The Best Overhead Mics For Drums - Matched Pairs

Setting up Overhead Drum Mics

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A multi-piece drum mic kit is often adequate for recording. Eventually, upgrading your mics will be the next step to even better recording quality. Cheap mic sets often have overheads that make cymbals sound brittle or don't make the kit sound "glued together".

A good pair of matched overhead mics can add great dimension to drum recordings from either the overhead position or the room mic position. Because they capture the whole kit, they also give a better reference point for mixing drums.

While they are usually used for overheads, these matched pair mics also do 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 with unmatched mics.

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 pairs, based on data gathered from a variety of user and expert reviews, compiled during November 2022.

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 - 2022.11

Author & Contributors

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Under $500

sE Electronics sE7

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 60+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$219
sE Electronics sE7  Matched Pair
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated set of Stereo Pair Condenser Microphones Under $500 along with the Lauten Audio LA120.

Cons

  • Not good at capturing deep bass

Pros

  • High SPL handling
  • Good clarity and transparent sound
  • Crisp but not too trebly
  • Versatile, great value buy for home studios

The sE Electronics sE7 is a back-electret small diaphragm condenser microphone designed with versatility in mind. It features a transformerless design and class-A circuitry.

The matched pair makes it great for recording stereo sound sources as overhead, room or binaural mics. It can also be used on drum shells thanks to high SPL handling and built in pad.

Transparency is its best trait, it captures sound sources and ambience without altering the sound. Cymbals sound crisp but not too bright. If your cymbals border more on the bright side, the more natural tonality of the sE7 will be a lifesaver when you start mixing the raw tracks recorded with it.

This also makes the sE7 a good versatile studio mic that can work with other acoustic instruments. Its high SPL handling expands its use to miking up loud speaker cabinets. It can also be used for field recordings thanks to its compact size. Speaking of size, being a small condenser mic means that it doesn't capture deep bass as much as a large condenser mic would.

Given all that it can do, the sE7 really is a good value "desert island" mic, definitely worth considering.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 136dB SPL, 156dB (with pad)
  • Sensitivity: 19mV/Pa (-34.5dBV)
  • Maximum SPL: 136dB SPL, 156dB (with pad)
  • Dynamic Range: 121 dB
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 16 dB(A)
  • Power Requirements: 48V Phantom Power
  • Connection Material: Not specified
  • Weight: 0.28 lbs.
  • Extras: Microphone Clip and Wind Screen

Rating Source Highlight

Website Source *Rating Value
YouTube Real Home Recording 2 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Frequency Response and Polar Pattern

sE Electronics sE7 Frequency Response and Polar Pattern

Lauten Audio LA120

95
GEARANK

95 out of 100. Incorporating 40+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$390
Lauten Audio LA120 Small-diaphragm Pair Condenser Microphones
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated set of Stereo Pair Condenser Microphones Under $500 along with the sE Electronics sE7.

Cons

  • Requires a bit of a learning curve

Pros

  • Interchangeable pressure-gradient capsules
  • Built-in HF and LF filters
  • Accurate audio capture
  • Versatile application

The Lauten Audio LA120 is a premium small diaphragm FET condenser microphone with interchangeable pressure-gradient capsules. This feature lets each capsule be properly tweaked instead of making compromises with one capsule.

The LA120's transformerless design helps it accurately capture sound while preserving dynamics. And this makes it viable for use with other instruments, including articulate ones like acoustic guitars.

Switches on the side of the mics enable low and high cut filters for more versatility. Piercing cymbal highs can be filtered out easily with the built in high cut filters which make it a great choice for modern rock recordings that use a lot of bright and fast crash cymbals.

Its small size also enables easier placement especially in more complicated drum setups. The versatility of the capsules plus the available filters makes it ideal for spaced pair, XY, and ORTF stereo mic techniques not just for overheads but for acoustic guitar, ambient mics and more. On the flipside, utilizing the filters will require a bit of practice, which can be an issue when used by novices.

If you want a premium level mic pair without a spending stratospheric amount, the Lauten Audio LA120 is a a great pick. It is also a good all-around mic, which experience technicians can put to good use.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid, Omni (switchable capsules)
  • Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
  • Sensitivity: -34.0dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (20.00mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz
  • Impedance: 200 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 130 dB SPL (@0.5%)
  • Dynamic Range: 121 dB
  • Equivalent Noise Level:
  • Power Requirements: 48V Phantom Power
  • Connection Material: Not specified
  • Weight: 2.8oz (80g)
  • Extras: Wooden Case, Windscreens

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
TapeOp Allen Farmelo 96/100
Gearspace Will_Warren 100/100
Higher Hz Brandon Schock 80/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Polar Pattern

Lauten Audio LA120 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Lauten Audio LA120 Frequency Response

Under $1000

sE Electronics sE8

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 125+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$519
sE Electronics sE8 Stereo Pair
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated set of Stereo Pair Condenser Microphones from $500 to $1000 along with the Beyerdynamic MC 930.

Cons

  • Steep learning curve

Pros

  • Wide dynamic range
  • Low noise with selectable pads and filters
  • Accurate and balanced stereo placement
  • Viable for use with other instruments

"Huge sound" is usually achieved from giving as much dynamic range as possible to a given element. And that is exactly what the sE8 is for, a small mic with a wide dynamic range that you don't normally see in a small diaphragm "pencil" condenser mic.

This wider dynamic range allows it to better capture sonic details and dynamic nuances, which expands the use of this pair from overheads to being a good multi-instrument mic.

Its low noise design enables it to be used on quieter, more nuanced sound sources while its high headroom with two selectable pads gives you leeway to mic even the most aggressive drummer without compressing or distorting at the circuitry level. Two low cut filters effectively reduce stage noise, or if you want to reduce the capture of the kick drum on the overheads. These features make them work well as room mics, useful for accentuating natural snare reverb in the room, resulting in more authentic sounding drums in the mix. The downside to all these control options is steeper learning curve, but learning how to use them will reward you greatly.

These pairs are individually matched in their factory for best stereo imaging and best phase correlation. This results in accurate and balanced stereo placement between shells and cymbals without losing the upper end sheen due to phase issues. This also makes the pair well suited for ORTF ambient recordings. Two low cut filters effectively reduce stage noise, or if you want to reduce the capture of the kick drum on the overheads.

The sE Electronics sE8 is a well-loved stereo pair that never disappoints. It competes with mic pairs costing higher than itself. sE does a very good job at matching their mics in house so if you're looking for a consistent matched pair for stereo recordings, the sE8 is it.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 25 mV/Pa (-32 dBV)
  • Impedance: 110 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 139 / 149 / 159 dBSPL (0/10/20 dB pad) (0.5% THD @ 1kHz)
  • Dynamic Range: 121 dB
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 13dB (A weighted)
  • Power Requirements: 48V phantom power
  • Connection Material: Gold-plated XLR connector
  • Weight: 4.97 oz.
  • Extras: Mic clips, windscreens, stereo bar, and metal storage case

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Sound On Sound Paul White 92/100
Mixonline Kevin Becka 94/100
Gearspace roughgear 96/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

sE Electronics sE8  Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Stereo Set Small-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser

93
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

$999
Beyerdynamic MC 930 Stereo Set Small-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphones
At publication time this was the Equal Highest Rated set of Stereo Pair Condenser Microphones from $500 to $1000 along with the sE Electronics sE8.

Cons

  • Above the common home studio budget

Pros

  • Easy to position (Cardioid polar pattern)
  • Built-in -15db attenuation and bass roll off
  • Great for cymbals, instruments and even vocals
  • Premium look and build quality

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 the familiar 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.

It does an excellent job as overhead mics with its innate transparent sound. And it also works well with other instruments, including vocals. It also has an aesthetic quality that screams premium, and rightly so given its high price tag.

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.

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.

Specifications

  • 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)

Rating Source Highlights

Website Source *Rating Value
Gearspace turk sanchez 94/100
Recording Hacks Matthew McGlynn 90/100
*Displayed values are prior to the Gearank Algorithm's adjustments it makes when evaluating the source.

Polar Pattern

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Frequency Response

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.

Overhead Mic Positioning

We have provided a table that demonstrates the main overhead mic positions in our article Drum Miking Techniques.

Best Overhead Mics Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017 and the current edition was published on November 10, 2022.

For this edition we looked at all the matched pairs of microphones that are being sold by major music gear retailers with a street price of $1,000 or less. We ended up with an initial shortlist of 19 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 publications (up to November of 2022). Over 13,900 rating sources were then processed using the Gearank Algorithm to produce a rating score 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.

About the Author and Contributors

Here are the key people and sources involved in this guide's production - click on linked names for information about their music industry backgrounds.

Lead Author & Researcher

Raphael PulgarRaphael Pulgar

I've been an audio engineer for 20 years specializing in rock and metal recordings, and also I play guitar and produce original music for my band and other content creators.

Some of the recording gear I use in my studio includes the Focusrite Scarlett 18i20, Focusrite Scarlett Solo, Samson QH4 Headphone Amp and Cloudlifter CL-1. My mics include Aston Origin, Aston Element, Shure SM57, Rode NT1, Rode PodMic and MXL V67G.

Contributors

Alexander Briones: Supplemental writing.
Jason Horton: Editing and Illustrating.

Media

Main/Top Image: Photograph by chrisjtse and reproduced here under a Creative Commons CC BY-ND 2.0 license.

The individual product images were sourced from websites, promotional materials or supporting documentation provided by their respective manufacturers.

Comments

Hello!

Hello!
I recently started broadcasting my bell ringing concerts using RODE NT5 microphones. Sound pressure at the bell tower is 115-120 dB.
You can listen to the first results here - https://youtu.be/1o3veTiE3yI - broadcast and no post-processing. The video from the laptop's camera is rather poor, but the sound is quite decent.
The recorder used was a Focusrite Scarlett 18i8.

''Another cool feature of

''Another cool feature of this mic is its high-pass filter, which can tame excessive high frequencies''

This is not what a HPF does.

Hi Adam,

Hi Adam,

Thanks for catching that. We have edited the article to amend the factual error.

-Raphael

Good day,

Good day,

I'm glad you noticed the frequency chart. The Frequency charts are from second page of the unit's official manual at manualslib.com

It may be an error in part of the author of the technical manual though for information's sake, we chose to include the charts on our guide.

-Raphael

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.