereo I heard, and have been hooked since then. My first concert tee shirt was probably a hand me down from him. We had many good times for sure.

I moved away and we grew apart. He’s in his last days now due to cancer. Saw him recently and told him I loved him- he told me I was a brother to him. 

Sorry everybody, my emotions overtook me. I should call him today.
I've had best results dropping noise floor down as much as possible. Routing cables so no crosstalk, but I would invest in a nice passive power conditioner. I've had good luck with Running Springs but they are no longer around. PI Audio Uber Buss is best bang for buck, they will easily beat out RS Hayley. It will let you hear the cymbal, you can tell if ride is being played with nylon or wood tip stick, tell the difference between an A or K cymbal, give you that natural shimmer sustain you are looking for, the buzz of loose snare wires. Call PI Audio the owner is a drummer and knows exactly what your looking for, he can add extra parts to achieve what ever you want. To me very low noise floor is key to 2 channel, without it everything gets stepped on.
God bless you and Al
music is emotion
memory is emotion :-) stay in tune with his many inspirations to you, he changed your life


Thanks, I’ll check my cables. I appreciate to info on conditioners as well.

tomic601- Thanks for the kind words, I will.

If you are considering looking at power, Is your gear plugged into a contractor grade outlet. If so buy a $10- $25 hospital grade outlets. Try a Pass Seymour, they have a clear sound, nice with cymbals. In my system Hubble is warmer to me. You can't go wrong with either. I've found if a tambourine has realistic body and crunch and projects in the stage everything is going to be okay in the hi hat, cymbal department. Get a black background and good interconnects and you should be good.

Thanks for the info on outlets.