6 Best Room Mics for Drums

best room mics for drums

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Room mics are integral components in a drum recording setup. They capture the sound of the whole kit simultaneously, along with highlighting the unique acoustic qualities of the space that you’re recording in. 

Whether you’re aiming for a tight, compressed drum sound, or a powerful open sound, choosing a capable room microphone will help you to achieve the best quality recordings in your specific style. 

There are many opinions on what makes a great room mic for recording acoustic drum kits. In this guide, we’ve selected the best room mics for drums to suit drum recordings in all genres and styles. 

How We Tested Room Mics

To identify the best room mics for drum recordings, we ran the options through a series of tests. We began by monitoring the mic’s ability to handle the high volumes of a drum kit and assessed the likelihood of distortion occurring. 

We then tested the microphone’s clarity by analyzing the individual drum separation that was achieved by applying any mixing to the recordings made. Furthermore, we assessed the build quality of the microphones to predict their longevity if used heavily. 

Finally, we looked at the specific characteristics that are unique to each microphone’s design, such as their suitability for warm, vintage drum sounds, or tighter-sounding modern drum sounds.

Drum Room Mics Reviews

Shure KSM32 Condenser Microphone

The SKM32 by Shure is a large-diaphragm condenser microphone that is a great choice for capturing all of the finer details of a drum kit.
Clarity
4.3
Versatility
4.3
Warmth
4.0
Build Quality
4.2
Value
4.0

    Our Verdict

    Shure is widely regarded as the most reliable and consistent microphone manufacturer in the world, with their famous creations like the SM57, SM58, and SM7B amongst the best-selling mics of all time.

    The three mics I just mentioned are all of the dynamic variety, but with the SKM32, Shure proves that it can also create an excellent condenser. This mic is a great all-rounder, which is why it is a perfect choice for a drum room mic. 

    With its onboard -15dB pad, you can quickly reduce the prominence of any harsh frequencies that commonly become apparent when recording an acoustic drum kit.

    Additionally, there’s a highpass filter to counter those problematic boomy bass sounds. 

    Being a large-diaphragm condenser microphone with a cardioid polar pattern, the SKM32 will hone in on the detailed transients of a drum kit. Hi-hats, crash cymbals, and the impact of snare drums are a few of these mics’ strong points. 

    There’s a reason that the Shure KSM32 has been used in recording studios for decades – it delivers high-quality recordings. It’s not limited to drums either – this mic can also capture guitars, vocals, or stringed instruments very impressively. 

    Key features:

    • -15dB pad
    • Internal shockmount
    • Gold-layered Mylar diaphragm

    Pros

    • Minimizes distortion
    • Reduces the prominence of breath sounds and plosives
    • Combats high SPLs for smooth recordings

    Cons

    • Onboard switches may be confusing at first

    Neumann U87 Ai Set Condenser Microphone

    This high-end condenser microphone can thrive in any condition. This mic has a stunning, vintage sound that is typical of Neumann.
    Clarity
    5.0
    Versatility
    4.7
    Warmth
    4.7
    Build Quality
    5.0
    Value
    3.5

      Our Verdict

      Neumann is in a league of its own when it comes to microphone manufacturing. With a history rich with iconic creations, this manufacturer continues to set the standard in the modern age of recording. 

      Several Neumann mics could have easily been included on this list of the best room mics for drums, but the U 87 Ai comes out on top. 

      Firstly, it possesses a rare quality that many microphones aim for, but fall short of achieving – vintage warmth. The U87 Ai will make your drums sound like they have been recorded in a high-end 1970s recording studio.

      Furthermore, this microphone is built to last for decades. It boasts three switchable polar patterns which consist of cardioid, omnidirectional, and figure-8, so you can experiment to find the best setting for your drum room mic recordings. 

      The original U 87 was one of Neumann’s most popular mics throughout the 60s and 70s, but the manufacturer has made some necessary modern advancements to the original design. 

      However, the key elements, such as the capsule design and the visual design remain the same as the iconic original. 

      Key Features:

      • Low-frequency roll-off switch
      • Three switchable polar patterns
      • Pressure-gradient transducer

      Pros

      • Classic vintage tone that is renowned worldwide
      • Captures cymbals with warmth and clarity
      • Can be positioned close to or away from the drum kit

      Cons

      • May not be suitable for processed, tighter drum sounds

      Audio-Technica AT4050 Condenser Microphone

      With its transformerless design, the AT4050 keeps noise issues to a minimum. This quality, along with its ability to handle many different sounds at once, makes it a perfect candidate for your drum room mic.
      Clarity
      4.0
      Versatility
      4.0
      Warmth
      4.0
      Build Quality
      4.0
      Value
      4.5

        Our Verdict

        Audio-Technica’s AT4050 ranks amongst the company’s best-selling large-diaphragm condenser mics, and for good reason. This workhorse is a versatile tool to have in the studio and can perform many different roles. 

        One of the main challenges that room mics face when capturing drums is that there are so many frequencies produced. The mic, therefore, has to be able to record them as a whole whilst balancing their sounds and frequencies. 

        The AT4050 can do this thanks to its extensive frequency response, and high SPL handling capability. It also benefits from having floating inner components which allow it to combat vibration and noise issues more efficiently. 

        Audio-Technica has installed a trip of polar patterns on this mic – cardioid, omni, and figure-8. You’ll likely use the cardioid setting if you’re placing the room mic in from of the drum kit, but the other patterns are useful for other positions. 

        Another large contributor to the success of this microphone is the custom-designed diaphragms, which are made from gold and have been subjected to a strict aging process. 

        This gives the mic a distinctive, vintage tone that will take your drum recordings to the next level.  

        Key Features:

        • Three onboard polar patterns
        • 80 Hz highpass filter
        • 10dB attenuation pad

        Pros

        • Wide frequency response caters to all drum sounds
        • Reduces boomy sounds and low-end distortion
        • Transparent drunk kit recordings

        Cons

        • May require some EQ to boost the midrange slightly

        AKG C414 XLS Condenser Microphone

        AKG’s C414 looks like it was made in the 1960s - and it’s perfect for capturing drums with a hint of that decade’s signature sound.
        Clarity
        4.2
        Versatility
        4.5
        Warmth
        4.5
        Build Quality
        4.0
        Value
        4.5

          Our Verdict

          Certain microphone manufacturers produce such distinctive designs that you can tell one of their devices by glancing at it for a second. AKG’s C414 is instantly recognizable both visually and sonically. 

          One of the main reasons that we believe the C414 would make such a great drum room mic is that it has a total of nine pickup patterns – which is by far the most of any mic featured on our list. 

          This means that no matter what space you’re recording drums in, or whatever sound you’re trying to achieve, you can tailor the polar pattern to suit these variables down to a tee. 

          Furthermore, if you feel overwhelmed by the array of onboard switches and controls, you can simply activate Lock Mode, which will simplify the microphone and make it easier to plug in and start recording. 

          AKG has managed to design this mic with an impressive 152 dB of dynamic range, which makes it perfect for capturing the various dynamic aspects and sounds produced by an acoustic drum kit. 

          Key Features:

          • Five switchable polar patterns
          • 152 dB dynamic range
          • Three bass cut filters

          Pros

          • Incredibly versatile microphone
          • Distinctive vintage tone is very desirable
          • Also useful for many other instrument recordings

          Cons

          • Best suited to vintage-style drum sounds

          Neumann TLM 102 Condenser Microphone

          The TLM 102 is another excellent microphone. When used as a room mic for drum recordings, this device delivers a crisp and accurate performance with a dose of vintage goodness.
          Clarity
          4.7
          Versatility
          4.5
          Warmth
          4.5
          Build Quality
          4.3
          Value
          3.8

            Our Verdict

            Despite its compact size, the Neumann TLM 102 is just as capable as most larger condenser microphones.

            Its durable chassis houses a variety of carefully selected components that accumulate to make it ideal for drum room mic recordings. 

            When designing this mic, and all of the other offerings in the TLM range for that matter, Neumann focused predominantly on eliminating noise from the signal. This is evident when you listen back to recordings with the TLM 102 – it is stunningly clean sounding. 

            The low-noise circuitry allows this microphone to capture everything from toms to ride cymbals without any humming or buzzing tarnishing the clarity. 

            Another quality that makes the TLM 102 ideal for drum recordings is its ability to handle high SPLs without buckling under pressure. This is an essential attribute for any room mic, and the TLM 102 delivers.  

            The versatility of this Neumann condenser means that you can also use it as a drum overhead microphone in stereo if you purchase two. Additionally, it’s a great mic for capturing loud sounds like an amplified guitar or a powerful vocal take. 

            Like most Neumann mics, the TLM 102 blends vintage warmth with modern designs to ensure that you get a desirable recording of your drum kit or other instruments. 

            Key Features:

            • 144dB maximum SPL handling
            • 20Hz-20kHZ frequency range
            • 132dB dynamic range

            Pros

            • Adds emphasis to the high end of a drum kit
            • Can be used in mono or as a stereo pair
            • Low noise recordings

            Cons

            • Lacks some focus in the lower frequencies

            Beyerdynamic M160 Double Ribbon Microphone

            The M160 is a unique ribbon microphone by Beyerdynamic that has built a reputation for being a solid performing drum room mic in recent years.
            Clarity
            3.8
            Versatility
            3.5
            Warmth
            4.7
            Build Quality
            4.0
            Value
            3.8

              Our Verdict

              With its unusual aesthetical design, the M160 is perhaps the most recognizable microphone featured in this guide.

              Initially, this mic was designed to be used with acoustic stringed instruments, but it didn’t take long for people to notice its other capabilities. 

              The M160 has a double ribbon design, which essentially means double the warmth. Compared to large-diaphragm condensers, this mic sounds tighter and has a more pronounced midrange, which is great for compressed drum sounds. 

              Rather than opting for the typical cardioid polar pattern, Beyerdynamic has chosen a hyper-cardioid pattern, which makes the mic more focused and precise. 

              It works best when used as a stereo pair, placed at either side of the drum kit within the room, but you can also use it as a standalone room microphone and achieve impressive results. 

              Another impressive aspect of this microphone is its build quality. Some ribbon microphones can be less robust than other types, but Beyerdynamic has designed the M160 to withstand heavy usage in the recording studio. 

              With a frequency response of 40Hz – 20kHz, this microphone can capture all of the sounds that are required for a detailed drum room mic take.

              Key Features:

              • Double ribbon room mic
              • Hypercardioid polar pattern
              • 40Hz-20kHz frequency response

              Pros

              • Pronounced midrange
              • Great separation of individual drums
              • Particularly good at capturing hi-hats

              Cons

              • Not the most versatile microphone as it's best suited for vintage tones

              Room Mics for Drums Buyer’s Guide

              Close mics that you place near your kick, snare, and toms, along with the overheads, will have an undeniable impact on the way your recordings sound. 

              Room microphones are equally as important when it comes to shaping the sound of a drum recording.

              The mics we’ve tested and highlighted in this guide will enhance your ability to record live audio of the highest quality. 

              They link all of the individual drums together and capture the way the kit interacts with the acoustics of the recording space. 

              All of the microphones featured have the potential to enhance your drum recordings and give you more options during the mixing process. 

              Things to Consider When Buying Room Mics for Drums

              • Stereo or mono: Most of the room microphones we’ve listed can either be used as a stereo pair or a single, mono drum mic. If you want more space in your drum recordings, using two identical mics may be a better option, but you’ll need to ensure that phase cancellation doesn’t occur. 
              • Polar patterns: Many drum room mics have multiple switchable polar patterns, which impact the directionality of the microphone capsule. Cardioid is the most obvious choice for room mics, but omnidirectional and figure-8 can also be useful in some scenarios. 
              • SPL handling: The higher the maximum SPL handling of a microphone, the better it will cope with the loudest sounds of an acoustic drum kit. If you are likely to be recording loud rock drums, then you’ll need a max SPL of at least around 140dB. For more intricate drumming styles, this may not be necessary.

              Which Type of Drum Room Mic Do You Need?

              The great thing about recording drums is that there’s no right or wrong way to do it.

              One person may prefer to use close mic placements in a small room to get a tight, ‘70s funk sound, while another person may rely heavily on room mics in a large space for a more powerful rock sound. 

              Before you decide which drum room mic you should acquire, it’s a good idea to establish the sound that you’re aiming for. 

              If you’re a fan of vintage rock drum sounds, then choosing a microphone that is based on the designs used in that era would be advisable. 

              Some room mics for drums produce a warmer sound than others, while some are designed to keep the sound dry and unaltered.

              Others are just solid all-rounders that are good for most styles. 

              Figuring out which drum sounds you want to use this room mic for will help you to identify the options that can help you to achieve this.

              Switchable Polar Patterns

              Many large-diaphragm condenser mics, which are the most popular variety used for drum room mic recordings, have multiple polar patterns installed on them.

              They are also sometimes called “pickup patterns”, but don’t let this confuse you – it means the same thing. 

              The polar patterns that you will see most frequently on drum room mics are:

              • Cardioid
              • Omnidirectional 
              • Figure-of-8

              If a drum room microphone has only one polar pattern, it will almost always be cardioid.

              This pattern is most sensitive at the front of the capsule, with minimal sensitivity at the rear. On the two sides, it picks up a reduced amount of sound. 

              Cardioid is great for recording in loud environments, which is why it’s such a popular choice for drum room recordings.

              You can also use cardioid mics in stereo using the X/Y method, which involves placing them at a 90-degree angle from one another. 

              Drum room mics with omnidirectional pickup patterns are equally sensitive from all sides of the capsule, which means they can be placed centrally in the recording space, and they will capture the full sound of the room’s acoustics.  

              Stereo vs. Mono Drum Room Mics

              There are two ways that you can record the room sound of a drum kit – using two mics (stereo) or one room mic (mono).

              Both of these methods have their strengths and weaknesses. 

              Firstly, if you choose to record in stereo, you’ll have to spend double to acquire two identical microphones.

              However, on the plus side, you can then spread the room recordings across the stereo field to create a more immersive final mix. 

              Recording the room mic in mono will save you money, and you won’t need to worry about phase cancellation, which can be a tricky issue to overcome when using two room mics. 

              Room Mics for Drums FAQs

              Where Do You Put a Drum Room Mic? 

              Drum room microphones can be placed in many different positions. The optimal location of the mic depends on a few key factors, such as the size of the room you’re recording in, the sound you’re hoping to achieve, and whether you’re using one or two room mics. 

              If you’re using one room mic in a fairly small space, it’s a good idea to place it in line with the drummer’s stool, in the center of the room. This will ensure that the reflections of the sound are picked up in addition to the sound from the kit. 

              What Is the Best Way to Mix Drum Room Mics? 

              There are many different opinions on how to mix drum room mics most effectively. The basic thing to aim for is the ensure that the room recording blends with the other mics and doesn’t overpower them. 

              Using EQ to minimize any harsh frequencies from the cymbals is a good place to start, and you can roll off anything under 100Hz, as these low frequencies will make the room recording sound muddy. 

              Should You Pan Room Mics?

              Whether or not you should pan drum room mics depends on which method you are using. If you’ve used two stereo mics, then they should be panned equally to the left and right sides to create a good balance. 

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