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The Press Desk 13th January 2017 06:36 PM

Ten of the best mics for recording drums overheads
 
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Ten of the best mics for drums overheads

After determining some of the best microphones for kick and snare drums, the journey towards the Gearslutz Ultimate Drum Mic Kit™ continues. This time we have consulted with our membership on their favourite mics for recording drum overheads - here are ten of their favourite tools (presented in alphabetical order):

 C12

AKG C12

Considered by many to be the “holy grail” of microphones, the AKG C12 was introduced in the early 1950s and due to its sheer excellence it has gathered a devoted following since then. The C12 has been used for many applications (from vocals to drums) and it was one of the first mics to offer variable directivity with minimum variations in the frequency response. It includes figure-of-eight, cardioid and omnidirectional variations for a total of nine pickup patterns, which are remotely assignable through the external power supply unit. The original C12 has been discontinued since 1963 but AKG currently offers the C12 VR, a reissue of this coveted microphone that’s built to be as close as possible to the vintage model, still handcrafted in Vienna with the same CK12 capsule and 6072A vacuum tube. Start saving those pennies because it will be expensive, and prepare yourself for a long wait on the second hand market if re-issues aren’t good enough for you!



 C451 B Matched Pair

AKG C451 B Matched Pair

One of the most cost-effective small-diaphragm cardioid condensers out there, throughout its' long history the AKG C451 has rightfully earned its reputation for reconciling great quality and reasonable costs. According to AKG, the latest iteration of this mic presents an acoustic response that’s identical to the famous CK1 capsule from the late 1960s, with a seamlessly flat frequency response of 20 Hz to 5kHz, where it picks up with a gentle boost that lifts the top end by a few dBs. The C451-B also features a gain pad (-10/20 dB) and a 12dB/octave low pass filter (75/150Hz) for more flexibility. Also available as a single unit. Read our user reviews.



 M 160

Beyerdynamic M 160

The Beyerdynamic M 160 is one of Gearslutz’ most loved ribbon microphones and a frequent recommendation for drum overheads. This distinctive looking mic presents a hypercardioid polar pattern with excellent off-axis rejection, an even frequency response from 40Hz to 18kHz, superb loudness handling and it's particularly useful when recording in rooms with low ceilings. It’s also light, extremely rugged and a very trustworthy mic that will serve you well on many sources - not just drums. If you want 'that Beyerdynamic ribbon sound' but you need a bi-directional pickup pattern then look out for the M 130, which shares the same spirit of the M 160 but presents a figure-of-eight pattern instead of hypercardioid (which also allows for the possibility of an M/S setup when used along with the M 160). Read our user reviews.



 4038 (Stereo)

Coles Microphones 4038 (Stereo)

Originally designed by none other than the world-famous British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the Coles 4038 is one of the most acclaimed microphones in our community and a recurrent recommendation when it comes to drum overheads. The 4038 is a bi-directional (figure of eight) ribbon mic, famous for its natural sound character with a frequency response of 30-15000Hz, taking on loud sources (up to 125dB SPL) without much of a sweat. It’s often cited for its smooth yet highly detailed sound, excellent transient response and proven reliability. According to Coles the 4038 hasn’t changed since its introduction over forty years ago, a testimony to its excellence and explains why our members trust them so much. Also available as a single unit. Read our user reviews.



 QTC30MP

Earthworks Audio QTC30MP

It looks like another boring acoustic measurement mic, but make no mistake, we have a fine studio microphone on our hands here. The Earthworks QTC30 is an omnidirectional small-diaphragm condenser famous for its supreme accuracy, detail and uncoloured sound with a large range of possible applications, including drum overheads. It’s also a very quiet mic with little self-noise and boasts a near ruler-flat frequency response across the entire spectrum, all the way down from 6Hz to 30kHz. The QTC30 is a relatively affordable mic when compared to some other participants on our list and a wise purchase given everything it can do. Also available as a single unit.



 KM 84

Neumann KM 84

The Neumann KM-84 is one of Gearslutz' favourite mics, and for good reason. This highly regarded small-diaphragm cardioid condenser is capable of pulling out great recordings from a wide variety of sources, and guess what - they’re great as overheads too! The KM-84 delivers incredible detail and articulation, low self-noise and will handle loud sources easily, so it’s definitely a great choice if you’re looking for a SDC that will shine on overheads along with a host of other applications. It’s not always an easy mic to find (nor a cheap one if you want a pair) given how long it’s been discontinued but it’s not impossible either - keep an eye on our classifieds and you might get lucky. If you can't hold out, Neumann currently makes the KM-184 which is in the spirit of the original - although it's not necessarily sonically identical it still oozes German quality.



 U 67

Neumann U 67

This iconic large-diaphragm tube condenser microphone rightfully deserves all the praise it has garnered over the past five decades, with an immense track record and tonnes of history behind it. Ironically, the U67 was initially designed to replace the U47, but both mics ended up becoming classics in their own right. The U67 is considered to be a milestone in recording history due to the novelties introduced by Neumann to make it suitable for close-miking. This is a highly flexible mic, with cardioid, omni and figure-of-eight polar patterns, a frequency response ranging from 40Hz to 16kHz that’s mostly flat with gentle variations depending on the chosen polar pattern, and it will capture basically any source at any distance with ease. It’s top end is known to be smooth but also clear, which makes it a great choice for overheads. Now take a deep breath, try not to faint when looking at the price and remember: for many it’s not only a vintage mic, but also a piece of history!



 U 87

Neumann U 87

The original U87 is another legend from Neumann, one of the most recommended large-diaphragm condenser microphones ever made. The U87 was meant to be a “solid-state version” of the U67, with both mics sharing essentially the same capsule and offering the same polar pattern options (omni, cardioid, figure-of-eight), but with a crucial difference on the amplifier - U87 has a transistor-based design instead of the vacuum tube circuit used on the U67, leading to a different frequency response which sets one apart from the other. Known to be an extremely reliable microphone that consistently delivers great results, the U87 excels on many fronts and it’s a true “workhorse” for any situation - needless to say that includes drum overheads! The legacy currently lives on with the U87Ai, which has a few updated electrical components but according to Neumann it retains all of the venerable sound quality that rightfully made them so famous in the first place.



 SF-12

Royer Labs SF-12

Our list wouldn’t be complete without a true stereo microphone and the Royer SF-12 fits the bill perfectly and stands out as one of the finest in this category. This impressive mic uses two perfectly aligned ribbon elements with figure-of-eight polar patterns for effortless recording with stereo, mid-side or Blumlein setups. The SF-12 displays an excellent transient response and tonal consistency regardless of how it is pointed at the sound source, so placement should come easy - with the obvious spot being right on top of the drummer’s head for an easy road to great sounding stereo drum overheads. The SF-12 also displays a balanced frequency response, with the top end gently rolling off past 15kHz, which should be great for smooth sounding cymbals.



 CMC 65 Stereo Set

Schoeps CMC 65 Stereo Set

The Schoeps name evokes nothing but great recommendations from many of our users. Featured here we have the Colette Series Stereo Set, which consists of the masterfully built CMC-6 preamp body and seven interchangeable capsule designs to choose from. There are two types of omnidirectional capsules (nearfield/universal), four cardioids (wide/open/regular/super), plus the multi-pattern “MK5” omni/cardioid capsule - but it doesn’t stop there, as the CMC-6 body is also compatible with other MK series capsules for even more options, including a figure-of-eight capsule. Besides serving as excellent overheads the Schoeps mics are also widely used to capture orchestras and classical instruments in general, so that gives you an idea on where it hangs in terms of sound quality. Inevitably such greatness comes at a price and the cost might be a bit too steep for many, but nevertheless it’s an investment that surely pays itself in the long run as you add more and more capsules to your set.


We have quite a diverse list but there were also many other great recommendations from the community - we could only fit ten mics on here so honourable mentions go to the many incarnations of the AKG C-414 (especially the vintage models), AEA R88Mk2, DPA 4011C and Royer R121. If budget is an issue the Line Audio CM3 and Oktava MK-012-01 come to mind as good value-priced options too.

Please tell us how you’re using your overheads - do they play a leading role on your sound or are you only using them to reinforce the detail and top end? How are they set up on the kit? Regular spaced pair or something fancier? Let us know what you're using and share your thoughts and techniques for great sounding drums.

For more on microphones and recording please visit: https://www.gearslutz.com/board/so-m...o-little-time/

gravyface 30th October 2017 02:05 PM

This really needs an over/under breakdown, or maybe even an "unobtainium" category: C12? U67? C'man! :lol:

cyjanopan 30th October 2017 02:39 PM

half of them are not produced anymore, maybe there should be separate category for vintage and new?

zarven kara 25th December 2017 11:11 PM

Not sure about the KM 84 having "Low Self Noise" I think that was one of the only criticisms that you could find on that microphone that the noise floor can sometimes be a slight issue when recording delicate solo parts that are isolated in a song. None the less for overheads a cracking microphone...

playon 25th December 2017 11:24 PM

Shure KSM32 isn't on the list? feh

virtualaudio 30th December 2017 06:00 AM

I love the Shure KSM 32 for a ride cymbal mic. Really captures all the nuances without being harsh.
As for the rest, I know they are all great; sadly my budget has allowed me the choice of either two AKG 414 XL-IIs for a 'full kit' roomy sound or Shure SM81s in an X/Y for the cymbals only approach.

MichaelStAmour 5th January 2018 02:21 AM

Neumann KM184 and AKG C414 are great as well for Overhead.

MrTunes7 5th January 2018 07:32 PM

All awesome mics!

Any moving coil dynamic mics recommended for the job?

12ax7 5th January 2018 07:40 PM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MrTunes7 (Post 13052960)
Any moving coil dynamic mics recommended for the job?

.
http://www.coutant.org/evpl9/evpl9_2.jpg
.

mikeka 6th January 2018 04:33 AM

A sleeper no one has mentioned yet is the Josephson C42. Love it on OHs especially for jazz. Very nice on ac gtr as well.

Vern 16th June 2018 11:52 AM

I've used some of these on overheads and some not. Of all of them that I have used, the U87 seems to offer the best for me. Wish I could afford the C12 option though lol

I've used the earthworks as overheads and didn't like them at all. I also have experience with the schoeps and 451's but I wouldn't think to use them for overheads if you have the u87 option especially. They probably sound good though in their own right; I might have to try them out and see :)

What about the Mojave 200 option? I personally think they sound great on overheads; right up there with the u87.

damien 18th June 2018 06:43 AM

I tend to use KM84 for OH from a rental service all the time and love them.
They are sensitive and can get Hi SPL.
They have nothing to do with the KM184 that are brighter.

NathanBarley 26th July 2018 06:55 PM

Lucas cs1 is God’s drum overhead.

Those 451b’s should be removed from this list they are complete and utter ****e. The original 451 and 452 with the ck1 caps are terrific overheads.

reflix 30th July 2018 07:24 AM

Why isn't Ashton Kutcher on the list? :cowbell:

reflix 30th July 2018 07:26 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by reflix (Post 13444175)
Why isn't Ashton Kutcher on the list? :cowbell:

Because ain't a mic, nor classic mic for OH

Coles, 67, and c12 my favorite, old 87's too

Le Larron 5th August 2018 03:01 PM

Poor of thou, who shall never experience the sound of a pair of Coles on a drum Overhead.
"Forgive them, for they don t know how it sounds...."
abduction

phaqu 28th August 2018 04:21 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by Le Larron (Post 13455213)
Poor of thou, who shall never experience the sound of a pair of Coles on a drum Overhead.
"Forgive them, for they don t know how it sounds...."
abduction

What type of music? That has an impact on what mics I might grab.
Im pretty stuck on 87s, 84s or 451ebs.
Wasnt real crazy about 414s. I use them for room mics. Theyre great in that spot actually.

Le Larron 28th August 2018 09:50 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by phaqu (Post 13489910)
What type of music? That has an impact on what mics I might grab.
Im pretty stuck on 87s, 84s or 451ebs.
Wasnt real crazy about 414s. I use them for room mics. Theyre great in that spot actually.

Any type of Music in which you need an incredible drum sound : from jazz to heavy rock. These mics have an incredible warm and natural sound, but can also be heavily EQued, compressed and distorded without sounding harsh.

Check "in the basement" videos by Nigel Godrich, you will see.

I have 451, 414 an 84s, and these are absolutely not playing in the same category when it comes to drums overhead. The magic of great ribbon mics.

MrTunes7 28th August 2018 12:29 PM

Not sure what 414 you've used, but the buls have worked for me.

retropete 14th September 2018 04:02 PM

I've been using the Microtech Gefell m300s for a while now, and am pretty happy running them through my Dan Alexander 31105. I don't have a ton of bucks to spend, am an ardent amateur, not a pro. Would love to try the Coles--but am afraid I'll never be able to afford them. :-)

OceanMan 16th September 2018 08:44 PM

Searched far and wide until I found the Shure KSM32's. Perfect for what I typically do. Those Schoeps are breaktaking on lighter playing, jazzy type stuff...though I haven't had much of that come through my place lately. Never tried Beyer 160's on OH. I tend to use them in stereo on room...maybe about twenty feet from the kit...& perhaps about twenty feet apart...mmmyess...I wonder where that came from *cough* GlynJohns *coughCough* ZepplinJOHNBonham

....sheeesh excuse me there.

JohnnyWoodbine 17th September 2018 09:35 AM

After trying many; Beyer M101...Omni, small diaphragm dynamic are amazing! I use them in 'Glyn John's... modified isosceles' and get detailed but not harsh sound. The M101s which are hyper cardioid also make fantastic cymbals mics.

SLDaley 15th November 2018 06:47 AM

Oktava MK012 are my favorite drum overheads!
 
I own many of the mics featured in this drum overhead review. I sold my Neumann KSM184 pair in favor of the Oktava MK012 (a nice factory set) as stereo drum overheads (and also a world class Martin D28 style guitar stereo recording pair). The Oktava's always won our in house blind listening tests on drums. (But don't sound that good on piano, go figure!)

The MK012 mics are essentially the older Neumann KSM84, which, like the Oktava, is a very sweet sounding mic (unlike the KSM184 which can sound brittle).

I run my Oktava MK012 pair through Rupert Neve 5052 high voltage preamps, and on through the 5088 console. Can't beat it! (OK, I do love ribbon overheads and some others, but a good Oktava PAIR only costs around $500 and are rich sounding!)

phaqu 15th November 2018 07:39 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by SLDaley (Post 13631676)
I own many of the mics featured in this drum overhead review. I sold my Neumann KSM184 pair in favor of the Oktava MK012 (a nice factory set) as stereo drum overheads (and also a world class Martin D28 style guitar stereo recording pair). The Oktava's always won our in house blind listening tests on drums. (But don't sound that good on piano, go figure!)

The MK012 mics are essentially the older Neumann KSM84, which, like the Oktava, is a very sweet sounding mic (unlike the KSM184 which can sound brittle).

I run my Oktava MK012 pair through Rupert Neve 5052 high voltage preamps, and on through the 5088 console. Can't beat it! (OK, I do love ribbon overheads and some others, but a good Oktava PAIR only costs around $500 and are rich sounding!)

I used the mk012 for overheads for 8 years. I really wouldnt call them km84s.

bkbirge 15th November 2018 09:42 PM

I've been enjoying the Chameleon Labs TS-1's for the last few years as my go-to overhead mics. Spaced omni or hypercardioid depending on what I'm going for in the moment. Previously I'd use a pair of altec lipstick tube mics in cardioid'ish (the pattern is the laziest cardioid you'll ever see, verges on omni) but they live on my piano now.

Also used to use a pair of U67's and yeah those are great. I've also tried the Oktava MK-012's, 2500 MKL's, Neumann KM84's, AKG 414's with and without CK12 capsule, all the typical suspects, even RCA 77DX, etc. By far the best ever was a pair of Neumann KM254's, now those are real unobtainium bust sounded oh-so-good with those nickel caps. I wonder if a pair of Sony C37A's would sound as good as another pair of completely unobtainables.

funkycam 16th November 2018 06:56 AM

4038s ftw

MikeInOttawa 17th November 2018 03:13 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by phaqu (Post 13631722)
I used the mk012 for overheads for 8 years. I really wouldnt call them km84s.

After I got my Beyerdynamic MC930s I gave my Oktavas to my son.

Quote:

Originally Posted by retropete (Post 13518517)
I've been using the Microtech Gefell m300s for a while now, and am pretty happy running them through my Dan Alexander 31105. I don't have a ton of bucks to spend, am an ardent amateur, not a pro.

Would love to have a pair of M300s. An M295 or two would be sweet, but they're not cheap.

phaqu 17th November 2018 05:45 AM

Quote:

Originally Posted by MikeInOttawa (Post 13635808)
After I got my Beyerdynamic MC930s I gave my Oktavas to my son.



Yeah, I havent broke mine out in years either.

idee und klang 18th November 2018 04:16 PM

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For acoustic music the Neumann M49 are hard to beat. Placed in the right way they not only record the cymbals nicely and smooth but also the snare and toms.

csweet08 22nd November 2018 02:32 AM

Mojave MA201s should be on the list now. Modern classics.