When it comes to recording drums, one of the most critical components is the overhead microphone setup. Overhead drum microphones are used to capture the sound of the entire drum kit, and they play a crucial role in shaping the overall tone and quality of the recording. Without a good overhead microphone setup, it’s nearly impossible to capture the full range of frequencies and nuances that make drums sound great.
Fortunately, there are many high-quality overhead drum microphones available on the market today. In this article, we’ll provide a brief overview of the five best overhead drum microphones for recording. We’ve selected these microphones based on their performance, durability, and overall value, so you can be sure that any of them will be a great addition to your recording arsenal.
Whether you’re a professional sound engineer, a serious home studio enthusiast, or just starting, having a great overhead drum microphone setup is essential if you want to get the best possible drum sound in your recordings. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the top five overhead drum microphones for recording.
Overhead Microphone for Recording Drums
Starting with our first recommendation, we have the AKG C214. It is a great all-around microphone that is versatile enough to be used for a variety of recording applications, including overhead drums. Based on the design of the popular C414 XLII, the C214 delivers a beautifully detailed recording of lead vocals and solo instruments. It features an outstanding dynamic range and ultra-low noise, making it ideal for close-up recording of high-output sources of up to 156 dB SPL. The C214 also has a switchable 20dB attenuator and bass-cut filter, which are perfect for close-up recording and reducing proximity effects.
One of the standout features of the C214 is its integrated suspension system, which helps to reduce mechanical noise and vibration from the stage. This makes it an excellent choice for use in live settings as well as in the studio. Overall, the AKG C214 is a great option for those who want a high-quality, versatile overhead drum microphone at a reasonable price.
The AKG C214 is a versatile and reliable overhead drum microphone that offers excellent performance and value. Its ability to handle high SPLs and its integrated suspension system make it a great choice for both live and studio recording applications.
Sennheiser MKH 50 P48
Moving on with our second recommendation, the Sennheiser MKH 50 P48, is a pressure gradient microphone with a super-cardioid pickup pattern that offers excellent rejection of lateral sounds. This makes it an excellent choice for overhead drums, as it can effectively capture the sound of the drums without picking up too much bleed from other instruments. The MKH 50 P48 also features constant directivity over the whole frequency range, which ensures that the sound is consistent and balanced.
Another standout feature of the MKH 50 P48 is its exceptionally low inherent self-noise, which means that it is incredibly quiet and won’t add any unwanted noise to your recordings. Additionally, it has high sensitivity, making it suitable for use in both quiet and loud environments.
The Sennheiser MKH 50 P48 is an outstanding overhead drum microphone that offers excellent rejection of lateral sounds, constant directivity, and exceptionally low self-noises. Its sensitivity and super-cardioid pickup pattern make it a great choice for capturing the sound of drums in both quiet and loud environments.
The Audio-Technica AT4047/SV is a versatile microphone that is designed for critical studio, live sound, and broadcast applications. Its transformer-coupled output and specially tuned element provide sonic characteristics reminiscent of early F.E.T. studio microphone designs, making it an excellent choice for capturing the sound of drums.
The AT4047/SV has an exceptionally low self-noise, wide dynamic range, and high SPL capability, which makes it suitable for use in a variety of different environments. Its dual-diaphragm capsule design maintains precise polar pattern definition across the full frequency range of the microphone, ensuring that the sound is accurate and well-defined. Additionally, its precision-machined, nickel-plated brass acoustic element baffle provides enhanced element stability and optimal sensitivity.
All-in-all, the Audio-Technica AT4047/SV is a versatile and reliable overhead drum microphone that offers exceptional performance and sonic characteristics reminiscent of early F.E.T. studio microphone designs. Its dual-diaphragm capsule design and wide dynamic range make it a great choice for capturing the sound of drums in a variety of different environments.
Blue Baby Bottle SL
The Blue Baby Bottle SL is a pressure-gradient cardioid condenser microphone that is designed to deliver classic sound and incredible versatility. With its warm, classic sonic signature that flatters an array of voices and instruments, it is a great choice for capturing the sound of drums.
Also, it features a high-pass filter and a -20 dB pad, making it versatile and suitable for use in a variety of different settings. It excels at adding a rich, classic vibe to nearly any sound source, including vocals, drums, electric guitar amps, and even difficult brass instruments like saxophones and horns. Its high output and richly detailed frequency response make it ideal for capturing the subtle nuances and details of the drum sound.
The Blue Baby Bottle SL is a versatile and reliable overhead drum microphone that offers a warm, classic sonic signature and a richly detailed frequency response. Its high-pass filter and -20 dB pad make it a versatile option that can add a rich, classic vibe to nearly any sound source. Its high output and detailed frequency response make it an excellent choice for capturing the sound of drums in a variety of different settings.
Soyuz 013 FET Stereo Pair
For our final recommendation, we have the Soyuz 013 FET Stereo Pair. It is a high-quality set of overhead drum microphones that are handcrafted in Russia. These microphones are designed with 25mm gold-sputtered diaphragm capsules that are proprietary and designed in-house. The polar pattern of this microphone is cardioid, but interchangeable capsules are available in Omni and hyper-cardioid patterns.
It also features a proprietary toroidal transformer, screw-in 10dB pads, and microphone clips. These microphones come in a handcrafted Russian hardwood box, which adds to their overall aesthetic appeal.
The frequency response of this microphone is 20 Hz–20 kHz, with a sensitivity of 20 mV/Pa and an impedance of 150 ohms. They can handle SPLs up to 143 dB, and their equivalent noise level is 16 dB (A-weighted). These microphones require 48-volt phantom power.
Overall, the Soyuz 013 FET Stereo Pair is a high-quality set of overhead drum microphones that offers excellent performance and a unique aesthetic. Their handcrafted Russian hardwood box and proprietary toroidal transformer set them apart from other microphones on the market. Their interchangeable capsules and screw-in 10-dB pads make them versatile and suitable for use in a variety of different settings.
Guide to Best Overhead Drum Microphones for Recording
- Polar Pattern
The polar pattern of a microphone determines how it picks up sound from different directions. For overhead drum microphones, a cardioid or super-cardioid pattern is usually preferred, as it allows the microphone to focus on the drum kit while minimizing bleed from other instruments.
- Frequency Response
The frequency response of a microphone refers to how it responds to different frequencies of sound. For an overhead drum microphone, a flat response is usually preferred, as it accurately captures the full range of the drum kit without exaggerating any particular frequencies.
Sensitivity refers to how responsive a microphone is to sound. For an overhead drum microphone, high sensitivity is usually preferred, as it allows the microphone to pick up subtle nuances in the drummer’s playing.
Overhead drum microphones need to be able to withstand the rigors of live performance and regular use in the studio. Look for microphones that are built with sturdy materials and have features like shock mounts to minimize the risk of damage.
Overhead drum microphones can range in price from under $100 to over $1,000. Consider how much you’re willing to spend and what features are most important to you.
- Brand Reputation
When shopping for an overhead drum microphone, it’s important to consider the reputation of the brand you’re buying from. Look for brands with a history of producing high-quality microphones that are trusted by professionals in the industry.
How many overhead microphones does a drum have?
A typical drum kit can have varying numbers of overhead microphones, depending on the specific setup and the preferences of the drummer or sound engineer. In general, overhead microphones are used to capture the overall sound of the drum kit from above, typically positioned above the drummer’s head or suspended over the drum set.
A common setup for overhead microphones in a standard drum kit includes two microphones, often referred to as a “stereo pair”, which are typically positioned in an XY or ORTF configuration. These two microphones capture the overall stereo image of the drum kit, including the cymbals, toms, and snare drum.
However, some drummers or sound engineers may choose to use more than two overhead microphones to capture different aspects of the drum kit’s sound. For example, additional microphones may be used to capture specific cymbals or toms or to provide additional options for mixing and processing the drum sound during post-production.
How Should Overhead Microphones be Optimally Placed in Small Recording Spaces?
When positioning overhead microphones in a small room to capture the best possible sound from a drum kit, careful consideration of factors such as stereo technique, height, distance, and angles is crucial. In a small room, an XY configuration, where two microphones are placed close to each other at a 90-degree angle, is commonly used for stereo imaging, while an ORTF configuration, with two microphones spaced apart at a specific angle, can also work well.
Height-wise, overhead microphones are usually positioned around 3 to 5 feet above the cymbals, but this may need to be adjusted based on the room size and desired sound. In a small room, microphones may need to be positioned relatively close to the drum kit to minimize the impact of room acoustics. Experimentation with angles can also help to capture the best sound, with microphones angled to capture the desired balance between cymbals and drums.
Finding the optimal positioning for overhead microphones in a small room may require some trial and error, taking into account the specific room acoustics, drum kit setup, and desired sound.
What microphone type do you use for overhead drums?
Condenser microphones are commonly used for overhead drum miking due to their sensitivity and accuracy. Small-diaphragm condenser microphones are ideal for capturing cymbals and high-frequency detail. Ribbon microphones are less common due to their delicate nature, and dynamic microphones can be suitable for certain situations. The choice of microphone type depends on the desired sound, budget, and recording environment. Experimentation with different microphone types can help achieve the desired results in overhead drum miking
Do overhead microphones need to be matched?
Matching overhead microphones is not strictly necessary, but can be beneficial for stereo microphone techniques like XY or ORTF. Matched microphones have similar characteristics for balanced stereo imaging. However, using different microphones requires careful consideration of their specifications to avoid potential issues. The decision to match the overhead microphones depends on the recording situation and desired sound, with experimentation and careful listening as key factors.
What should I keep in mind when wrapping up a recording session?
When wrapping up a recording session, remember to save and backup files, power off equipment, organize the recording space, and communicate with the team. Properly wrapping up a session ensures smooth post-production and equipment safety.