The Best Overhead Mics For Drums - Matched Pairs

Setting up Overhead Drum Mics

Photograph by chrisjtse, and published here under Creative Commons license.

While many of us are infatuated with gear, your sound when recording is only as good as the equipment you use to record. Finding the best overhead drum mics can be a challenge, so rather than go in blind check out the information below!

Contents

The Best Overahead Mics For Drums

Gearank Sources Street Price
Samson C02 90 225+ $140
Rode M5 93 750+ $199
Rode NT5 92 750+ $429
Rode NT1-A 90 600+ $549
Oktava MK-012-01 90 225+ $600
Shure KSM137 92 20+ $665
AKG C214 93 90+ $900
Beyerdynamic MC 930 92 70+ $1000

Samson C02 Stereo Pair Small-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$140
Samson C02 Stereo Pair Small-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphones

The Samson C02 Stereo Pair Condenser Microphones are engineered with versatility in mind. They’re intended to record a variety of different instruments well, spanning everything from breathy vocals to loud and crashing cymbals.

Key Features

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Super Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 50 to 20000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: -40 dBV/Pa (10mv/Pa)
  • Impedance: 200 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 134 dB (THD≤ 0.5% 1000 Hz)
  • Dynamic Range: 112 dB
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 22 dB (A weighted IEC/DIN 651)
  • Power Requirements: 48V Phantom Power
  • Connection Material: Gold Plated
  • Weight: 6.7oz (170g)
  • Extras: Carrying Case & Shock-Mount Mic Clips

The Samson C02 Stereo Pair features a cardioid polar pattern. Basically, this means that it’s going to capture sound in a very narrow area in the front of the mic. The microphones also have a very wide frequency response, making them a great fit if you’re looking to get really rich and warm recordings on a variety of different instruments.

The only thing you need to be aware of with these mics is that they do require phantom power, so before you buy them make sure your recording interface supports this.

Polar Pattern

Samson C02 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Samson C02 Frequency Response

Rode M5 Matched Pair Cardioid Condenser

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$199
Rode M5 Matched Pair Cardioid Condenser Microphones

Rode started life as Freedman Electronics all the way back in 1967, and was founded by Henry and Astrid Freeman. Freedman Electronics gradually became a leader in the Australian audio industry, going on to become one of the premier companies in the industry. After a financial downturn, Freedman Electronics began investing in creating their own line of microphones. This line of microphones went on the create the company Rode.

Key Features

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: -34.0dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (20.00mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz
  • Impedance: 200 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 140 dB
  • Dynamic Range: 121 dB
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 19dBA (A-weighted)
  • Power Requirements: 24V or 48V Phantom Power
  • Connection Material: Not specified
  • Weight: 2.8oz (80g)
  • Extras: Microphone Clips and Wind Screens

The cool thing about this microphone set is how seriously Rode takes their sound matching process, making them a great option if you’re going to be using these mics to record in stereo exclusively. As far as their response is concerned, these microphones are regarded to be a great fit for everything from drums to violins. In fact, many say that they actually have a tonal quality that’s surprising for their low initial cost.

Polar Pattern

Rode M5 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Rode M5 Frequency Response

Rode NT5 Matched Pair Cardioid Condenser

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 750+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$429
Rode NT5 Match Pair Overhead Drum Microphones

A fun fact about the Rode NT series is that it’s actually named from the way the company’s microphone initially took off, described as “like a rat up a drain pipe”. The unofficial title of Rode’s first microphone was the Rodent-1, which was later changed to Rode NT-1.

Key Features

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: -38 dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (12 mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz
  • Impedance: 100 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 143 dB
  • Dynamic Range: Not specified
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 16dBA (A-weighted)
  • Power Requirements: 24V or 48V Phantom Power
  • Connection Material: Not specified
  • Weight: 3.56oz (101g)
  • Extras: RM5 stand mount, Wind Shield, RC5 case

The most notable feature of this microphone is that it’s one of the most affordable microphones to feature gold sputtering. Gold is a very effective conductor of electricity, which is why you often see it on high-end audio equipment. Gold sputtering uses a thin layer of gold which helps to increase conductivity while still keeping costs relatively low. This is especially beneficial on microphone capsules (which is where the sputtering is used on the Rode NT-5) as it allows the material to still move quickly while retaining conductive properties. This goes a long way in increasing a microphones performance, and is likely a part of the reason why the NT-5 pair is so highly reviewed.

Polar Pattern

Rode NT5 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Rode NT5  Frequency Response

Rode NT1-A-MP Matched Stereo Pair Large-Diaphragm Condenser

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 600+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$549
Rode NT1-A-MP Matched Stereo Pair Large-diaphragm Condenser Microphones

The Rode NT1-A-MP (the “MP” stands for matched pair, so it’s not a different model from the NT1-A) is commonly regarded as one of the quietest studio microphones available that’s still realistically priced for the average person. Low ambient noise is important in recording, because if you’re mic is too noisy it can result in a messy recording.

Key Features

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: -32 dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (25 mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz
  • Impedance: 100 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 137 dB
  • Dynamic Range: Not specified
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 5dBA (A-weighted)
  • Power Requirements: 24V or 48V Phantom Power
  • Connection Material: Not specified
  • Weight: 11.5oz (326g)
  • Extras: Shock Mounts, Pop Filters

The NT1-A is also famed for its wide dynamic range, which in practice means that you can accurately record a variety of different instruments. Different instruments occupy different sections of the frequency spectrum, so in order to capture their full voice you need a mic that can pick up the majority of the audible frequency range.

In short, at this price point the NT1-A is one of your best bets if you’re looking for a quiet microphone. There are options available that can capture a wider section of the frequency spectrum, but if you’re recording in an area with a lot of ambient noise the NT1-A is going to give you a clearer recording overall.

Polar Pattern

Rode NT1-A-MP Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Rode NT1-A-MP Frequency Response

Oktava MK-012-01 MSP2 Matched Stereo Pair Condenser

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 225+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$600
Oktava MK-012-01 MSP2 Matched Stereo Pair Condenser Microphones

The Oktava MK-012-01 MSP2 Matched Stereo Pair Condenser Microphones are a great bargain if you’re looking for a full-featured and versatile microphone for your recording studio. The standout feature of this microphone is that Oktava uses it as a platform for modifications. Through their website you can buy different capsules to change the pickup pattern of your microphone. Essentially, this means that you can get several different microphones for a great price.

Key Features

  • Type: Small Diaphragm Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Switchable between Cardioid, Hypercardioid & Omnidirectional
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: <10 mV/Pa (@ 1KHz), roll off from 40Hz to 20KHz: +- 3 dB
  • Impedance: less than 300 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: in 250-8000Hz range, (less than 0.5% THD): 130 dB
  • Dynamic Range: Not specified
  • Equivalent Noise Level: Not specified
  • Power Requirements: 48V +- 2V Phantom Power
  • Connection Material: Not specified
  • Weight: 7oz (200g)
  • Extras: Wood Carrying Case, Mic Clip, -10db pads

Beyond that, the base sound of the microphone is regarded to be very flat. While this may not sound like a positive, it actually is. There are times where you want a microphone to have a certain voice, and there are others where you want a microphone to reproduce a sound as closely as possible. The Oktava MK-012-01 fits into the latter category. It’s not a great mic if you’re looking to get an altered recording (say you want more warmth at the expense of a more accurate reproduction of sound), but it is great if you want to capture the tone of your instrument.

Frequency Response

Oktava MK-012-01 Frequency Response

Shure KSM137 Stereo Matched Pair Condenser

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 20+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$665
Shure KSM137 Stereo Matched Pair Condenser Microphones

The Shure KSM137 Stereo Matched Pair is definitely worth the expense if you’re serious about recording. Aside from the pedigree carried by the Shure name, the microphone has a variety of features that make it incredibly versatile in the studio.

Key Features

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 37 dBV/Pa (14.1 mV), Open circuit voltage, @ 1 kHz, typical: 1 Pa = 94 dB SP
  • Impedance: 150 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 134 dB (159 dB w/Pad)
  • Dynamic Range: 5000 ohms load: 131 dB, 2500 ohms load: 125 dB, 1000 ohms load: 120 dB
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 14dB (A weighted)
  • Power Requirements: 11V to 52V Phantom Power
  • Connection Material: Gold Plated
  • Weight: 3.5oz (100g)
  • Extras: Carrying Case, Stand Adapters, A27M Stereo Mic Adapter, Windscreens, dB Pad (−15 & −25 dB), Low-Frequency Pad

For example, the microphone has a three-position dB pad to change the microphone’s input volume. Put simply, this means that in these positions you can lower the input (how sensitive the microphone is) of the microphone to keep it from distorting. This is especially helpful if you’re looking to move between recording drums, to guitar, to vocals without having to change microphones.

The microphone also comes with a three-position low-frequency filter. This helps to cut down background noise as well as prevent low-frequency rumble. This is going to be a huge asset if you’re recording a bass instrument or a kick drum.

Polar Pattern

Shure KSM137 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Shure KSM137 Frequency Response

AKG C214 Stereo Pair Large-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 90+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$900
AKG C214 Stereo Pair Large-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphones

The AKG C214 Stereo Pair Large-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphones are intended to be used both in the studio and during a live performance, potentially making them more versatile than the other microphones on this list based on your situation. And according to Mix Online’s 2009 review, in addition to doing an excellent job miking stringed instruments it has the clarity necessary to produce a great drum recording. If the versatility necessary to record multiple instruments is a concern, the C214 is definitely worth a look.

Key Features

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 20 mV/Pa (-34 dBV)
  • Impedance: 200 ohms, Recommended load impedance 1000 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 136 / 156 dB SPL (0 / 20 dB Pad)
  • Dynamic Range: 123 / 143 dB-A (0 / 20 dB Pad)
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 13dB (A weighted)
  • Power Requirements: 12V to 52V Phantom Power
  • Connection Material: Not specified
  • Weight: 9.87oz (280g)
  • Extras: Carrying Case, Shock Mount, Metal Carrying Case, Pad -20 dB, Low cut filter 160 Hz (6 dB/Octave)

The microphone has a 20dB pad, which is definitely going to come in handy if you’re looking to record instruments of varying volumes. Unlike the other mics on this list, the C124 also comes equipped with a high-pass filter. A high-pass filter filters out the high-ranges of the frequency spectrum, which can come in handy if you’re recording an instrument with a brighter voice.

Polar Pattern

AKG C214 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

AKG C214 Frequency Response

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Stereo Set Small-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 70+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1000
Beyerdynamic MC 930 Stereo Set Small-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphones

Like the C214 above, the Beyerdynamic is engineered with versatility in mind. It’s meant to work just as well in the studio as it does live, which is a huge bonus if you’re a performing musician who wants to record demos or even your own album.

Key Features

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 40 to 20000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 30 mV/Pa (-30.5 dBV)
  • Impedance: 180 ohms, load impedance 1000 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 135 / 140 dB SPL (0 / -15 dB Pad) @ 1 kHz
  • Dynamic Range: Not specified
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 16dB (A weighted)
  • Power Requirements: 11V to 52V Phantom Power
  • Connection Material: Not specified
  • Weight: 4oz (115g)
  • Extras:Carrying Case, Mic Clips, Wind Screens, Low cut filter (switchable, 6 dB/octave at 250 Hz), Pad ( -15 dB)

Another cool thing about this microphone is that it also has a very high gain tolerance, allowing you to work with a lot of volume before your set-up starts feeding back when used live. Though to be fair, the benefit you get form this is going to depend heavily on how you organize your equipment. With that in mind, it will still be a huge asset if you’re looking to record a live performance. Many studio-quality microphones can be too sensitive for live use, which can make it hard to get good quality live recordings.

Lastly, the MC 930 also has a bass roll-off switch. This is huge if you’re looking to record a drum kit, because some microphones can make a kick drum sound muddy based on how sensitive they are to bass frequencies.

Polar Pattern

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Frequency Response

Things to Consider When Buying Overhead Mics

If you want to brush up on your knowledge of overhead mics, check out the sections below!

Why You Want Matched Microphones When Recording Stereo

Recording is really complicated. There are so many elements that work together, and so many principles of sound that are difficult to wrap your head around, that getting a good recording can be a bit of a process for the uninitiated.

A great example of this is matching your microphones when recording in stereo. The basic idea here is that an unmatched microphone causes unpleasant discrepancies in a sound, often described as a “flickering” tone. This problem is more noticeable the closer your microphones are to whatever it is your recording, though it will be present to some degree even if you space your microphones out.

This is a simplification of the issue, for a more in-depth look at this topic read this article at Sound On Sound.

Mic Versatility

A good microphone is a good microphone. Unlike a lot of other gear, it really is that simple. There are going to be mics that are better for certain tasks based on the sound you’re looking for, but if you invest in a quality mic you’re going to be able to get a good tone when recording other instruments.

Because of this, don’t feel like you need to cheap out on overhead mics in order to be able to purchase mics to record other instruments. You can get a mic that will record awesome vocal, guitar, and drum tracks. It may be initially more expensive, but it will save you money in the long run.

What You Need To Know About SPL Rating

When you’re shopping for microphones, you’re going to see the term “SPL rating” show up a lot. SPL stands for “sound pressure level” and is essentially a measurement of how much input volume a microphone can support before it starts to distort.

SPL is actually a way to rate sound. It’s a mechanical measure of the change in air pressure as the result of a noise. Decibel is a similar in that it rates volume, but it’s actually a function of relative increase in voltage (more power=more gain=more volume).

Understanding dB Pads

When you head someone talk about dB (spoken as “decibel”) pads, they’re talking about a button which either raises or lowers the volume of an input signal. Think about it this way, say you’re miking something really loud, like a cymbal. You’re going to want a less sensitive microphone, because a more sensitive microphone will distort. However, a less sensitive microphone won’t do a good job of capturing quieter instruments.

The situation above is where a dB pad comes in. You can use the pad to make your microphone less or more sensitive based on its setting, making the microphone more versatile overall.

Methodology

We looked at all the matched pairs of microphones with a street price of $1,000 or less available from major online music gear retailers in the US and selected the 23 most promising options for detailed analysis. We then collected feedback and ratings from online retailers, music gear publications, discussion forums, videos and review sites and processed those data with the Gearank Algorithm to produce a rating out of 100 for each set of mics. Finally we selected the highest rated options to recommend above. For more information about this process please read How Gearank Works.,

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