• May 28, 2024, 4:41 pm

The best drum mics for 2023 SoftAIT

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Update : Thursday, November 9, 2023

 

Best drum mics Few instruments in live and recorded music have the power to convey such an immediately broad emotional, dynamic, and textural range as drums and percussion. While there are many different ways to mic up a drum kit depending on the setting and purpose, starting with the right collection of drum mics is the key to faithfully capturing and translating the sound of this all-important rhythm instrument. In this roundup, we’ll cover the best single drum mic for recording an entire kit as well as the best microphones for capturing specific components like kick, snare, and cymbals. While this isn’t meant to be an exhaustive list, we aimed to include all the best drum mics for a broad range of genres and uses.

How we chose the best drum mics

As is the case in most artistic endeavors, there’s no objectively “best” tool for a job. We’ve assembled this list accordingly, selecting the most versatile microphones for each use case and opting for products that can also be used on other musical instruments. We also placed great emphasis on brand reputation when compiling this list and chose a mixture of longstanding products like the Shure SM57, and more evolved designs like the AKG D12VR. This article was written from a perspective primarily rooted in studio recording, but most of the microphones on this list will also work very well in live applications.

The best drum mics: Reviews & Recommendations

If you’re looking to buy a microphone, it’s important to consider the context in which it’ll be used. Are you primarily recording, running live sound, or a mix of both? For studio recording, a wide range of drum mic designs can be used due to the acoustically controlled nature of the space. In this context, condenser mics like the AKG C414 XLII or ribbon microphones like the Beyerdynamic M160 are great options. For live use, consider using primarily dynamic microphones due to their focused performance and durability. Many microphones excel in both live and studio contexts, including the Sennheiser e604 and Telefunken M60 FET. It’s never a bad idea to try before you buy, so we’ve compiled our list of buy-worthy best drum mics for you to try.

Best overall: AKG C414 XLII

Why it made the cut: The AKG C414 XLII is a rugged, versatile, and accurate-sounding microphone suitable for recording an entire drum kit or every individual component thereof.

Specs

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, subcardioid, hypercardioid, omni, figure-8
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Weight: 0.66 pounds
  • Maximum SPL: 140 dB (146, 152, or 158 dB with pad)
  • Phantom Powered: Yes
  • Accessories: Case, windscreen, pop filter, shock mount, stand mount

Pros

  • Wide range of sound and recording placement options
  • Sculpted, natural tone suitable for any drum kit, percussion, or instrument
  • One of the most affordable and versatile all-around pro-level studio mics

Cons

If you’re looking for a single mic that accurately captures every component of a drum kit, you’ll have a hard time finding a better option than the AKG C414 XLII. The latest model of a condenser microphone first introduced by AKG in 1971, the C414 XLII has a characteristically mellow and flat frequency response that flatters a wide range of sources from drums and cymbals to vocals and amplifiers. Thanks to its nine switchable polar patterns and three-setting pad, the C414 XLII is particularly suited for experimentation and strategic placement at various points around a drum kit, allowing users to capture balanced and high-quality recordings with a single microphone. While its roughly $1,200 price tag may deter some people, the AKG C414 XLII is so versatile in the studio that it’s worth considering, especially if you want to purchase a single best drum mics that can do it all.

Best for bass drum: AKG D12 VR

AKG D12VR Large-Diaphragm Cardioid Dynamic Kick Drum Mic over a white gradient

Why it made the cut: The AKG D12 VR features a vintage-inspired transformer and three EQ filters that perfectly complement the bass drum in live and studio applications.

Specs

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 17Hz – 17kHz 
  • Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Maximum
  • SPL: 164 dB
  • Phantom Powered: Optional
  • Accessories: N/A

Pros

  • Use with or without phantom power for four distinct sound profiles
  • Built with a resonant chamber and thin capsule for extended bass response
  • Very high SPL of 164 decibels

Cons

Based upon the company’s legendary D12 microphone—a variation of which sat permanently in front of Ringo Starr’s kick drum at Abbey Road Studios—the AKG D12 VR is a unique and versatile vintage-inspired mic that’s built for modern music production. Thanks to its ultra-thin membrane capsule and resonant chamber, the AKG D12 VR’s response reaches an incredibly low 17Hz, allowing for accurate important subharmonic information from kick drums and other low-frequency sources. Unlike most dynamic mics, the D12 VR also features a unique phantom power mode that grants users access to three active EQ filters, each of which further sculpts the microphone’s tone to capture a more production-ready kick sound. While this mic is a bit pricier than its competitors, it’s hands-down the most versatile bass drum mic we’ve tested. If you’re looking for a classic and easy-to-use sound but want to save some coin, the Shure Beta 52A costs about $400 less.

Best for snare drum: Shure SM57

Shure SM57 microphone on a stand in front of a wood wall

Why it made the cut: The venerable Shure SM57 is the music industry’s go-to for snare drum and guitar amps thanks to its distinct presence boost and near-indestructible design.

Specs

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz – 15kHz
  • Weight: 0.63 pounds
  • Maximum SPL: 160 dB
  • Phantom Powered: No
  • Accessories: Mic clip

Pros

  • Great off-axis sound rejection for clean snare sounds
  • Very high SPL and rugged drumstick-resistant design
  • Affordable

Cons

  • Works best in concert with other mics

If you’ve ever been to a live rock concert or listened to a drum recording, you’ve almost certainly heard the sound of a Shure SM57. Lauded for its extreme durability, distinctive high-frequency boost, and affordable price point, the SM57 is a great choice for capturing the lively snap of loud instruments like snare drums both in studios and on stage. Thanks to its narrow shape and cardioid polar pattern, the Shure SM57 has relatively good off-axis sound rejection, allowing it to capture direct sources without much sonic “bleed” from other directions. Because of its nearly indestructible chassis design, the SM57 can also endure errant blows from drumsticks, accidental drops, and even high temperatures and humidity. While this mic is fantastic at capturing quick attack from loud sources, it definitely sounds best when complemented by and combined with other microphones, particularly overheads. If you’re looking for a snare mic that’s even more durable, the similarly-priced Audix i5 is a great option with a more mid-scooped sound.

Best for overheads: Telefunken M60 FET

Telefunken M60 FET Microphone on a stand over a white gradient

 

Why it made the cut: The Telefunken M60 FET is an ideal overhead best drum mics thanks to its very fast transient response and high-frequency lift, which allow for smooth and detailed sound capture.
Specs

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 31.5kHz
  • Weight: 0.26 pounds
  • Maximum SPL: 130 dB
  • Phantom Powered: Yes
  • Accessories: Case, shock mount, windscreen, cable

Pros

  • Punchy and natural sound
  • Small, lightweight mic comes with a case and cable
  • Optional screw-on capsules offer access to omnidirectional and hypercardioid pickup patterns

Cons

The Telefunken M60 FET is a small-diaphragm condenser mic that sounds great on cymbals, percussion, and other harmonically complex sources thanks to its natural sonic profile and precise transient response. It features a flat midrange, an ear-pleasing presence boost at 8 kHz, and a very high SPL limit that allows it to capture dynamic and accurate recordings across the frequency spectrum. When used in a pair, the M60 FET’s screw-on cardioid capsule is perfect for recording in traditional overhead configurations like XY and ORTF, but users can also swap in separately sold hypercardioid and omnidirectional capsules for even more creative options. While many varieties of microphones work for overhead use, small-diaphragm condenser mics like the Telefunken M60 FET excel at capturing the highest frequencies in great detail. If you’re looking for a moodier drum sound with less high-frequency emphasis and slower transients, a ribbon microphone like the Beyerdynamic M160 is a great alternative.

Best for toms: Sennheiser MD421-II

Sennheiser MD421-II microphone over a white gradient

Why it made the cut: The Sennheiser MD421-II is a durable, dynamic mic with an accurate and customizable low-end response that’s perfect for toms.

Specs

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 30Hz – 17kHz 
  • Weight: 0.85 pounds
  • Maximum SPL: 160 dB
  • Phantom Powered: No
  • Accessories: Mic clip

Pros

  • Durable construction and high SPL limit
  • Internal tubes allow for accurate bass reproduction
  • 5-position low-cut for fine-tuning sounds

Cons

Pairing rugged SPL handling and durable construction with fantastic low-end accuracy, the Sennheiser MD421-II is favored in studios everywhere for recording toms, guitar amps, and kick drum. The microphone’s internal construction features a series of internal tubes to aid with bass reproduction, aided further by a 5-way bass rolloff switch that allows engineers to fine-tune the mic’s sound to their liking. While the MD421 is a bit large owing to its aforementioned internal bass tubes, its impact-resistant glass composite housing and stainless steel mesh ensure it won’t be put out of commission if it’s accidentally hit. If you’re looking to buy a tom mic that’s smaller and more suited for live use, the clip-on Sennheiser e604 is a very good alternative that also happens to cost a fair bit less.

Best for versatility: Beyerdynamic M201

Beyerdynamic M201 dynamic microphone over a white gradient

 

Why it made the cut: The Beyerdynamic M201 is a dynamic microphone that works equally well on snare drum and guitar amps.

Specs

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Hypercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40Hz – 18kHz
  • Weight: 0.5 pounds
  • Maximum SPL: Not published
  • Phantom Powered: No
  • Accessories: Mic clip

Pros

  • Hypercardioid pattern delivers good off-axis rejection
  • Natural condenser-like sound profile
  • Very high SPL limit typical of dynamic mics

Cons

If you’re a multi-instrumentalist or engineer looking to save money and studio space, consider the Beyerdynamic M201 dynamic mic as an option for snare drum, toms, and other musical sources. Thanks to its flat midrange response and natural high-end lift, the M201 has a surprisingly condenser-like sound that brings life to acoustic guitar, electric guitar amp, vocals, and other harmonic sources. This sonic profile also makes the M201 adept at capturing punchy, airy snare drum sounds with little EQ required, making it a unique alternative to traditional snare mics like the Shure SM57. Because of its hypercardioid pickup pattern and dynamic design, the Beyerdnamic M201 isn’t ideal for area miking duties like overheads, but we found it to be excellent at rejecting sound from other elements when placed close to hi-hat and snare.

Best clip-on: Beyerdynamic TG D58

Beyerdynamic TG D58 clip on mic on a white gradient

 

Why it made the cut: The TG58 from Beyerdynamic is a unique clip-on mic that can capture tons of detail in a very compact package.

Specs

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz 
  • Weight: 0.3 pounds
  • Maximum SPL: 140 dB
  • Phantom Powered: Yes
  • Accessories: Mic clip

Pros

  • Unique mic clip design and gooseneck great for tight spaces
  • Fantastic attack and detail
  • Suspended capsule design provides durability

Cons

  • Cardioid pattern may pick up nearby elements

The Beyerdynamic TG D58 is one of the best clip-on drum mics we’ve tested, thanks to its stable clamp mechanism and unique condenser-based design. While many clip-on drum mics are dynamic designs due to their inherently rugged properties, the TG D58 manages to pack a compact electret condenser capsule into a resilient and drum-friendly design, giving it a uniquely natural, detailed, and open sound not often found in a clip-on mic. The microphone itself is incredibly compact and easy to position thanks to its tiny capsule and 0.78-inch gooseneck, allowing for quicker and more consistent setup routines even in tight spaces. Due to its cardioid pickup pattern, the TG D58 can have some trouble with off-axis noise rejection when placed in close proximity to elements like cymbals and hi-hats, but experimentation with the mic’s gooseneck is usually more than enough to alleviate this effect.

Best kit: Sennheiser e600 Drum Microphone Kit

best drum mics

best drum mics

 

Why it made the cut: The Sennheiser e600 Drum Microphone Kit is easy to set up and versatile enough to use on stage or in a studio.

Specs

  • Type: 7 microphones; dynamic and condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, supercardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Maximum SPL: 139 dB – 160 dB
  • Phantom Powered: Condensers, yes; dynamics, no
  • Accessories: Case, mic clips

Pros

  • Production-ready sound suitable for stage and studio
  • Covers kick, snare, three toms, and overheads
  • Versatile microphones work on a variety of other musical sources

Cons

The Sennheiser e600 Drum Microphone Kit is one of the best drum mic kits available thanks to its durable components, versatile design, and record-ready sound quality. The kit features an e602 dynamic kick mic, four clip-on e604 dynamic mics for snare and toms, and two e614 pencil condenser mics for overheads. These same microphones can also be mixed and matched to use on a variety of other sources, including guitar amps, bass amps, and stringed instruments, giving this kit great value as a studio investment whether or not it’s your first foray into microphone shopping. While the Sennheiser e600 Drum Mic Kit is a bit pricey, its top-notch sound quality and build quality are likely to save you plenty of work when it comes time to mix.

Best budget: Shure DMK57-52 Drum Mic Kit

best drum mics

best drum mics

Why it made the cut: The Shure DMK57-52 kit includes all the microphones you need to record a full drum set for under $500.

Specs

  • Type: Dynamic
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 Hz – 20 kHz 
  • Weight: 7.2 pounds
  • Maximum SPL: 174 dB
  • Phantom Powered: No
  • Accessories: Case, mic clips, stand mounts

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Multiple mounting options for drum rims and cymbal stands
  • Includes carrying case

Cons

  • Lacks condenser microphones

If you’re looking to venture into drum recording without breaking the bank, the Shure DMK57-52 drum mic kit offers excellent value and leaves plenty of room for your collection to grow. The kit includes a single Shure Beta 52A kick mic and three SM57s for use on snare, toms, or even overheads. While the included microphones do lack the superior sensitivity and detail of condenser mics, their rock-solid construction and classic dynamic sound offer plenty of opportunities for punchy close-miking that’s perfect for rock, funk, and other hard-hitting styles. The entire kit comes with a carrying case and several mic mounts for ease of use in difficult spaces. Best of all, the Beta 52A and SM57 are so durable and versatile that they can be paired with more expensive microphones to great effect.

Things to consider before buying the best drum mics

Are you looking to record other acoustic instruments, vocals, or amplifiers?

If you’re looking to stretch your budget or space, consider buying versatile drum mics that can also be used to capture other sources. Most of the microphones on this list were selected for their versatility; the Shure SM57 is a fantastic guitar amp mic, the Beyerdynamic M201 sounds great on acoustic guitar and stringed instruments, and the AKG C414 XLII works on everything from piano and vocals to kick drums and bass amps.

What’s your budget?

If you’re operating within a set budget, it can be significantly more affordable to buy a pre-assembled kit of drum mics than to make your purchases a la carte. We think the Sennheiser e600 Drum Microphone Kit has one of the best price-to-performance ratios available, but we also love the affordable versatility of the Shure DMK57-52 Drum Mic Kit.

FAQs

Q: How much do best drum mics cost?

Drum mics cost anywhere from around $20 for low-end dynamic mics to over $20,000 for vintage condensers.

Q: How do you best drum mics set?

There are a vast number of ways to mic a drum set, with each variation corresponding to a different musical context or drum kit size. For most purposes, drums can be captured with a kick mic, a snare mic, mics for every tom, and two overheads. Many engineers will add a hi-hat mic to the above equation. While certain single microphones like the AKG C414 XLII are fantastic at capturing an entire kit when placed in omnidirectional mode, we recommend a bare minimum of a kick mic, snare mic, and single overhead.

Q: What do best drum mics plug into?

Drum mics plug into microphone preamps, but the exact type of preamp will depend on how the drum mics are to be used. For studio purposes, a recording interface with built-in preamps like the PreSonus Quantum 2626 is a good option. For live performance, a mixing board like the PreSonus StudioLive 16.0.2 USB is the best option.

Final thoughts on the best drum mics

We’ve covered a lot of ground in this article, but it’s important to remember that miking up a drum set involves creative decisions. If you’re open to using a single microphone or you want a minimalist setup, opting for a broad-range condenser mic like the AKG C414 XLII is a great idea. Kick and snare are the most important elements to add next, and we love the AKG D12 VR and Shure SM57 for those respective duties. If you’re looking for even more coverage, the Sennheiser MD421-II offers great low-end detail for toms, and the Telefunken M60 FET is perfect for capturing high-frequency cymbal detail and attack. Finally, if you prefer to skip the guesswork and go with a pre-assembled mic kit, the Sennheiser e600 Drum Microphone Kit is by far one of the best deals for the money, while the Shure DMK57-52 Drum Mic Kit is a solid option with staying power if you’re shopping on a budget.

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Our writers and editors have combined decades of experience covering and reviewing consumer electronics. We each have our own obsessive specialties—from high-end audio to video games to cameras and beyond—but when we’re reviewing devices outside of our immediate wheelhouses, we do our best to seek out trustworthy voices and opinions to help guide people to the very best recommendations. We know we don’t know everything, but we’re excited to live through the analysis paralysis that internet shopping can spur so readers don’t have to.

 


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