The Best Overhead Drum Microphones | Reviews 2018

Posted in Gear

Drums, drums, drums… Most audio engineers will probably say that it is one of the most complicated instrument to mike. What works on the bass drum will not be ideal for the snare, toms or cymbals if you want it to sound good. Depending on the style of the music and the player, you need to be sure you’ve got the right microphone. The most common types of microphones you’ll come across are dynamics, condensers, and ribbons.

What works on the bass drum will not be ideal for the snare, toms or cymbals if you want it to sound good. Another very important thing is where you place the microphones. An inch to the right or left, up or down can make a huge difference in what the mic captures.

Over time, producers, engineers, and musicians have gravitated toward certain microphones that have become standard.
That is for sure the “Shure SM57” dynamic microphone. It has become the legendary mic for any instrument or situation. Some engineers claim they can mic an entire stage using only that model. Beyond that, the SM57 has long been the go-to microphone for snare drums.

I have to admit, I personally am convinced of the excellent quality of this microphone. I use it and I never had any kind of problem with it.

But currently it's about overhead microphones, so I will not go further.

This kind of microphones is those utilized in audio recording and live reproduction to pick up ambient sounds and therefore the overall mix of instruments. They're used in drum recording to realize a stereo image of the drum kit (capturing the room, the space around the drums), also in orchestral recording to form a stereo recording of full orchestras. There are multiple arrangements for drum overheads, which are often based on personal preference of the musician, engineer, or producer (positioned left, center, right, in a triangle shape over the drums etc).

Companies like Audix, AKG, Audio Technica, Samson etc. are dedicated to making their products easy to use and easily accessible to a wide range of drummers.

Shure has also continued to develop new products, and some of the company’s condenser models have become “new standards.”

The Shure KSM32

Isolated single-diaphragm, cardioid condenser microphone for professional studio recording and live sound productions is a just outstanding mic that gives you natural sound. The Shure KSM32 offers an extended frequency response for a natural sounding reproduction of the original sound source.

- It has a class A, preamp that eliminates cross-over distortion.
- Embossed, high-compliance diaphragm provides extended low-frequency response.
- A switchable low-frequency filter can cut background noise and integrated three-stage pop protection grille reduces "pop" and different breath noise.
- Also, its internal shock mount reduces noise too.
- It is used in many ways like recording voice for broadcast, voice-over, backing vocals, and of course solo vocal. When recording various types of instruments like piano, guitar, brass, drums etc.

Many musicians like to use it for room/ ambiance pick up and it is ideal for that purpose.
Even for whole ensembles, choir or orchestra this can be a perfect mic for use.

  • The KSM32 is definitely rugged enough for the stage.
  • Natural sound
  • It has very classy electronics and very fast transient response

  • Depends on taste, but if used as drum overheads, definitely design is defect

The Shure KSM 141

Editor's choice best pick badge

Another option from Shure company for the drummer, sound engineer, piano or guitar player on a budget is ultra skinny the Shure KSM 141, which offers skilled miking technology and 2 selections of polar patterns (cardioid or omnidirectional). It brings you all the options of much more expensive condenser mics, like a filter that eliminates self-noise and a switchable pad that’s nice for the high instantaneous sound pressure levels involved in miking a drum kit.

The adjustable low-pass filter provides you 3 settings thus you'll be able to tailor the frequency capture to the equipment within the kit, while the low-mass mylar diaphragm provides you AN incredibly detailed response with lots of flexibility. This simply could be the most effective overhead drum microphone for the money.

  • 3-Step HP filter
  • Design
  • Weight: 156g
  • Natural, transparent sound

  • I did not find or heard any bad comments about this model

Using two 141s as a stereo pair will work great as room/ambient mics in the studio or live gigs without any unexpected feedback issues.

If this, what Shure offers, is expensive for you. A model which is offered by the company AKG is a phenomenal choice. You'll just love the KSM 141. Simple, small dimensions, looks cheap but gives incredibly good sound for a minimum price. Definitely, the best microphone for the lowest price and your cymbals will sound great both live and in the studio.

AKG P170

AKG Percepiton 170 Professional Instrumental Microphone is definitely the of the best when it comes to price and your cymbals will sound great weather you use it live or in the studio. If you want to start recording your instrument or just mike your drum at a live gig, this is a great product. It will provide you the necessary pure and natural sound that you need.

Useful for a room/ambiance microphone or simply for hi-hat as it is used by many drummers. Keep in mind that this is a condenser mike that requires phantom power. That means that either the mixer or the device that you are using to record can provide it. If not, you have to get an adapter to supply the phantom power (48v). I could easily compare it with a more expensive model AKG c1000s. Trust me you will not notice any excessive difference.

  • Weight: 130 grams
  • Robust metal chassis
  • Response to frequencies

  • The pad switch is the inside
  • The stand adapter

Speaking of AKG’s offers, there is one phenomenal product from their factory.
It's not like I presented a cheap version because I do not like AKG, on the contrary, I love their drum microphone sets. AKG d112 is an irreplaceable and inseparable part of my bass drums. The C519ML is simply perfect for toms due to its dimensions and, of course, great sound.
On the other hand, we have a much more expensive version of the condenser microphone for drum overhead. That's for sure AKG pro C414.

AKG Pro C414

Although it is advertised and presented as a microphone for singing and soloists, the features of this microphone are really great for drums too. Not only will investing in a high-quality o condenser microphone improve your drum set-up, but this outstanding microphone is a must-have component of your recording tools. This microphone offers a selection of 9 polar patterns for the perfect sound capture for each requirement. A peak hold light-emitting diode (LED) displays even the shortest overload peaks. Designed for highest requirements with its neutral sound, it's been the most adaptable large-diaphragm mike.

The dynamic range captures all the sound your kit produces, while the low-cut filters assist you to wash up the sound in your mix. This model is a bit impractical due to the dimensions and shapes for live gigs at smaller stages and clubs. It's not cheap and you would not like to drop it.

  • Nine selectable polar patterns for the perfect setting for every application
  • Three attenuation levels for close-up recording or high-output sources
  • Three switchable bass-cut filters to reduce wind noise, subsonic noise
  • Overload LED warning, with peak hold, detects shortest audio peaks

  • Price. It it wasn't so high compared to the other models, this would be our top pick.

Samson C02

When I already mentioned live gigs in smaller stages and clubs, what would a drummer be if I did not mention the best low-budget condenser mics? A company called "Samson" produces and offers a fabulous pack of 2 pieces of so-called pencil condenser microphones. That bundle includes stand, clip, cables and attachment bar. That is, in my opinion, top value accessory bundle. This offer is great and if you are not too demanding, these two "pencils" will do your job very well.
Cardioid pattern captures a narrow space right ahead of the mike, with a result that minimizes ambient noise from close instruments and monitors that will cause feedback. A wide, linear frequency response leads to rich detail while minimizing low-frequency noise.

  • First of all price
  • Good quality for live performances

  • If not well placed, there is a huge chance of feedback caused by high frequencies

While this microphone pack includes mounting hardware, individual microphones often do not. For the snare, bass drum and tom mics, you might want to consider various rim/hardware mounts. Your drum rack, when hitting on a tom or ride cymbal, for example, can cause various unwanted sounds that your microphone will catch up. You do not want that.It may happen that someone on the stage will jump next to your overhead mic stand, which will also cause unwanted sounds. But for these issues, the audio engineers will be taken care of. Your job should be only to provide quality stands and mounts for your mics so you do not have to worry about your microphone being jeopardized.

Things to take into consideration

Let's forget about the looks, dimensions, and colors, the number-one priority in designing a microphone to be used on drums or percussion is durability. Especially live, where close-miking prevails, the risk of "hit with the stick", being pulled out of case, handled by many people, dropped, is high… The durability of the microphone also depends on temperature and environment changes. So because of that, you will need a solid carry case. There are many products that are not overly expensive and will also mean to you a lot and to your microphone as well. An excellent example of such cases is Distro-tech’s products. With their low prices and high quality, you can be sure that your microphones will be safe and sound. Dense foam surrounded hard exterior made of durable composite injection plastic, provides protection against impacts, drops, dust and all unpleasant environmental influences. The last thing you want to worry about is your microphone.