When dealing with a live band, stage volume is always an issue for the front of house engineer.
The sound from a drum set often will bleed into the various other microphones on stage, causing feedback, poor monitor mixes, and a plethora of other problems.
A drum shield can solve many of these issues and often is preferred. However, drummers aren’t always thrilled.
We’ve picked out the three best drum shields you can purchase on the market.
They do range in price quite drastically, so your budget will ultimately determine how much dB reduction you’ll get on stage.
Best Drum Shield – A Quick Glance
|Best Available||ClearSonic MMP Isolation Booth|| |
|Runner Up||ClearSonic IPA IsoPac A|| |
|Budget Pick||Sound Shields VSDS-4X3-K|| |
Before we get started, it’s important to note that some of these options are really expensive. You can spend between a little over $200 on a drum shield or go upwards of $7,000 on one. You will get what you pay for. The more expensive, the more noise reduction in most cases.
Pennzoni Display Drum Shield DS4 – Most Affordable Drum Shield
The DS4 drum shield from Pennzoni is the most affordable and entry level enclosure on the market. This shield comes with five clear acrylic panels, each of which are 5ft tall.
If your drummer’s cymbals are higher than 5ft, you will get a lot more bleed spilling on to the stage with this drum enclosure.
Noise Reduction – Pennzoni Drum Shield DS4
Since the DS4 has an open back and isn’t totally enclosed, you’re going to have a lot of spillage and bleed.
Be mindful that if you setup the drum set in front of a solid surface, the sound will reflect off the wall and onto the stage.
It definitely helps if you have a lot of room behind the drummer when using this drum shield.
The DS4 doesn’t provide the greatest sound reduction, but it will lower stage volume a bit, making mixing and front of house much easier.
Other Options From Pennzoni Display
Here’s another drum shield from Pennzoni. You get larger acrylic panels (7ft tall), as well as deflectors with flexible hinges.
This enclosure provides a bit more sound reduction, but won’t provide reduction levels as great as a fully enclosed drum shield.
On the list of most expensive products from Pennzoni Display is the Drum Booth Sound Room. This is a full drum enclosure made from acrylic panels. The size of this drum shield is 6ft x 6ft and is 6ft tall.
You’ll have some room to play with here, but if your drummer has a bigger kit, it might be a little tight.
ClearSonic Drum Enclosures – Best Drum Shield
The Isopac A is the ultimate solution for managing stage volume.
If you’re working in a small church or need to keep the neighbors happy, this is the best option. Expect to get around 50-60% sound reduction in total.
The dimensions inside are 7″ wide, 9″ deep, and 6.5′ tall. The Isopac A is perfect for bigger drum sets.
The total assembly takes about one hour and most pieces are very light and easy to handle.
If you do use a total enclosure, I recommend that you do add drum microphones and some sort of in-ear monitor solution for rehearsals and performances.
The Isopac A is completely modular, so if you need more space for a bigger drum set or just want to add on to it, Clearsonic makes it easy to do.
When to use a drum shield
If your band is on in-ear monitors, I think it’s very smart to use a drum shield.
Your players will have better control over their in-ear mix and it will sound much better, as well.
Certainly, there will be musicians who won’t totally dig the vibe of using a drum shield, but the front of house audio engineer will LOVE working with you.
He or she will have an easier time mixing live and your band will sound much better to the audience.
If your production or band travels often, this setup may not work out the best. I consider drum shields to be more of a permanent solution.
The DIY drum shield option
The DIY drum shield might seem like an attractive idea to most.
However, the level of craftsmanship required may be a little much for the average person.
Making something that is quality and attractive is no easy feat. Check out this video from ChurchMediaDesign.tv, who built an amazing drum enclosure.
You might be thinking that you’d save a bunch of money by doing it yourself.
However, just scanning the prices at my local Home Depot, I realized that raw plexiglass is actually rather expensive.
I found one panel that was 48″ x 96″ cost over $100 for one piece. You’ll most likely be spending a ton of money on materials and lots of hours of labor.
It might be a better deal just to buy a pre-made one.
Pros and cons of using a drum shield
Supporters of drum shields often look to the isolation, noise reduction, and better live mixes as some of the most positive effects when implementing an enclosure.
Even if you do add a drum enclosure to the mix, you’ll never have a totally perfect scenario.
Here are some pros and cons to using them:
- Lower stage volume – At the bare minimum, with even the cheapest drum shield available, you will lower the total stage volume. This is great especially if you are using drum microphones and a PA system, both with wedge monitors or without.
- Cleaner live mixes – The FOH engineer (sound guy) will have a far greater control over the mix as a whole and won’t have to deal with drum bleed in the vocal microphones. This is one of the hardest things to tame in a live mix. With cleaner, microphone signals come better sounding processing. Different instruments can now be EQ’d and compressed differently, as there won’t be as much bleed affecting the processing.
- Happier singers who use in-ear monitors – Going back to the last point, singers who use in-ear monitors will have a better time on stage, as they won’t be hearing as loud of a drum set in their vocal microphones.
- High volume inside the enclosure – While playing inside the shield, if you don’t have ear protection, you’re going to get a major headache. The volume inside the enclosure is amplified as the sound bounces around the acrylic surfaces. Be sure to wear hearing protection or use in-ear monitors.
- Lighting can be very difficult – Trying to light up a drummer who is totally enclosed in a cage, essentially, is nearly impossible. Imagine being a lighting designer and having to point lights toward the acrylic panels on an angle. You can almost never do lighting from the top down while using a covered shield.
- Travel and setup time – Let’s be real. Drum shields are annoying to set up. If you’re in a touring act and are expecting to bring one of these with you, just don’t. The amount of setup time you’re going to add will create a nightmare and you will most likely need to load in an hour earlier.
- Cheaper shields will not be effective – While you will get a small amount of dB reduction with a cheap enclosure, you’re pretty much just wasting your time if you don’t go all out on a nice one. The total enclosures are really the only option when it comes to isolation and effective reduction.
Many opponents of enclosure use often like to say that drummers need to play more dynamically and that a drum shield is a waste of money.
These people aren’t sound engineers! They haven’t a clue!
Even if dynamics are at play, once you hit a certain threshold where shields are appropriate, we’re talking about a type of playing where drummers actually hit the drums.
This isn’t a little jazz concert in a small pub, where the drummer can get away with barely tapping the drums. We’re talking big stages, large concert halls, and outdoor festivals.
Alternatives to drum shields and enclosures
If a drum shield is out of the question, there’s a couple options you have for reducing stage volume and getting better PA mixes at every show.
Have your drummer use hot rod sticks
While they aren’t a favorite of many drummers, these types of drumsticks do reduce the volume of a drum kit without sacrificing the velocity of which they drummer hits.
I do notice that these sticks tend to break relatively quick, so this might not be the best option.
Switch from an acoustic kit to an electronic drum set
If you want to reduce stage volume and make your drummers happy at the same time, consider getting an electronic drum set.
I still believe that Roland is the king of the electric drum kit.
The V-drums line of e drums just feels so great to play and sound awesome. The TD-25 from Roland has an incredible-sounding drum brain.
Drum shields are a great way to reduce overall stage volume to help achieve better live mixes at your shows. Some are affordable and some are very expensive.
Unfortunately, the more you spend, the more sound reduction you get. Do you actively use a drum shield at your church or place of worship? Leave a comment down below.
I’m surprised you make no mention of cymbal shields. Our church just started using Clearsound Baffles and they seem to marry your pros and cons list. They cut down cymbal bleed a ton but they look great (nearly invisible). You guys should add them to the list.
Jeremy — thanks for the suggestion! I definitely will add the Clearsound Baffles to the list. I hadn’t actually heard of them prior. I just checked out the demo video. They seem to cut down a lot of the high frequencies well!