by danny

June 3, 2021

Great overhead drum microphones are essential to any amazing drum recording session. These microphones pick up your drum kit’s overall sound and give an accurate representation of your drum’s sound. If you position your overhead microphones correctly, you can have great sound even with a minimal setup.

Overhead Mics for drums

Overhead mics are also highly versatile and can be used with a variety of other acoustic instruments.

While we have discussed the top rated best overhead drum mics, you can use them for many other different instruments. Without further ado, let’s dive into the world of overhead microphones. 

Do I need to Mic my Drums?

Do all drummers need to mic their drums? No, they do not. However, there are many scenarios where micing a drum is advantageous if not essential. If you are a big-time drummer who has concerts with thousands of spectators, of course, you are going to have to, but they probably aren’t going to be asking this question. 

Supposing you are in a small band that places in venues with around 150-250 people, you might be wondering if you should mic then. While you can probably get away without using any mics, it is best that you mic your drums. Having microphones will give you bass and toms an extra oomph that will improve your audience’s overall experience. If you are into small-time studio recording, you, of course, want to mic your drums.

You can also mic your drums for your practice sessions. It is hard to judge how good you sound while playing, and it is easy not to notice a few mistakes. When you mic your drums, it gives you the option of recording yourself and listening to yourself later to spot the places you can improve.

Best Overhead Drum Mics for Recording, Live Sound


1. AKG C214 Stereo Pair Cardioid Condenser – Value for Money

AKG Pro Audio C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, Matched Pair
  • 2 x C214
  • 2 x Elastic spider suspensions
  • 2 x Windscreen
  • 1 x Aluminum carrying case
Pros
  • Great sound quality
  • Extremely versatile, it can be used for drums, vocals, and whatnot
  • Good sound clarity
Cons
  • Slightly heavy

AKG is well known in the recording world for its high-quality microphones. The AKG C214 is one of their more affordable overhead mics that can deliver quality recordings. It is incredibly versatile, and you can use this mic with almost all instruments. Be it drums, vocals, or flute, the C214 will deliver without question.

This microphone can function in both the studio and live settings and has a high pass filter that can cut down on unwanted low-frequency sounds. It has a double mesh grid that increases its durability without sacrificing any quality of sound.

The only drawback of this microphone is that it is a bit hefty. Simply put, this is among the best condenser mics for drum overhead.

2. Rode M5 Matched Pair Cardioid Condenser – Best in Budget


On Sale
Rode M5-MP Matched Pair Cardioid Condenser Microphones
  • Compact 1/2 inch cardioid condenser microphone...
  • Matched pair has been carefully selected to ensure...
  • A premium foiled certificate is supplied to verify...
  • Finished with RODE's proprietary ceramic coating...
  • Supplied with WS5 windshields and RM5 stand mounts
Pros
  • Extremely versatile
  • It has excellent sound matching, giving exceptional stereo output
  • Reliable
  • Amazing frequency response
  • Reasonably priced
Cons
  • It does not have many extra features
  • It could be a little quieter
  • Has a high impudence

The Rode company has been in existence in one form or the other since 1967 and has gained a good reputation over the years for their equipment. The Rode M5 matched pair is one of the most popular overhead microphones for recording. Not only is it widely used for recording drums, but it’s also a popular mic for other instruments like the guitar too.

It has many essential features like matching capability, full-frequency response, and low noise possibility. This allows it to be suitable for a variety of different genres. The sound matching feature is simply excellent with the M5, and if you want a microphone set up purely to record in stereo, you cannot go wrong with this. Their frequency response range is also quite extensive, and you won’t be left wanting anything. Be it a studio or a live gig, this will perform exceptionally.

Another reason why it is so popular is that even though it has impressive recording capability, it is not too expensive. You cannot get better tonal quality at its price. The M5 is among the best drum overhead mics under 500. The low cost also means you can quickly grab a couple, if not more, of these without breaking your bank. 

3. Shure KSM 137 Stereo Pair – Good Overhead Condenser Microphone for Recording


Shure KSM137/SL Stereo Pair with (2) KSM137, (2) Foam Windscreens, A27M Stereo Microphone Adapter...
  • Highly consistent cardioid polar pattern
  • Ultra-thin, 2.5 micron, 24 karat gold-layered, low...
  • Class A, discrete, transformerless preamplifier...
  • Premium electronic components, including...
  • Subsonic filter eliminates low frequency rumble...
Pros
  • It has a sleek and thin design
  • Features a Mylar diaphragm
  • Fantastic build quality and internal component quality
  • It can be used for a range of acoustic instruments
Cons
  • It does not have shockproof mounts

The Shure KSM 137 is another cardioid mic that delivers excellent recording. The KSM 137 is extremely thin and sleek, giving a unique look and excellent response to sound. 

It features a Mylar diaphragm that gives you a quick transient response. This quick transient response combined with minimal intermediation, harmonic distortion, and crossover distortion gives you a very clean and transparent recording.

All the electronic components used are of the highest quality, giving you outstanding durability and quality. These electronics provide you control over the sensitivity and the volume; they even allow you to filter out unwanted background noise.

All of this makes the KSM147 a fantastic microphone for the drum and other acoustic instruments. The only drawback with this is that it does not have shockproof mounts, so that any vibration will affect your sound output.

While the Shure KSM137 is quite expensive, they have incredible sound and perform amazingly for their cost.

4. AKG Pro C414 – Best for Detailed Recording of Vocals and Any Acoustic Instrument


AKG Pro Audio C414 XLS Instrument Condenser Microphone, Multipattern
  • Engineered for highest linearity and neutral sound...
  • Nine selectable polar patterns for the perfect...
  • Three attenuation levels (-6/-12/-18dB) for...
  • Three different switchable bass-cut filters to...
  • Overload warning with audio peak hold LED to...
Pros
  • Extensive control over polar patterns and attenuation
  • Large-diaphragm
  • Amazing neutral sound
  • Works great with any acoustic instrument
  • Low self-noise, making it ideal for recording
Cons
  • Quite expensive

The AKG Pro C414 is the more expensive sibling of the C214. It delivers a perfectly neutral sound and has the highest linearity on this list, making it excellent for any acoustic instrument.

It features nine different polar patterns and three different attenuation levels ( -16,-12, and -18 decibels). This gives you immense versatility and will let you optimize the microphone as needed. This makes this overhead mic ideal for any professional who needs absolute control over his sound.

It also has three different switchable bass-cut filters that can cut down on proximity effect, subsonic noise, and wind noise. It even has an overload warning LED that detects even the shortest of audio peaks. This is simply one of the best overhead drum mics for recording.

However, since this is a condenser mic that’s meant for quiet environments, you should avoid using it onstage. It has an Elastic capsule suspension system that reduces structurally-transmitted noise from chassis vibration, giving it low self-noise.

At over $1000, this is by no means a cheap or even an affordable overhead mic. It is meant for professionals who are not willing to make any compromises on quality nor control. 

5. LyxPro SDPC-2 – Best Cheap Drum overhead mics under $100


LyxPro SDPC-2 Stereo Pair of Pencil Condenser Stick Instrument Microphone Pair - Interchangeable...
  • Pro-Grade Pencil Condenser Microphones Suit...
  • Stereo Pair Most Accurately Captures Even...
  • 3 Included Capsules (Omni, Cardioid & Super...
  • Frequency Response of 30Hz-18kHz; Sensitivity of...
  • Bonus: 2 Windscreens, Aluminum Carrying Case, 2...
Pros
  • Low price
  • Flat and transparent sound
  • Quite versatile
  • Great for home studios
  • Switchable polar patterns
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Sounds a bit too bright due to its small diaphragm condenser
  • It doesn’t work great with high frequencies
  • Build quality is not too great

The LyxPro SDPC-2 is one of the best budget overhead mics for drums. This mic is quite feature-filled and Versailles. It comes with interchangeable capsules that allow you to switch between Omni, cardioid, and super-cardioid polar patterns. The sound is flat and transparent, giving it the best sound quality among cheap drum overhead mics. Not only does the SDPC-2 work great with drums, but it’s also actually excellent with cymbals, acoustic guitars, and even choirs.

The drawback with the SDPC-2 is that it has a smaller frequency response range and is unable to deliver in the high-frequency department properly. However, if you are someone who wants a base recording, these will do just fine. 

This mic comes with an assortment of different accessories, including two custom-fit foam windscreens and two microphones clips. There is even an aluminum storage case to protect it. 

6. Behringer C-2 – Not great, but for the price, it’s a steal


Behringer C-2 Studio Condenser Microphones, Matched Pair
361 Reviews
Behringer C-2 Studio Condenser Microphones, Matched Pair
  • 2 matched condenser microphones for stereo studio...
  • Ideal as main and support microphones for studio...
  • Cardioid pickup pattern for effective feedback...
  • Low-mass diaphragm for ultra-wide frequency...
  • Switchable low-frequency roll-off and input...
Pros
  • One of the cheapest matched pair overhead microphones
  • Works comfortably with cymbals
  • Extremely affordable
Cons
  • Build quality is not that great
  • Needs significant EQ for higher frequencies

The Behringer C-2 is yet another affordable overhead microphone that performs excellently. At under $100, this mic delivers crazy performance for its cost. 

Usually, matched pair microphones are very expensive. Every microphone rolling off the factory is a little different from the rest, and finding a pair with near-identical frequency response is not a cheap process. However, with the Behringer C-2, you can have a set of matched overhead microphones at an affordable price. You can enjoy a clear and crisp drum sound as the two mics do not differ from each other. The frequency range is also quite broad; it can pick up everything from your cymbals to your kick drum. 

The only problem with this microphone is that it is a bit thin-sounding and can be pretty harsh with the higher frequencies produced by cymbals and hi-hats. However, the harshness can be brought in control with enough EQ. Overall though, we can confidently say that this is among the best budget overhead drum mics.


What Type of Mic Is Best Suited for Outdoor Use?

Dynamic microphones are best suited for outdoor use as they have a more rugged construction. If you drop a dynamic microphone, it has a greater chance of surviving than a condenser one.

overhead drum mics

Dynamic microphones also do not need phantom power, so you do not need to run cables from a battery or desk to it, making setting them up a little easier. While you do take a minor hit in sound quality, dynamic microphones’ durability and simplicity make them the perfect choice for outdoor use over condenser microphones.

What Kind of Mic Is Used for Drums?

The two types of microphones used for drums (or any other instrument for that matter) are condenser and dynamic. While both of these are used as overhead mics for drums, they have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Condenser microphones are powered and are therefore more capable of picking up details, giving them superior quality. On the other hand, dynamic ones do not need to be supplied phantom power from either batteries or a music desk. They are also more rugged.

How High Should Overhead Drum Mics Be?

There is no exact answer to how high your overhead mics should be. It comes down to how big your drum set is, how loud your drums/cymbals are, and where your perfect balance point is.

overhead drum mic placement

For example, if you are using a small jazz drum kit, you will need your mics to be way closer than, say, with a large metal kit. A good starting point would be about 35″-45″ above the snare drum. Try moving the mic up and down until you reach the sweet point. Just take care that the positioning doesn’t favor any single sound source.

Is One Overhead Mic Enough for Recording?

Yes, one overhead mic can be enough for recording under certain circumstances. It would help if you realized that with a single mic, you will not be getting stereo imaging and only have a mono recording. This can muddy things up while mixing.

Using just one overhead mic will best work in a small room as cymbals’ sound can quickly get diminished in a large room. You should also be ready to make a few compromises on tom pickup. Just make sure that you position the mic in the middle of the setup without favoring any specific cymbal or drum.

If the sound feels too far away, you can bring the mic closer. While we do not recommend using just one mic for drum overhead, it can be sufficient.

Conclusion


Having good overhead drum mics is critical to having a good recording session. Only if you properly position and set up your overhead mics will you be able to capture the sound of your drum set truly.

For the professional who needs every control over his recording session, the AKG Pro C414 is a high-end mic that gives outstanding control along with incredible quality.

The best overhead microphone for the normal drummer, however, would be the Rode M5. Not only does it offer fantastic sound quality, but it also does that at an affordable price point.

If you want a budget option, the LyxPro SDPC-2 would be great for you. If you need overhead microphones for your drum set, these are the way to go.

About the author 

Danny

I am Danny. A Father, Hubby, Full-Time Drummer, and Part-time teacher. I have been drumming for 10 years and on average gigs 150 times a year. Drums are my passion. I play for local and some regional bands too. Aside from that, I started this blog to share my knowledge about musical instruments.

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