Need to capture drums? We’re looking at the best microphones for drum recording in different environments. We’ll discuss the basics, and check out some of the tools best suited for the job.
If you’re lucky enough to have a space where you can record drums on an uninterrupted basis, it helps to know which mics will suit the approach you’d like to take.
Which are the best microphones for drum recording?
Before even having a set of well-tuned drums, the drummer is by far the most important part of getting a good drum sound. The ability to strike the skins correctly and articulate dynamics in a recording environment, should never be taken for granted.
Without great drummers like Dave Grohl and Josh Freese, many of the records that we love could not have been made in quite the same way. So get this right before you consider your room, drum kit, and microphone techniques.
If you’re confronted with a less-than-ideal recording space, do what you can to dampen the drums. Meanwhile, using absorbers and diffusers will help you control the room’s reflectivity.
In extreme cases, close miking could be the only solution for capturing a pro drum sound. So keep the music production process in mind, and try to think of the space you’d like your drums to occupy in your mix.
The SM57 is one of the most utilitarian recording tools ever produced, with the ability to get great results on practically any source. It’s been the industry standard snare drum mic for decades and also does extremely well on bongos, congas, and other percussion instruments.
Because it’s a low-output mic, you can get extremely close even on loud sources, which also makes it easy to gate any noise or unwanted reflections. The 57 is known for its detailed midrange and pleasing high-frequency reproduction, and will easily stick out the mix without too much processing.
- More from Shure
The MD-421 is renowned as the go-to tom mic, and the original version is still sought after today. Depending on what you’re after, you can get a great drum sound with close miking or pulling the mics back slightly and letting your preamp transformers earn their keep.
The 421 is an extremely versatile mic that you can also use to capture speech, amp cabinets, brass instruments, and many other types of sources.
- More from Sennheiser
Although mostly known as a broadcast and vocal mic, the RE20 has fantastic off-axis cancellation, and its frequency range makes it a really great choice as a kick drum microphone.
Once again, the advantage of low-output mics means you can get close and capture a nice round sound with plenty of punch and clarity, without having to do too much post-production afterwards.
- More from Electro-Voice
If you only have one mic to capture an entire kit, the M160 is an excellent choice. Its double ribbon design allows you to naturally blend the transients with the ambience in a uniquely pleasing way, especially when compression is added.
The M160 reached legendary status, as the mic that captured the iconic John Bonham drum sound during the recording of Led Zepellin IV at Headley Grange in Hampshire, UK.
Whether you use the M160 in a mono or stereo configuration, wearing headphones while carrying the mic around the room will help you discover the ideal position for your recording.
- More from beyerdynamic
Stereophonic overhead miking is an art form on its own. So if you don’t have much space or budget to work with, you might want to try an XY technique with a pair of small-diaphragm mics. However, if you do have more ambience to capture, a large-diaphragm mic like the AKG C214 can do wonders in wider overhead configurations.
The C214 uses the 1-inch gold-coated double diaphragm capsule based on the classic design AKG is famous for. With rich detail across the frequency spectrum and smooth high frequencies, you’ll be able to capture drums, percussion, acoustic guitar, vocal groups, and instrumental ensembles.
- More from AKG
More about the best microphones for drum recording:
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- Shure SM57.: Shure
- Sennheiser MD412-II: Sennheiser
- Electro-Voice RE20.: Electro-Voice
- Beyerdynamic M160.: beyerdynamic
- AKG C214.: AKG C214