Ten of the best microphones for recording kick drums
The kick drum is a central part of contemporary music and a crucial element of the production process, so in order to help out everyone looking for great recordings we have asked our users' for their favourite microphones to record kick drums. Here's what they told us!
AKG’s D12 is a classic microphone when it comes to recording kick drums (since the 1950s!) and that heritage lives on today with the D12VR. The D12VR is not a 1:1 remake of the D12 as it brings in new technology by incorporating a phantom-powered element that enables three filter curves to suit different placements and kick drum types. The filter curves are entirely optional and the D12VR can also be used as a purely dynamic microphone. As a good kick drum-oriented mic, it handles up to 164 dB and reaches all the way down to 17 Hz. It also brings the classic AKG C414 output transformer, making it a superb microphone in all regards. If you're in a position to spend a bit more on a substantial upgrade for your kick drum mic the D12VR should definitely be on your shortlist.
The highly popular D112 arrives at its second version, keeping the same concept that made it so successful - a "no-frills" dynamic cardioid microphone designed specifically for kick/bass drums at a very affordable price. The D112 mkII presents high-SPL handling, very low noise, a frequency response from 20Hz to 17kHz with a significant presence lift around 2-5kHz which should serve well for bringing out the initial “click” and a gentle bump around 100Hz that will make for some good weight. Thanks to a strong proximity effect it can also add some extra boost in the low end when used very close to the source (10cm or less). It’s also very well built, easy to place and pretty straightforward to use, so you can’t really go wrong with this one. Read our users reviews.
The ATM250DE is an interesting microphone that combines perfectly aligned condenser and dynamic capsules to offer the "best of both worlds", taking advantage of the dynamic hypercardioid element for punch and definition while the cardioid condenser element captures more body and adds "depth" to the sound. Both capsules reaches down to 40Hz, with the dynamic element going up to 15kHz and the condenser element reaching 20kHz. The condenser section also offers a 10dB gain pad and a 12 db/octave low-cut filter at 80Hz. If you’re up for a different kind of mic with an unique proposition make sure to give the ATM250DE a try, and if the money allows also look for the AE2500, which is a very similar mic but with an extended low end and a cardioid polar patterns on both dynamic/condenser capsules. Read our users reviews.
Audix's D6 was widely recommended by our users, scoring a good chunk of nominations and the good news is that it's a rather affordable microphone which should fit most budgets. This elegantly small dynamic mic can handle sound pressure levels of up to 144 dB, provides good isolation with a cardioid pickup pattern and placement should be really easy given its diminutive size. The frequency response goes from 30Hz to 15kHz, with a bump around 60Hz and a notable boost around 2-10kHz. A straightforward-in-use mic that will deliver high bang for relatively low buck, the D6 is definitely a mic worth trying on your next drum recordings. Also available as part of the DP4, DP Quad, DP Elite and Studio Elite microphone kits. Read our users reviews.
Beyerdynamic's M 88 TG might look like 'yet another handheld microphone', but make no mistake, this is one of Gearslutz' most loved microphones of all time. This hypercardioid dynamic microphone features a frequency response that covers nearly the entire spectrum, going from 30Hz to 20kHz with a prominent midrange. The M 88 TG handles high pressure levels with ease and also presents some significant proximity effect, with a low-frequency boost of up to 10 dBs when used closed to the sound source. It’s important to note that Beyerdynamic recommends using the PS88 or WS59 pop/wind screens when using the M 88 on kick drums, so keep that in mind when you’re setting up your next recording. Read our users reviews.
It might appear a bit weird to have a microphone that is widely recommended for applications miles apart from each such as vocals and kick drums, yet some microphones on this list managed to accomplish that and the EV RE320 is one of them (along with the M 88 TG and U47 FET). The RE320 follows the trail of the famed RE20 broadcast microphone but adds a switch that allows the user to select two filter circuits with different frequency response curves that are tailored for voice and kick drum applications, while keeping that road-proven build quality and solid sound that made its predecessor a classic. Most of the time we only need one reason to go after yet another mic, so how about a microphone that gives you two? Read our users reviews.
You probably know that the legendary Neumann U47 is one of the most coveted microphones ever made, widely used for kick drums in many a great studios. This large-diaphragm condenser is known for its balanced response with great dynamics that handles loud sources with ease and it’s a true studio workhorse that has stood the test of time. Given its' limited and long discontinued production it’s a rare, hard to find piece which can easily reach stratospheric auction prices. Thankfully, Neumann has recently released a long-awaited reissue of this mic, the U47 FET Collector's Edition (featured), which is as close as it gets in terms of authenticity and undoubtedly a no-brainer choice for your kick drums if your funds allow. Read our users reviews.
Perhaps one of the most acclaimed ribbon microphones ever made, the Royer R-121 is also a frequent choice of many of our users when it comes to recording great sounding kick drums. Ribbons are known for their great detail and easy handling of loud sources, so when you take one of the very best ribbons out there the results can't be anything other than stellar. Royer deployed a patented bi-directional (figure-8) design where the front ribbon element is slightly offset, which gives the ribbon more space to move and allows it to sound very consistent at higher SPLs. The back side of the R-121 has a slightly brighter sound, giving it some versatility too. Overall the R-121’s sound is very natural and unhyped, with a frequency response that’s mostly flat from 30Hz to 15kHz. A Gearslutz favourite and a modern classic, the R-121 is an extremely worthy addition to any microphone closet. Read our users reviews.
Sennheiser’s E 602-II and predecessor E 602 are quite a popular choice around these parts when it comes to cost-friendly kick drum microphones. The current model E 602-II maintains the slick design and most of the characteristics that made the original such a hit, but it slightly alters the frequency response for a 'deeper' sound. This dynamic cardioid mic is geared towards low frequency instruments, with a frequency response from 20Hz to 16kHz that shows some good boosts around the 60Hz and 5-15kHz regions, which gives it some good 'thump' while still delivering 'definition'. If some extra budget is available Sennheiser also offers the E 902, which is a viable alternative on the not-so-expensive side of things that should provide a step up in quality too. Read our users reviews.
Shure keeps its affordable drum mic line-up current with the Beta 52A, their latest take on this proven design that has been conceived with nothing but kick drums in mind. This supercardioid dynamic microphone presents a frequency response ranging from 20Hz to 10kHz with a less-than-subtle peak at 4kHz, a considerable low end boost (through proximity effect) and a high tolerance for loud sound pressure levels (up to 174 dB). The 52s have found their way into many drum kits and recording sessions due to their great reliability and ease of use and nothing is different with the Beta 52A on that front. Also available in the DMK57-52 kit along with three SM57s, which would make a great starter pack for recording drums.
Honourable mentions go to the Sennheisers MD 421-II & MD 441 and also to the Yamaha "Subkick" trick, which many of our users seem to enjoy and use on their recordings.
And that’s our list! Please let us know your thoughts in the comments and share your favorite tips for great-sounding kick drums. Do you have any examples to show us?
The D12VR is an nice kick-mic, but it should be mentioned that it's not only no 1:1 replacement for the classic D12, to me it's a completely different mic soundwise, even with the filters set to neutral and used passive. But again, it's really nice in the "modern kick-mic"-department, and the two switchable filter curves add a lot more flexibility to get a good sound quick, without grabbing the eq immediately.
My honourable mentions would be the EV ND 868, that I prefer about a lot of the other modern "tailored" kick-mics like the Sennheiser or the Audix (and I never get along well with the D112 except for live usage), maybe because I have the feeling the frequency curve it's not as tailored as a lot of other are these days, giving it a little more classic and neutral approach.
Oh yes, and an unusual but great choice if one want to go the condenser-route would be the AKG C5600 (hard to find these days, wasn't a big success the time it was build, I guess). Build like a tank, takes lots of SPL, and just sounds right if you want to capture the natural tone of the kick, plus tracks recorded with it takes EQ very well.
The Electro Voice ND 68 should be included. I've used the EV ND 868 for years on rock, roots and blues kick drums for several decades now. It's my "go to" kick mic. I also have a ATM 25 I like when the EV doesn't work for whatever reason. The AT is also a great floor tom mic. On jazz gigs with closed kicks, I've been using a Karma Mics K-Micro Silver Bullet on the beater side, phase inverted.
I'm sure that these are all great choices and none better that the other as these things are always subjective. Although these are all decent mics the larger question is what is the best mic that matches well with your specific overhead mics/room mic(s) as we almost never record just a kick drum alone unless your doing some sampling. I have several of the listed mics and it depends on style of music, kit, playing and ultimately what overheads I use that determines the "best mic". Always try before you buy if possible.
The U47 FET is a good mic for high SPL LF applications. But it is not the Mic which we hear on Frank Sinatra Recordings. Those are generally U47 or 48 Tube Mics. These earlier Valve or Tube mics are very very different to this FET/Transistor model. Just as the U67 is very very different to a U87.
Nice list. If not remote, I tend to go with M88 inside and Rode Tube Classic outside. Jazz gigs, maybe a D12. ATM 25's should also be considered for toms, as I find them to be the most 'musical.'
Thank you for your consideration.