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The snare drum is a vital contributor to the whole sound of a drum kit. If your snare mic is not up to scratch, no amount of mixing and processing will cause it to sound as good as you would like it to.
Choosing an excellent snare drum mic can be difficult because there are so many different opinions on the matter.
In reality, the key is to look for several key qualities – SPL handling, frequency response, minimal self-noise, and good durability.
In this guide, we’ve identified the best microphones for snare drums. You’ll find options that can be used for both studio and live applications, affordable options for those on a budget, and mics to suit all snare drum sounds.
- What are the Best Snare Mics?
- How I Tested and Selected the Best Snare Mics
- In-Depth Snare Mic Reviews
- Snare Drum Mics Buying Guide
- Things to Consider When Buying Snare Drum Mics
- What Features to Look for in Snare Drum Mics
- Snare Drum Mics FAQs
What are the Best Snare Mics?
How I Tested and Selected the Best Snare Mics
I’ve done quite a bit of session work over the years, recording drum parts in various studios. Through that experience, I’ve been able to use dozens of snare drum mics to get certain sounds for tracks.
When choosing and testing snare drum mics for this list, I ran them through a few checks to get an overall idea of their quality.
Firstly, I wanted to see how clear their sound reproduction was. I played my snare drum in a variety of ways to see how the sound would transfer through the microphone.
Some mics pick up flat sounds while others accent more bass or high-frequency tones. To test that even more, I tuned the snare drum in different ways to see how each mic responded.
I also checked how easy each microphone was to mix with. Some don’t require much mixing work to sound good, while others need a bit of an EQ shake up.
Lastly, I looked at versatility. I wanted to make sure that every microphone I recommend will sound great in a variety of musical styles, including rock, jazz, metal, or pop.
In-Depth Snare Mic Reviews
Audix is, without a doubt, one of the most prolific and consistent manufacturers of drum mics, particularly in the affordable and medium price range.
The i5 impressed me with its ability to capture all of the details of a snare drum, whether it’s placed above or below the shell.
With a frequency response that is designed to focus on the midrange, the i5 eliminates any of the harsher tones that are often picked up by snare mics. This means there’s less work required during the EQ process, which is always a bonus!
Another aspect of this snare drum mic that stood out to me is its durable design. Considering its very reasonable price tag, Audix has ensured that the i5 can stand up to all of the inevitable wear and tear that occurs in a studio or while performing live.
The live performance aspect of this mic is where it really shines, though. Designed with all of the attributes required to handle live snare sounds, it delivers a crisp and tight tone that sounds excellent through a P.A system.
Its sleek, matte black design won’t detract any attention from the drummer of their equipment, and the cardioid polar pattern ensures that the mic picks up the ideal amount of sounds from the front and sides of the capsule.
- Designed to withstand heavy use in the studio or onstage
- Ideally suited to close-miking a snare drum
- Has no problem handling the loudness or a drum kit
- Doesn’t pick up higher frequencies above 16kHz
It’s no surprise that the winner for the best snare mic goes to the legendary Shure SM57 snare drum microphone – an institution in the recording world. It’s dependable, versatile, well built and you can always count on it to deliver great sounding results.
A seemingly ubiquitous microphone, it’s found in every studio, live venue, and not to mention it being owned by almost every recording producer or engineer.
I’ve used this as a snare drum microphone more times than I can count, and it’s provided amazing results on every occasion.
It’s the best snare mic on the market, and it’s incredibly versatile, as it sounds excellent for all amplified or acoustic instruments. It’s the most popular instrument microphone in the world.
Features of the Shure SM57 include contoured frequency response for clean instrumental reproduction, as well as background noise reduction and a pneumatic shock mount system. This microphone is truly the industry standard for both live performance and recording.
It’s the best snare mic because the capsule is located very close to the grille, which makes it the perfect candidate for close-micing. It can handle very loud SPLs and always delivers a clean and bright sound that makes it perfect for live performances.
The Shure SM57 is a classic workhorse that every drummer should own. The quality is outstanding, and they are relatively inexpensive for what you get. This snare drum microphone is rock-solid, meaning it will provide many years of service and it is undoubtedly the best snare mic for the money.
- Pneumatic shock minimizes handling noise
- Cardioid for isolated signal source
- Legendary workhorse
Earthworks has emerged as one of the leading specialists in drum mics in recent years, and the DM20 is one of the manufacturer’s best options for snare drums. This small-diaphragm condenser mic is rugged and reliable.
One key aspect of this mic is its extensive frequency response of 50 Hz to 20 kHz, along with its ultra-fast impulse response and cardioid polar pattern for excellent rear rejection.
With a Max SPL handling capability of 150 dB, you can be sure that the Earthworks DM20 Small-diaphragm Condenser Drum Microphone will capture every nuance of your snare drums without distortion.
The main thing I love about this mic is its natural sound, giving you a similar snare sound in the mix to what you hear in the room.
The unique housing design protects the capsule from any direct drumstick hit, so it won’t get damaged during performances. The included RM1 RimMount and windscreen ensure that the microphone stays in place even when drums are played hard, allowing for consistent sound quality throughout your performance or recording session.
Snare drums vary in terms of their tones, dynamic quality, and of course, the way they are played. That’s why choosing a microphone with the required versatility to capture snare drums across various styles and genres is important.
The DM20 is a workhorse that can be used for everything from tight, funky snare recordings to loud rock snare with long decays.
- Ideal for capturing snare drums in the studio or onstage
- Also great for toms and other drums
- Protective chassis prevents damage from stick hits
- Lacks slightly in the low-end frequencies
In a close second place for the best snare mic is this Beyerdynamic M201TG snare drum microphone, and it’s a worthy rival to the immensely popular Shure SM57.
I found this mic to have great sensitivity and a brilliantly articulated sound that is perfectly suited to snare drums.
The M201TG is optimized for professional use with its dynamic moving coil and hypercardioid polar pattern. The pickup pattern effectively rejects bleed from the hi-hat and toms whilst it is able to draw out immense body and depth from the snare drum.
This is a more expensive snare drum mic than the Shure SM57 but this is a beautifully designed and seemingly indestructible microphone that delivers a very detailed and natural sound. It is just as rugged and versatile, but delivers more depth and punch.
This is the best snare mic for you if you don’t mind spending extra on quality. It delivers incredible sounds both for live performances and in the studio.
This microphone is the weapon of choice for many professional, world-renowned engineers and music producers thanks to its well-balanced tone and ultra-premium sound quality.
- High level of clarity and neutrality
- Versatile and rugged microphone
- Ultra-premium sound quality
Next up on our list, we have this Sennheiser MD 421 II Snare Drum Microphone that truly excels as one of the best snare drum mics for live and in the studio, and is one of the best-known microphones in the world.
Whenever I have used this snare drum mic, it has always delivered balanced, articulate and crisp sounds.
The large diaphragm, dynamic element handles high sound pressure levels very well making it a natural choice for recording drums. The dynamic capsule results in an even signal response especially in close-mic applications.
The Sennheiser MD 421 is designed to be a reliable workhorse, and it’s one of the toughest snare mics I’ve ever used. It features glass composite and stainless steel housing for ruggedness and durability.
It’s also a very versatile microphone that is perfect for all manners of acoustic instruments including voice, guitar, and woodwind in addition to drums.
This microphone utilizes a 5-stage bass switch that offers flexible bass attenuation allowing the microphone to be used in a variety of situations around the drum set.
I personally love this snare drum microphone because it delivers a very balanced and clear sound, and has excellent directivity making it perfect for snare drums. This mic has a slight lift in the mids-highs that sounds great for snares.
Although this microphone is the most expensive offering in this guide, it’s incredibly rugged and well-built and offers a beautifully detailed sound. If you are looking for a legendary snare drum mic that is found in the world’s best music studios then look no further.
- Excellent feedback rejection
- Versatile five stage bass switch
- Very rugged and durable construction
- Bulky design
The Shure PGA56 Dynamic Snare Drum Microphone is arguably the best snare drum mic to buy on a budget.
It features a tailored microphone cartridge that delivers clear sound reproduction with robust outer housing.
I love the value this snare drum mic offers. I also love that it does not compromise on quality or reliability.
Shure microphones are renowned for their use in professional applications, and for their high-quality sound reproduction and durability. They make perfect tools for live performances and studio recordings around the world.
This Shure PG snare drum microphone has been designed to reduce feedback and background noise, and it delivers rock-solid sound and reliability no matter the application for its use. It sets the bar for affordable and professional-level sound equipment.
If you are looking for the best snare drum microphone with only a small budget then you cannot go wrong with this microphone. I would suggest spending a little more and investing in the Shure SM57 but this is a solid microphone for the price.
- Good value snare drum mic
- Tailored microphone cartridge design
- Strong housing and construction
- Lacks richness and depth of premium mics
- Bulkier than SM57
Snare Drum Mics Buying Guide
The sound of a snare sets the tone for the rest of the drum set. A microphone that highlights your snare’s best qualities is essential if you want to achieve an outstanding overall sound.
Snare drum mics must be capable of handling high SPLs, whilst maintaining a level of clarity and transparency. Some may add warmth to the snare sound, while others may capture it in an accurate, unaltered way.
There are many exceptional mics for snare drums available for drummers of all playing styles and to suit all budgets.
Let’s take a look at the key features and aspects of snare mics.
Things to Consider When Buying Snare Drum Mics
An average snare drum is predominantly made up of frequencies between 900Hz-2Khz. However, the drum can reach upwards of 15kHZ, so choosing a mic with a wide frequency response is important.
Think about directionality
The more focused polar patterns, such as hyper and super cardioid, will hone in on the snare drum while rejecting most of the other sounds. Cardioid polar patterns will pick up more of the kit noise.
Consider the snare sound you’re aiming for
Although this may seem obvious, it’s vital that you think about how you’d ideally like your snare to sound, both when recorded and live. Then you can choose a mic that can help you to achieve this.
Snare drum mics often get accidentally dropped or hit by a stick every now and then. Consequently, durability is a very important quality.
What Features to Look for in Snare Drum Mics
The pickup pattern, which is also known as the polar pattern, significantly impacts a snare drum mic’s performance.
There are many types of pickup patterns, the most common for snare mics being cardioid, supercardioid, and hypercardioid.
Microphones with a cardioid polar pattern will pick up the majority of the sound from the front of the capsule, so if you positioned it facing the skin of the snare, you’d hear the attack from the stick striking it very clearly.
Some noise is picked up from the side of a cardioid microphone, but this is minimal. The rear has limited sensitivity, but you can hear the other drums in a set when using this type of microphone.
Supercarioid is another popular pickup pattern used for dynamic snare mics. It offers a more focused directionality than a cardioid mic, rejecting more sound from the back and sides.
Hypercardioid is a great choice if you want to almost completely isolate a sound source. This pickup pattern can achieve the cleanest snare sound without any interference from other drums or instruments.
Capsules & Coils
Moving coil dynamic microphones are considered the best options for snare drums. This is because they can generally handle higher SPLs than more sensitive microphones, like large-diaphragm condensers.
Low-mass dynamic moving coils can capture all of the finer details of a snare drum, even when they’re placed very close to it.
Another great design for snare drum mics is placing the capsule in close proximity to the grille. This is used by Shure for their popular SM57 dynamic mic, and it increases the focus it is able to achieve.
Although it’s not essential, the roll-off switch is another interesting feature that can potentially improve a snare drum mic.
This switch can be moved into several positions, which attenuates the bass frequencies to suit the sound you’re going for. This can reduce the need for EQ in the mixing phase and make the mic more versatile.
Bass frequencies are often problematic when recording drums, so being able to combat any issues in real-time when using a snare drum mic is very helpful.
Snare drum mics often come with a variety of accessories so that you can start using them right away.
This commonly includes some form of carry pouch or bag, a clip for attaching the mic to a stand, and an adapter if required.
To avoid disappointment, it’s worth checking which accessories come with your chosen snare microphone so that you can get hold of any additional gear you may need to use when it is in your possession.
Most mic attachments are universal and will fit on any stand. Some snare mics have a clip already attached.
Snare Drum Mics FAQs
Do You Need Two Mics on a Snare?
Some people prefer to use a pair of microphones on a snare drum rather than one. This would involve placing one mic underneath the drum, with another pointing down towards the skin.
The advantage of using two mics is that it guarantees that you will pick up most of the frequencies produced when the drum is struck and when the sound decays afterward. This often results in a fuller, deeper snare tone once the two mics have been mixed.
Phase cancellation and spill from other drums are two reasons that some recording engineers prefer to use only one mic on a snare.
Should a Snare be Louder Than a Kick?
When recording a drum set, it’s important to get all of the mics to a similar level so that you have plenty of headroom when mixing.
The snare and kick are two vital parts of an acoustic or electronic drum set, and they should be set to around the same volume in most cases, at least as a starting point.