Of all the instruments, drums have got to be among the trickiest to record.
Should you use one microphone or a kit?
If you use a mic kit, how do you position all the microphones for the greatest effect?
And how do you avoid the phase issues everyone seems to moan about?
These are all confusing questions, especially if you are a beginning drummer, or just starting as a music producer.
My research informs me a multi-piece microphone setup produces a far superior sound.
This article now intends to answer the more polarizing debate of which drum mic kit is the best?
First, we will answer a few questions you may be asking yourself.
Why Can’t I Use Just One Drum Microphone?
Drum mic kits are obviously more expensive.
Using just one mic to record the whole drum set would seem less costly.
There are some very strong supporters for the power of recording with one microphone. They can point to even more attractions to using one mic to record your drums than just the perceived lower cost.
One benefit is you automatically remove any phase cancellation issues. Every producer will tell you that phase issues will worsen as you add more mics to your kit.
And, of course, using one mic serves you time when it finally comes to mixing.
But while the minimalist approach has its advantages, it can’t be argued that having dedicated microphones for each drum produces a more refined sound.
Yes, it requires a bit of work setting all the mics up the right way to minimize the all too familiar phase issues.
But this work will pay off in droves once you get it right. And it’s not like using one mic totally eliminates all the work it takes to record with a mic kit.
You will still have to position that one microphone where it can capture all your drums in all their nuances.
This can prove far trickier and gives you no guarantee that your sound will be better than what you get with a mic kit, even if you succeeded.
What If You Build Your Own Drum Mic Set?
Other than going the one mic route some drummers actually prefer building their own kits as an alternative to buying pre-assembled kits from the same manufacturer.
The thinking here is that there are mics that are just better than others for recording kicks, snares and toms, and for the overhead and room mics, and that all these can be from different manufacturers.
I can’t argue against this being a good way of approaching drum mic kits.
The one major wrinkle is it just requires so much work, experience, and knowledge about microphones that beginners may quickly get overwhelmed by it all.
If you haven’t yet figured what mic works best with which drum, it is best to save yourself all the legwork and risk of underwhelming results, and just get yourself a well reviewed drum mic set.
Besides, these purpose built mic kits come with so many accessories, like mic cables, travel cases, and rim mounts, that you would never get the same value if you bought all the components separately.
Having said that, you will still need to know what to look for in a drum mic kit:
What to Consider When Shopping for a Drum Mic Set
It is worth reminding each other that drum mic kits do not have microphones designed specifically for recording drums.
They are the same microphones that manufacturers sell for use with other instruments, as well as for recording vocals.
So, in most cases the mics have already been tested for what they do well and what they don’t do so well at.
What drummers are more concerned with is how many and what mics specifically there are in these kits.
Without digressing further, let’s look at what you should look out for when out shopping for a drum mic kit.
The Size of the Drum Mic Kit Affects Both its Price and Quality of Sound
Here we are talking about the number of microphones in a mic kit.
You will find that there is no hard and fast rule for how many mics there should be in a drum mic kit.
However, it is generally accepted that, to capture all the necessary sounds from your drums you will need at least a microphone for the kick drum, the snares, and the tom-toms.
On top of those, a standard drum mic setup will also have a couple of overhead and room mics to capture your cymbals and room sounds.
Other producers will have two mics for the same kick drum. One will be placed inside the drum while the other will capture the kick sound from the outside.
For the overhead and room microphones again others prefer more than one microphone.
Of course it does not always mean that all the mics used will make it into the final mix. But the average producer will prefer to have more sound sources to work with.
So depending on your needs, the drum mic set you eventually settle on can have any number of mics, though, from my research, seven seems to be the standard.
Different Types of Microphones Will Work for Different Drums
Dynamic microphones are preferred for recording drums, mainly because of their ability to produce punchier sounds that go so well with drums.
Because drums are such loud instruments it isn’t as important to worry too much about the finer nuances of every sound. This is different for studio vocal recordings, for example, that require a more sensitive microphone to pick the human voice’s rich palette of tones.
Another reason why dynamic mics may be preferred over condensers for recording drums is they usually have a more rugged build quality.
Dynamic mics aren’t as likely to break apart when accidentally hit by the drummer in the heat of a recording.
However, condenser mics are still very useful when recording drums, especially when used for your overhead and room mics.
Large Diaphragm Dynamic Mics Work Best for Recording Kick Drums
The most common distinction with microphones, after the dynamic/condenser classification, is the size of the diaphragm.
A large diaphragm microphone will give you a louder and fuller sound and is the perfect choice for bass-heavy sound sources such as the kick drum.
Small diaphragm dynamic mics will naturally work better when used to record snares and toms.
To complete the perfect recording environment for your drums I would opt for a pair of condensers for the overhead mics. These will do more than just pick the sounds from your cymbals. They will capture the drum set as a whole.
The Best Drum Mic Kit Reviews
As we say with most instruments, you get what you pay for.
But not everyone can afford the best mics money can buy because, let’s face it, microphones can get very expensive.
In case your situation forces you to be more cautious with your budget, we have included our best picks across several price points. We give our overall recommendation at the end.
Note, the majority of kits reviewed here include at least one condenser mic and will, thus, require phantom power, which shouldn’t be a worry if you use a good quality audio interface.
Let’s get to it then:
Pyle Pro 7-Piece Wired Dynamic Drum Mic Kit
If you are starting out as a producer or drummer and are on a budget, the Pyle Pro 7-Piece Drum Mic Kit will be a great choice.
The mic kit has unbeatable value at its price, but being a budget set it has a few flaws.
One flaw you will notice straight from the setup, which a few reviewers have also pointed out, is that the hoop clips are a dodgy plastic quality.
The condenser mic clips are a better quality though.
Coming to the microphones themselves, the dynamics are a very decent quality, especially the kick drum mic. That one mic could easily be worth the set’s price.
The condenser mics, while they have great a pick-up, don’t look very strong nor easily repairable.
Features and Benefits
- A great bass mic that will hold up quite nicely against the best
- Uni-directional small drum mics with good pick-up in the mid and high frequencies
- Compact mics compatible with all mic stands and universal drum mounts that attach well to most drum rims
- A sturdy but lightweight carry case with button style locks convenient for when you have to travel for gigs
- The wind screens for condenser mics will help block secondary sounds from contaminating your sound
- The price is hard to beat
- Some have complained the mics can sound a tad too dull
CAD Audio Stage7 Premium 7-Piece Drum Instrument Mic Pack
A good contender for the best drum mic kit under 300 dollars, this is also a 7-piece set.
With all that’s included in the kit this is a very good deal. But a ‘mic’ set will eventually be judged on the quality of the mics themselves.
The general complaint for the mics is they tend to be overly sensitive. Yet others who have also used the mics believe it is all in the placement. Get that right and the sound will come out great, they say.
To isolate the sound from the cymbals just above them, the three dynamic tom mics and one snare mic have a hypercardioid polar pattern that captures a clean crisp sound.
As well as the included cables, the Amazon deal adds two tripod mic stands and two short mic stand with telescoping beam, which adds up to make this quite a sweet deal.
Features and Benefits
- The toms and snare mics have a very smooth response and come with adjustable mounts
- Well built microphones that will serve you well for most of your standard recording tasks
- A padded duffle bag provides good storage for the mic kit when not in use
- Overall great value thanks to a fair price and all the accessories included
- A hard, sturdier carry case would have been better, especially for drummers who travel and record on the road
AKG Drum Set Session 1 Drum Mic Pack
Considering there are seven microphones, and the Austrian brand’s reputation for quality, this is one of the best drum mic kits for the money.
The seven microphones in the drum mic pack are the one large diaphragm designed with the kick drum in mind, four smaller ones for the snares and toms, and two condenser overheads.
The condenser overheads spot a slim pencil design and are surprisingly quite solid, perhaps due to their metal casings.
Accessories in the kit include clamps and dual socket adapters for all the microphones, as well as a rugged, cushioned aluminium carry case to pack it all in.
Features and Benefits
- Quick and easy setup, thanks to the clips that give you a solid and secure grip
- When mixed the mics produce a full, robust sound
- Good build quality guarantees hours and hours of trouble free recording
- Kit includes clamps and dual socket adapters for all the microphones
- There is also a cushioned aluminium carry case to pack it all in
- It is not high end but there aren’t many negative things said about it yet
Shure PGA Drum Kit 7
Shure is a fabled mic brand, with a great reputation for making solid quality mics.
The seven microphones in the kit use a cardioid polar pattern with excellent sound isolation qualities. There is hardly any bleed at all from other mics, with background noises also nicely blocked out.
The carefully tuned PGA52 bass drum mic captures low frequency kick drum thump sounds with incredible accuracy, while the three PGA52 and one PGA57 dynamic mics add a harmonic grace to those high octane tom and snare whacks.
The PGA81 condenser for its part has excellent pick-up, ensuring no detail of the piercing cymbal clangs gets ignored.
These aren’t mics to keep wrapped in cotton wool. They are made for regular use, and can record pretty much anything.
Features and Benefits
- Sleek industrial design that’s well complimented by a rugged build for maximum durability
- Comes in a padded carry case, which protects the mics when not in use
- Compact size that allow the mics to stay out of the way of the stick, giving the drummer freedom to concentrate on their playing
- The drum clips give a tight hold but can also be easily loosened to aid placement
- Comes with other extras - ‘break-resistant’ drum mounts and a 15-foot XLR cable for each of the seven mics
- A hard aluminium carry case would have made this a cracking drum mic set.
Sennheiser e600 Drum Mic Pack
This Sennheiser set is a step up on the options we have covered here and are some of the best drum mics around.
The brand’s hardworking microphones are desired for their sleek and sturdy build quality and the crispness of their sound.
This drum mic kit packs in four dynamic e604 mic chosen for their accuracy when recording tom-tom and snare sounds.
The kick drum mic is a large diaphragm dynamic that reproduces a powerful bass thump and will work for any bass application. This mic is a solid contender for best kick drum mic.
Completing the mic kit is a pair of super sensitive pencil condenser mics for the overheads.
As well as pre-attached and adjustable drum rim clamps for the four e604 mics, the kick drum and overhead condensers are alo fitted with mic stand adapters.
Features and Benefits
- Solid build quality for a long use life
- Comes with seven XLR cables, which means you won’t have to spend money buying them separately
- A lockable, sleek, foam-lined aluminium carry case
- A 10 year warranty gives you welcome peace of mind
- Great versatility makes this kit a solid choice for recording studios
- Perhaps out of reach for beginner producers on tight budgets
And Our Verdict Is...
The Shure PGA Drum Kit 7.
On the balance of sound quality, durability, and price, this drum mic kit has very few peers.
If you are short on budget but really must get a drum mic set, the Pyle Pro 7-Piece Wired Dynamic Drum Mic Kit is our pick for best budget drum mic set. It is a decent mic pack at an astonishingly low price.
If you really must upgrade, then the Sennheiser e600 Drum Mic Pack wouldn’t be a bad choice. It is a well built drum mic set from a company that knows what it is doing.
The Shure PGA Drum Kit 7, though, is our recommendation for the best drum mic kit for multi-piece microphone setups.
There are no nasty surprises with this Shure kit. What you see is what you get. The set is a Shure-quality product sold at a phenomenal price.