We’re reaching the late stages of our quest towards the Gearslutz Ultimate Drum Mic Kit™ and now we present our last entry in the close-mic’ing category - the toms! Let’s find out what our members are recommending - in alphabetical order by manufacturer name:
The 'ominous' AKG C414 EB is considered to be one of the finest microphones ever made, delivering great results in basically any situation and it’s no surprise that it also shines when it comes to recording toms. This large-diaphragm condenser is famous for its multiple pickup patterns, extremely balanced frequency response and immense versatility, providing great recordings for the past 40+ years. Featured here we have the second version of the C414, model “EB”, which has four polar patterns (omni, cardioid, hypercardioid & fig.8) and introduced a switchable low pass filter (12dB/octave at 75 or 150 Hz). This model retained the renowned CK-12 capsule and the super clean solid-state electronics. Our users really love the vintage models and thoroughly recommend them, but if you’re out of luck or patience searching for them you might want to check the current-production XLS or XLII models, which are very respectable mics as well - it’s hard to go wrong with any C414! Read our user reviews of the XLS model.
The AKG D 19 dates back to the 1960s and has been used by many engineers on countless records since then. There are two iterations of this mic, the model “C” (featured) and the “E”, with the first having the old 3-pin Tuchel connector and an impedance of 200Ω, and the latter featuring variable impedance and a XLR connector. Model “C” is also 20cm shorter than model “E”. Both models have the same dynamic cardioid polar pattern with great rear-side rejection and a frequency response of 30-16000 Hz that’s mostly flat until the midrange, where it picks up a bit until 10 kHz. They also feature a continuous low frequency attenuator from 0dB to -10dB at 50Hz controlled by a ring placed at the mics’ neck. These mics have been discontinued for quite a long time and might be a bit hard to find but they’re definitely worth chasing.
Audio-Technica’s ATM25 is a highly capable dynamic microphone tailored for close range applications. This mic tackles loud sources with ease, provides good off-axis rejection (thanks to its hypercardioid polar pattern) and shows a frequency response from 30Hz to 15kHz with a notable presence boost in the upper mids that will give those toms a great level of 'detail'. Its diminutive size should also help with placement on most drum kits. The ATM25 is a trustworthy mic that delivers excellent value, but unfortunately it was discontinued a few years ago - it’s now been replaced with the ATM250, a similar mic that should get you in the same ballpark for almost the same affordable price. Read our user reviews.
One of our community’s favourite “bang for buck” microphones is the AT4033, a 'medium'-diaphragm cardioid condenser from Audio-Technica that is highly regarded by our members as a mic that delivers great results without breaking the bank. This mic is known for its 'signature' clean and elegant sound with great transient response. The AT4033 presets a transformerless design with very low self-noise, a frequency response stretching from 30 to 20,000 Hz with plenty of detail and it takes on loud sources nicely, handling up to 145dB of sound pressure levels, which will work great when recording toms. It also features a 12dB/octave low-cut filter at 80 Hz and -10dB attenuation pad. This is a mic that punches well above its weight and a great choice for the budget-conscious studio as it's certainly useful on more than just drums. Read our user reviews.
Beyerdynamic’s M201TG is widely praised by our users as one of the very best “universal” dynamic microphones out there, and it’s no surprise that it also excels on toms. The M201TG is known for its crisp sound with a neutral frequency response from 40Hz to 18kHz and it shows great isolation with its hypercardioid pattern, which should help a lot with unwanted bleed from cymbals and other drum kit parts. The small footprint should also help with positioning, and with a sturdy build it’s a reliable mic that should last for ages. Definitely a great choice for engineers looking for a great tom mic that can also do many other things equally well. Importantly, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg! Read our user reviews.
The CAD M179 is the budget-conscious choice on our list and a pleasant surprise for great sounding toms at a relatively low price. This large diaphragm condenser microphone presents variable polar patterns, going through the classic types (cardioid, omni, fig.8) - and anything in between them, which makes it highly versatile. It also features very low self-noise, a wide frequency response from 10Hz to 20khz, a gentle 6dB/octave low-cut filter at 100Hz and a convenient -20dB gain pad switch. The M179 is often considered to be an affordable alternative to more expensive mics and an option that shouldn’t be overlooked at any price, but certainly when you’re shopping for mics with the a budget in mind. Read our user reviews.
It doesn’t get more slutty than the venerable Neumann U67 on a tom-tom! This classic microphone has a tonne of history and an extensive 'mileage' that very few other mics can dream of. This LDC microphone presents three polar patterns (omni, cardioid, fig.8), which gives it tremendous versatility, and it was one of the first mics designed with close-positioning in mind, incorporating a -10dB attenuation pad, fixed roll off at 30Hz and a switchable high pass filter at 100Hz to make it more suitable to use under such circumstances. The frequency response is very balanced from 40Hz to 16kHz, with a gentle lift in the top end that will help bring out all those fine details out of your toms. For many good reasons it’s one of the most trusted microphones ever made. If there's a downside, it's that you should start saving your pennies now because it’s going to cost... a lot!
Considered a “go-to” microphone when it comes to recording toms, the Sennheiser MD 421-II is one of this community’s favourites microphones, constantly recommended for many applications. This dynamic cardioid microphone is known for handling high sound pressure levels (SPL) with ease while keeping its characteristics mostly unaffected, presenting a frequency response that’s nearly flat from 30Hz to 17kHz. Like many other dynamic microphones it displays a rather pronounced proximity effect, which can be counterbalanced by a five-position bass roll-off switch located near the XLR connector that helps to keep the frequency balance in check. The MD 421 has been around for many decades, it’s a microphone widely trusted by many professionals and the good news is that it’s comparatively not that expensive. Read our user reviews.
Another common sight on many drum kits around the globe is the Sennheiser MD 441-U, which can be somewhat be described as a “condenser microphone disguised as a dynamic” given its amazing level of detail and a sound that’s as classy as its looks. This microphone presents a supercardioid polar pattern, a frequency response that extends all the way from 30Hz to 20kHz and a great tolerance for high SPL, which should be great for any toms - even with the heaviest-hitting drummers. It also features a built-in pop filter and bass roll-off switch with five positions, which just like in the MD 421-II can be useful to deal with the inevitable proximity effect. Definitely a great choice for any studio but quality this high does not come cheap.
Allegedly a favourite of Steely Dan engineer Roger Nichols and also "one of Shure’s finest mics" - according to the Gearslutz membership - the KSM32 is a large-diaphragm condenser equipped with an acclaimed Mylar capsule and highly regarded for its clean and accurate sound that greatly surpasses its price tag. The KSM32 features a wide frequency response from 20Hz to 20kHz that’s ruler flat from 30Hz up to 2 kHz, where it picks up with a few gentle peaks across the upper mids and highs. This is a mic built with versatility in mind, featuring a three-stage pop reduction grill, a -15dB gain pad and an interesting high pass filter, with options for -6dB/octave at 155 Hz and -18 dB/octave at 80 Hz, all features that help to build a true workhorse. Available in champagne (featured) and charcoal-gray finishes. Read our user reviews.
That's the list - hopefully it helps your drum recordings and satisfies all your tom-tom needs - at least until Terry Bozzio walks through the door! As usual we had a vast number of suggestions but we have to narrow to ten mics, so honourable mentions goes to the AKG D12, Electro-Voice N/D468, Shure’s SM7B and SM57.
Which mics are you using on your tom-tom recordings? Single mic on top or are you also mic’ing the bottom? Please share your tips for great tom sounds!