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The Best Overhead Mics For Drums - Matched Pairs

Setting up Overhead Drum Mics

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

This guide was first published on Oct 17, 2017 and last updated on December 18, 2018.

This guide is a reminder that while it is not wrong to focus on instrument quality, we should not neglect our recording gear, especially microphones. Here we feature the best overhead drum mics, based on actual market reviews and ratings data up to December of 2018. Incidentally, many of the mics listed here are versatile enough for use with other instruments, making them valuable additions to any studio setup. We've also included tips so you know what to look for in mics. If you're looking for more than just overheads, then check out our guide to The Best Drum Mic Kits.

Contents

The Best Overahead Mics For Drums

Rode M5 Matched Pair Cardioid Condenser

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 800+ 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.

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 800+ 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 road worthy carrying case.

Overall

If you're looking for a versatile overhead mic hat you can add to your home studio, then the Rode NT5 matched pair is highly recommended.

Polar Pattern

Rode NT5 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Rode NT5  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 is a popular high SPL (sound pressure level) microphone, so it is not surprising for a matched pair version to get the same positive response. It features an end-address condenser cardioid design, with a three-position dB pad that changes the microphone’s input volume. This allows it to handle different degrees of loudness, from vocals, to acoustic guitars, to drums.

The microphone also comes with a three-position low-frequency filter which helps to cut down background noise as well as prevent low-frequency rumble. This can be nifty when recording a bass heavy instruments or even a kick drum.

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

Versatility is a common theme among the many owners and users who are impressed with the Shure KSM137. In addition to being good overheads, it is reported to be just as good when used with stringed instruments like the harp, violin, viola, acoustic guitar and many more. There are even reports of it working well with other percussion instruments like the xylophone, marimba, conga, and more. As expected from a Shure mic, the KSM137 also gets a lot of commendations for its reliability and solid build.

Cons

There are some who feel that the mic loses some of the bottom end, but this is to be expected given its small diaphragm condenser design.

Overall

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.

Polar Pattern

Shure KSM137 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Shure KSM137 Frequency Response

AKG C214 Stereo Pair Large-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser

94
GEARANK

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

Street Price: 

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

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

Still, most owners agree that the AKG C214 is definitely worth he look if you're looking for a versatile matched pair large diaphragm mic.

Polar Pattern

AKG C214 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

AKG C214 Frequency Response

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Stereo Set Small-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser

93
GEARANK

93 out of 100. Incorporating 80+ ratings and reviews.

Street Price: 

$1000
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. It also helps that the Beyerdynamic MC 930 looks good while getting the job done.

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.

Polar Pattern

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Polar Pattern

Frequency Response

Beyerdynamic MC 930 Frequency Response

Budget Option

LyxPro SDPC-2 Stereo Pair Pencil Condenser Microphone

90
GEARANK

90 out of 100. Incorporating 50+ 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 microphone for home studios. But it's not just about its cheap price, because many also appreciate its sound quality, describing it as flat and transparent. There are reports of it working well with cymbals, choirs, acoustic guitars and more, all of which attest to its 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

If you're looking for a versatile and affordable stereo mic, then you can start your search with the LyxPro SDPC-2.

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

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 you're 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.

Best Overhead Mics Selection Methodology

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 23 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 December of 2018). 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 this process please read How Gearank Works.,

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