Choosing the right placement and design for your tom microphone can bring about a huge difference in the sound that you hear/record with it. For almost all scenarios you should choose the mic that sounds right to you, that would be the best mic for your setup.
But in case you’re a part of a live performing group, or if you record in the studio, then it is probably best to choose on the basis of your overall setup and existing equipment.
Choosing the best Tom Mic
Whatever the scenario may be, there are two types of microphones that you can choose from when it comes to recording percussion- dynamic and condenser. Dynamic microphones are cheaper, don’t require an external power source, and are more reliable. They are basically reverse speakers and excel at picking up lows and midranges.
Good dynamic microphones also tend to have a high roll-off which allows them to capture some really tight upper-range tones and beats. That alone, combined with their ability to handle high SPL’s (sound pressure levels) makes these microphones an excellent choice for floor toms, bass drums, and snares.
Condenser mics are more expensive and require a phantom power input to power the internal amplifier that is used to amplify the electrical signals generated by the internal cartridge. The cartridge is basically a capacitive transducer that transforms sound waves into electricity.
Condensers are much more sensitive to SPL levels, and they usually come with a switch pad that increases the impedance to dampen the audio output (don’t want to bust your ears). These are best for capturing clear and bright highs, and they are best used in overhead mounts.
Look for mics with high SPL handling capacity for floor mounts, in which case they are going to be right next to the toms. Also, look for cardioid or hyper/super-cardioid pickup pattern microphones as these will not capture the peripheral noise or backstage sound. For crowded stages and studios, a super/hyper cardioid patterns an always the best.
Here you will see that we have listed some of the best tom mics. We selected these on the basis of three factors- specifications and performance, popularity, and customer reviews. So let’s dig in!
CAD Audio TSM411 Dynamic MicrophonePro: Super-cardioid pattern, wide frequency response
Con: Included rubber sleeve feels a little loose
As far as sub-100 dollar microphones go, this CAD dynamic mic is one of the best price-performance deals that you could possibly get. It is designed with a specially tuned response range that is optimized to pickup up anything between 50 Hz and 12000 Hz. You will be pleased to know that the lows sound extremely powerful due to its high sensitivity, while the highs are clear and pronounced. It does not give the best sound quality, but it isn’t the most expensive mic either. The super cardioid pickup is very good at blocking out unnecessary background noise, along with any disturbance from the sides.
CAD Audio KBM412 Dynamic MicrophonePro: Cardioid polar pattern, great for picking up low frequencies, solidly built
Con: Highs sound a little muddy
These are a set of finely engineered microphones that offer tremendous bang for the buck, which is why we put them on this tom mics list. The cardioid polar pattern pickup is excellent for isolating the sound of your tom from the rest of the drums, which will result in a much cleaner and pronounced audio output, without any bleed-in from the snares or kick drums. The frequency response is totally optimized for picking up low-midrange frequencies, and they sound warm as well as punchy.
Shure PGA56-XLR Cardioid Swivel-Mount Dynamic Snare/Tom MicrophonePro: Custom built microphone cartridge, swivel joint with quick release, included drum mount
Con: The shock mount could have been better
If you want a microphone that is capable of delivering great audio, affordably priced, and fitted with a built-in shock mount, then take a look at the Shure PGA56-XLR. This is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern, and its frequency response has been optimized for snares and toms. It comes with a built-in shock mount that seems somewhat lacking, but is more than enough to get the job done if you’re primary goal is practicing at home, or with the rest of your band members. The swivel joint comes with a quick release ejection mount that makes removing and fitting this compact mic a really snappy and super easy process. It even comes with a drum rim mount, so you can easily mount it on a kick drum if you wish.
Shure PG56-XLR Instrument Dynamic MicrophonePro: Tailored frequency response tuned specifically for percussion, internal shock mount, and dynamic cartridge has a really rugged coil
Con: Mids sound slightly distorted at times
This is not the most awesome sounding sub-100 dollar tom microphone, but we included it inside this list because of its rugged and reliable natures. That’s right because this microphone right here is more than capable of taking a beating. Not a physical one (actually it can survive some pretty serious drops), but an audio attack. The SPL handling of this mic is off the charts, and its dynamic cartridge has a really rugged coil that allows it to pick up those powerful, yet low-frequency “thump” sounds from your bass drum really well. The internal shock mount is very good for the price, and the frequency response is tuned for toms and snares. With some basic EQ, you can actually make these budget pieces sound like microphones which cost twice as much.
Shure SM57-LC Cardioid Dynamic MicrophonePro: Rich vocal pickup and contoured frequency response, uniform cardioid pickup
Con: The highs always seem a little too tight by default, need some EQ
Shure makes some really fine microphones, and the SM57-LC is no exception. It is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern that excels with picking up sound waves from the front. Not the sides or back, just the front, which is what you aim for if you are going to use this in a floor mounted setup for your toms. The frequency response is optimized for toms, kicks, and snares, which is why the lows and midranges sound so warm and full.
Audio Technica MB/DK4 Drum-MicrophonePro: Comes with three snare/tom microphones and a kick microphone, road-ready all metal construction, 3 drum rim mounts provided
Con: Microphone clips are cheaply constructed
Audio-Technica microphones are known for their incredible clarity, wide frequency response, solid build quality, and studio-grade signature sound output (at least for the slightly higher end models). While the DK4 is not one of the costliest Audio Technica mics that you’ll find, it carries the exact same excellently tuned frequency response and delivers amazingly clear midranges with warm lows and precise highs that don’t sound too bright but are not overly damp either.
The bass pickup is amazing, and not a single sound wave above 20 Hz goes unnoticed by this microphone. SPL handling is commendable, as is the noise isolation of the cardioid pickup pattern. And oh, there are 3 MB microphones inside this box, along with the one DK4 microphone. The MB mics are basically more optimized for toms and snares while the DK4 features a slightly higher SPL and a redesigned coil for picking up more powerful lower frequencies. All of this come, inside a road-ready case, with 3 rim mounts included, and feature all-metal construction. Surprised? We were pretty shocked too when we saw the price.
Sennheiser E604 Dynamic Cardioid Mic for Snares and TomsPro: Capable of handling more than 150 dB, reinforced fiberglass body, low noise and distortion
Con: Clip quality could have been better, might sound thin without EQ
The E604 is a dynamic microphone that excels with reproducing audio accurately between the super low-higher midrange frequency spectrum. Not to say that it is not capable of reproducing higher frequencies beyond 10 KHz or 12 KHz, but it excels within the 20-10000 Hz mark, with super warm and really natural sounding output that has absolutely zero signs of any coloration or noise. The fiberglass shell helps with noise reduction since it is pretty non-resonant and does not capture external vibrations, and the shock mount also does a good job. With its 150 dB+ SPL handling ability, you never have to worry about your toms or kicks sounding washed out or flat ever again, no matter how hard you hit them.
Audix D4 Dynamic MicrophonePro: Wide spectrum frequency response, extended bass response, VLM diaphragm
Con: An included shock mount and screen would have been great at this price
Audix did not provide a built-in shock mount or screen, and judging by the price of this microphone we were a little disappointed by this decision in the beginning. But then we took a look at the specifications- it instantly became clear as to why Audix took that decision. These dynamic microphones boast one of the widest frequency response ranges on this entire best tom mics list, and the way they handle extreme lows and shrieking highs is truly commendable. The diaphragm is the best aspect of this microphone- its VLM (Very Low Mass) design allows you to capture extremely fine sounds, especially shimmery highs. The 15000 Hz+ frequencies sound truly bright and crisp thanks to the great sensitivity levels of the ultra-light diaphragm. Don’t think this tom mic is all about highs though, since it wouldn’t be a true tom mic then. Bass pickup has also been enhanced through a custom-tuned frequency response curve.
Rode NT1KIT Condenser MicrophonePro: Cardioid polar pattern, very good with high frequencies, included SMR shock mount and dust cover
Con: Pop filter needs an upgrade
The Cardioid pickup pattern, included SMR shock mount, dust cover, frequency response curve, and build quality on this microphone are all way above its weight class (judging from its price tag). A premium metal construction beautifully complements the noise-isolating shock mounts that help reduce distortion and unwanted chatter from the back as well as sides. The custom-tuned frequency response is what sets it apart from the competition, as the sound is truly balanced-neither too warm nor too bright. It’s pop filter is pretty mediocre though, and that’s the only flaw we could find with this amazing tom microphone.
Sennheiser MD 421 II Cardioid Dynamic MicPro: Highs are extremely clear and seem bright, capable of withstanding extremely high SPL’s
Con: Included microphone clip is poorly designed
If you’re especially interested in hammering the heads off your toms, then you need to take a look at these dynamic cardioid microphones. Well, its extra-high SPL handling capacity makes this Sennheiser one of the best tom mics for hard hitters who go berserk with their sticks when you put them in front of a drum kit. Mishits and such will be forgiven, and you don’t have to worry about drops or thuds thanks to the solid metal construction. Moving on to the part that really matters, the sound quality- highs are crystal clear with tons of headroom for the sharpest tones and plenty of brightness, and the best part is that the ultra-high tones don’t sound warped or thin at all. Lows are heavy and powerful, with lots of bass picked up between 20-200 Hz.