Overhead mics are a critical component to making your drum set. They help you record the sound of your cymbals and give you the overall sound of your drum kit. Whether you are recording your drums in a studio setting, making a demo, or just want to create your own rehearsal tracks, you’re probably going to need a pair of quality overhead drum mics.
In this article, we’ll take a look at the five best overhead mics for your drumkit. We’ll give you the features for each pair and go over the pros and cons, too. We’ll also talk about the criteria we used to pick the best ones. So don’t worry if choosing a good set of overhead mics for your drumset is overwhelming – we’ll help you wade through the choices. Let’s get started!
This Beyerdynamic set is like a best-kept secret in the music industry, which is why we named it the best sleeper overhead drum mic. More people need to know about this high-quality mic. These mics can handle high SPLs, making them ready for everything – especially loud sources. In addition, the cardioid pickup pattern helps you mic just the sounds you want without getting the sounds you don’t.
You’ll love the warm, detailed sound provided by the Beyerdynamics. Not only do they make great overhead drum mics, but they’ll also work well for guitars and other acoustic instruments, giving you more flexibility when you need it.
The Soyuz 013 FET is a small-diaphragm condenser microphone with lots of flexibility due to its cardioid pattern and interchangeable capsule. It gives excellent midrange accuracy and a highly musical feel in its sound recordings. Screw in the 20dB pad for extra loud sources, like your drum kit.
The natural warmth of these mics makes them versatile, and they work equally well as overhead drum mics as they do a piano mic or for other acoustic instruments.
The Neumann KM 184 Stereo Pair is a great example of a professional overhead drum mic. They can easily handle the high sound pressure of a drum kit – even up to 138dB. They’ll also manage the subtleties of soft acoustic guitars, giving you plenty of flexibility when you need it.
You don’t have to worry about overloading these microphones with sound; even with the loud drumset, you’ll still get a crisp, clean cymbal. It just works great for that high-end articulation you need to get a beautiful recording of drums, guitars, and even acoustic piano.
This pair of Shure KSM137s gives you premium performance at a friendly price point. They offer a consistent cardioid polar pattern to provide you with excellent sound isolation just where you need it. In addition, the subsonic filter gets rid of that low-frequency rumble that can happen from unwanted vibrations and stand the noise.
This versatile mic set is durable and precise, so you’ll love using it in the studio and for live performances.
We love the perfect balance of high-end features and middle-end pricing that gives you an affordable and professional sound recording.
If you need affordable, you don’t want to overlook the Rod M5 Small-Diaphragm condenser mics. You won’t find many mics at this accessible price point, and you’ll be surprised by the quality they provide for recording and sound reinforcement. In addition, they include windshields and stand mounts, so you don’t need to spend a ton of money on accessories too.
These mics are also versatile, working great as overhead drum mics but also for plenty of other instruments. The cardioid pattern is easy to focus on the sounds you want while leaving out the sounds you don’t.
Finding the right recording equipment is always challenging, but finding the best overhead microphones for your drum kit can be even more so. The problem with recording overhead drums is all of the variables – the kit, the venue, the type of sound reinforcement you are looking for, and of course, your budget.
Let’s talk about some of the criteria we used to choose the five best overhead drum mics. We have a wide range of microphones for you to look at a variety of price points so you can find one that fits your budget and your needs.
You can easily dump a lot of money into your overhead mics for drums. But you just don’t have to spend a ton of money (unless you want to!). There is a wide range of price tags that you can choose from, just as long as the mic has the features that you need.
Only you can decide how much you are able to spend on a pair of mics. First, you’ll want to consider if you’re going to be using them every day or just once in a while. Are they for live performances? Or just rehearsal space for you and your band? Answering these questions will help you decide how much you want to invest in a set of mics.
Often, you’ll be carting your mics around for gigs. If this is the case, you’ll want to make sure you get sturdy, durable mics that won’t break easily from getting jostled around when you gig. On the other hand, if you’re going to set up your microphones in a small studio and leave them there all the time, you might not be as concerned about how tough your mic is. So consider the purpose you’ll be using it for when you think about how durable you need your mics to be.
If you’re going to use your mics for gigs, you might want them to ‘disappear’ into the background and aren't as heavy to lug around. If this is the case, you’ll want small, thin mics, so they aren't as obvious. But then again, if you are using them in the studio for recording and not for live performance, the size might not matter to you at all.
Want kinds of accessories do you need for your microphones? You’ll need some kind of mic stand or clip so you can put them right where you want them. Are these included in the cost of your mics? Or will you need to purchase them separately?
You’ll also need some windscreens to keep out harsh or unnecessary noises. If you are gigging, you’ll want to have a carry case that protects your investment, as well.
Most of the mics on this list have a cardioid microphone pattern. The Cardioid pickup pattern is a phrase that means that the pickup area – the area of sound that the microphone can take vibrations from – is roughly shaped like a heart. The intake area is the top of the heart, and the bottom of the heart is the area where the microphone does not pick up.
This pattern is essential to understand because you’ll want to direct the microphone to pick up only the sounds you want to hear – like the sound of your cymbals and the rest of your kit – and not the sounds of the audience or other band members.
Make sure you choose a microphone that has the pickup pattern you need and know exactly how it works so you can set it up to get the sound you want. Sometimes, mics don’t sound good, but it isn’t because the microphone is bad. It's because it just isn’t set up to pick up the sound correctly.
To learn more about cardioid microphone patterns, click here. Find out more about the difference between condenser and dynamic mics, here.
There’s no question that acoustic drums are loud. And you need to take this into consideration when you are choosing the right microphones. You don’t need extra sensitive mics when you mic a drum set – but you do need to consider SPL.
SPL stands for sound pressure level, and you can purchase meters or iPhone apps to measure the SPL of your playing if you want to.
You’ll likely want to choose a mic with an SPL above 120 dB.
For example, if your playing volume is around 120 dB, and your microphone SPL is only a maximum of 110, you’re going to get clipping and sound distortion that won’t make for a good recording. On the other hand, if you find that your mics are constantly clipping, you may want to make sure that they have a high enough SPL for your playing. And if that isn’t the cause, perhaps you’ve got them set up to close to your snare or kick, and it is overwhelming your mic.
In short, make sure to purchase a mic that can handle the sound level of your specific playing.
Here’s a little bit more about the science of sound pressure levels.
You may want to consider a mic that filters out unwanted vibrations that may come from nearby instruments or even your drum and mic stands. For more info on avoiding microphone interference, click here.
We mentioned before that if you are using your mic for drums, you probably don’t have to be too worried about sensitivity since drums are just loud. However, if you’ll also be using it for other instruments, you might want to think about how soft your microphone can still pick up the details.
Regardless, you’ll want your mics to pick up the details of your playing – such as the crispness of your high hat and how quickly the sound is picked up.
Most mics work off of phantom power. Occasionally they’ll use batteries to power them. If your mics use phantom power, just make sure that your system can supply enough power to make them work well.
The last thing to consider is versatility. Drum mics are an expensive investment, and if you can use them for more than one application, that’s even better. But, on the other hand, perhaps you also like to record acoustic guitar, a little bass, or even some violin riffs. Whatever your applications, will you need to buy a separate microphone, or will the overhead mics work for different instruments, too?
Perhaps being able to use your mics for additional instruments or other types of venues will allow you to invest a little bit more for a higher-quality mic.
There are plenty of great options out there for drummers to mic their kits. But there is one clear standout winner: the Shure KSM137 Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphone - Stereo Pair.
We love this mic because, first of all, it's made by Shure, which is a well-known name in the music industry for its durable, high-quality products. Second, this mic offers a standard cardioid pattern, which is probably the best way to record your drums.
The Shure KSM 137s have crisp, clean, high-end sounds and warm and natural mid-range sounds. It also includes a filter to get rid of any unwanted vibrational noise, such as from a nearby piano or from your drum stand vibrating. This filter gives you a cleaner, better sound.
Although you get professional sound from these mics, you won’t break the bank, either. They aren’t the cheapest mics out there (if budget is your only consideration, then go for the Rode M5s), but they are reasonably priced for the impressive sound they can provide.
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