8 Drum Mic Kits Tested: CAD, Shure, Sennheiser, and More
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.
|CAD Audio Touring7
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.
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
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.
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
Beat Kit Pro 7
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.
Sennheiser e 600
|Sennheiser e 600 Mic Pack
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
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.
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.
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
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
Pro Drum Kit Kit
|Blue Microphones Pro Drum Kit Kit
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.
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.