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Massive Kick Drum Mic Review

Friday, June 8th, 2012 | by


Whether you’re sifting through a large mic closet, or planning a purchase, deciding on the “perfect” microphone can be a daunting task. In this review we will be comparing over 20 dynamic microphone setups for kick drum purposes.

Microphone requirements vary greatly for recording and live performance. You might want a polished sound out of the box, or you might prefer something uncolored, with the ability to fine tune in the mix.

Musical genre can have a large influence on microphone selection. Metal and Jazz, for example, have different aesthetics and can benefit from differing microphone selections. Environment and budget are also factors. Using a $500 mic at a local battle of the bands might not be an affordable option, or in the best interest of the microphone. With these examples you will hopefully walk away with a better tonal idea of what is available.


Test Setup

Kick Drum: 22'' Gretsch Jasper (7.1mm, 6-ply Maple/Gum shell, no reinforcement hoops)
Batter head: Remo Powersonic
Resonant head: Remo Renaissance

Mic placement: just inside the port in the resonant head, pointing at the beater
Mic Preamp: Hardy M1

Audio Samples

The first four hits you hear in each example is the isolated kick drum microphone, followed by a few measures with additional overheads/room microphones. This will give you an idea of how the microphone responds to the source, as well as how it stands up in a mix context.

[We’ve put the 28 audio player widgets into a separate window so this review page would load faster; click the button below to access the audio files.]

Listening and Usage Notes

Describing the sound of 20 microphones isn’t easy. Some build/quality issues and tonal characteristics are obvious, but one quickly starts measuring up the subtle differences.

Each one of these microphones gets the job done, and some are tailored perfectly for kick drum duties. To help describe the tonal qualities, I’ll sort them all into four main categories: Boomy, Neutral, Punchy, or Hyped.

matthew mcglynn

As Eric notes below, some of these microphones are designed so that the XLR jack is at 90° to the mic’s axis of directivity. In other words, when you point the mic at the kick-drum beater, the cable points down towards the floor. This can make cable routing more difficult for this particular placement; it is easier when the cable exits from the rear of the microphone, straight out the hole in the resonant head.

Audio-Technica ATM25/LE

Audio-Technica ATM25/LE
Neutral with some flattering enhancement. Full balanced response. One of my personal favorites in the group. Something about this microphone screamed quality.

Pros & Cons:

  • Quality metal enclosure, with a sharp look.
  • Easy to position.
  • Multipurpose microphone. Would work well on other sources.

Heil Sound PR-48Heil Sound PR-48
Boomy but not dull. Nice full low-end extension.

Pros & Cons:

  • Would do well in the club environment.
  • Positioning is awkward
  • XLR location is problematic
Heil Sound PR-40

Heil Sound PR-40
Neutral. Clear present sound with wide response.

Pros & Cons:

  • Quality metal enclosure & mount.
  • Multipurpose microphone. Would work well on other sources.

AKG Acoustics D 112AKG Acoustics D 112
Punchy. A tad thin or boxy resonant quality at this proximity,
but with a fair amount of punch.

Pros & Cons:

  • Widely known & available.
  • Positioning is awkward
  • XLR location is problematic

MXL A-55 KickerMXL A-55 Kicker
Hyped. Punchy EQ’d sound out of the box.

Pros & Cons:

  • Easy to position.
  • Great for live, Pop/Rock/Metal recording
  • Plastic mount/XLR base.

Audio-Technica ATM250Audio-Technica ATM250
Punchy. Flattering but un-hyped sound.

Pros & Cons:

  • Quality enclosure & mount.
  • Easy to position.

Electro-Voice N/D868Electro-Voice N/D868
Boomy/Punchy. Full sound out of the box.

Pros & Cons:

  • Quality mount.
  • Easy to position.

Electro-Voice RE20Electro-Voice RE20
Neutral.

Pros & Cons:

  • Multipurpose microphone. Would work well on other sources.
  • Roll-off filter
  • Mount isn’t ideal due to microphone’s weight

Electro-Voice RE320Electro-Voice RE320
Neutral. Present sound also a personal favorite of the group.

Pros & Cons:

  • Multipurpose microphone. Would work well on other sources.
  • Optional “kick drum curve” EQ
  • Mount isn’t ideal due to microphone’s weight

Miktek PM11Miktek PM11
Hyped! Scooped EQ/Compressed sound out of the box.

Pros & Cons:

  • Minimal processing needed.
  • Overly hyped for many genres.
Avantone Pro MONDO

Avantone Pro MONDO
Boomy. Full sound with low-end extension & punch.

Pros & Cons:

  • Quality metal enclosure, with a sharp look.
  • Easy to position.
  • Nice suspended shock mount.

Shure SM7BShure SM7B
Neutral.

Pros & Cons:

  • Multipurpose microphone. Would work well on other sources.
  • Roll off, & mid boost filter options
  • Positioning can be a problem.

Shure Beta 52
Hyped.

Pros & Cons:

  • Robust construction
  • XLR location/mount spacing is troublesome

Shure Beta 52AShure Beta 52A
Hyped.

Pros & Cons:

  • Robust construction

Sennheiser Electronics Corporation e 602Sennheiser e 602
Punchy.

Pros & Cons:

  • Easy to position.
  • Low profile mount.

Audix D4Audix D4
Punchy.

Pros & Cons:

  • Small profile.
  • Useful for other drums.
  • Low end roll off below 50hz

Audix D6Audix D6
Hyped.

Pros & Cons:

  • Minimal processing needed.
  • Overly hyped for many genres
Sennheiser Electronics Corporation MD 421-II

Sennheiser MD 421-II
Neutral.

Pros & Cons:

  • Multipurpose microphone. Would work well on other sources.
  • Roll off filter

Lewitt DTP 340 REXLewitt DTP 340 REX
Boomy. Full sound with low-end extension.

Pros & Cons:

  • Quality metal enclosure.
  • Heavy duty metal mount.
  • Optional “kick drum curve” EQ
  • “kick drum curve” EQ is subtle [According to Lewitt, the EQ provides an 8dB boost at 50Hz plus a subtler lift at 3–5kHz, but these changes might not be as apparent with close mic positioning, due to proximity effect.]

Raw WAV Audio

Download the original WAV audio files here.

Session Photos

See the session photos here.

Final Thoughts

After having a chance to listen back to these microphones as a group, my personal collection will be seeing a shift in use, and most likely a new addition. Unexpectedly, the Heil Sound PR-40Heil Sound PR-40 jumped out at me with its upfront attack and presence without sounding artificial. You can really hear the intricacy of the drum. The PR40 seems to be an ideal dynamic to place near the batter head. For most recording situations, I use independent microphones for the batter and resonant heads. I can see myself adding a PR40 to my collection to be paired with a large-diaphragm condenser.

The Avantone Pro MONDOAvantone Pro MONDO also grabbed my attention. I would have no issue using this in a single mic situation over my go-to mics, the Shure Beta 52 or Sennheiser e602.

Lastly, move over D6, we have a new “Metal kick drum king.” The Miktek PM11Miktek PM11 takes the title for the scooped mid & hyped attack/sub frequencies sound. Next time you are running sound for your local “Death Metal for jesus” or “Underground Punk brought to you by Apple” festival, this is the mic of choice.

matthew mcglynn

Credits

Eric did a monstrous amount of work here — a day in the studio tracking 28 different kick drum mic configurations, plus photos, ‘darkroom’ time, video shooting and editing. It’s fantastic. (Thank you, Eric!) Visit Eric online at RhythmInMind.net.

If this review was helpful to you, please leave a comment to tell us what mic you picked, and how it is working for you.

Thanks also to all the vendors who sent gear for this evaluation: AKG (via Definition Branding), Audio-Technica US, Avantone Pro, Heil Sound, Lewitt Audio (via TruNorth Music), Miktek, and Shure. Microphones from Audix, Electro-Voice, and Sennheiser were the personal property of either Eric or myself. None of the vendors here provided compensation for this review.

Note that two Beyerdynamic microphones were lost by FedEx, and we regret not being able to include them here; thanks and apologies to American Music and Sound for their efforts.

If you are shopping, please consider buying via the links on this website; the small commissions generated thereby help offset the considerable costs of producing comprehensive evaluations such as this one. Find sale prices in the B&H shopping tool below:

Finally, if you’re hungry for more kick-drum mic madness, check out the Home Recording Show podcast’s kick-drum shootout.

Or if you’d like to hear $20,000 worth of drum overhead mics, visit the Prairie Sun Drum Overhead Mic Shootout.

Posted in Drums, Microphones, Reviews, Shootouts | 54 Comments »




54 Responses to “Massive Kick Drum Mic Review”

  1. Jim Asheman

    July 5th, 2014 at 11:10 am

    It puts the RE-421 in front of the bass drum. It turns up the gain. It is happy.

  2. Charlie

    November 22nd, 2015 at 12:21 am

    no beyerdynamic ???

    M88TG, M99, TGD50D, TGD70D would have been a great addition to this line up, great video though

    Also AKG D12VR

  3. Rooster

    March 12th, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    I see you ppl as a very organized bunch – and yet you do NOT describe the beater being used for this demo? Is it felt, wood, plastic, etc….?

  4. Mks

    April 12th, 2017 at 12:54 pm

    Simply amazing! Great work and the idea of giving the recorded audio at first without the microphone name is really cool! Really appreciate your work!!!

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