It doesn’t matter if it’s a r ecording or live session, getting the best sound quality is super important right?
Well in this article I’m going to cover five of the best overhead drum mics you can get today.
As a bonus, I’ll also cover 3 MUST KNOW placement techniques and technical lingo to make sure you get the most bang for your buck with whichever mic you buy.
Why you need overhead drum mics
Overheads are often thought of as those mics that capture the cymbals.
They capture everything and more importantly, unify the sounds of the rest of the mics.
Since the drum set is essentially a mixture of different instruments, capturing each of their unique sounds as accurately as possible is a challenge.
When used correctly, you can capture the full sound of the kit in phase and the at the same frequency and tone.
Next, let’s look at how to place overhead mics in different scenarios.
3 Must Know Overhead Drum Mic Placements
The overheads need to be augmented and given preference before setting up any other sound.
This can be done by ensuring that they combine and level out the kit from the left to right, back to front and even top to bottom because each of these dimensions is crucial.
Now, there’s not one magical, foolproof method of setting these up because no two sessions will be the same.
However, here’s the good news:
There are certain rules-of-thumb you can follow that won’t steer you wrong.
Check them out.
1. Configurations of X-Y
Set up two cardioids condensers high above the cymbals but also making sure they are above the snare so that they give you a centered stereo inclination.
Try and get the capsules of the mics touching or overlap them so they occupy near-enough the same space.
XY placement is perfect for:
- Some stereo spread
- A very focused sound
2. Spaced pair placement
Overhead drum microphones, particularly condensers need to be spaced out for flexibility.
When setting up, place them a little high above the cymbals.
That way you refocus emphasis from other areas of the kit.
However, the number one rule is that they are placed at an equal distance from the snare or kick which ensures that the stereo imaging is perfect.
The larger the space between them the wider the image you get of your stereo.
Spaced pair placement is perfect for:
- Exaggerated stereo spread across cymbals and fills
3. ORTF Technique
You can also get the similar effect of the X-Y configuration with the use of a pair of coincident cardioids condenser mics set at 110o and 17cm away from each other.
This will give you a wider stereo width and cymbals in relation to the rest of the kit.
XY placement is perfect for:
- Wider stereo spread than XY – not as much as spaced pair.
Live Overhead Drum Set-up
You will find that the miking of your drum kit for a live performance whether a small stage or stadium set-up is pretty much the same as a studio setup.
The difference is more in the sound you want for each scenario.
When engineering for a studio or home set the intention is to capture the sound the drums produce for an overall sound experience.
For a live performance the goal is more for the benefit of the sound impact for the audience.
The guiding objective in such a case is for any sound produced from your drums to be reinforced within the intended space. It has to be augmented and exaggerated in artistic manipulations.
One way to achieve this is by amplifying whatever comes from the drums.
This depends on very close-miking.
An advantage of this is to centre your mic on those instruments you want heard more and so the overheads on the drum set must be mostly large diaphragmed and engineered to reduce spill-over of sound.
In other words, when you set up and engineer, focus the mics at a centre of the snares and cymbals by using a stereo pair at an angle.
This is known as the audio centre; unlike the physical centre, this centre is inclined more to where your snares are placed which is why these should be placed spread out for both left and side drum kit benefit.
That way, the OH mics will perform a balanced ambience of your stereo image.
Now that you know how to set up your overhead mics I’ll share the 5 best overhead drum mics you should use for even better quality sound!
5 of the Best Overhead Drum Mics Available
- Pressure gradient acoustic line
- 20Hz to 2000kHz frequency range
- 1 year warranty
The Rode M5 is a carded microphone with a sleek matt finish and a chic ceramic coating for sophistication.
It is a small diaphragm mic which means that it is ideal for small recording and performing spaces that do not require much augmentation. The pencil style makes this an impressive mic pair even for the most demanding of engineers and artists.
It comes fully accessorized with windshields and stand mounts. What’s more; it is a phantom powered mic so no battery hustles!
- 40-15000Hz frequency range
- Shure drop test passed
With a contoured frequency response pattern, this mic makes for a super overheard drum miking experience. It is highly durable; it has to be because it has been around since 1965!
It will give you clarity of sound that is warm and true to the engineer’s ear and you can be guaranteed of very little interference from background noises due to its cardioids pick-up pattern. It is also extremely with an ability to withstand much pressure from the surround sound with the unidirectional feature it boasts of.
- Up to 155dB SPL
- 1/2” portable size
- Rugged all metal body
If you are looking for a mic that can literally walk the road with you, the AKG is your overhead drum mic of choice. It is made of a metallic construction that makes it withstand the strains of travel, dropping and weather-beatings for years and years.
It features an attenuation pad for easy switching of SPL and for all its durability it is only a half inch mic for easy carrying amongst the myriad other engineering paraphernalia you move with as an engineer or studio artist. It is fashioned with condenser transducer diaphragm so the sound quality can only be described as mint sound with much transient response.
- Gold-gelded XLR Connectors
- Cardioids Pick-up ability
- Linear Frequency
There is much that you can do with the Samson pencil mic. They say dynamite comes in small packages and every part of that is true for this OH mic pair.
You want clear concise sound recording? This is your mic of choice as it features a cardioids polar pattern and a low mass capsule. This means that you can reduce the other sounds from within the recording space and focus on the ambience within your stereo image.
The mic comes accompanied with a transporting case and some shock mounting mic clips. It is recommended for both live and studio recordings.
- 80+Hz hi-pass filter
- 10dB pad
- Transformerless circuitry
The Audio-Technica has a direct-coupled and well-balanced output for a signal that is devoid of disruption even with the busiest output conditions. This also means that it will not pick up other unwanted sounds from around it.
Because it is transformerless, the Audio-Technica gives you higher speed transients. There is an added bonus from capsules that are interchangeable in either cardioids or Omni-directional.
So whether you are looking for an exceptional home recording or live performing engineering experience, any one of those mics will be your trusted companions. Always try to work with the drummer’s hitting habits and manipulate the positioning of your OH mics so that they reinforce those least hit. For even more convenience, a stereo pair will always be easier on EQ and set-up.