Audix D-Series Drum Microphones: Impressive Isolation

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by Doug Brush, DOWN BEAT

The use of microphones, specifically drum microphones, can create many challenges in reproducing clean, natural and separated sounds in any given situation. With variables in mind such as what kind of instruments are being played, the number of instruments being played, what kind of music is being performed, room size, volume and PA, Audix has succeeded at minimizing the many potential mic-related problems for drummers and engineers.

Audix’s main vehicle for this is their D-series microphones. The mics are available individually or in four different packages that include different assortments of mics and clips in a sturdy aluminum flight case. I reviewed the DP3 package, which includes six mics—a D-1, two D-2s, a D-4 and two ADX-50s—and four mic clips.

The D-1, D-2 and Audix D4D-4 are all dynamic mics with hypercardioid polar patterns. They have varying frequency responses based on their intended applications and all have a maximum SPL rating of a very loud 144db. They are small, 1.5'' in diameter by 3.5'' long, and have black-coated machined-aluminum housings with steel caps — qualities that enable easy placement and durability. The plastic clips are spring-loaded with an extra wing nut tightening system that provides plenty of grip. The mic holder attaches to an adjustable plastic piece that can place the mic up to 4 inches away from the clip. These clips are also available with a 4-inch gooseneck for more placement flexibility.

The D-series mics are designed for specific applications. The Audix D1D1, with a small mid-range boost and an attenuated low end is targeted for higher-end instruments such as snare, quinto, shakers and hi-hat. I tried the D-1 on all these as well as high tabla drum and berimbau and got very pleasing results. The mic had a clean and natural response with a warm quality that didn’t come at the cost of attack.

Miking tabla drums, especially in loud situations, is a great test for a mic. Tabla drums have a wide variety of sounds and are fairly soft. I tried the D-1 on tabla in a situation with a loud stage (another percussionist just to my left, plus four miked flamenco guitars), and it performed great. The drum was almost completely isolated due to the mic’s narrow polar pattern, and the sounds were alive and natural. The D-1 also performed admirably when I put it on my snare in club situations. Once again, the mic had a very true sound and had no problem handling high volume.

Many of the D-1’s qualities can be found in the D-2 and the D-4. The mics provide excellent isolation and reproduce the instruments with truly natural qualities — sharp attack, plus a warm and full frequency response. The Audix D2D2 is designed for mid-range drums—rack toms, floor toms, congas — and the D-4 has an extended low end for bass range instruments such as bass drums, large congas and large floor toms. I also used the D-4 for the low tabla on stage and got great results. The sound was clean, rich and isolated enough to allow the engineer to push it as much as necessary. This really showed impressive flexibility in a mic designed for bass drums. One note about the D-series mics’ ability to produce great isolation is that mic placement becomes very important. The hypercardioid polar patterns allow the mics just to “see” in a narrow range in front of them. Audix has printed a very helpful microphone application guide specific to these mics. It shows the best mic choices, positions and angles for drum set, percussion and even horns, string instruments and amplifiers.

To round out the full drumkit mic setup in the DP-3 package, Audix includes two ADX-50s to use as overheads for cymbals. In order to keep the price down, the ADX-50 has a pre-polarized capsule, which doesn’t make it a true condenser. The result is a mic that is good for fairly high-end frequency applications, even for a condenser. This however doesn’t stop it from performing well in its designed application (cymbal miking as opposed to general drumset overheads). The mics provide a convincing reproduction of true cymbal sounds, and a strong high end that wasn’t too cutting but clean enough to provide nice cymbal clarity. I tried them with many different cymbal setups, and found they only lost a little of their performance (less than I was expecting) with some of the really dark cymbals that are popular today. I also found the ADX-50s to be useful for other high-end percussion instruments, such as small shakers, the bottom side of snare drums and hi-hats. Overall, Audix D-series microphones provide drummers with great sound reproduction and impressive instrument isolation at an economical price.

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