There are so many different varieties of drum microphones, and the prices vary dramatically.
Searching for the ideal drum mic for your drum kit can be confusing and exhausting.
Our guide can help you choose the best microphone for your drum kit.
Types of drum mics
The starting point is choosing the type of microphone for your drum kit. Although the best variant is to combine different mics to catch all the different sounds of your drums, it can be pricey.
If you need to choose and settle with only one type of mic, a condenser microphone can be the best solution.
Besides condenser mics, there are two other main types: dynamic and ribbon microphones.
Some drumming mics are better than others for specific tasks. Each mic will have its own personality, strengths, and drawbacks.
Condenser microphones are more sensitive to high frequencies and sound pressure levels than dynamic microphones.
On the other hand, dynamic mics are usually cheaper and can withstand loud sound sources with little distortion better than the other two.
However, condenser mics will have a more accurate depiction of the drum’s attack since they have a faster response than dynamic and ribbon microphones.
Even if you combine different mics, your set should include a condenser microphone. Let’s see the essential traits of this microphone and the essential factors that you should consider when buying it.
Condenser drum mics
As the name suggests, a condenser microphone uses a condenser, or a capacitor, converting acoustic energy into electrical energy.
It can catch the sound from a more significant distance than the other mics.
Therefore, condenser mics are suitable for overhead mic or front of drum placement. They are susceptible to sound because of their lightweight membrane.
It has a natural, precise, clear, and transparent sound, responding well to delicate parts such as cymbals. These microphones are usually used for situations where details, fast transients, and accuracy are essential.
Condenser mics can be powered by an external power supply, internal batteries, or phantom power supplied by the mixer input.
If you choose the one that requires phantom power, check the specifications of your mixer and whether it supports phantom power. The newer mixers usually do, but make sure before you buy the mic.
There are different types of condenser microphones, so you might get confused with various choices. Let us introduce you to the main types of condenser mics, so you can choose what you need accordingly.
The two main types are large-diaphragm and small-diaphragm condenser microphones.
Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphones
These mics have a large diaphragm (1″ or larger), which is usually very sensitive. Historically, large-diaphragm condensers came first.
Large-diaphragm mics are more precise than small diaphragm condenser mics. They are capturing a lot of details, and they are great at picking up the low-end frequencies.
It’s a good choice for overhead placement, but it will hardly fit in small places compared to small-diaphragm condenser mics.
Here are the top 3 large-diaphragm condenser mics which can be found on the market, rated by price and quality.
This is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone with a 1″ gold-sputtered capsule and cardioid polar pattern. It is a highly popular studio microphone.
The price of Rode NT1-A-MP is around 549$ for a matching pair. It’s considered one of the world’s quietest studio microphones, with a self-noise level of only 5dBA.
NT1 is delivering warmth, extended dynamic range, clarity, and high SPL capability. Its frequency range is 20Hz – 20kHz.
It is a wired microphone but also can be used with a 1 A battery.
The C214 is a professional large-diaphragm microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. The price is about 350$ for a single microphone.
It has an outstanding dynamic range, very low self-noise level, and integrated suspension to reduce mechanical noise and vibration from the stage.
The frequency range is 20 – 20000 Hz. It requires 12 – 52V phantom power. The C214 has been designed as a cost-effective alternative to the high-end C414 family.
JZ Microphones – Amethyst
Amethyst is a premium quality 1″ condenser microphone with an outstanding vintage design and sound.
It has a true electrostatic Golden Drop capsule, providing crystal clear and transparent sound without harshness. Amethyst has an extremely low self-noise level of 7 dB-A and a 20 Hz – 20 kHz frequency range.
It requires + 48V DC Phantom power.
Amethyst is a hand-crafted microphone, offering state-of-the-art components and showcasing the possibilities of modern technology.
Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphones
Small-diaphragm mics have a diaphragm of under 1″.
They are end-fired, thin, and pencil-shaped. Being smaller than large-diaphragm mics makes it easier to fit anywhere.
Small-diaphragm mics are good at picking up transients and details. They have a broader frequency response and come with one consistent polar pattern.
They are great for recording instruments with fast transients like snare drums, but they are most commonly used as overhead mics or room mics.
Another excellent quality of small-diaphragm mics is the low self-noise, essential for precision recording.
We singled out three affordable small-diaphragm microphones.
sE Electronics sE8
This is a microphone with a hand-crafted condenser capsule and gold-sputtered diaphragms to ensure maximum reliability.
The price is about 540$. sE8 provides smooth, natural sound & truly consistent off-axis response. It has a sophisticated acoustic design with precision components, providing a perfectly balanced sound.
It’s never harsh or aggressive – perfect for sources like high-hats and drum overheads.
Because the -10 dB and -20 dB pad switches provide an extended dynamic range, it is suitable for snare drum recording or live performance.
Two switchable low-cut filters eliminate low-frequency rumble or footfall noise. Also, the make-up for proximity effect with close-mic techniques.
This microphone is designed for recording louder sources such as drums, percussion, amplified instruments, and loud sound effects.
The price goes from 400$ for a single to 798$ for a matched pair. TC25mp has a fast impulse response and diaphragm settling time, handling high sound pressure levels effortlessly.
With the exceptional flat frequency response, it sounds natural and uncolored. It requires 24–48-volt phantom power.
TC25mp captures low and high-frequency sounds without the phase errors that can smear transients and cause other time-related distortions.
It is equally suitable for live or studio performances.
Telefunken M60 FET Cardioid
Telefunken microphones have been a recording industry standard for quite some time. The price goes from 595$ for a single mic to 1150$ for a stereo set.
It is excellent for recording drum overheads and hi-hats if you search for an accurate sound with a clear and glassy top end.
M60 features a 6-micron gold-sputtered membrane measuring 15mm in diameter. It has a surprisingly complete low end and a fast and precise transient response.
The slight peak at 8kHz gives an airy high frequency. It requires a +48V phantom power. M60 offers especially low self-noise, which is perfect for critical recordings.
What is the difference between large and small-diaphragm condenser mics?
Both large and small-diaphragm microphones sound like an excellent deal for a drum kit. They are both extremely sensitive and have a balanced high-frequency and transient response.
However, let’s sum up the differences between those two, so we can have a bigger picture of which one is the most suitable for our needs.
Size & Shape
Small diaphragm microphones are much thinner, smaller, end-fired, and pencil-shaped, whereas large diaphragm mics are more giant and side-addressed.
This makes a difference in the positioning of the microphone towards the instrument and the space that the mic will occupy.
Of course, the size affects the drum sound too. A large membrane captures more acoustic energy, thus generating a higher signal voltage.
Large-diaphragm microphones pleasingly shape the sound. Their widening pattern at low frequencies mollifies the proximity effect.
A large membrane captures more acoustic energy, thus generating a higher signal voltage. The large-diaphragm microphone has a main technical advantage, and it’s their noise performance.
Large-diaphragm has lower self-noise levels than a small diaphragm condenser mic.
However, small-diaphragm mics are considered more advanced because of a few reasons:
- excellent transient response (a small diaphragm can follow the sound waves more accurately)
- extended high-frequency response
- the very consistent pick-up pattern
Small diaphragm mics are perfect if you want to catch the raw and natural sound. It captures a detailed sound image.
Because of their neutral sound, small diaphragm microphones are significant for different parts of the drum kit: overheads, snare, hi-hat, and cymbals.
If we compare the polar patterns of a small-diaphragm and a large-diaphragm microphone at various frequencies, a nicely crafted small-diaphragm microphone has a very harmonious cardioid pattern.
Both large and small-diaphragm microphones are great recording tools, and there is no real winner.
When choosing between small-diaphragm and large-diaphragm mics, you should ask yourself what kind of sound you are going for.
If you want a spacious, full-bodied sound, a large-diaphragm mic should be your choice.
The large-diaphragm mics offer more significant, engaging, beautiful sound and are great for capturing the leading instruments.
On the other hand, if you are searching for detail and precision, a small diaphragm is the one for you. This is because they are more realistic, capturing an uncolored, neutral, very detailed sound image. The choice depends on what you need, and of course, what you can afford.
Other types of condenser microphones
Besides the two main differences between large and small diaphragm microphones, few other varieties are considered.
Side-Address Condenser Microphones
This is a type of large-condenser mic with a wide, flat windscreen over a large diaphragm.
The primary axis is pointing out from its side. The large-condenser mics are usually side-addressed.
Dual-Diaphragm condensers look very similar to side-addressed mics, but there is a difference. They have two diaphragms aimed in opposite directions.
Compared to two single-diaphragm mics, a dual-diaphragm condenser mic makes balancing two simultaneous sound sources more accessible.
Tube Condenser Microphones
Tube condenser mics are vintage, but they are still used in professional recording studios these days.
They transmit warmth and a rounded sound to recorded material. A tube microphone uses a vacuum tube to boost the signal from the capsule for proper recording or broadcasting.
These mics require a dedicated power supply, including more power than the standard 48V Phantom Power. Being highly detailed and precise, they are suitable for capturing high frequencies.
Shotgun mics can be dynamic mic or condenser. It’s a type of microphone characterized by a highly directional polar pattern.
They have a long tube sticking out from the front, resembling a shotgun in a way.
There are holes on the sides, which act as a phase canceling device for sounds coming from the end of the microphone.
Shotgun mics are sometimes called “line microphones,” They are perfect for determining and capturing the audio of something from far away without catching the surrounding sounds.
However, shotgun mics are usually not used for recording a drum kit.
Being able to capture sound precisely can be tempting, but judging by the experience of drummers, shotgun mics don’t work so well with drums.
Shotgun mics are usually used for voice recording. They could be too directional to get a good image of the kit as a whole. But, it could be an additional part of the mics set for your drum kit if you use other microphones.
One crucial feature that you should pay attention to when buying a microphone for your drum kit is the polar pattern.
A polar pattern is usually mentioned in the specification of the product, and it describes how a microphone picks up sound.
A microphone’s polar pattern is essential for figuring out which type of microphone you should buy.
The polar pattern can be:
Many condenser microphones have selectable pick-up patterns, so you can choose to use omnidirectional or directional mics.
Omnidirectional polar pattern
An omnidirectional microphone takes sound equally from all directions.
It picks up sound in a 360-degree radius, and it’s sensitive to sound at all angles.
Omnidirectional microphones have more extended low-frequency response and lower distortion than directional microphones. It can be a possible choice if you are searching for drum overhead microphones It is suitable for capturing more than one sound source.
The direction the microphone is pointing is not essential, and proximity is the main factor in how strongly it picks up a sound.
Directional polar pattern
A microphone with a directional polar pattern is capturing sound from a specific direction.
There are a few different types of directional microphones.
Cardioid is the most common one, highly sensitive to sound coming in from directly in front of the microphone capsule, reduced sensitivity to sound coming in from the sides, and no sensitivity to sound coming directly from behind.
The Supercardioid microphone is even more directional. It is even less sensitive to sound coming in from the sides, comparing to a regular cardioid.
But it has a bit more sensitivity to sound at the back.
Microphones with directional polar patterns are commonly used for recording particular parts of the drum kit, placing them directly towards the sound source.
Drum microphone placement
For the best result with capturing the sound of drums, the more mics you have, the better. If you can buy a few different microphones for your drum kit, do it.
Here is a brief instruction on the best way to place condenser microphones when miking drums. This can help you choose different condenser mics according to the part of drums you want to capture the sound from.
Usually, inside the bass drum, there is a large dynamic kick drum mic.
The second microphone goes in front of the resonant head. The best option for this microphone is a large diaphragm mic.
You should place it in front of the kick-drum, but it should face the drum hole directly. However, if you use only one microphone, you can place it in front of the hole.
There is an option for an innovative kick drum miking, and it’s called a dual-element cardioid instrument microphone.
Audio-Technica company produced AE2500 Dual-element cardioid instrument microphone, uniting both condenser and dynamic elements in one microphone.
Dynamic element captures the aggressive attack of the beater while the condenser catches the round tonalities of the shell.
This microphone can survive extreme SPLs while providing excellent audio quality.
The bottom snare drum microphone should be a cardioid condenser with high SPL capacity.
The condenser mic will capture the high-end snap from the snares.
It should be placed directly beneath the snares.
You can use one more single condenser mic on the top for capturing a bright and open snare sound.
For miking the hi-hat, you should use a cardioid small-diaphragm microphone.
Hi-hat has high-speed transients, so that you will need a good condenser microphone with a cardioid or supercardioid polar pattern for an isolated setup.
Place your microphone at an angle where you can’t see the snare drum above the top of the hi-hat cymbals.
In this way, you will reduce the sound of the other parts of the drum kit.
A matched pair of either large or small-diaphragm condensers would be the perfect choice for miking the drum overheads.
Both directional and omnidirectional polar pattern microphones can be used as overhead mics, although cardioid mics are most commonly used.
If you want a very detailed, crisp picture and a perfect stereo image of the kit, you should go with a small diaphragm mic.
On the other hand, if you want a more rock and roll approach: big sound, big room, big tails on cymbals and drums, a large-diaphragm mic is one to get.
Omnidirectional mics capture more of a room sound, so the sound’s quality and clarity will depend on the room’s acoustic.
Since the microphone should be placed above the overheads, it will capture the entire drum kit at some level.
You can use the single cardioid mics for tom-toms and the ride cymbal for capturing each different sound of your drum kit.
For most applications, you’ll need at least two microphones, so get a matched pair if you can.
What are condenser drum mics best for?
The primary purpose of a condenser microphone is to pick up sound and convert it into an electrical signal. This means that they are susceptible to a wide range of frequencies, making them perfect for capturing the overall sound of a room (where all the instruments are playing). In addition, because of their excellent sound reproduction capabilities, condenser mics are also suitable for use as recording studio microphones.
What about dynamic mics?
Dynamic microphones have a different design from condensers. The main difference is that they don’t need power (from phantom power or batteries) to operate since they use electromagnetic induction. As a result, they are less susceptible to high-frequency distortion than most types of condensers. As a result, many musicians use them alongside others.
Are condenser mics louder than a dynamic mic?
Condensers are more sensitive, and therefore pick-up sounds better, but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re louder. Generally speaking, though, condenser mics tend to have a higher max SPL (Sound Pressure Level, or the level of volume that can be achieved).
Dynamic mics don’t need the power to operate. Because of this reason, they are usually used live on stage since it both reduces the risk for feedback sound and makes cables lighter. Not only do dynamic mics have their use on stage – condensers are great for studio recording too! Their most common use is as overhead drum microphones, where they capture the room’s acoustic sound, resulting in more natural drum recordings.
Can a condenser drum mic be used live?
Yes, these mics on drums are usually used as overheads in live circumstances. However, even though condensers require phantom power to operate, it doesn’t mean that they won’t function correctly without them. Truth be told, most of the condenser mics will work perfectly fine without phantom power – even if your mixer has to supply some sort of capacitance, at least.
There are, however, a few limitations in using these mics on stage.
The first one is when the mic gets too close to the monitors – because there’s no need for a preamp signal, this results in loud noise coming right back into the mic from the speakers (at best) or a complete loss of sound (at worst). This issue can be solved by just adding another dynamic microphone as an alternate for monitor usage.
The second issue is that the signal from the mic will be way too hot for many mixing consoles depending on the gain settings.
Because of these limitations, most newbies don’t want to touch condenser mics. They think they’re out of their league and that phantom powering is a must – even if it’s not necessary.
Well, there is no need to fear condenser mics! You can take them on stage (with minimal frustration).
What do you need for a condenser drum mic?
Condenser microphones require phantom power. This means you’ll need to use an audio mixer or PA system which has 48V available. Some mixing consoles have +48V and -48V options, meaning the microphone can work without any polarity issues – some don’t! – so make sure to check all your equipment in advance and save yourself the hassle. If your mixing console doesn’t offer 48V, make sure to use a DI box before going into the soundboard (see below). Make sure not to connect condenser mics directly into the mic input on your PC/laptop.
Can you plug a condenser mic into a computer?
Yes, you can. Condenser microphones usually come with a carrying case that includes XLR cables (see picture above). However, there is no phantom power coming from your computer’s sound card! To use a condenser mic, you’ll need to get either an audio interface or an external USB mixer. If you don’t have one yet, try searching for an ‘audio interface’ on Amazon and look for a device with at least two microphone preamps built-in. A small mixer like the Mackie Onyx Blackjack will also do the job well.
Can I connect the condenser mic to the amplifier?
Yes. If your amplifier has an AUX INPUT, you’re good to go. You’ll just need a cable with 1/4″ connectors on both ends and a microphone preamp (see above).
Can you use a condenser mic without a soundcard?
Yes. Just use an audio interface, mixer, or AUX INPUT on a PA amplifier.
Is condenser mic better than dynamic microphone?
It depends on your application. Dynamic mics are more robust and less sensitive to mechanical noise from the amp’s speaker and vibrations from sound impulses in the room (e.g., drums, bass). Condensers are usually brighter-sounding, but they’re not as hardy and suffer more from low signal levels because of higher self-noise levels (the hiss you hear when nothing is playing). However, condensers have a lot more presence which can be a good thing if you want to ‘push it in front of everything else while still good overall balance with other instruments.
Condenser microphones are capable of capturing much quieter sounds with a high degree of accuracy.
Compared to dynamic microphones, they are more sensitive and precise.
The most important features you should pay attention to when buying the condenser microphone for your drum kit are:
- Polar pattern
- Frequency response
- Self-noise level
- Power supply
It would be best if you chose the mic according to your needs.
For miking the single parts of the drum kit, it’s usually better to use condenser mics with a directional polar pattern, such as cardioid mics.
Condenser mics have a flat frequency response, while dynamic and ribbon mics are not optimal in terms of frequency and transient response.
They are capturing well all the details of the drum sounds, fast and precise. If you need the microphone for delicate and precise recordings, search for low self-noise condenser mics.
When it comes to the power supply, condenser mics usually require phantom power, and you should have a mixer that supports it.
If we speak about the physical sensitivity of condenser microphones, they are more fragile than dynamic ones. So be sure you place them at a safe distance to prevent hitting them with the drumsticks.
Finally, the choice of the condenser microphone for your drum set should be adapted to the circumstances.
The room where the drums are placed plays a vital role since the space’s acoustics greatly influence the overall sound quality.
Maybe you will need time to set up and adjust your microphones until you find the perfect balance. If you have a tight budget, getting the sound you aim for might get tricky.
But, there are some affordable drumming microphones out there that you can start with, which will give you pretty satisfying results.