How To Choose The Best Drum Mics (For Your Home Studio)

How To Choose Drum mics 

(FOR YOUR HOME STUDIO)​​​​​

There are a lot of microphone available today. I mean really A LOT! But we want to get some for miking up our drum kit in our studio. So let's jump in and get started.

Let's search for "Microphone"  in Google and figure out which ones we want right?

283,000,000 microphones? 

Holy crap. I can't even count that high!

Hmm... Why don't we search for "Microphone" in Amazon and see what we get 

331,058 results!!

Um. Well how about we narrow it down even further?

Let's search for "Home Studio Microphone" in Amazon, and see what that looks like...

Ahhh. There we go. Now we can narrow it down to a mere 5,935 results... Hahaha!! So if you want to make a great choice for buying drum mics for your home studio all you need to do is search through 5,935 microphones???

Yeah I don't think so. 🙂

In fact when I started out in recording the best way to learn about which mics to use was either through trial and error (if you could get ahold of a mic) or ask someone else what to use.

So here are some of my favorite mics for recording drums (and a few recommended on the podcast too). Now bear in mind that there are no rules for this stuff since what we are creating here is art. So feel free to try anything and see what you think of the sound.

And what I will list here are the mics I might choose for a multi miking of the drum kit. More of a modern sound. Minimal miking is an awesome choice too: things like the Glyn Johns technique, the Recorderman, or the single mic Dap Kings method. But for now Ill talk about mics on each drum with overheads, ambient mics, and room mics.

KICK DRUM 

(BEATER INSIDE)


  • My favorite go to mic for capturing the inside of a kick drum is the AKG D112. I have tried many others (and like most all of them) but whenever I do an A/B comparison I always seems to come back to the D112. I just like the way it has a built in eq curve to boost some low end and add a little snap on the top without sounding too boxy.
  • I like to put it inside the drum going in through the hole in the front head if there is one. Ill point it at where the beater makes contact with the center of the drum head. My mentor Brad Jones also taught me to scoot it over toward the side of the drum shell to "Capture some of the wood" unless I really want more of a modern kick sound in which case I will leave it dead center.
  • And if the kick drum has a full front head with no hole then you can sometimes drop a mic cable through the small breather hole in the top of the kick drum and clip the inside mic to that leaving it dangling (but pointed at the beater). This will give you a rather "basket ball" sound but it works in a pinch to give you more definition to the final kick drum sound. Otherwise you would only have the outside mic to use.

EQ curve of D112, Beta 52, Audix D6 from DrumChat.com

  • Sennheiser MD421 -  Dynamic mic with an unusual mic clip and sounds really punchy. Make sure to check the low rolloff rotary switch near the clip to select the correct bass response.
  • Shure SM7 Dynamic mic great for vocals and also for bass and kick drum. Again make sure to check the low roll off eq selection in the back as well as the mid boost. Select to taste (though I often bypass the eq)
  • Electro Voice RE20 - This is another great microphone that always sounds like a really flat response to me. Whether that is true or not it sound to me like a focused midrange without too much hype in the lows or highs. Also a great vocal mic and classic radio mic like the Shure SM7. I love using this on the bass amp too.

Kick Drum MICS (Outside Front Head)

This is where the condenser comes in handy for recording the kick drum. You are likely to want a mic that captures a little more "air" and picks up on the full natural sound of the drum rather than just the focused attack that the inside mic gets. You can blend the outside mic with the inside mic for your complete kick sound. I usually favor the inside mic with just a hint of the outside mic to soften the focus of the inside mic.

  • Neumann FET47 - This is a classic go to mic for the kick. It actually works great on the inside of a kick too. But thats because it has both a capsule pad and output pad that will let you select the level the mic puts out to the mic pre. Thats why is is so useful as a kick mic, bass mic, or super loud guitar cab mic. Plus it picks up beautiful low freq and has a great tone all around. But of course it is not an inexpensive mic though.
  • AKG 414 - This is another great choice for the outside of a kick (or many other things for that matter). It has a pad selection that will let you knock off 20db of output from the mic. I have the AKG414 BULS and love it for it's dark full quality. It's also a great choice for recording vocals that need to soften a resonant midrange presence. I have had great luck with this mic for both male and female vocals.
  • Audio Technica 4033I also use this awesome affordable mic with its -10db pad to capture the front head of a kick drum sometimes. I like the extra midrange presence that it offers too. It has wonderful detail. When I recorded with Steve Albini we used it to record the bass amp cabinet too.


Snare MICS

DYNAMICS

  • Shure SM57 - Of course the classic mic of choice for snare drum is the Shure SM57. I use it all the time for both the top and bottom mics of my snare. I think it has a certain "whack" to the sound and eq response that is familiar and just sounds like a snare drum to me. Granted, I will always eq a lot more high frequency to the sound. I might add a shelf at 4kHz with my Calrec PQ1161s. And I will certainly add a little more in mixing too. But overall these mics just sound familiar. Plus if the drummer hits the mic by accident it wont break!
  • EV RE10 - This is an older dynamic mic that I use occasionally for the snare. It has a bit more upper mid boost than the 57, and can also sound great on the snare bottom.
  • Lewitt MTP 440 DM - This mic came to me as part of the Lewitt drum pack. I thought it sounded pretty awesome, and could be a great substitute for the SM57 without needing quite as much hi shelf eq boost.

CONDENSERS

  • Neumann KM84 - This is a condenser mic that can sound great on a snare. I have done interviews with some producers like George Massenburg and William Wittman who would much rather hear a snare recorded with a great condener mic and never have to hear a Shure SM57. But its always a matter of taste. So go with what sounds best to you!
  • AKG 451If you have an older model you might need to get a screw on -10db pad. But if you get the newer model this should be built in as a switch. You will get a brighter crisper sound out of this mic. But you might prefer a dynamic like the SM57 if the drummer is really hitting hard. Steve Albini prefered the AKG 451 for toms mics.
  • Sony C37I remember when the band, Autumn Defense, came to record with me. We used the Sony C37 for the snare on a bunch of tracks. It sounded killer! But the drummer was also gentle with the snare. If you are recording quieter songs then a condenser might work out great for your snare. It had a full soft dark tone.

TOM MICS

A four piece drum kit will usually consist of a kick, snare, rack tom, and floor tom. However you might find yourself dealing with a five piece kit having two rack toms or two floor toms. Or you might find youself recording Neil Peart and have a LOT of toms. Either way you will need something that sounds focused,  and great, and hopefully doesn't rip your head off with cymbal bleed.


DYNAMICS

  • Miktek PM11 - These are my go to mics for toms at The Toy Box Studio. They sound great. They are tough. And the mic clips go right onto the rims of the toms easily. When space is a premium a simple thing like avoiding mic stands is a huge deal!
  • Lewitt DTP 340 TT - The Lewitts are my other go to mic for toms. They also sound great, reject enough cymbals for most needs, and clip right onto the sides of the toms. So that I dont need extra mic stands around the kit.
  • Sennheiser 421 - Like the kick drum the 421 is a classic tom mic. It has an angled clip which makes it easier to come over the edge of the tom for positioning. If you can afford a couple of these then you wont be sorry.

CONDENSERS

  • Oktava MK12These are awesome little microphones! I bought four of these things years ago and use them everywhere. They sound great on toms if you set them off the drum a little to capture the full tone. Don't go way in close. Plus if they get damaged they are not that expensive to replace (they might be more now than when I first got them at $100/ea though)
  • Josephson e22SThese are hands down the best sounding tom mics I have ever heard! Designed with Steve Albini they are modeled after the AKG 451 but are side address for easily miking the toms. They are not the cheapest price but if you can get a pair of these for your drums you will probably get the best tom sounds in the neighborhood! 🙂


Overhead Mics

There a many ways to set your overhead mics on a drum kit. A very common way is a stereo pair over the drums. You might try a spaced pair, XY, ORTF, or anything else you think of. They can all sound great!

CONDENSERS

  • Miktek CV3These are my go to mics at The Toy Box Studio. I love the way these sound. With the large diaphragm I can capture more of a full sound of the kit than just the cymbals, and the tubes just bring out the richness of the drum shells. Plus they have a -10db pad that helps when the drums get loud.
  • Roswell Mini K47 - This is also a killer 47 style capsule that works great for capturing drum overheads. I would describe these as sounding less harmonically enhanced and more of a natural drum tone. Great for rock drums where you want a straight forward sound. I am really digging these mics!
  • Oktava MK12 - Again the MK12 is a very affordable mic and the small capsule condenser as an overhead gives you lots of bright focus to the drums. You may not need to sculpt the lower mids or cut lows with these mics like you would a large diaphragm condenser. 
  • Miktek C5 - Another small capsule mic these have a particularly smooth tone that you might love on drums! They don't have a pad though so maybe not the best choice for rocking out.
  • AKG 451 - Again a small capsule mic that can sounds pretty bright in a good way for the right music, but could rip your head off for a rock track or if the cymbals are already really bright (been there done that!)
  • AKG 414 - These are classic overhead mics that can work in many different situations. If you get the BULS versions or the ones with the C12 capsules then will have great luck with darkening the brightness of the cymbals. The C414 XLII pair will probably sound great but might be a bit brighter and hyped.
  • The Neumann U67, U87, and Gefell UMT 70S FET are all great choices for overhead mics too if you have the budget for them. They will sound rich and smooth and awesome!

There are too many vintage condenser mics that sound great on drums to cover here but I was able to mention a few that have worked great for me.

RIBBONS

  • Coles 4038The Coles ribbon mic is something to experience. I remember the first time I heard it it was so different from anything else I was used to. It will give you incredible detail while being totally dark at the same time. You can add lots of top end eq and it sounds great when you do. But be VERY VERY careful when you handle these mics or move them around. The ribbon is so fragile inside that to see it move is like watch a slight breeze make a spider web glide through the air. So they can't handle any burst of air from a voice or kick drum. This will destroy the ribbon inside. Also don't send phantom power to these mics by accident!
  • Royer 121Royer makes beautiful microphones. These ribbons are wonderful sounding and unlike the Coles they can handle a lot more volume without distortion. They wont blow out with a slight gust of air. So you can put them right in front of guitar amps or mic the drums more closely with them. Royer recommends that you angle the mic 45 degrees in front of loud sources though to avoid overload and distortion. It can be a little confusing but Royer also makes the active 122 ribbon mic. So DON'T send phantom power to the 121 but DO send phantom power to the 122. Got it? Oh lord....
  • Fat Head Ribbons - Ive been hearing a lot of great things about the Fat Head ribbon mics. If you want something at a very affordable value then check out the Fat Head mics.

Room Mics 

Room mics are a great way to put some real excitement and energy into your drum sound. When I worked with Steve Albini we asked all sorts of questions about recording In Utero with Nirvana at Pachyderm studio (of course we did!). And what we learned is that a huge part of Dave Grohl's awesome drum sound came from the room mics (with his great playing of course). In fact Steve favored the room mics over the overhead mics when it came time to mix. 

Now of course the opposite could be true for certain records. An classic Eagles or Steely Dan record probably wouldn't sound right if you heard tons of room mic in the mix. So decide for yourself what you are going for and mix accordingly. Meanwhile here are some cool choices for room mics.

  • Miktek C7 - These are my go to room mics at The Toy Box Studio. In fact I leave them set up all the time above the loft railing. That way I can just patch them in any time and add room mics to anything that I record. They sound great and have a selectable pattern. I have ben using them in cardiod a lot but am going to start using them in omni more often to avoid any off axis coloration of the cymbals in the room.
  • Roswell Delphos or Mini K47 - These sound great on just about everything! Room mics included. Plus they have very low noise which is great when using them as a room mic since you may need lots of gain which can bring up the noise floor in the mic signal to your DAW.
  • Marshall 2001 (MXL mics) - These were actually my first stereo pair of large diphragm condenser mics back in 2000. I still break them out for recording and they work and sound great! I don't think my particular model is manufactured any longer but MXL makes all sorts of other models that could be a great choice too.
  • Lewitt LCT 640 - Lewitt is a Swedish mic company that makes this model very similar to the AKG 414. This is a very versatile and great sounding microphone! I use everywhere from drums to guitars, and piano. Its just a great all around mic.
  • Altec M20 - This is a mic I learned about from Steve Albini. He always did a really cool trick where he put a pair of mics on the ground in front of the drum kit with a slight delay between them so that one mic was delayed 20 miliseconds  and the other perhaps 24 miliseconds. This gave a cool stereo widening effect to the fairly close close ambient mics in front of the drums. He used Altec coke bottle 150s but these are very similar. A Pair of PZM mics on the floor would work great too. 

And then finally any of the great overhead choices would make a perfect choice for room mics as well. What you really need are a pair of mics that will allow you to bring up the gain without added noise. Also I find that darker mics are preferable so that you don't emphasize too much cymbals brightness in the room sound. Really they are great to adding body and power to the drum shells rather than cymbals.


Check out some of these mics in your home studio if you can get ahold of them, and you should see some awesome results. There are many more to choose from and many that I have not mentioned that would be totally fantastic for you!

If you know anyone locally that would let you rent or borrow some mics to try out that is really the best way to see what you think. Sometimes the local music store will let you take home a pair to test them or give you a return policy for a week or two. That way you can really find out whether they are the right mics for you.

But don't get too caught up in the choice though. Any of these mics listed would be good enough for you to make a great record. And remember its all about the drummer anyway! You're just there to capture what they do with great mic placement!

I can only cover so much in a single blog article. So if you are interested in getting much deeper into recording, editing, and mixing drums in your home studio you should check out Rockstars Of Drums.

Are you ready to take your drum recording, editing, and mixing to the next level? 

Check out my pro drum course:

 Rockstars Of Drums.

Learn how to record, edit, and mix pro sounding drums with Nashville session drummer Mike Radovsky and Grammy studio owner Lij Shaw. 

What are your favorite mics from drums in your studio? Leave a comment below and let me know...

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