The best overhead mics for drums. When it comes to recording drums, the sound of your overheads can make or break your record. You need to get your hands on a set of overheads that are both in your budget and that will deliver great results.
Taking a trip down to your local music store isn’t the best option, as they don’t stock as many microphones anymore.
We’ve curated this list of the six best overhead mics for drums so you don’t make the same mistakes everyone else does when purchasing overhead microphones.
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The topic of overhead microphones is subjective — there are plenty of other options available, but I feel that this list covers both affordable mics to the highest-quality pro mics you can choose from.
- Top 6 Best Overhead Mics for Drums in 2021- Reviews | Drum Mic Setup Tips, Drum Mic Reviews
- Choosing the Best Overhead Mic for Drums
Top 6 Best Overhead Mics for Drums in 2021- Reviews | Drum Mic Setup Tips, Drum Mic Reviews
I’ve included some audio samples for microphones I’ve either used myself, or have tracked with in the past.
Be sure to listen on studio monitors or high-quality reference headphones. All the audio examples below have no EQ or compression added, aside from anything that may have been used on the way in.
The Best Overhead Mics For Drums
If you’re really on a tight budget and are just starting out, the microphones listed below will be a perfect choice for home recording.
You won’t get the most amazing results ever, but these might be a good starter option to learn on.
Behringer C-2 Stereo Overhead Mics
The Cheapest Overhead Microphones for Drums
Behringer is a company that has prided itself in making high-quality, affordable products. The C-2 Stereo overhead mics for drums are no different.
These are the best budget overhead drum mics. Even so, they will deliver decent results for the money. This is the only set of overhead mics for drums under $100.
You’re not only limited to just recording drums with these types of microphones.
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You can also dream up other applications for your overhead microphones: recording piano, acoustic guitar, room microphones, etc.
The only other thing to note about these overhead mics for drums is that they are a little thin-sounding.
If you’re primarily recording cymbals and later on replacing the close microphones with samples, you’ll have no issue with these. Be prepared to use a lot of EQ cuts on these, as they are very harsh in the high end.
Rode M5 Overhead Mics
Best Overhead Mics for Drums Around $200
Next up on our list is the Rode M5. These drum overheads will sound significantly better than the Behringer mics, giving you a fuller sound with a less-harsh high end.
Rode makes killer microphones for an affordable price. Just like the C-2, this is a stereo pair of pencil condenser microphones that will give you a nice overhead recording.
These drum overhead microphones provide more detail in your recording and will require less-aggressive EQ moves.
The Rode M5 is perfect for the studio recording or any live application. They’re durable and cheap, so you know you can tour with them.
At around $100 each, you won’t be going wrong, especially if they’re your first matched stereo pair of microphones.
Side note: Another excellent microphone from these guys is the Rode K2. It’s perfect for recording a mono overhead or also works great as a room microphone.
Drum Overhead Mics for Around $500
The AT4041 pair is by far the greatest sounding pair of overhead microphones on our list thus far. These microphones give a nice and crispy high-end without sounding harsh.
They are perfect for cymbals, overheads, room mics, on acoustic guitar, pianos, horns, and even are useful as a snare bottom microphone. These microphones feature a transformer-less design, giving you a quieter noise floor.
Included in the protective vinyl case is the two microphones, two stand clamps, and two windscreens. Everything about these overhead mics for drums screams quality.
Shure KSM137 Studio Pair
Overhead Mics for Drums Under $1000
A company we have yet to see on our list is Shure. For those wondering, I have purposely left out the Shure SM81 pencil condenser microphone.
I have never been a fan of that mic and think that the KSM137s far outshine in performance and sound. They’re also cheaper.
Hear the microphones on a kit — no EQ or compression:
These are the most expensive on our list so far, and they perform well and sound incredible.
As we get into this range of microphones, most of them will sound amazing. It’s really up to your personal taste.
While you can use these microphones for your drum overheads, you can also use them on hi-hats if need be.
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Acoustic instruments also sound excellent with these microphones.
A standard in many studios. These are the best overheads under $1,600
Neumann makes expensive microphones. For the price, these are the best sounding drum overhead mics and will give you the highest quality drum recordings.
Here’s a raw recording of the KM184s as drum overheads:
The KM184s are industry standard microphones and have been used on tons of records.
Your cymbals will shine and your drums will sound big and full. Many engineers swear by these mics and often use them on tons of different applications.
They are extremely detailed microphones and can handle very high SPL. In addition to drum overheads, these microphones sound excellent on acoustic instruments.
Neumann U87 Stereo Matched Pair
The BEST Overhead Microphones for Drums
If you have a ton of money to spend on your studio build, you should get two Neumann U87s to use as drum overheads.
They are by far the best sounding microphone and you’ll also be able to use this microphone on tons of different applications.
Have a listen to them on drums as overheads:
They’re punchy, full of life, and yet, not so brittle in the top-end.
You’ll be able to track amazing sounding vocals, record guitars, amplifiers, you name it.
Now there are some microphone makers who are essentially making U87 clones. Some come close, others are way off.
Choosing the Best Overhead Mic for Drums
If you are going to purchase an overhead mic for drums, there are a few things to consider. First, it’s essential to use a matched pair, whether you are using them for studio recording or live performance.
After you have invested in quality instruments, not to mention the time and work of honing your skills, you’re wise to select the correct recording equipment, especially a good pair of microphones. Below are some factors to consider when choosing the best overhead mic for drums.
Why Use Matched Pair Mics for Drums?
Microphones all have different frequency responses as well as differing polar pickup patterns. To add another layer of complexity, the way that two mics’ polar responses vary with the frequency is also different.
If you use two different mics for what’s called X-Y coincident stereo recording, you won’t be satisfied with the outcome. The result will be a badly-defined stereo image that is wandering and unstable. Each instrument you record will be affected differently. We aren’t talking about minor differences or subtle effects. Your entire recording project can be derailed by competing mics.
To avoid this, microphone manufacturers adhere to tight tolerances as they produce matched pairs, selling them together as sets. The happy result for you is affordable mics that are already packaged together in perfectly matched pairs. Matched microphones perform alike, thus creating a stereo pair capable of extremely accurate stereo recording.
The best overhead mic for drums is a condenser microphone. The technology makes them ideal for recording both medium field as well as far-field drum sounds from above. A pair of condenser mics capture the nuance of cymbals and drums due to their sensitivity. Condenser mics are much more sensitive than dynamic ones. They pick up more subtle details.
SPL (Sound Pressure Level) Rating
The sound pressure level is essentially the measurement of how much input volume the mic can support before it begins to distort the sound. In short, it’s one way to rate sound. When looking for a quality pair of mics, this is not a quality to brush off.
SPL is a mechanical measure of air pressure changes that happen because of noise. What about decibels? That’s a similar measurement because it rates sound volume. Though, volume is more a function of the relative increase in voltage. In other words, more power creates more gain, which creates more volume.
SPL, on the other hand, is an indicator of how well the microphone stays true to the music despite the increased volume. When you’re recording loud instruments like drums, you don’t want the mic to distort just as the drummer is ramping up. So, the higher the SPL, the better.
When we talk about dB (otherwise known as “decibel”) pads, understand that dB pads are actually a button that you use to either raise or lower the volume of a given input signal.
Why would you need a feature like this? Say you are miking something that’s super loud, like a cymbal, for instance. Here, you want a less sensitive microphone to capture the cymbals without distorting the sound.
Remember, overhead drum mics are sensitive by design, so a dB pad can make your super-sensitive mic less sensitive when you need it to be. A mic with built-in dB pads makes your mics all the more versatile.
Sonic Characteristics of Condenser Microphones
Condenser mics also have a much broader frequency range that enables them to better reproduce drum sounds with clarity and accuracy. The general frequency range is between 20 Hz and 20000 Hz. More than likely, you don’t need a broader range than that.
In addition, overhead drum mics have a cardioid pickup pattern that is ideal for drums. It picks up the drums while rejecting the off-axis sounds that make their way into the recording with other types of microphones. Thus, whatever mics, you should have the cardioid pattern to ensure the best capture of your performance.
Four out of the five overhead drum mics we reviewed are perfect budget mics for the beginner with a home studio.
If you’re just starting out, then any of these small-diaphragm paired mics are suitable for your needs.
They are all extremely affordable and come with windscreens, pop filters, and stand adapters. They also make economical purchases for a second or backup pair of mics.
The last microphone we reviewed, the AKG C 214, was a large diaphragm microphone.
While it has a hefty price tag, it is geared toward the professional rather than the novice.