Search Gear
 

8 Drum Mic Kits Tested: CAD, Shure, Sennheiser, and More

June 30, 2014
share

WHEN IT comes to bang for the buck in the mic world, look no further than the drum pack. The typical pack contains several dynamic mics for close-miking—one voiced for kick, one for snare, and others for toms—and usually a small-diaphragm condenser or two for use as overheads. Two of the products in this article diverge from the formula.

Manufacturers often repackage existing products from their line in a way that makes a drum pack more affordable because everything you need is included: Without even counting the accessories and carrying case, it’s cheaper to buy the mics in one of these configurations than to purchase them individually. As a result, drum packs are an efficient way to assemble a collection of mics for stage, studio, classroom, and houses of worship—anywhere you need to balance cost with convenience. Of course, any of these transducers can be put to work on other instruments—guitar and bass amps, brass, vocals, and percussion. And many of these mics have been around for years, so they have passed the test of time.

This article is by no means an exhaustive list. Some of the manufacturers in this roundup offer more than one package, and in those cases, I chose the kit that seemed the most representative. The products are listed in order of street price, from low to high.

Keep in mind that sound quality isn’t necessarily tied to price when it comes to a drum mic. An inexpensive kick or snare mic can be just as effective as a high-ticket item depending on musical style and personal taste. Look no further than the ubiquitous SM57, which streets for under a $100, for proof of that.

 
 
 
Under $1,000 (street)

CAD Audio Touring7
CAD Audio Touring7
CADAUDIO.COM
$299 street

CAD is known for offering low-cost mics that are rugged and sound great for the price. I use their mics frequently in my recording classes and can attest that they hold up well to the rigors of daily abuse.

As the name suggests, the Touring7 pack contains seven mics, along with clips and four drum-rim mounts, providing enough coverage for a 5-piece set: the D12 dynamic, voiced for bass drum; four TSM411 dynamics for snare and toms; and a pair of GXL1200 pencil condensers for overheads. The kit and caboodle comes in a soft vinyl case (with strap) that is about the size of a laptop bag. While that makes the Touring7 perfect for carting around to gigs, these mics are also intended for recording and studio use. The product comes with a 5-year warranty.

The cardioid D12’s frequency response chart shows a +15dB rise around 80–90Hz and a similar peak at 5kHz. This resulted in a hefty low end with a rounded attack yet minimal high-frequency bleed from the snare and cymbals—a plus! The D12’s metal casing feels solid and well built, and the attached swivel mount can be removed and replaced if it gets damaged.

The TSM411 is made of metal and feels solid. It sits in a plastic clip with a rubber sleeve that holds the mic tightly in place. On toms and snare, the TSM411 displayed a decent transient response for a dynamic, providing the solid smack you want for modern music. The supercardioid pattern helps minimize leakage from surrounding instruments. However, it has a surprisingly wider frequency range and sounds less throaty than other dynamic mics, especially on the snare.

The GXL1200 cardioid condensers don’t show much of a presence peak on the supplied frequency chart, but they emphasized the cymbals quite a bit when used overhead. However, their output was hot enough that backing them away from the cymbals created a better balance without losing much signal strength.

 
 
Under $1,000 (street)

Samson 8Kit
Samson 8Kit
SAMSONTECH.COM
$299.99 street

Samson offers a very good deal by providing eight microphones, most of which are low-profile and can be quickly set up. The kit includes five of Samson’s Q-series drum mics, which the company has tailored for specific drums (snare, kick, and three toms), as well as three condensers—the small-diaphragm C02H for the hi-hat and a pair of large diaphragm C01s for overheads.

The bodies of the Q-series snare and tom mics are made of ABS plastic, and each is attached to a swivel mount that is part of a drum clamp: They’re not designed for stand mounting. As a result, the mics are very lightweight, though I worry that an errant drumstick could break the mic off of the mount, which would be difficult to repair. The kick mic has a metal housing and can be removed from its clip.

Despite looking identical to the tom mics, the snare mic has a supercardioid pattern and a presence peak around 3.5khz. The low end begins tapering off at 1kHz. The toms have a hypercardioid response so they’ll reject adjacent instruments better, with peaks at 4 and 6kHz and a small boost at 200 before rolling off the low end. The kick mic has a significant peak at 4kHz and a small one around 70Hz.

The kick mic is punchy, though a little two-dimensional compared to others in this roundup, but not boxy. I had to position the snare mic just right to minimize hi-hat bleed, but it sounded solid and yielded a wider midrange response than other snare mics in this roundup. I also tried a tom mic on the snare and liked its round tone and how it emphasized stick impact.

The C01s are large-diaphragm studio condensers, which are popular as budgetpriced vocal mics. However, they’re large and heavy so you will need a studio-quality boom stand if you want to place them on a stereo bar above the drummer’s head. Otherwise it’ll be difficult to position them without the boom arm sagging from the strain.

Nonetheless, they sounded good as overheads, capturing the crispness of the snare from above and the sparkle of the cymbals, while emphasizing the attack of the kick. In fact the hi-hat was so well represented in the overheads that I didn’t need to spot mic them with the C02H. So I used it as a room mic in the hall and then squashed it with a compressor, which provided a satisfying timbre when mixed in.

 

Shure PGDMK6

 
Under $1,000 (street)
 
Shure PGDMK6
SHURE.COM
$399 street

While Shure’s SM57 and SM58 have been staples in the studio and onstage for decades, the company also offers two drum packs based around its PG-series microphones—the PGDMK4 ($249 street) and PGDMK6. Both feature three PG56 tom mics and a PG52 bass drum mic, so they are perfect for close miking a 4-piece kit. The PGDMK6 adds a pair of PG81 electret condensers, each of which can run off of a single AA battery or standard phantom power, for overhead use. All six mics, as well as the three drum-rim clamps, are packed into a rugged soft-shell case. And Shure includes six 15-foot mic cables to get you started.

All three mic models have a cardioid pattern and their frequency charts show a conservative amount of presence boost and no low-end tilt compared to other drum-tuned mics in this roundup. Despite the lack of low boost, the PG52 could move the subwoofer as well as the other kick mics here, but it also captured a 3-dimensional shell tone. In addition, the highs were muted enough that they didn’t compete with the frequencies picked up by the overhead mics.

The PG56s, on the other hand, tamed the low frequencies coming off of the kick drum while mitigating a lot of the highs. As a result, they weren’t difficult to place around the drums when I needed to minimize cymbal bleed. They gave the snare the solid thump that you want from a dynamic mic, and pulled strong, meaty tones out of the toms.

I was pleasantly surprised by the overall blend from the PG81s: they didn’t overemphasize the hats or ride but gave the snare a somewhat compressed sound that blended well with the snare mic. For the best fidelity, you should use them with phantom power, but they sounded fine when running on battery power. You’ll appreciate the battery option when you’re in a situation where you want to use these as overheads but you’ve run out of phantom-powered inputs on the board.

If it’s the sound of the venerable SM57 you’re after, Shure also offers the DKM57-52 ($399 street), which combines three SM57s and a Beta52a kick mic with clips, mounts, and a case.

 

Lewitt DTP Beat Kit Pro 7

 
Under $1,000 (street)

Lewitt DTP Beat Kit Pro 7
LEWITT-AUDIO.COM
$999 street

Lewitt’s approach to a drum pack is quite a bit different from what we’ve seen so far.

The first thing you’ll notice in this pack of seven mics is that the DTP 640 REX for the kick has both a condenser and a dynamic element. If that weren’t cool enough, it includes switchable EQ curves—Enhanced Frequency Response (EFR)—which changes the output characteristics of each element, and a pad switch with –10 and –20dB settings.

With both elements flat (no EFR), the condenser gives you a punchy kick, with sharper transients and greater dimensionality than a dynamic, while the dynamic element provides that weighty thump that you want for rock. The first EFR setting boosts the dynamic element’s low-end and presence response but leaves the condenser untouched. The second EFR setting essentially acts as a lowpass filter on the condenser element and a highpass on the dynamic, which makes the most sense when both elements are mixed together. Of course you don’t have to use both elements at the same time, but to use the condenser side on its own, you will have to send it phantom power. The included cable has a 5-pin connector on one side and a pair of XLR connectors (individually marked “dynamic” and “condenser”) on the other.

The MTP 440 DM cardioid dynamic is intended for the snare and the three diminutive, supercardioid DTP 340 TT mics are for toms. The tom mics are easy to position, offer remarkable side and rear rejection, and provide a round, warm sound. The MTP 440 DM has a focused frequency response and the least amount of proximity boost of the dynamic snare mics in this article.

The LCT 340 small-diaphragm condensers have removable capsules, with cardioid and omni caps included. The overall output of these in overhead position was about 5dB lower than the other condensers here, but they captured the sparkle of the cymbals in a remarkably smooth way (when compared at equal gain to the other mics). The LCT 340 also has three pad settings (–6, –12, –18dB) and three lowcut settings (40, 150, and 300Hz).

Everything is packaged in a lightweight, but sturdy, plastic briefcase, with two interior layers. The mics sit in the upper tray of the case, and below it sits the clips and drum clamps in fitted foam slots. All told, the DTP Beat Kit Pro 7 is a great deal for the money.

 
 
 
Under $1,000 (street)

Sennheiser e 600 Mic Pack
Sennheiser e 600 Mic Pack
SENNHEISER.COM
$999.95 street

Sennheiser assembled seven of its evolution 600-series mics to create the limited-edition e 600 Mic Pack, suitable for close miking a 5-piece set. The e-series dynamics are designed to handle very high SPLs—the e 604 can withstand 160dB—making them very attractive to hard-playing drummers and loud stage environments.

The pack includes four e 604s for use on the snare and toms. They have a fiberglass shell with an integrated (but removable) stand mount that feels durable, offers flexible positioning, and is easily installed and removed from the drum rims. The mic provides a decent amount of proximity boost, which beefed up the sound of my toms and snare significantly.

The e 602-II kick mic has a cardioid pattern and a significant boost in the upper and lower range that helps it get a solid, punchy sound. The integrated swivel mount is sturdy and the mic’s lightweight aluminum shell seems built to last. The remarkable thing about the e 602-II is that it can make nearly any bass drum sound good, which is one reason to try this kit if you haven’t already done so.

The e 614 condensers have a supercardioid pattern with good directivity and decent offaxis rejection. They did a nice job of balancing the drums and cymbals, but without sounding boxy or pinched. And they were especially good at keeping the kick drum tone to a minimum, so I had no problem mixing them in with the kick mic itself.

 
 
 
Over $1,000 (street)

Close miking is not the only way to work with a drum kit, nor is it appropriate for all styles of music. Whether you’re going for a modern or vintage vibe, the 3-mic method—two mics overhead and one on the kick—can provide an open, yet beefy sound when you’ve got well-tuned drums and a solid player in a good sounding room. And at this price point, it is assumed that you have all three in order to justify the investment. Whether you use them in concert or in the studio, the next two kits are meant to provide an uncolored sound— exactly what the drummer hears—with a minimum of setup.


Earthworks DK25/L
Earthworks DK25/L
EARTHWORKSAUDIO.COM
$1,649 street

For the DK25/L, Earthworks assembled a trio of its SR25 mics and windscreens, added a KickPad inline passive attenuator/ EQ for use with the bass drum mic, and put everything in a compact aluminum case. The “L” in the name indicates this kit is for live sound applications: The mics have a cardioid response and can be positioned to reduce onstage feedback. The DK25/L, however, is also suitable for studio use.

The DK25/R ($1,549 street), on the other hand, matches an SR25 and KickPad with a pair of TC 25 omnidirectional mics for overheads. The omnis provide a killer combination for recording in a space with lovely acoustics, but they would be difficult to manage against feedback in a sound reinforcement situation.

Earthworks notes that it designed the SR25 specifically for drums. The mic is renowned for its clarity thanks to its un-hyped frequency range and articulate transient response. The high end reaches to 25kHz, but without the presence peak other condensers have, while the low end extends below 50Hz when the mic is placed at a distance of six inches from the sound source. The ability to handle SPLs up to 145dB means that the SR25 is up to the task of spot miking if you need it. Side and rear rejection are excellent, which is why these are suitable for stage use.

With a pair of SR25s overhead and one placed a few inches away from the beater side of the bass drum head for a rock tune, I was surprised at how balanced the low end sounded, with surprisingly little bleed into the kick mic from the hi-hats and cymbals. And the overheads revealed things in the kit that were missed by the other mic kits—subtle noises and harmonic interactions between instruments that brought an additional amount of realism to the recording. Overall, the SR25’s transient response and uncolored frequency characteristics make it perfect for highly nuanced music, such as jazz, while holding up well to more aggressive and louder styles.

 
 
 
Over $1,000 (street)

 
Blue Microphones Pro Drum Kit Kit
Blue Microphones Pro Drum Kit Kit
BLUEMIC.COM
$2,499 Street

To provide a suitable 3-mic solution, Blue assembled a matched pair of its Dragonflys and a Mouse, along with three shockmounts, and put them together in a plush suitcase for a lot less than you would pay for the mics separately. While they’re not specifically voiced for drums, the Dragonfly and Mouse are capable of translating every aspect of the kit—at a distance or in close-miking situations. And, of course, they can be used on any other instrument that benefits from a large-diaphragm condenser.

The capsules in both mics are internally shockmounted, but it’s nice to have the external mounts to further mitigate rumble. Positioning the capsules is easy because they rotate vertically, allowing you to accurately aim them without having to contort the boom stand. Because the mics have a hypercardioid response, mic placement is critical in tailoring your drum recording.

The Dragonfly has an exceptional transient response and very low self-noise. And despite its presence peak, it has a smooth high end, handling ride and crash cymbals well. The Mouse displayed a balanced tonal range in a number of positions around the bass drum. When placed a few inches in front of the kick, which had both heads on and was unmuffled, it captured a solid attack and realistic tone. On the other hand, when I placed it two feet in front of the set at waist height, pointed between the snare and hi-hat, the results were a satisfying blend of kick, snare, and hats that complemented the overheads.

Considering the number of mics Blue has to choose from, this particular collection offers a unique sound with the drums and is a surprising bargain at this price point.

 
 
 
Over $1,000 (street)

Audix STE8

Audix STE8
AUDIXUSA.COM
$2,499 street

Going full circle, we return to a multi-mic kit. Audix offers eight drum packs, spanning a range of prices and configurations. But the top of the line is the Studio Elite 8 (STE8), which assembles four D-series dynamics, an i5 dynamic, and three SCX-series condensers, with all the necessary clips, clamps, and shockmounts in an aluminum carrying case. This is the cream of the crop when you want the option of close-miking a 5-piece kit using high-quality condensers as overheads and a spot mic for the hi-hat.

Both colleges where I teach have a collection of D-series drum mics, so I’m quite familiar with them: They sound great on drums, amps, and acoustic instruments while standing up to enormous wear and tear. The D6 is a perennial favorite on the kick drum, because of how well it translates the punch and upper partials in a pro-sounding way, while the i5 achieves a very tight snare sound with good focus and high output levels. The little D2 mics are voiced for rack toms, while the similar looking D4 has an enhanced low end that beefs up the floor tom nicely. All of these mics work well on other percussion, and their differing frequency characteristics are useful for solving tonal problems that arise in the studio.

But the STE8 also includes Audix’s stubby pencil condenser, the SCX1-HC, which in this case is outfitted with a hypercardioid capsule (the HC suffix) to minimize spill from surrounding instruments. (Cardioid and omni capsules are available separately.) This configuration is well suited to hi-hats, capturing a nice tone without creating overly crunchy highs. It also sounds great on hand percussion and acoustic guitar, because it de-emphasizes the unwanted harsh elements of their upper registers.

The real treat in this pack is the inclusion of a pair of SCX25A condenser mics. These large-diaphragm lollypops sound fantastic and are perfect as overheads: They provide plenty of detail, capture a balanced overall frequency range, and have the ability to tame the brittle characteristics of today’s bright cymbals. They’re solidly built but not so heavy that you can’t mount a pair on a normal boom stand with a stereo bar. And their directionality allowed me to really focus in on particular areas of the kit.

Consequently, the STE8 is of high enough quality overall that it would provide excellent sound whether you use a 3-mic setup, the Glyn Johns technique (condenser mics placed above and to the right of the drummer; spot mics on the kick and snare), or simply get in close and tight on all the drums.

 

You Might Also Like...

Show Comments

These are my comments.

Reader Poll

Where do you reference mixes most?



See results without voting »