A good drum mic setup doesn’t just affect the way you sound, but it also affects the way you play. The better you sound, the more vigorously you play. This is especially true during live performances, where you are playing in front of a large group of people and you cannot afford any slip-ups. Just investing in a good set of drums does not mean that you are going to sound great. You also need to be able to relay that sound to your audience, be it in a studio or on a stage. Even the most finely tuned drum kits can sound horrible if they are paired with a set of crappy mics, that’s just the way it is.
Overhead microphones are really popular because they provide a more complete and close-up experience due to the fact that they are literally placed a few feet over the drums. Microphone placement can help you get a good input from your drums, but you still need to choose right microphone to receive that input and relay every bit of it to your speakers, mixers, and amplifiers.
What to look for when buying overhead drum microphone?
Choosing the correct overhead drum microphone for your task is as simple as choosing the right clothes for your vacation. It all depends on the place you are visiting, or in this case, the type of music you are playing and the location you are playing in, i.e. studio, home, stage, closed hall, open space, etc. Depending on the type of music you play, you will have to a microphone that can pick up every frequency and tonal change for a certain range. Then, you need to decide on which type of mic you want- condenser or dynamic. Condenser microphones are basically designed like a capacitor- they contain two metallic conducting plates placed close to each other with some voltage applied between them. The diaphragm is always the thinner plate, when sound passes into the mic, it moves the diaphragm and causes a change in the voltage output of the mic.
Condenser mics require a power input, while most of them use a phantom input from the mixer itself, others are equipped with an internal battery. Condenser mics tend to have amazing transient response, so they are normally used when the music contains high frequencies and sharp pitches- like in the case of guitars, jazz, and cymbals, etc. Choose a condenser mic if you typically play jazz, lot of cymbal, or country. A small-diaphragm condenser mic responds better than a large-diaphragm condenser mic, and is also more expensive. Then, you have the dynamic mics. Their operation is akin to that of reversed speakers, i.e. they have a conducting coil attached to the diaphragm. When sound hits the diaphragm it moves the coil over a permanent magnet, resulting in the formation of current.
Dynamic mics require no external power source and are cheaper as well as more durable compared to condenser mics. They lack the high frequency response of condensers but offer a cheaper, all-round alternative. Modern dynamic mics have begun to catch up to condenser mics in terms of transient response and are quickly replacing condenser mics in many studios and recording houses. We have rounded up some of the best overhead drum mics for you. Take a look and choose one that suits your playing style.
The AKG P220 Vocal Condenser MicrophonePro: Highly versatile performance, very reliable
Con: Needs a 48V phantom power source
AKG has really outdone itself with this wonderful condenser microphone. It is a cardioid mic so you can use it to capture crisp and clear vocals, or you can just mount it in a stereo overhead configuration with your drum set. The mic is very heavily built, with a nice, thick metal body and chrome grills. It also has a handy little bass roll-off switch that lets you record more on the high frequency range if you are planning to record something like cymbals or toms. There is even a -20dB switch that can come in handy while recording sound from an amp, this will damp the excess audio and deliver clean, crisp vocals and high notes. While the requirement for a 48V phantom power source might cause some initial hiccups, it is really not that big of a problem and can be easily overlooked if you consider the amount of flexibility and reliability that this affordable condenser mic offers.
Audio Technica AT2035 Large Diaphragm Studio Condenser Microphone BundlePro: Low noise, includes pop filter
Con: Picks up the smallest noises
These microphones can pick up the lowest of whispers and noises, and while that is often what you look for in a good microphone, it may backfire if you are setting up in a noisy environment. Nevertheless, this mic comes wit everything that you need to begin recording right out of the box. It comes with a shock mount that is steady and durable, along with a pop filter to prevent those annoying audio spikes while recording and the windscreen on it is quite good at its job. A 10-foot XLR cable is also included to make set up easier. The mic picks up voice perfectly and a super large .96 diaphragm combined with a cardioid design means no sound bleeding from the sides or back, just crystal clear vocals.
MXL 2003A Large Capsule Condenser MicrophonePro: 3-micron gold sputtered diaphragm, bass cut
Con: May deliver excess feedback if not positioned properly
Until now, gold sputtering was a process used only in the most expensive condenser microphones. Not because they are expensive, but because gold is an excellent capacitor metal and using a gold layer on the diaphragm greatly improves audio reception and delivers definitive lows with warm highs. It even has a bass cut and a -10 dB pad to record pre-amplified output and cymbals or toms from your drum set. Set to record in cardioid configuration, this large capsule microphone can pick up even the smallest of sounds which means that you need to position it correctly in order to avoid too much feedback.
Shure PGA27-LC Large-Diaphragm Side Access Cardioid Condenser MicrophonePro: Very balanced and clear response
Con: Hard to find
Shure is famous for delivering high performance, innovative products, and the PGA27-LC is no different. It features a huge diaphragm that makes this mic impervious to peripheral noise, and it delivers clear, balanced sound on both extremes of the spectrum. The shock mounts allow for reliable and consistent performance while the cardioid polar pattern only detects audio from the source and leaves out all the rest. There is even a built-in high pass filter to control any unwanted low-end signals and a -15 dB attenuation system allows for extra recording versatility.
Studio Projects LSM -Black Condenser Cardioid MicrophonePro: Great sensitivity handling, features USB for easy PC integration
Con: May produce a slight noise sometimes when connected to USB
This is a microphone whose every aspect has been designed and tuned with exceptional studio performance in mind. From the extra-large diaphragms, and class-A JFET impedance converter, to the 34mm Weber style transducer, this mic can easily produce crystal clear and extremely accurate audio at any frequency range or sensitivity level. In fact, it is designed to handle SPL levels beyond 130 dB which is really insane, and we highly doubt you will be getting anywhere close to that number in your home studio on your practice drum kit, but this is definitely ready for full professional grade use. The only qualm some users had with this mic is that the audio stream tends to show some signs of noise after you connect it to your Mac or PC via the USB interface. These issues do not occur with the regular XLR cable interface, and it is probably because of a faulty USB interface in the computer, or a malfunctioning driver.
Neumann SKM 184 MT Stereo SetPro: Very compact, extremely good audio
Con: Inbuilt amplification is slightly low
The SKM 184 MT is designed for professionals and studio artists who wish to use only the most refined and well-built mics. It can handle pressure levels as high as 138 dB before the audio begins to crack, and is excellent for recording percussion, brass, and cymbals due to its inherently quiet nature, meaning that it rarely, if ever, picks up any ambient noise. A cardioid configuration makes this an excellent directional microphone for recording exactly what you want to hear, and nothing more. This needs to be hooked up to a good amplifier though, since the compact form factor limits the internal amplifier’s power output.