Recording drums can be one of the most exciting and frustrating experiences you have in the studio. It is an incredibly complex instrument to capture. In total it spans the entire frequency spectrum, going from the lowest of low end all the way to the top end sizzle of the cymbals.
It is also extremely dynamic, with fast transients. While there is a wide range of microphones available that all make great choices for recording drums, some are more suited for the instrument than others. These are some of the best drum microphones for any recording situation.
Best Drum Microphone Kits
If you’re starting from scratch, a drum microphone kit might be the best option. They include everything you need to get started capturing a full kit and are usually priced very affordably.
sE Electronics V Pack Arena
Perhaps the best drum microphone kit under $1000, it comes with seven mics – one for the bass drum, three for toms, one for snare, and stereo overheads (sE8 model). For protection they come in a durable flight case capable of handling the rigors of any session with an empty compartment for including another microphone of your choice. It also comes in a six microphone version.
Audix DP7 7-Piece Drum Microphone Kit
The DP7 kit includes some of Audix’ premier microphones suited for drum recording. This includes the D6 for bass drum, i5 for snare, D2 and D4 for toms, and and the ADX51s for overheads. With these you can get a complete perspective of any drum recording situation.
Best drum overhead microphones
Overhead microphones capture the entirety of the kit and when blended with the close mics create a complete image. Drums are an instrument with extremely fast transients and thus you need microphones that can keep up. Small diaphragm condensers have a faster transient response than large-diaphragms, but both are equally popular when used for overheads.
Neumann U87 AI
Selectable polar patterns, high-pass filtering, and a -10dB pad are all the options with the U87, one of the crown jewels not just for overheads, but for a variety of sources. They are not cheap, but their sound is stellar.
No one can deny the versatility or utility of the AKG C414. Long used as a go-to for overhead drum micing, it has five polar patterns and three switchable high-pass filters for easy customization. All of this comes with a classic sound that works for pretty much any session.
Shure KSM141 Small Diaphragm Condenser
Incredibly transparent and with a fantastic transient response thanks to a gold-plated Mylar diaphragm, this model from Shure is a serious sleeper. For even further customization it has two 3-position switches controlling the pad and high-pass filter.
Best drum overhead microphones under $500
Warm Audio WA-14 Large Diaphragm Condenser
Warm Audio makes great gear at price points working musicians can afford, and their take on the classic C414 is no different. It can do cardioid, figure-8, or omni patterns and has a -20dB or -10dB pad and a full 20Hz-20kHz frequency range.
Audio Technica 4033a Large Diaphragm Condenser
With its transformerless circuit this large diaphragm from Audio Technica provides a transient capture like that of a small diaphragm condenser. And it’s got great presence for representing the full image of the drum kit.
Sennheiser e914 Small Diaphragm Condenser
The e914 has a wide dynamic range and full 20Hz-20kHz frequency response with great transient capture and a number of useful features. A 3-position sensitivity switch and 3-position high-pass filter tailors it to any session, and two different pad settings (-20dB and -10dB) are useful for those really hard hitters. It sounds good enough for professional applications but is affordable enough for amateurs and hobbyists.
Lauten Audio LA-120 Small Diaphragm Condenser
This JFET microphone comes with interchangeable capsules that can do cardioid or omni patterns, meaning you can also use them as room mics. Switchable low (50Hz and 150Hz) and high pass (10kHz and 15kHz) filters offer additional tailoring to any source. Also works well on hi-hat, or even snare.
Best bass drum microphones
Bass drum microphones are meant to handle very high SPL (as they are meant to go inside the bass drum shell). And for as great of a quality that they bring, they are also fairly inexpensive, with most coming in under just a little over $200.
One of the most popular microphones for capturing the low end of a bass drum, it’s also great at getting the midrange detail that is so vital to modern kick sounds.
Shure’s take on a microphone dedicated to the lowest frequencies is also a supercardioid polar pattern that provides better isolation to reduce bleed and focus the sound.
The low mass diaphragm of the D6 means it has no issues when it comes to the clarity and articulation of the source. It’s also fairly small in size and fits into tight spaces very well.
Best snare drum microphones
When selecting a microphone to capture snare drum sounds you’ll want something that excels in the midrange – which is where most of the snare sound lives. Low end capture is also important for getting the body of the instrument.
Battle-tested doesn’t even begin to describe the utility of Shure’s SM57 when used to capture a snare drum. It’s perfect for getting the body, crack, and sparkle all at once and can be used on the top or bottom position.
The i5 is right up there with the SM57 when it comes to micing a snare. It can handle high SPLs, and its flat cap makes it perfect for close proximity to the source. It has a pretty broad frequency range of 50Hz-16kHz as well.
With a unique shape the e906 is a secret weapon alternative to the mainstays for recording snare drum. It has a broad, 40Hz-18kHz response and a switchable presence filter with three positions: normal is the standard frequency range, one is a boost around 4.2kHz, and the third attenuates the presence range for taming those overly bright snares.
Best tom drum microphones
Toms might be the easiest part of the drum kit to record. Surely though, certain microphones are better suited than others. Here are some of the best options for recording toms.
The 5-position bass control is the real selling point here. This makes it so that no matter what size of tom is the source, the 421 can capture it accurately, from the smallest rack tom to the largest floor tom.
The 604 is made for drums, as it is a small profile microphone with a clip-on mount so it can pick up all of the sound and stay out of the drummer’s way. It also has a wide frequency pickup that can work on toms of any size.