After confirming ten excellent kick drum mics, snare drums were the logical choice for our next list, so we have consulted our community on which mics they’re using to get their most awesome snare sounds - so here we go - in alphabetical order:
The legendary AKG C-414 B-ULS is arguably one of the most acclaimed large diaphragm condensers ever made, a true reference-class tool when it comes to microphones in general and a very popular pick among our users when it comes to recording snare drums. The C-414 B-ULS is extremely versatile, with an open frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz, a high-pass filter with two options, a -10/-20dB gain attenuation pad and four different pick up patterns, offering omnidirectional, figure-of-eight and two cardioid polar patterns (regular & hyper) to cover almost any recording situation. They’ve been discontinued for a while and can sell for not insignificant sums of money, but they’re surely a wise choice for any recording studio. There were a few variations of the C-414 over the years, each with its own peculiarities, so search our forums to find out what’s best for you and good luck in your own hunt for a mint condition unit! Read our user reviews.
Often referred to as an "immediate alternative" to the SM57, the Audix i5 is a recurring recommendation in this community when it comes to budget-conscious choices for recording snare drums. The i5 is a cardioid dynamic microphone with a frequency response of 50Hz-16kHz, with a noticeable peak around 5 kHz, capable of taking up to 140 dBs (SPL). Its relatively small footprint and strong build quality add up to a very well-rounded mic, and a very good candidate when building a microphone kit with limited funds. Read our user reviews.
According to our membership, if there’s one microphone that truly rivals the immense popularity of the SM57 when it comes to snare drums then that mic is the Beyer M201 TG. This elegant dynamic hypercardioid microphone has a relatively balanced frequency response running from 40Hz to 18kHz, with a gentle lift past 2 kHz and further boosts in the 7-15 kHz area, with great sensitivity and a very well articulated sound that snare drums almost definitely benefit from. It’s also able to handle pretty loud sources, has a small footprint for easy mic placement and a roadworthy build that should keep it rolling throughout years of use. Although it's not exactly the most affordable microphone, it's far from being prohibitively expensive, so the M201 TG should definitely be on your radar. Read our user reviews.
Electro-Voice’s N/D468 is a distinctive looking microphone with a pivoting head that allows for angle adjustments which should make mic placement a lot easier. This dynamic supercardioid mic presents a frequency response that reaches down to 20Hz and climbs all the way up to 22kHz with great mid/high-frequency detail, low self-noise and high sensitivity for effortless use with basically any preamp. It also tolerates loud sources handily and the design definitely favours close positioning - which is just what we want from a snare drum mic. A rather affordable and cost-effective mic that is definitely worth considering, especially when finances are an issue.
The Californian mic-makers at Josephson have been building a solid reputation over the past two decades and our community frequently recommend their interesting C42 microphone for recording snare drums. This small-diaphragm condenser presents a cardioid pickup pattern and a frequency response that is mostly flat from 40Hz to 20kHz, with a gentle boost around 7-10kHz - and it’s capable of handling loud sources nicely (up to 135 dB SPL). This is a mic for a lifetime, with a stainless steel body for extreme reliability under the roughest circumstances. If you’re willing to invest a more substantial amount and want to keep the Josephson quality our users have also recommended the rather unique looking E22.
Perhaps one of the most popular microphones amongst our membership is also arguably the reference when it comes to small-diaphragm condenser microphone designs. The KM-84 presents a beautifully detailed sound with an impressive frequency response that’s seamlessly flat from 100Hz all the way to 20kHz. It also deals with loud sources rather easily, taking over 130 dBs of SPL, which makes it a great candidate for snares - and given its diminutive footprint there shouldn’t be any placement problems when setting it up on a snare drum. The only problem with this mic might be finding one given how long they’ve been out of production and how coveted they are, but they’re definitely worth the chase. That said, if you can't find one, the current incarnation of the KM84 is the KM184, and while it's not as legendary as its predecessor (yet!) it still has Neumann know-how and quality at its heart.
A microphone that dates back to the 1960s, the Sennheiser MD421-II is widely loved all across our boards. This cardioid dynamic mic is famous for its excellent directivity and keeping up its clarity under tough circumstances, which makes it a prime candidate for snares. The MD421-II features a frequency response of 30-17000 Hz with a lift in the mid-highs, also displaying a prominent proximity effect that can be counterbalanced with the provided five-position low cut filter. An extremely reliable microphone with many decades of service, and since it’s not prohibitively expensive it’s basically a no-brainer for any serious studio. Read our user reviews.
The MD441-U is the current version of the Sennheiser MD441, a studio classic and a superb microphone with an eye-catching design. Known for delivering great accuracy and for its immense versatility, this supercardioid dynamic has a balanced frequency response of 30Hz to 20kHz, which can be tweaked via the treble boost and five-position bass roll-off switches. There are a couple downsides to this otherwise fantastic mic: it’s not exactly small, which may present a positioning problem depending on the situation, and quality this good comes with a price tag. Nevertheless, there’s no doubt that in the right hands this mic will deliver nothing but stellar sounding results so it might be worth the investment. Read our user reviews.
Without fail, it's the ubiquitous and seemingly omnipresent Shure SM57! Sturdy, trustworthy, relatively easy to place and it sounds good with almost any preamp out there. This classic cardioid dynamic mic can be deployed on any number of recording situations, but guitar amps, vocals and of course snares are its most common uses. Getting a good proximity effect from the 57 is easy thanks to the fact that the capsule is placed very close to the grille, and since it takes loud sources quite well it’s a prime candidate for close-mic’ing. Given its low asking price and the great results that can come out of it this is as close to a 'mandatory' mic for any studio as we can imagine. Read our user reviews.
The M80 is Telefunken’s workhorse, designed and built for great sonic performance but without costing an arm and a leg. This dynamic supercardioid mic has a lively sound with a prominent midrange, smooth top end and according to Telefunken it has “condenser-like” performance with plenty of detail that should be great on snares. The frequency response extends from 50Hz up to 18kHz and it takes up to 135dB SPL, handling loudness with ease. It’s also very rugged and should survive the perils of time. Available immediately with a black or chrome (featured) head grille, it can also be acquired in many different colours via the Telefunken Custom Shop.
We had a high number of nominations and it was hard to narrow this list down to only ten mics, so honourable mentions go to the AKG C 451 EB, the Electro-Voice RE15/RE16 and the Shure Beta 57A (not to be confused with the SM57). Go check 'em out!
Now it's your turn - please tell us how you are mic’ing up your snare drums! One on top, one on bottom? Using a side-mic? Share your tips for great recordings and tell us what you're using and what you're looking to acquire next.