By Phil O'Keefe
Many engineers use two mics when recording kick drum: a dynamic in close for the "snap" and attack, and a condenser out front for the bottom end "bloom" and sustain.
Sometimes a makeshift setup of a speaker wired as a microphone is substituted for the condenser mic. Such a setup has the advantage of capturing great bottom end, but has always been a homemade affair - until now.
Yamaha and Yamaha drum artist Russ Miller have packaged a 6.5" woofer into a 10" x 5" drum shell, added mesh heads and an XLR output jack, and mounted the whole setup on a sturdy, easily positioned tripod stand.
So what does it sound like? A Spinal Tap song comes to mind: "Big Bottom." It's not going to replace a standard kick drum mic for most people, nor does Yamaha claim that it will, but as a supplement, it offers increased low-end punch and sustain.
An RTA confirmed what my ears were telling me: The Subkick captured a lot of fundamental in the 60Hz range, had a significant dip at 300Hz, a smaller peak in the 600Hz range, and dropped off steeply after that.
Frequency response is spec'ed to 2kHz, and there's some information captured as high as 3.5kHz, but not much.
One advantage the Subkick has over a condenser mic is that bleed from the rest of the kit is never a problem. While I was able to use the Subkick by itself with a lot of high-frequency boost and some compression to obtain a punchy, old-school rock tone, I imagine most people will take Yamaha's advice and run it in conjunction with a dynamic mic. But if you're looking for beef, this thing will give it to you in abundance. An added bonus is how well it worked when I tried it on a bass amp: some people will find it useful for adding bowel-shaking bottom to bass as well as kick.
Compared to the $1,000 condenser I was using, the Subkick is a bargain. In the time I've had the Subkick, it's become indispensable to me. I'm sorry Yamaha, but you're going to have to send me a bill - I'm not sending it back.