When it comes to recording drums, the sound of your overheads can make or break your record. You need to get your hands on a set of overheads that are both in your budget and that will deliver great results.
Taking a trip down to your local music store isn’t the best option, as they don’t stock as many microphones anymore.
We’ve curated this list of the eleven best overhead mics for drums so you don’t make the same mistakes everyone else does when purchasing overhead microphones.
The topic of overhead microphones is subjective — there are plenty of other options available, but I feel that this list covers both affordable mics to the highest-quality pro mics you can choose from.
Table of Contents
- The Best Overhead Mics For Drums at a Glance
- 1) Soyuz 013 FET Stereo Pair (Pro)
- 2) Neumann KM184 (Pro)
- 3) Shure KSM137 Studio Pair (Mid-range)
- 4) Behringer C-2 (Budget)
- 5) Rode M5 Overhead Mics (Budget)
- 6) Audio-Technica AT4041 (Budget)
- 7) Neumann U87 Stereo Matched Pair (Pro)
- Some Others to Consider
- Wrapping Up
The Best Overhead Mics For Drums at a Glance
I’ve included some audio samples for microphones I’ve either used myself, or have tracked with in the past. Be sure to listen on studio monitors or high-quality reference headphones. All the audio examples below have no EQ or compression added, aside from anything that may have been used on the way in.
If you’re really on a tight budget and are just starting out, the microphones listed below will be a perfect choice for home recording. You won’t get the most amazing results ever, but these might be a good starter option to learn on.
1) Soyuz 013 FET Stereo Pair (Pro)
Recently, I had the chance to check out a newer set of mics from a company I was unaware of—the Soyuz 013 FET Stereo Pair. These mics as overheads blew me away. They sound extremely flat and smooth, while still retaining enough low-end material without muddy mids. Watch my video below to hear them in action. Read the full review of the 013s here or watch the video below.
They sound fantastic on drums and would be a excellent choice for any drummer looking to upgrade from a budget pair. These are the best overhead microphones under $1500 on the market.
2) Neumann KM184 (Pro)
Neumann makes expensive microphones. For the price, these are the best sounding drum overhead mics and will give you the highest quality drum recordings.
Here’s a raw recording of the KM184s as drum overheads:
Once you’ve heard the demo of these, you can hear them in the mix on my band’s song Shine On. The KM184s are industry standard microphones and have been used on tons of records.
Your cymbals will shine and your drums will sound big and full. Many engineers swear by these mics and often use them on tons of different applications.
They are extremely detailed microphones and can handle very high SPL. In addition to drum overheads, these microphones sound excellent on acoustic instruments.
3) Shure KSM137 Studio Pair (Mid-range)
These are tough microphones. They've been dropped and abused on many of our tours. Highly recommended for live use.
A company we have yet to see on our list is Shure. For those wondering, I have purposely left out the Shure SM81 pencil condenser microphone. I have never been a fan of that mic and think that the KSM137s far outshine in performance and sound. They’re also cheaper.
The Shure KSM137 set is tough as nails. I’ve relied on these mics on tour for about six years and they’ve always held up—even after being dropped or falling over on a stand.
Hear the microphones on a kit — no EQ or compression:
These are middle-of-the-road in terms of cost, but still perform well and sound incredible. Most microphones above the $600 mark sound great, but it’s really up to your personal taste.
While you can use these microphones for your drum overheads, you can also use them on hi-hats if need be. Acoustic instruments also sound excellent with these microphones.
4) Behringer C-2 (Budget)
Behringer is a company that has prided itself in making high-quality, affordable products. The C-2 Stereo overhead mics for drums are no different. These are the best budget overhead drum mics. Even so, they will deliver decent results for the money. This is the only set of overhead mics for drums under $100.
You’re not only limited to just recording drums with these types of microphones. You can also dream up other applications for your overhead microphones: recording piano, acoustic guitar, room microphones, etc. The only other thing to note about these overhead mics for drums is that they are thin sounding.
If you’re primarily recording cymbals and later on replacing the close microphones with samples, you’ll have no issue with these. Be prepared to use a lot of EQ cuts on these, as they are also harsh in the high end.
5) Rode M5 Overhead Mics (Budget)
Next up on our list is the Rode M5. These drum overheads will sound significantly better than the Behringer mics, giving you a fuller sound with a less-harsh high end.
Rode makes killer microphones for an affordable price. Just like the C-2, this is a stereo pair of pencil condenser microphones that will give you a nice overhead recording.
These drum overhead microphones provide more detail in your recording and will require less-aggressive EQ moves.
The Rode M5 is perfect for the studio recording or any live application. They’re durable and cheap, so you know you can tour with them.
At around $100 each, you won’t be going wrong, especially if they’re your first matched stereo pair of microphones.
Side note: Another excellent microphone from these guys is the Rode K2. It’s perfect for recording a mono overhead or also works great as a room microphone.
6) Audio-Technica AT4041 (Budget)
Spending more than $500 won't get you much further until you get to the $1000-$2000 range. The AT4041s are clear, transparent, and smooth.
The AT4041 pair is by far the greatest sounding pair of overhead microphones on our list thus far. These microphones give a nice and crispy high-end without sounding harsh.
They are perfect for cymbals, overheads, room mics, on acoustic guitar, pianos, horns, and even are useful as a snare bottom microphone. These microphones feature a transformer-less design, giving you a quieter noise floor.
Included in the protective vinyl case is the two microphones, two stand clamps, and two windscreens. Everything about these overhead mics for drums screams quality.
7) Neumann U87 Stereo Matched Pair (Pro)
Neumann U87s are great for overheads and room mics.
If you have a ton of money to spend on your studio build, you should get two Neumann U87s to use as drum overheads. They are by far the best sounding microphone and you’ll also be able to use this microphone on tons of different applications.
Have a listen to them on drums as overheads:
If you want to hear them in the context of a mix, you can hear them on my band’s song 30 Seconds.
They’re punchy, full of life, and yet, not so brittle in the top-end. You’ll be able to track amazing sounding vocals, record guitars, amplifiers, you name it. Now there are some microphone makers who are essentially making U87 clones. Some come close, others are way off.
Some Others to Consider
If you aren’t a fan of the options above, these are also incredible on drum overheads:
That’s it for our top 10 overhead microphones! Did we miss your favorite? Leave us a comment down below. And be sure to check out our other drum mic buying guides for more information on the best mics for recording different parts of the kit. Thanks for reading and happy tracking!