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Drums on a budget... Condenser Microphones
Old 13th April 2009
Gear nut

Thread Starter
Drums on a budget...


Just bought a house and am building a studio in the new garage, complete with a live drum/amp room.

In the past I went to another studio to do drums for my clients and dumped the files back into Digital Performer in my studio, now I am having to step up and get more mics and pre's.

I currently have the Motu 828MKII and Millennia STT1 for pre's...I never really recorded more than one thing at a time so it has worked. I have a Neumann TLM103 and a Sterling Audio ST31 SDC, they both are great in my book.

What I was thinking about doing was buying a Motu 896HD used and using those pre's for drums and the STT1 for snare...Then, what mics to get? I really need to keep the budget to $1, is what I want, any suggestions? I am in no way married to this idea, I know I could easily get an 8 channel pre via ADAT and get great results as well.

Kick, Snare, Snare Bottom, 2 Toms & OH mics...Total of 7-8 channels...Enough pre's to track the all these, as well as another 2-4 channels of simple compression. I will be recording loud guitars now too so I am assuming I will need a few '57s.

I am open to all suggestions, I do this full time but have never really HAD to record drums, now it is just more time and cost effective to do so.


Last edited by [email protected]; 13th April 2009 at 07:41 AM.. Reason: Digital Performer
Old 13th April 2009
Gear maniac
davew's Avatar

never recorded drums? you're about to be initiated then! hardest instrument to record...period!

if you have a good sounding room, grab some ribbon or big condenser mics for room. depending on what you use on OH's...and if the room sounds good, you may not need tom mics. still i like to add them anyway just in case. check out the glyn johns method:
drums sound wayyyy different by simply moving the mics a little differently, as i'm sure you know. patience and good tuning is a damn good start! luck be with ya!
Old 13th April 2009
Gear nut

Thread Starter
I should say I HAVE recorded drums, just not on a regular basis...I am extremely aware of how hard they are to record RIGHT but there is always time to learn!

I have experimented with different mic techniques in the past, and love them, I also want to have a the capability of recording a full set fully miked up when I need too.

The room, about to be built, will be a a tough one in its own right. It is going to be 13ft wide and 6 1/2ft deep...definitely not ideal but I think it can be done...if they don't sound good in there I will move them into my Control Room that is 11 1/2ft by 15 1/2 ft long...Either way I think they will sound good...(Provided I don't get in the way)

And what, may I ask, is the initiation?!
Old 13th April 2009
Lives for gear
uncle duncan's Avatar

I'd send the 828 to BLA for the mod. That would give you a pair of clean pres, and 6 clean analog inputs for your other pres. Of course, 8 channels isn't enough for drums, since you really need a room mic. Even just a mic 5 feet in front of the kit, five feet high (in the sweet spot - use isolation headphones to find it) really helps make the kit come alive. You also want to be able to track bass, guitar and pilot vocal when doing basic tracks, so an adat interface with 8 more channels going into the 828 via lightpipe would give you 16 channels - the minimum for what you're trying to do.

For OH, a pair of sdc mics with a tight pattern would help take the room out of the sound, or the Charter Oaks pair of tube sdc's made specifically for that purpose. For toms, some people swear by the CAD M179 - a multi-pattern condensor workhorse mic that could also mic the room in figure 8 for guitars (aimed at the walls, not the amp) and mic acoustic stuff. An SM7b would be great for guitar amps and rock vocals. (I've compared a 57 and a SM7b on guitar amps - if you want fat, the sm7b rules, if you want thin, go with the 57.)

Another nice dynamic for vocals is the Heil PR35. It's more natural and open sounding than the norm, and could be useful on instruments. Then you'd want a good ribbon mic or two, and an AEA TRP ribbon preamp, which also works great for dynamics and tube mics that don't require phantom power. (You can use an external phantom power box with the TRP. I do that with my ADK Hamburg IIau condensor, which already has a nice juicy sound that doesn't benefit from a colored preamp smearing the transients.)

A nice compressor for vocals and bass is the Safesound P1, which also includes a really smooth preamp. Many people don't compress drums at all while tracking, so I wouldn't worry about that. Drumagog would be a good thing to have for the mix, along with the Steven Slate drum samples. At least then you could offer that "finished" sound if that's what the client is looking for. It's a lot cheaper than buying a 2" 24-track and a bunch of vintage analog gear to get the same sound.

Then you'd want to visit the Studio Construction thread to line up some bass traps, since a garage is going to sound like a garage without them. And you'd need to figure out heating and cooling, since most garages don't come with that. Plus you'd need to make sure your neighbors aren't going to rat you out after your studio is all finished. That would suck, having done all that work for nothing.

At least with Motu gear, you can set up multiple zero-latency headphone mixes, so you've got that covered, assuming you have a multi-channel headphone amp. For electricity, consider running everything off of one circuit, so you don't encounter ground loop problems. You can also run a "floating ground" back to the grounding stake, but when I suggested this in another thread, somebody accused me of trying to get everybody electrocuted, so it might be a good idea to do some research - or not even worry about it if your gear doesn't buzz once you get it all set up.

So, how many thousands of dollars were you going to spend?

ETA: 6 1/2 by 13? OMG! The sound wave from the kick drum is going to travel 3 feet and then bounce right back? You are so screwed. Or you're going to set up the drums the other way so that the cymbals are within inches of the walls? You'd need a totally dead room for that, wouldn't you? What about having a tiny control room and a big live room? What about knocking out a door and window and building the control room outside? What about getting a bigger house?

Good luck.

ETA #2: Screw the control room. Put a vocal booth and acoustic guitar booth in two corners and leave the room open. One of the busiest studios in town (Wavelab, Tucson Arizona) has no control room. They do have a really large L-shaped room with several isolation rooms, but the mixing board is open to the recording space. Just put on your isolation headphones and have fun.
Old 13th April 2009
Gear nut

Thread Starter
Wow! Thanks for the detailed reply!!!

I have my vocal/bass chain covered for now, the Millennia is absolutely a killer pre/compressor and I won't ever give it up. I also like my Neumann, good utility mic so far.

I won't be recording a band together...just don't want to do that. I usually am working with Singer/Songwriters so that isn't a problem.

I have been ALL over the Studio Build forum here and the one at John Sayers' website, I have the design down and I need to make the room work. I won't get too much into it, but I have to leave that one room a lone at this point, it has a load bearing wall and I can't mess with it.
I am totally up to snuff on bass trapping and the build out side, not an expert by any means, but I totally have taken that into account.
Old 14th April 2009
Lives for gear
uncle duncan's Avatar

Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post has a load bearing wall and I can't mess with it.
So put up a header! Keep 3 feet of wall on each end, which could be the sides to your iso booths. Then install the header in between. (I love a challenge, especially if it involves two-by-fours.) Then you could close in your iso booths with a six foot wall angled so that the booth is 5 feet deep on the other side, (at the back wall) creating a pair of nice unparallel walls to enhance your recording space. You could be seated under the header, looking into the big room, leaving plenty of space for a drummer to set up near the back of that room.

Sure, I know the drill - cut pilot tracks to a click and then bring in the drummer to overdub, but there are times when a live track with a drummer is much more efficient, and better for the music. Can you imagine telling Tom Waits or Ry Cooder "sorry dude, I've only got 8 channels so we're cutting to a click and bringing in the drummer next week."
Old 14th April 2009
Gear nut

Thread Starter
After a bit of thought last night I am actually contemplating that very well as adding 8 more channels...I may hold off for a bit and extend my budget more and get the design I want to "live" with.
Old 14th April 2009
Lives for gear
rty5150's Avatar

you could get a digimax d8 and adat it into the motu. effectively giving you 8 more channels of decent pres and you could leave them hooked up for drums. then get some good mics. as for room acoustics, your kinda screwed. your room dimensions are going to wreak havoc on you. your best bet is to setup gobos and place pillows around the room to break up room modes.

Old 15th April 2009
Gear maniac
Jonesfromindia's Avatar

Originally Posted by [email protected] View Post
Then, what mics to get? I really need to keep the budget to $1,200..
ill go over a bit...but it will be with it.

kick- Audix D6-$200(also bass)
snare-sm57-$100(also gtr)
tom2-audix F14-$100(or MD421, can use with gtr too)
tom3-D112-$220-if needed(can use with bass)
OH's-Rode Nt5-$430
$1250. damn im good.

if you cant get a nice drum sound with these mics, hire me.
Old 10th June 2009
Lives for gear

Old 10th June 2009
Gear nut
JalenRawley's Avatar

First, my original budget setup and what I paid for it before I upgraded:

Kick: Sennheiser e602 ($300)
Snare: SM57 ($80) - I bought 2, but never used the other one with drums
Toms: Sennheiser e604 3 pack ($300)
Overheads: Oktava MK-012 x2 ($200)
Room: Shure KSM27 ($300)

Total: $1180

I found out right away that I didn't like the e602 and ended up picking up a Shure Beta 52 instead. I loaned out my e602 and I don't care if I ever see it again. It seems the top kick mics are all in the same range, so really your tastes will determine what you want. The e602 just was too scooped and boomy sounding to me, never liked anything I recorded with it. The AKG D112 was a little too clicky for my tastes. The Beta 52 was a little more middle-of-the-road, which worked out best for me.

I definitely do -not- like the e604s on the toms, but they're small and stay out of the way nicely and doubled for plenty of live gigs so they weren't a horrible investment. They do sound better if you don't use the clips and put them on stands though, less ringing and resonance from the drum it's clipped to. I upgraded to a pair of Sennheiser MD421s which set me back just under $700. I still have the e604s in case I have to mic up more than two toms, which these days hasn't come up. Most drummers I know only bring what they're actually going to use in the studio. Thankfully the days of the 13-tom Neil Peart wannabe kits played by a meathead banging out 2 and 4 all night long appear to be behind us.

The MK-012s have been absolutely awesome for me. I was lucky enough to pick out the pair that I wanted. As I worked with this setup, I realized that I really preferred the sound of LDCs as overheads over SDCs. I picked up a pair of Shure KSM32s pretty cheap (normally $500 each, I picked 'em up for $200 each) and they have worked out well so far. With this little upgrade I could use the MK-012s for hi-hat and underside snare duty, which worked out great. Now I just want one more as a ride mic.

I've sold the KSM27, never liked the sound of it at all. It always sounded like a dynamic mic to me, like it was stuffed with foam or something. Really wooly and lacking life, even through good preamps and EQs. For the same $300 you could get an Oktava MK-319 or find a deal on a used mic. I picked up a BLUE Bluebird for a friend for $250 that has worked out great, and I've used it on a few things. I liked it so much that I picked up a BLUE Baby Bottle ($500), which definitely sounds better than the Bluebird.

All of these mics have found other uses in band rehearsals and recordings. I've even used the e604s on guitar cabs as if they were SM57s. My initial setup gave me 5 dynamic mics, 2 SDCs and an LDC to work with. I added 3 more dynamics and 3 more LDCs since then with minimal costs.
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