If you’re a drummer looking to start recording yourself playing, chances are you’re a bit confused and lost with what you’ll absolutely need. You’re not alone. There are tons of drummers out there who want to learn how to record their own band, shoot YouTube videos, and even bring microphones with them for live performances. While you can purchase drum microphones individually, buying a drum mic kit offers a simple solution with a bundled monetary benefit.
Drum mic kits vary in quality and size. We have done our best to pick the best-performing products while staying reasonable with a budget. While there always will be the most expensive option, we’ve kept that for last. All microphone manufacturers we list here make quality products that we personally use or have used. It may be difficult to narrow down which kit will work best for you, but we have taken most of the hard work out for you.
Best Drum Mic Kit in 2018 – A Quick Glance
Drum mic kits for the home recording studio
If you plan on recording yourself at home for your band’s demos or YouTube videos, the microphone selection may be considerably different from a live setup. The quality of the sound you get will be determined by several factors.
- The drum kit you’re recording
- Whether or not you have changed your heads
- The room you’re recording in
- The microphones you pick
- How good of a player you are
- How skilled you are as a sound engineer
- The audio interface and preamps used
Stepping up to the plate and recording music for the first time can be extremely daunting. Learning a digital audio workstation is a big undertaking. I suggest starting slow and watching some YouTube videos on the basics of recording drums to get a good foundation.
Required gear and hardware to begin recording drums
If you’re interested in recording drums at home, here’s the barebones essentials you’ll absolutely need to get recording.
- A drum kit – Come on. This one is obvious. ?
- A computer – PC or Mac is fine; whichever you prefer.
- An audio interface – This piece of gear converts analog signals from your mics, into a digital format your computer understands. I recommend getting an eight-channel interface.
- A digital audio workstation – I’m sure you’ve heard of Pro Tools by now. This software is where you’ll edit and process all your recordings. Any software you pick will work fine, just get comfortable with it. I wouldn’t suggest using Audacity, as it doesn’t work that well with multitrack recording.
- Your microphone collection – Your mic kit that you just picked out!
- Lots of time – Recording drums is no easy task. You’ll really need to sit down and be meticulous and pay attention when learning how to record. It’s one of those 10,000-hour skills.
The quality of your drums matters when it comes to studio recording
No matter if you have the most expensive microphones in the world and the greatest room at your disposal, if your drum kit sounds terrible to your ear, it’s going to record poorly. Garbage in, garbage out.
I also mentioned above that it’s important to change your drum heads prior to recording. This is so important, and more people need to be talking about this. After heads have been played on for a significant amount of time, they lose their resonance and begin to sound dead.
Is your room a bedroom? A concrete basement? It still can work great
If you’re planning on recording drums in your bedroom, that’s okay. Just skip the room microphones. Focus in on close miking and just using overheads. If you’re unaware what close and distance miking are, read on. If you can, move your drum kit around your bedroom to find the best sounding spot in the room. A good trick is to take your floor tom and walk around banging it until you find the best low-end resonance with your ear and land there.
If you’re recording in a concrete basement, I suggest getting some moving blankets and setting them up on stands in proximity to your drum kit, maybe four or five feet away. This is will minimize some of the reflections from the concrete walls and hopefully will give you a better sound in your overhead microphones.
Close miking and distance miking
Get used to these terms, as you’ll be utilizing both these techniques to achieve a great drum sound. While you can use one or the other depending on certain situations, great drum recordings employ both techniques.
Close miking refers to microphones that are placed close to an instrument or sound source. For example, a SM57 mounted right above the head of a snare drum is close-miked. Other close mic examples include use on tom drums, vocal mics, guitar cabinets, on a variety of wind and brass instruments, and really any other situation where you can think of mounting a microphone close to a sound source. Typically, the microphone is placed no more than 12 inches in distance away.
Close miking is beneficial for two main purposes:
- Isolates the microphone signal from noise in the room
- Isolates the microphone signal from other instruments around it
As you can imagine, a drum set is very loud and there are a lot of instruments in extreme proximity to one another. The SM57 is often used as a snare drum microphone, as it rejects noise very well from the hi hat. These cymbals are often very close to the snare drum, so isolation is key.
Distant miking is the practice of recording a sound source from a distance away. This technique is generally used to capture the stereo image of a drum kit when in a studio, but can also be used to record an orchestra, an audience for a live recording of a concert, or even just an acoustic guitar in a room.
The microphones you pick matter
If you’re just starting out, I suggest you stick to these and only these. The more microphones you add, the more problems you’re going to have. Things like phase, comb filtering, and the number of available inputs become a major issue.
- Kick microphone (my suggestion: Shure Beta 91a)
- Snare microphone (my suggestion: Shure SM57)
- Tom microphones (my suggestion: Sennheiser e604)
- Overhead microphones (my suggestion: Shure KSM137 pair)
Do I need overhead microphones for recording drums at home?
You don’t necessarily have to have overheads, but I strongly suggest doing so. If you want your demos for your band or your YouTube videos to have a professional sound, overhead microphones help it get there. If you’re only using close mics, your cymbals will be left out of the mix and you won’t be happy with the end result.
First off, you’re not just capturing the cymbals when you use overheads (though you can do that), you’re capturing the entire stereo image of the drum kit. I recommend using the spaced pair stereo technique when first adding overheads to your setup. Now, there are other techniques (XY, recorder man, etc), but I really suggest focusing on spaced pair, since it’s the easiest to comprehend.
Big studios don’t use mic kits, but that’s okay
While a drum microphone kit will get you everything you need to get going, mic wise, most professional recording studios don’t rely on pre-packaged kits when selecting microphones. The mic lockers you’ll find have a large variety of different brands and manufacturers. If you’re just learning how to shoot drum covers for YouTube, a drum mic kit is a perfect entry into microphones and the recording world.
Let’s say you buy the Shure DMK57 mic kit. You’ve got everything you need to get close-miked drums. While you will be able to use these microphones for the rest of your career (these are all standards used all the time), you potentially will need to get some overhead microphones. Other packs we have discussed in our list do include overheads, but I think you’ll find that over time, you’ll want to buy the overheads separately.
Drum mic kits for live sound
Live sound is much different than that of recording in a professional studio. These microphones require a lot more durability since they are prone to being dropped, lost, knocked around in a trailer, and other ways we can think of mishandling them.
In general, unless you’re in some major arena rock band, it’s a good idea to spend no more than $200 per individual microphone you’ll be touring with. The e604 by Sennheiser is a perfect touring microphone. For starters, they sell these in packs of three. You’ll want to have a lot of these mics, as they are extremely versatile. They can clip on to almost any drum rim. I’ve toured enough to know that these microphones are “the go-to” live tom microphone, and even some use it on snare drums. The e604 is also included in Sennheiser’s e600 mic package.
What do you mean, kick in and kick out?
As you enter the live world, you’ll soon start to realize that most engineers tend to use two different microphones on the bass drum: kick in and kick out.
The kick in microphone tends to be a condenser boundary microphone, like the Beta 91a. This mic, while a little thinner in the low end, provides a crisp attack and “clickier” sound than that of a dynamic microphone. I personally use and love the Beta 91a. There’s a fantastic company, Kelly SHU, who makes an internal mounting system for this microphone. My kick in mic literally stays inside my bass drum all the time and I haven’t had to pull it out once since installing the Kelly SHU.
The kick out microphone is the one we’re most familiar with. A common kick out microphone is the Beta 52 from Shure. This type of dynamic microphone captures a lot of the woof and low end a kick drum produces and less of the attack.
These two microphone signals are combined and processed to get a massive kick drum sound you hear at most rock shows.
It’s all in the overheads
You might be thinking, “hey, I’ve got my snare, toms, and kick miked up, what else could I need?” The overhead microphones change the game when it comes to an in-ear monitor mix. Not only do you hear your cymbals, but you hear the entire kit with a beautiful sheen of high end (depending on the mics, of course).
In small clubs and venues, you really don’t need overhead microphones, and the sound engineer will even advise against it. However, if you do have in ears and want to use them, I highly suggest doing so. Playing only close-miked drums is so one-dimensional. It’s hard to get into it with such a poor sound.
The sound engineer won’t be sending the overhead channels to the PA and that’s okay. If it’s worth it to you, set up those addition microphone stands and cables.
Unless you’re playing clubs to 300+ people every night, I personally believe you do not need a hi-hat or snare bottom microphone. If your sound engineer likes to use them even in small rooms, then go for it. The majority of sound engineers hate hi-hats and, in fact, I don’t even use one unless I’m told they wanna add one. I always joke around with sound engineers about adding more hi-hat to the mix. No one ever wants more hi-hat in a live mix.
Many sound engineers do like to use snare bottom microphones, but I don’t think you’ll need one at first. Chances are if they want to use one, they’ll have a spare SM57 they can just pop under your snare for that gig.
Don’t underestimate the power of a crowd microphone
If you use in-ear monitors, you need to know about crowd mics. Pointing at the audience, crowd microphones pick up the room sound in either stereo or mono, depending on your current setup. Your live mix can sometimes lack a sense of space (even with artificial reverb). Crowd mics change the game when it comes to your in-ear mix. I find that pair of SM57s can do the trick, buy the KSM137 is also another good option.
Why you might not need a drum mic kit, yet
Not all drummers need drum microphones right away. If you play in a band and just play local shows around town, you probably don’t need them yet. Your local club more than likely has microphones ready to go for shows, so you just need to bring your drums.
I also will advise staying away from the cheapest microphone packs, as you really get what you pay for when it comes to microphones and live sound. Pyle Pro makes a very inexpensive SM57 clone that sounds like absolute garbage. I cannot ever recommend someone going this route, unless you are extremely desperate. The microphone itself looks identical to its Shure counterpart, but sounds very thin and will clip easily as you give it more gain.
If you’re in a situation where it makes absolute sense to buy a mic kit, such as using an in-ear monitor system, then you’re going to want to bring your own microphones to gigs. Be sure to let the club and sound engineer know ahead of time, before the day of the show, what your band will be bringing so they don’t set up a bunch of unneeded stands and microphones.