Drum mic virgin! Advice, experience, recommendations welcome

Drumbumcrumb

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Hey guys, so I’m wanting to record some drums... (1 snare, 1 rack tom, 1 floor tom, 1 bd) On a budget, but I want to get it right. (Gotta be Sweetwater, let’s say $1k tops with interface and cables. Budget 8 ch. interface is $300, so $500ish mic budget, with leftover for a couple stands, cables)

I’ve got some ideas, but with no experience it’s tough to know what’s the smart route. Here’s some of what I’m thinking:

Option 1: Shure PGA (either Drumkit5 or Studio4) Comes with all the clips and mounts, even the cables are included. Very tempting, but the results I’ve heard are mixed. I’d hate to get it all wired up and then think “meh”. But I don’t need fancy either, so maybe this is just fine?
(how bout CAD Stage 7 - better/worse than PGA?)

Option 2: start with just 1 good bd mic and 1 good ‘other’ mic. I like the Avantone Mondo for bd, maybe the CK-6 for the “everything else” mic (or Audix d6 & i5). Close mics and OH can be bought later, as funds permit

What’s a good mic for the everything else - I’m thinking cardioid large diaphragm condenser, is that right? Or should I be looking at a different pattern?

Option 3: Zoom h5 or h6 with a kick mic + snare mic . I’ve heard some really good recordings with this setup, but also have read some complaints that the Zoom mic preamps suck, you have to crank the gains way up and they sound “far away”

So what to do? If you’re in my shoes, what would you do? Any and all good advice is appreciated, as I’m green.
 

drums1225

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I absolutely swear by (gently) used gear, and this has enabled me to gradually build (through constantly upgrading) my recording capabilities to a level I really shouldn't have been able to afford, on a working musician's salary. Used gear saves you a ton of money, and instead of getting entry level gear, new, you can get better (even pro) quality used stuff.

If I were starting out again, I'd get a good bass drum mic (see below) and a decent pair of inexpensive overheads, then gradually fill in with some Shure SM57s and/or Sennheiser e604 for the toms. Actually, that's what I did.

Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 8 channel interface. Used: ~$300 (for 1st Gen) It's also expandable through ADAT optical.

Bass drum mics, you can't go wrong with any of the following: (Most can be had for between $100-125 used)
  • AKG D112
  • Shure Beta 91a (I LOVE the Beta 91a so much I bought two; one each for my live and studio kits).
  • Shure Beta 52a
  • Audix D6
Overheads: For years, until I recently upgraded to Earthworks mics, I used and loved MXL 603 matched pair overheads. You can grab them, again used, for around $175 for a pair.

All around mic:
Shure SM57. Sounds great on snare, and sounds decent/good on toms. Great bang for the buck. Every studio has these. ($100 new, ~$75-80 used)

My recommendations come in at around $700, then you need cables and mic stands. If you go new, you'll be at a higher price point, with lower quality. It's all about how comfortable you feel buying used gear. Good luck!

Best,
Chris
 

Tommy D

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Unless you have a gift card or some store credit I dont know why it needs to be Sweetwater, but I was fortunate enough to find lots of discounted new gear on eBay about 5 years back. I'm sure there is still stuff out there today. I ended up with an Audix DP-Quad set of mics and a Focusrite Saffire Pro 40 interface for just a hair over $700. All new in their original plastic. Then I found some coupons and discounts on some "On Stage" mic stands (went with the heavy duty ones they sell) and found some really nice EWI Starline cables. I still had a little money in the piggy bank to find a couple NOS Electro Voice N/D 468's and when all was said and done, I believe I was all in about $1050.
 
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drums1225

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I second the EWI Starline Cables, which can be found at audiopile.net. That's what I use. Great quality at a very affordable price. My touring band uses a 24 channel EWI Split snake for our in-ear system, and it's been solid for 3 years.
 

phdamage

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I absolutely swear by (gently) used gear, and this has enabled me to gradually build (through constantly upgrading) my recording capabilities to a level I really shouldn't have been able to afford, on a working musician's salary. Used gear saves you a ton of money, and instead of getting entry level gear, new, you can get better (even pro) quality used stuff.

If I were starting out again, I'd get a good bass drum mic (see below) and a decent pair of inexpensive overheads, then gradually fill in with some Shure SM57s and/or Sennheiser e604 for the toms. Actually, that's what I did.

Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 8 channel interface. Used: ~$300 (for 1st Gen) It's also expandable through ADAT optical.

Bass drum mics, you can't go wrong with any of the following: (Most can be had for between $100-125 used)
  • AKG D112
  • Shure Beta 91a (I LOVE the Beta 91a so much I bought two; one each for my live and studio kits).
  • Shure Beta 52a
  • Audix D6
Overheads: For years, until I recently upgraded to Earthworks mics, I used and loved MXL 603 matched pair overheads. You can grab them, again used, for around $175 for a pair.

All around mic: Shure SM57. Sounds great on snare, and sounds decent/good on toms. Great bang for the buck. Every studio has these. ($100 new, ~$75-80 used)

My recommendations come in at around $700, then you need cables and mic stands. If you go new, you'll be at a higher price point, with lower quality. It's all about how comfortable you feel buying used gear. Good luck!

Best,
Chris
Good info here. As someone who has had a recording studio for 20 years, buying mics new is kind of a waste. Unless they are abused, they should work forever.

Good recommendations for kick mics, though the beta 91 has too much beater attack for some genres, I’d say. That said, very useful for metal, punk, etc.

Only thing I would disagree with is the mxl603. I think their top end, like many budget condensers, is really brittle and harsh. I would say maybe get a pair of audio technica 4033s. They will do a great job on onerhead duties and are super useful and versatile generally. Also hold their value. Can be found used for under $200 - I have even found under $150 cuz I’m patient. Another kit/overhead mic would be an old pzm - the square RadioShack ones are great (and we’re made by crown). They run on AA batteries (you can modify to run on 9 volts if you need more headroom, but I used them for years without issues stock). You can often find them for $50-60. Play with placement and you could even get the whole kit captured well with these. Just bear in mind if you don’t place them on a floor or ceiling, you will lose your low end response

A kick mic and stereo overheads will do the job for starters. A snare mic would be great if you have the budget. Sm57s are serviceable. But I’ve been using oktava mk012 recently. 57s, especially without a bottom mic don’t get enough snare sound to my liking. Also like shure sm98s. Both can be found used for a bit over $100.
 

phdamage

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For interfaces, even an older one like a motu 2408 (mk3) or 24io can be had for peanuts and will do the job. Just check compatibility - they ran on FireWire or needed a pci card to work.

Unless you want annoying phone calls every couple months, I’d say skip Sweetwater. Buy used or b-stock. Plenty of options out there
 

dcrigger

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I agree with all of the above - my studio is chockfull of used microphones, about half, maybe more.

gotta disagree about the SM57's though - a bazillion albums have been recorded with 57's on the snare. And tons of those without any bottom mic at all. Not knocking bottom snare mics - just pointing out that lots of pros choose to not use them, so someone just starting out shouldn't think twice about them one way or the other. Same goes for Hi Hat mics

And I can't tell you the number of times I've done something in small studios - that used 57's on toms... and they worked fine. Myself - I'd rather start with a reliable workhorse mic that will retain some value - than opt for the budget model mics that retain almost no value at all.

So 57's can be had for well under $100 a piece - so say $180 for three
And a AKG D112 or Shure Beta 52 for $100 to $150

... and you're at $280 to $330

A pair of overheads for $200 is going to be squeeze - so you might have to spend a bit more or go for a bit less like AKG C-1000's. I don't know.

I used MOTU interfaces for years - so a used MOTU could be could... but beyond beware of the firewire thing. Be aware of them being too old - as I just had my older MOTU interfaces orphaned because they are no longer making drivers for the current OS's. Tons of these multi-input interfaces are not "class compliant" - they aren't just "plug-n-play" - they require drivers to function with your computer. So if buying something old - be sure and check the website for current support.

For instance, the two models phdamage mentions - MOTO 2408 mk3 and 24io - are only supported though Mac OS 10.13 (High Sierra) and Windows 8 and no higher. (This was news that certainly pissed me off) :cool:

Anyway I agree with getting an 8 channel interface - then whatever you can do from there - even skipping the tom mic for now. You can always save up and look for bargains later...

Have fun...
 

tillerva

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I use a Zoom R16 that I nervously took a chance on used (I’m all for used stuff, but electronics makes me nervous). Anyway, works great.
recording gear gets expensive QUICK! Don’t forget some decent monitors.
When I record I get a good all around sound with two overheads then go from there. Usually need kick and snare mics at minimum to bring it all together.
 

Neal Pert

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You can go a long, long way with a set of Rode NT5 overheads and a bass drum mic like a Beta 52. I'd start with just that and maybe a 57 for the snare. After that, everything's about room, tuning, and mic placement. I've been building my way up from those basics and I've been pretty happy with the results.
 

Browny

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I picked up a Art USB Dual Pre (2 channel interface with 2 mic preamps) new from an eBay store at 50% off.

Bought a sennheiser e602 on sale from a local store and a barely used AKG 220 Perception large diaphragm condenser nearby through facebook marketplace.

Used Audacity (free) to start and learn the general stuff about mic placement, gain staging, etc. I grabbed reaper the other day to give that a crack as a ‘real’ DAW.

That’s been a pretty good process for me so far, and I haven’t had to commit upfront to a heap of coin. If things keep going steady as they are, I’ll start looking at a bigger 8 channel interface and adding few more mics (snare top, 2nd overhead, kick out, 2 toms and either a crotch or room mic would max out the 8 channels). But for now I’m happy, and I’m slowly getting better recordings.
 

Buffalo_drummer

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I have the Shure PGA kit that I use for snare and BD, I also have a pair of MXL990's for overheads and the combination works well for me. I run it into a Focusrite 18i20
 

The Texan

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Good luck, its a bottomless pit

I started out with Shure DMK57-52 drum mic kit and two Shure SM81 as overheads and a Scarlett 18I20

Now i have an assortment of mics and use an Apogee Ensemble
 

DavedrumsTX

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I absolutely swear by (gently) used gear, and this has enabled me to gradually build (through constantly upgrading) my recording capabilities to a level I really shouldn't have been able to afford, on a working musician's salary. Used gear saves you a ton of money, and instead of getting entry level gear, new, you can get better (even pro) quality used stuff.

If I were starting out again, I'd get a good bass drum mic (see below) and a decent pair of inexpensive overheads, then gradually fill in with some Shure SM57s and/or Sennheiser e604 for the toms. Actually, that's what I did.

Interface: Focusrite Scarlett 18i20 8 channel interface. Used: ~$300 (for 1st Gen) It's also expandable through ADAT optical.

Bass drum mics, you can't go wrong with any of the following: (Most can be had for between $100-125 used)
  • AKG D112
  • Shure Beta 91a (I LOVE the Beta 91a so much I bought two; one each for my live and studio kits).
  • Shure Beta 52a
  • Audix D6
Overheads: For years, until I recently upgraded to Earthworks mics, I used and loved MXL 603 matched pair overheads. You can grab them, again used, for around $175 for a pair.

All around mic: Shure SM57. Sounds great on snare, and sounds decent/good on toms. Great bang for the buck. Every studio has these. ($100 new, ~$75-80 used)

My recommendations come in at around $700, then you need cables and mic stands. If you go new, you'll be at a higher price point, with lower quality. It's all about how comfortable you feel buying used gear. Good luck!

Best,
Chris
Chris’ advice is sound. One other strategy is to use a two mic set up and gradually add mics as you can afford them. One overhead and a kick mic can get you some great results.
 

bpaluzzi

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The Yamaha EAD10 is another potential option here. It's not the most flexible system, and its use live is limited, but it's capable of giving some shockingly strong results. As an added plus, if you have any thoughts about integrating electronics / hybrid setup into your rig, this will help you do that. As far as future expansion, I've actually had some good results integrating the EAD10 as my "effect" / "crush" / "crotch" mic as part of a larger / more traditional multi-mic rig.
 

mfk252

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My compact live setup (standard 4 piece kit):

Beta 91A - pushed 3/4 of the way back from batter head to reduce attack

Sennheiser e904 (could substitute a e604) mounted on BD rim at about 1 o'clock (beater side) pointing downward halfway between kick beater and bottom snare rim. It is also equidistant between rack and floor tom. You can buy the clips on Amazon. You can do the same thing with an SM-57 on a mini boom stand but it won't pick up the toms quite as well. I want the audience to hear my floor tom growl when I hit it!

SM-57 for mono OH - setup about 6" in front and above my forehead pointed downward at kick beater (works as a backup vox mic and picks up enough cymbal bleed for smaller venues). Don't sweat the overheads too much at this point if you are not recording in a good (treated) room as the better mics will show the weaknesses of the room even more. Mono overheads avoid cancellation issues which will yield more consistent results starting out.

The Sennheiser picks up the body of each drum and the two Shure mics pick up attack.

This setup sounds much better live (especially outside) and more balanced than just kick, snare, and overhead (where toms sound weak/thin even if you compensate and hit them harder). Recording with this type of setup also teaches you to balance each drum/cymbal acoustically which will help later down the road as you record more.

Gently used - this goes for less than $400.

Keep these three mics in your toolkit as you acquire more for recording. Then purchase the best overhead mics you can (and make sure your recording room is treated).
 

kevin klever

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Cascade ribbon mics are excellent on drums and excellent value. A couple Fatheads in a stereo pattern (spaces or blumlein) a few feet in front of the set will give you a fantastic natural, realistic pictures of the way the drums sound in the room. The super cheapo Apex ribbon mics (210s I think?) are also killer and practically free.
 

Beefsurgeon

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As several posters have mentioned, starting with overheads and kick is the way to go. This will give you a chance to really learn mic placement and be able to hear what the individual mics are doing.

Buying used mics is also smart. Much like drums, there really is no "best" when it comes to mics--it's all about finding what works for you. This comes with time and experience. If you buy decent used mics, you can most likely sell them for what you paid when your ears tell you to move on to something else.
 

EyeByTwoMuchGeer

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Just FYI....this was a comparison between the Shure PGA mic pack and quite literally $100,000 worth of the best mics ever. Basically, the mics and interface aren't nearly as important and the kit, the player and the room. That being said, I'd go the route of a good interface and two good mics (a large condenser and a kick mic to start)

 


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