The Best Overhead Drum Mics 2024 – Matched Pairs

overhead drum mics


While affordable drum mic kits can get the job done, they lack the spatial dimension that the best overhead drum mics can provide. 

A good pair of matched drum 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.

These matched pair mics also do wonders for gluing together a drum set. 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.

A multi-piece drum mic kit can be adequate for recording drums, but these cheap mic sets often have overheads that make cymbals sound brittle or don’t make the kit sound “glued together”. Eventually, upgrading your mics will be the next step to even better recording quality.

Aside from use with overheads, many of the mics listed here are versatile enough for use with other instruments, such as acoustic guitar, and 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.

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

The Best Overhead Drum Mics – 2024

Author & Contributors

Under $500

Lewitt LCT 040 MATCH

94
GEARANK
94 out of 100. Incorporating 375+ ratings and reviews.
$199.00
Lewitt
Lewitt LCT 040 MATCH Condenser Microphones - Stereo Pair

Cons

  • Limited versatility

Pros

  • Pleasing high end
  • Perfectly matched stereo pair
  • Durable and lightweight housing
  • Great directionality

The Lewitt LCT 040 MATCH is a pair of small diaphragm condensers known for their excellent SPL handling, natural frequency response, sound transparency, and transient response, making them ideal for drum overhead applications. These microphones are carefully calibrated to provide balanced sound and consistent performance, ensuring accurate and well-matched recordings. Small diaphragm condenser capsules deliver a well-balanced sound with a pleasant high-end, making them ideal for various recording scenarios.

Built with durable and lightweight aluminum housing, weighing only 44 grams, these microphones are perfect for studio or live use and can withstand the rigors of recording and touring. The cardioid pickup pattern ensures the sound is focused on what's in front of the mic, keeping your signal clean and clear. The LCT 040 MATCH excels in drum recordings, acoustic guitar applications, and stereo miking techniques, making it a versatile choice for creating three-dimensional and authentic stereo recordings.

However, it's important to note that the LCT 040 MATCH may not be the best overhead mics for all recording scenarios due to its limited versatility. Additionally, at $199 for the stereo pair, it might be expensive for beginners or those on a tight budget.

Overall, whether you're a beginner or an experienced audio engineer, the Lewitt LCT 040 MATCH Condenser Microphones - Stereo Pair is a reliable and durable option that won't disappoint when achieving high-quality stereo recordings.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser, permanently polarized
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20,000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 18.8 mV/Pa, -34.5 dBV/Pa
  • Impedance: 203 ohms
  • Maximum SPL: 135dB SPL (0.5% THD)
  • Dynamic Range: 115 dB (A)
  • Equivalent Noise Level: 20 dB (A)
  • Power Requirements: 48 V ± 4 V
  • Connection Material: Not specified
  • Weight : 44.6 g, 1.6 oz
  • Extras: Mic Clips, Windscreens, Carry Bag

sE Electronics sE7

95
GEARANK
95 out of 100. Incorporating 100+ ratings and reviews.
$224.49
sE Electronics
sE Electronics sE7 Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphone - 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 sound 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 ride cymbals border more on the bright side, the more natural sound of the sE7 will be a lifesaver when you start mixing the raw tracks recorded with it.

Aside from being one of the better budget overhead drum mics, 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 large condenser mics would.

The sE Electronics sE7 is another excellent choice for capturing a balanced and clear drum sound. Its ability to capture the entire drum kit, focusing on the balance between cymbals and drums, ensures that the overheads contribute to a seamless and unified drum sound when combined with close-mics.

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

Frequency Response and Polar Pattern

sE Electronics sE7 Frequency Response and Polar Pattern

Under $1000

sE Electronics sE8

93
GEARANK
93 out of 100. Incorporating 175+ ratings and reviews.
$549.00
sE Electronics
sE Electronics sE8 Small-diaphragm Condenser Microphone - 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 sound, good 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

Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

sE Electronics sE8  Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

AKG C214 Stereo Pair

95
GEARANK
95 out of 100. Incorporating 200+ ratings and reviews.
$899.00
AKG
AKG C214 Stereo Pair Large-diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphones

Cons

  • Single polar pattern only

Pros

  • A lot in common with the C414
  • Great build quality
  • Incredibly versatile
  • Clear and smooth

The AKG C214 Stereo Pair is a versatile set of large-diaphragm condenser microphones known for delivering high-quality sound at an entry-level price. These cardioid condenser mics are designed to capture highly detailed, up-front sound suitable for various recording scenarios, such as vocals, acoustic instruments, and electric guitar cabinets. Users appreciate its performance on strings, choir, and symphony orchestras. The microphone is well-made, rugged, and reliable, with a matte greyish-blue finish, ensuring durability for touring and frequent use.

Despite its commendable qualities, the microphone has limitations. Its fixed cardioid pattern means it mainly captures sound from the front, which may not be ideal for capturing ambient room sound. Additionally, it lacks switchable polar patterns, unlike its sibling, the AKG C414, which might limit its versatility in specific recording scenarios.

The AKG C214 Stereo Pair offers excellent sound quality, durability, and affordability, making it a great choice for various recording applications. However, its fixed cardioid pattern and lack of multiple polar patterns may limit its versatility in certain situations. Users should consider their specific recording needs when deciding if the AKG C214 is the right choice for them.

Specifications

  • Type: Condenser
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 20 to 20000 Hz
  • Sensitivity: 20 mV/Pa (-34 dBV)
  • Impedance: 200 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: 9 to 52 V
  • Connection Material: Not specified
  • Weight : 9.87oz (280g)
  • Extras: Shock Mounts, Windscreens, Aluminum Carry Case

Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

AKG C214 Stereo Pair   Polar Pattern and Frequency Response

Things to Consider When Buying Overhead Microphones

 

Why Matched Microphones are Ideal for Recording Stereo

When considering the purchase of overhead microphones, it's crucial to understand the importance of matched pairs for stereo recording. Matched pairs ensure a balanced and accurate stereo image, which is essential for capturing the full detail and spatial characteristics of your drum kit. The best drum overhead mics also give you versatility and detailed sound. The best mics for drum overheads not only excel in capturing drum overheads but also perform exceptionally well with various other musical sources.

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 drum 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 studio 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 features the best overhead mics for drums (matched pairs), many of these mics offer more utility than just drum recording. 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. If you're looking for the best drum mics for your setup, we have a guide that features top rated mic bundles that are perfect for studio and live setups. Note that there are general purpose mics that can also work well as drum overheads, like the Neumann KM184, Shure SM81, Shure KSM 32, and others - but these types are not covered in this guide.

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. Dynamic microphones are known for high SPL handling, but they aren't good for overhead drum mic use. This is the reason why the best drum overhead microphones are not dynamic mics. And since overhead mics use more complex components, don't be surprised when even the best budget overhead drum mics may seem pricier than what you'd expect.

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 microphone positions in our article Drum Miking Techniques. You will need specialized Mic Stands for good overhead mic positioning. If setting up and configuring mics aren't your cup of tea, then you're better off getting an Electronic Drum Kit.

Best Overhead Drum Mics Selection Methodology

The first edition was published in 2017. The current edition was published on June 3, 2024

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. This includes online retailers where you can buy the overhead mic straight from your browser. We ended up with an initial shortlist of 23 promising options for detailed analysis. We then collected and analyzed the most current feedback and ratings from online retailers, music gear publications, discussion forums, videos and review publications. Over 16,500 rating sources were then processed using the Gearank Algorithm to produce a rating score out of 100 for each set of mics. We took into account all these data, and 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

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

Jerry Borillo: Product Research.
Alexander Briones: Supplemental writing and Editing.
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.

12 thoughts on “The Best Overhead Drum Mics 2024 – Matched Pairs”

  1. 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.

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

    This is not what a HPF does.

    1. 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

  3. 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

    1. 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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