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Recommended Preamps and Microphones for
Recording Drums and Percussion

These are all microphones and preamps that I have had positive experiences with. There are obviously many others suitable for these applications so never hesitate to experiment. The mic's are listed in no particular order.


 

Preamps
It must be noted that a high quality preamp is of the utmost importance when recording percussion (or anything else for that matter). Different preamps will change the sound of a microphone exponentially. Here are some preamps that I have found useful for recording Drums and Percussion. I have included their characteristic sound after each model.

  • Millennia Media HV3B -- Transparent and fast
  • Grace 101 or 802 -- Transparent and fast
  • Neve 1272 -- Very Colored
  • Telefunken V76 -- Very colored
  • Great River MP3V -- Colored or transparent
  • API - All models -- Colored
  • Manley -- Slightly Colored

You might want to start with an uncolored pre and try to get your sound with the microphone first. Then, if desired, you can change the pre to give the mic a different personality. Some micís such as the Sennheiser MKH series and the B&Kís are very transparent and accurate. These micís tend to work great with a colored pre.


 

Microphone recommendations

Drum Set Overheads (in pairs or stereo micís)

    Ribbon micís
  • Coles 4038
  • Royer 121 or 122
  • Royer stereo ribbon
  • Beyer 160
    Condensers -- small diaphragm
  • Neumann km184 or 143
  • Neumann km56 (multi pattern) or km54 (no longer in production)
  • Neumann SM2 or SM 23 - Stereo micís (no longer in production)
  • Shoepps/Telefunkin 221B (no longer in production)
  • Sennheiser MK 40 or MKH 80
  • AKG 480
  • B&K 4011 or 4012
    Condensers -- large diaphragm
  • Neumann 149
  • Neumann TLM193 or TLM 170
  • Neumann SM 69 fet and SM69 tube stereo mics
  • AKG C12 (original) or C24 Stereo (no longer in production)
  • Beyer 740
  • Blue Bottle w/B6 capsule

 

Snare Drum

  • AKG 414 TLII
  • AKG 451 (old style with pad)
  • AKG 480
  • AKG 460 (no longer in production)
  • Shure SM57
  • Neumann KM 184 or 143
  • Neumann km 185
  • Sennheiser 441
  • Sennheiser 421

 

Toms

  • Sennheiser 421
  • Sennheiser 441
  • Sennheiser 409 (no longer in production)
  • Neumann km 184 or 143
  • Neumann km185
  • AKG 414ULS
  • Neumann U87

 

Bass Drum

  • Shure Beta 52
  • AKG D12 (no longer in production)
  • AKG D112
  • Neumann U47 (no longer in production)
  • Neumann U47 fet (no longer in production)
  • Microtech UM70
  • Sennheiser 421
  • Beyer M88

 

Percussion microphones

    Congas, Bongos, Bata, Djembe and other skin drums
  • Neumann km 184 or 143
  • Neumann km 56 or 54 (no longer in production)
  • Shoepps 221B (no longer in production)
  • AKG 451
  • AKG 414 TLII
  • AKG C12 or C12 A/B (no longer in production)
  • Neumann 149
  • Neumann TLM 170 or 193
    High metal percussion (Triangles, Tambourine, Bell Tree, Cowbells, Glockenspiel, Crotales, etc.)
  • Neumann km 184 or 140
  • Neumann KM 56 or 54 (no longer in production)
  • Shoepps 221B (no longer in production)
  • Sennheiser MKH 40, MKH20, MKH80
  • B&K 4011 or 4012
  • Any good quality Ribbon mic
  • Neumann SM2 or SM 23 - Stereo micís (no longer in production)
    Shakers, Maracas, Shekere and small percussion toys
  • Royer 121
  • Royer stereo ribbon
  • Sennheiser MKH 40, MKH20, MKH80
  • B&K 4011
  • Neumann 149
  • AKG 451
  • Earthworks QTC

 

Marimba
Large mallet instruments such as a 5.0 octave, eight foot long marimba can pose a difficult recording challenge. If possible these instruments should be recorded in a large, good sounding room at somewhat (at least 8ft) of a distance. This will enable the microphones to capture the entire instrument in an even and consistent matter. Sometimes this is not possible though and a small room must be used. For smaller rooms I like to use coincident Stereo micís (one stereo mic or two separate micís in an x/y or ortf position) on the large mallets instruments. This cuts down on the phase cancellation (time arrival) you get when you space the micís out. It also reduces the low octave-high octave image you get when you close mic the instrument and space the microphones out. What you want is an image that gives you a picture of the entire instrument from a distance rather than parts of it panned left and right.

    Micís for marimba, xylophone and vibes
  • Neumann KM 56 or 54 (no longer in production)
  • Shoepps 221B (no longer in production)
  • Sennheiser MKH 40, MKH20, MKH80
  • B&K 4011or 4012
  • Earthworks QTC
  • Neumann SM69 (Stereo mic)
  • Neumann SM23 (Stereo mic)

 

Affordable Micís for Drums and Percussion
Most of the above micís are rather expensive. However they can frequently be picked up used and on eBay at great savings. Well made micís such as Neumann, Sennheiser, AKG and B&K are very hardy and can easily last for decades. You should always be wary of the older tube and ribbon micís. While they are some of the best microphones ever made there are many things that can go wrong with them such as hard to find tubes and power supplies as well as blown ribbons. Allot of people have asked me for advice on less expensive micís so here is my short list. Be aware that your mileage may vary.

  • Shure VP 88 -- While not that inexpensive it is a stereo mic and sounds very good on a multitude of sources
  • Shure SM57 -- Works on anything and can be used to hammer nails in a pinch
  • AKG C3000
  • Audio Technica 4033 -- Pretty good cheap condenser
  • Any of the clip on tom micís made by AKG, Shure, Beyer, etc. These can work on anything with a rim and even on congas and African drums. They work great for live playing also.

 
 

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