Today, we’re going to be going over some of the best and most popular choices available when it comes to drum microphones.
The truth is that the sound of your drums can make or break your mix, and while there are exceptions to every rule, getting the perfect drum sound is no laughing matter.
It can often be overwhelming with knowing where to start, despite how many countless articles and videos there are that try to breach the subject.
It’s understandable though, as getting a professional sounding drum sound not only takes a lot of audio know-how, but it also requires a lot of equipment, time, and money.
Our list will feature what we consider to be the best two microphones for each section of the kit.
While this is not meant to be a definitive list, we hope that our picks can serve as a solid jumping-off point for you as you build your arsenal.
These are the best microphones for recording drums:
- Shure Beta 52A
- AKG D112 Mk2
- Shure SM57
- Beyerdynamic M 88 TG
- Earthworks DM20
- Shure KSM32
- Shure SM81
- Neumann KM 184
- Neumann U 87 Ai
- Beyerdynamic M 160
Shure Beta 52A
The best kick drum mic
The Beta 52A is an amazing microphone. It is more often than not the first microphone folks will jump to when recording kick drums and bass cabinets.
It does a great job of capturing a full low end, and its high SPL makes it capable of handling extremely loud sound sources.
It’s a great candidate for either live or studio performances, and is one of the more reliable options out there for cheap.
AKG D112 Mk2
Kick drum mic runner-up
The D112 is one of the most iconic kick mics that you could buy. It’s incredibly versatile and often tends to sound great as is.
The frequency response is somewhat hyped, but if you’re looking for thud and click, few kick mics compete with the AKG – especially considering its price.
More than that, it’s very durable and will stand up to years of wear and tear.
The best snare mic
While the SM57 might not be the greatest microphone in the world, it is worth its weight in gold for its reliable performance, durability, and versatility.
It is often the default microphone when trying to record snares, and easily the most commonplace choice in professional settings.
Beyerdynamic M 88 TG
Snare drum mic runner-up
Over the years, the M 88 TG has become a classic microphone in its own right.
It has a super open and natural sound, and while we’re listing it as a great choice for snare, the truth is that it sounds great on almost everything – even kicks and floor toms.
The microphone has a fair amount of coloration, but in a very honest and reliable way.
Although it isn’t the cheapest microphone, $400 is a rather modest price point for such a bold and full bodied microphone.
The best tom drum mic
The DM20 is beloved for a multitude of reasons. It has an unbelievably quick transient response and a wonderfully transparent sound signature. The results sound big, open, and punchy.
There is a certain magic in the honesty of their performance which proves hard to live without after having tasted it for yourself.
They are of the pricer picks on this list, but for what they have to offer, they’re worth every penny.
Tom drum mic runner-up
The KSM32 is a large-diaphragm, fixed pattern, cardioid condenser microphone. The microphone has a particularly vintage character in its sound.
When it comes to capturing the lower registers, the mic shares many attributes to that of a classic Neumann microphone. The mid range remains natural and the high end, while somewhat hyped, is fairly smooth.
Overall, the KSM32 offers a great value for money and not many downfalls to comment on.
The best hi-hat microphone
The SM81 is a bona fide staple in professional studios. As is the case with many Shure microphones, the SM81 is cheap, durable, flexible, and performs wonderfully.
Being a small-diaphragm condenser microphone, its performance is bright and detailed, although it is not nearly as bright as a lot of other small-diaphragm condensers you may come across.
While this may initially sound like a bad thing, the truth is that this is perhaps the very reason why so many people return to the SM81 time and time again. It sounds natural, unhyped, and focused.
Neumann KM 184
Hi-hat mic runner-up
The KM184 is a favorite amongst audio engineers, and with good reason. It boasts an impeccably balanced sound stage that is open, warm, and most importantly, musical.
Its frequency response has a bit of a boost towards the higher registers which can be brittle in close miking applications. However, if you leave a healthy distance between the mic and the sound source, it will sound natural, full, and never harsh.
Not only does the microphone perform exceptionally well as a hi-hat microphone, but it does wonders for stringed instruments as well. Whether that be acoustic guitars, violins, uprights basses, and so on.
Neumann U 87 Ai
The best overhead/room mic
While it is true that the U 87 Ai could have been listed in any one of these sections, we have decided to list them here as overhead mics.
The U 87s are notoriously warm, bigger than life, and in your face. If you’re able to get your hands on a stereo pair of these, your drums will forever sound beautiful and huge.
Beyond their use as overheads, they are equally good in almost any other application you could list. They sound good on vocals, guitars, bass cabinets, are wonderful kick drums mics, and the list goes on.
Beyerdynamic M 160
Overhead/room mic runner-up
You might not guess by the looks of it, but the M 160 is in fact a ribbon microphone. Its sound leaves little room for guesswork, however, as the performance is undoubtedly that of a ribbon.
They are articulate, lush, and undeniably beautiful in terms of their performance. The upper mids are boosted ever so slightly, giving everything you record with them a depth and richness that nearly sounds 3D.
There is no one correct way to mic up a drum kit. The methodology and techniques you’ll need to get your desired drum sound are entirely dependent on the context of the music you are recording.
Sure, if you want to sound like Rush or Dream Theater, you may be looking at a ten-microphone setup. However, that is neither ideal or necessary in the majority of cases.
Plenty of classic recordings have been made utilizing only one or two microphones, so don’t be discouraged if your budget doesn’t allow for a shopping cart of six separate microphones.
A kick mic and an SM57 with proper placement can often do the trick.
We hope that this list has been helpful for you. Good luck and happy recording!