The Best Overhead Mics For Drums - Matched Pairs

Setting up Overhead Drum Mics

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

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Getting great mics is one of the best ways to step up your recording quality. You may be using mics from a drum mic kit and need more "oomph" or you are looking to augment your current mic collection with some top-tier overhead mics.

Overhead mics are more than just mics for cymbals - a well-tuned matched pair does wonders for gluing together a drum kit. Matched pairs ensure that your stereo image is as accurate as possible so you don't run into phase issues which can be a headache during editing and mixing.

Aside from use with overheads, many of the mics listed here are versatile enough for use with other instruments such as guitar amps. Working with multiple mics on a guitar cab is no longer a luxury. Other uses include stereo ambient mics for choral recordings, spaced pair recordings for piano, the list goes on. So despite the title, choosing the best matched pair works for many other uses.

Here we feature the best matched pair drum mics, based on data gathered from a variety of user and expert reviews, compiled during June 2020.

If you're looking for more than just overheads, check out our guide to The Best Drum Mic Kits.

The Best Overhead Mics For Drums

Rode M5 Matched Pair Cardioid Condenser

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 1050+ 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 to establish the brand's reputation. And the M5 is a good example of why this company continues to be of good repute.

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 cost.

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

Pros

Outstanding and amazing are just two of the many positive adjectives that people use to describe the Rode M5. Even drummers who have access to more expensive overhead mics find the Rode NT5 to be more than satisfying. Many are pleased with how good it captures cymbals, but there are also reports of the M5 mic working well with guitars and other acoustic instruments. Reliability also gets a lot of thumbs up.

Cons

There are a few users who wish that the mic was quieter, while others are hoping for extra features.

Overall

It's hard to go wrong this reasonably priced stereo condenser mic pair from Rode. Very few mics have the honor of being requested by musicians and the M5 is a favorite of many drummers in the community especially for cymbals.

Polar Pattern

Rode M5 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Rode M5 Frequency Response

Rode NT5 Matched Pair Cardioid Condenser

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 950+ 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.

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 and is highly resistant to corrosion so that it retains its conductivity for long periods, which is why you often see it on high-end audio equipment. Gold sputtering uses a thin layer of gold which helps to maintain 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 microphone's performance, and is likely a part of the reason why the NT-5 pair is so highly reviewed.

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

Pros

The Rode NT5 is highly regarded for its versatility, and this is corroborated by the many reports of it working well with cymbals, guitars, and even wind instruments. Many describe the sound as being very detailed, while others are impressed by how smooth the overall response is. While it's not cheap per se, most owners feel that they got more than what they paid for.

Cons

There are some who feel that the mic is a little too bright when used on other sound sources. There are also a few who wish that it had a carrying case.

Overall

If you're looking for a versatile overhead mic set that could serve as your main mics, then the Rode NT5 matched pair is highly recommended.

Polar Pattern

Rode NT5 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Rode NT5  Frequency Response

Shure KSM141 Stereo Pair Omnidirectional/Cardioid Condenser

92
GEARANK

92 out of 100. Incorporating 30+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$870
Shure KSM141 Stereo Pair Omnidirectional/Cardioid Condenser Microphones

Designed for both studio and live use, each KSM141 mic has switchable polar patterns (Cardioid and Omni), and High Pass Filters.

They also feature permanently biased transducers and transformerless Class-A output circuitry.

Key Features

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Omnidirectional
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz to 20kHz with 15 Hz, 6 dB/Octave and 80 Hz, 18 dB/Octave HPFs
  • Sensitivity: -37 dB at 1 kHz
  • Impedance: 150 Ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 145 dB SPL with -15 dB and -25 dB Pads
  • Dynamic Range:131 dB
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 14dB (A weighted)
  • Power Requirements: 48 V ± 4 V
  • Connection Material: Gold Plated
  • Weight:5.5 oz / 156 g
  • Extras: 1 x Carrying Case, 2 x microphone clips, 2 x foam wind screens, A27M stereo stand adapter. (Retailer dependent)

Pros

Users place great confidence in their roadworthiness and sound quality. Being able to withstand tours means they can be a longtime fixture in studios. Speaking more on sound quality, reviewers love the transparency of the pair especially for warmer, natural sounding drums. They work best for capturing vintage cymbals. Aside from drums, other users note that the mics sound great with acoustic guitar as well. adding to its versatility.

Cons

Frequency response may actually work against brighter and more sibilant rock oriented cymbals. Whether this is a true negative will also depend on stylistic choices.

Overall

This is a versatile pair of condenser mics that many users find work great with vintage drums. As a bonus, they sound great with acoustic guitar as well. With modern drum sounds however, may be a hit or a miss depending on your engineering choices.

Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

Shure KSM141 Frequency Response

AKG C214 Stereo Pair Large-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser

94
GEARANK

94 out of 100. Incorporating 150+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$899
AKG C214 Stereo Pair Large-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphones

At publication time this was the Highest Rated set of Stereo Pair Condenser Microphones Under $1000.

The AKG C214 Stereo Pair is an interesting pick in this list because it is a popular vocal mic, yet it versatile enough to work as overheads, and does so with much acclaim.

While the 20dB pad may seem a simple enough feature, it allows the C214 to go from capturing the nuances of vocals and acoustic instruments, to handling loud cymbals. Another cool feature of this mic is its high-pass filter, which can tame excessive high frequencies, complementing its overhead use.

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)

Pros

Sound quality gets the most positive mention in reviews, seconded by the many kudos for its versatility. Even experts agree, like 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.

Cons

There are a few who are turned off with what they describe as "brittle" sound, while others express caution with its SPL handling capability, given that it is a large-diaphragm mic.

Overall

Most owners agree that the AKG C214 is definitely worth the look if you're looking for a versatile pair of mics that do just as well for the odd orchestral/choral recording as they do with overheads.

Polar Pattern

AKG C214 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

AKG C214 Frequency Response

sE Electronics sE4400a Matched Pair Condenser

92
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$999
sE Electronics sE4400a Matched Pair Condenser Microphones

As a single mic, The sE4400a is known for it's vintage inspired frequency response and tonality.

As a matched pair, the mics combine a warm, almost ribbon-like tonality with modern features such as switchable polar patterns from Cardioid, Supercardioid, Omni, Figure-8.

For drums this means an immense amount of tonal choices from tight sounding kits to opening up to capture more of the room.

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

Pros

Users note excellent vintage tonalities rivaling more expensive ribbon mics minus the fragility. For jazz and blues drums, the sE4400a is a go-to pair for many audio engineers that have shared their experiences with it. It's also a versatile mic for other instruments so you won't be stuck with it just being overhead mics.

Cons

None that we could find consistently reported by owners.

Overall

The sE4400a is well on its way to becoming a studio staple. The sentiments of various recording communities ring consistently with praise for versatility and tonality. It may just end up being your favorite in your mic locker.

Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

sE4400a Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Stereo Set Small-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$999
Beyerdynamic MC 930 Stereo Set Small-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphones

Like many of the mics here, the Beyerdynamic MC 930 is engineered with versatility in mind, following the tried and tested formula of combining a small diaphragm condenser capsule with high SPL handling features.

Beyerdynamic chose to equip this mic with a cardioid polar pickup pattern, which makes it easy to work with. This is complemented by the built-in pad that provides 15dB attenuation, and bass roll-off filter for taming the excess lows. Some retailers are shipping the MC 9300 with two shock mounts, two windscreens, and a carrying case, all of which add to its overall value and longevity.

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)

Pros

Most owners of this matched pair are happy with their purchase, citing transparency and overall sound quality as its best traits. While it does shine when used as overheads, there are reports of it working well with many different instruments, including vocals. There are also plenty of users who appreciate the mic's overall build quality with an aesthetic that just screams "premium".

Cons

Not many negatives to write about, aside from a few who wish for a discounted price tag, and more bottom end.

Overall

While it does require a pretty hefty investment, those who own the Beyerdynamic MC 930 say that it is well worth the cost. It definitely wows clients both aesthetically and sonically.

Polar Pattern

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Frequency Response

Budget Option

LyxPro SDPC-2 Stereo Pair Pencil Condenser Microphone

91
GEARANK

91 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$100

The LyxPro SDPC-2 is an affordable pair of condenser mics with interchangeable capsules. It lets you mechanically switch between 3 polar patterns, omni, cardioid and super cardioid.

This adds to the LyxPros versatility and overall usage, making the already affordable price, even more attractive. Finally, it comes bundled with 2 custom fit foam windscreens, 2 microphone clips and a nifty aluminum storage case.

Key Features

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Switchable (Omni, Cardioid, Super Cardioid)
  • Frequency Response: 30Hz to 18 kHz
  • Sensitivity: -38dB ± 3dB (0dB=1V/Pa at 1 kHz)
  • Impedance: 100 Ω ± 30% (at 1 kHz)
  • Maximum SPL: 135 dB (at 1kHz)
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 24dB (A weighted)
  • Power Requirements: 9V to 52V Phantom Power
  • Weight: 2.55 lbs. (Bundle)
  • Extras: 2 custom fit foam windscreens, 2 microphone clips and a nifty aluminum storage case.

Pros

Value for money is easily the best trait of the LyxPro SDPC-2, some tout it as the best budget stereo pair for home studios. But it's not just about its cheap price, because many also appreciate the sound quality, describing it as flat and transparent. There are reports of these working well with cymbals, choirs, acoustic guitars and more, all of which attest to their versatility.

Cons

Some users note that the sound can be a bit too bright, but then again this is to be expected with small diaphragm mics. There are also some reports of minor cosmetic issues, and a few reviews that point to build quality as a minor concern.

Overall

Budget doesn't mean mediocre. For the price, the LyxPro outperforms a few big name brands. For bright, modern attack and frequency response, this affordable pair will definitely make your kit stand out.

Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

LyxPro Sdpc-2 Polar Pattern
LyxPro Sdpc-2 Polar Pattern
LyxPro Sdpc-2 Polar Pattern

Things to Consider When Buying Overhead Mics

Why You Want Matched Microphones When Recording Stereo

Like it or not, recording quality is still tied to how good your gear is. If your sound sources are your ingredients and your production and mixing process is the cooking process, recording gear is the quality of your tools like your knives and pans. No matter how good the ingredients and how good you are of a chef, if your tools aren't up to par with either, your progress and quality will be severely limited. Matched pairs of microphones minimize the risk of phase issues when recording stereo sound sources like overheads, large pianos, acoustic guitar or field recordings. Getting a great pair of matched mics minimizes these risk factors and results in better consistency and predictability when it comes to recording and mixing.

Mismatched microphones in stereo may result in what is known as "comb filtering" where notches in the frequency response occur due to conflicting distance, diaphragm type, transient response and other factors. These will result in stereo recordings that are uneasy to listen to and is known to cause nausea for some people.

For a more in-depth look at this topic read this article at Sound On Sound.

Mic Versatility

While this guide refers to matched pairs of mics as overhead mics, the mics featured often offer more utility than described here. Stereo miking can be used in almost any recording situation and the more versatile your mics features and tonalities, the more you can do with them.

What You Need To Know About SPL Rating

SPL stands for "Sound Pressure Level" and is measured in decibels. The exact unit of measurement is "dB SPL" for real-world sounds as this differentiates it from "dB VU" (Voltage Units) which is the unit of measurement in the analog domain and "dB FS" and its variants which are measurements for the digital realm. For this guide however, just take note of the SPL as it influences how loud your sound source can be before it distorts the actual diaphragm of your mic. Using a mic with an SPL rating lower than your sound source may damage it.

Understanding dB Pads

A dB (Decibel) pad attenuates the signal going out from the mic into your interface or preamp. This is useful for loud, high SPL sound sources that may overload your preamp, especially when it doesn't have a pad of its own. Having a mic with a pad gives you the added benefit of versatility.

Best Overhead Mics Selection Methodology

The first edition was published during October 2017 and latest edition was published on June 10, 2020.

For this update we took a closer look at all the matched pairs of microphones that are being sold by major music gear retailers, focusing on those with a street price of $1,000 or less. We ended up with an initial shortlist of 21 promising options for detailed analysis. We then collected the most current feedback and ratings from online retailers, music gear publications, discussion forums, videos and review sites (up to June of 2020). Over 5,200 rating sources were processed. All these reviews and ratings were then processed via 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 our methods please read How Gearank Works.

Comments

Hey there!

Hey there!

Great recommendations, I was actually looking into the Rode M5 at some point. However, the Samson C02 pair seems to be what I'll be going with.

Why has it been removed from the list, is there something wrong with them?

Also, how do you create your frequency-response/polar patter graphics? Do you use some kind of software?

I'd be really interested in making some of my own!

Thanks in advance.

- Stefan

Hi Stefan,

Hi Stefan,

There's nothing wrong with the Samson mics, they only came off the recommended list because there were more highly rated options when we updated the guide, but only by a small amount in the case of the Samson C02 Stereo Pair.

The frequency response charts were created by the mic manufacturers.

Cheers,
Jason.

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