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Yamaha SubKick – The Tape Op Review

TapeOp Issue #42/July, 2004 | by


Some engineers know the old-time trick of placing a speaker (oftentimes the woofer from a Yamaha NS-10M, ironically enough) in front of a kick drum or bass amp, then running the speaker cables into a DI and sending that to a preamp. The speaker, being a moving-coil transducer much like a dynamic mic, creates a big thumpy audio signal that can be used to fill in the low end.

I’d read about this technique many times but never tried it, and this winter during sessions with Matt Cameron (a Yamaha endorsee as is Russ Miller, whose name is on the SKRM-100), I mentioned my curiosity for the new Yamaha Subkick. Matt, being the nice guy he is (and a pretty good drummer too!) got me hooked up with an SKRM-100 for review. Upon receiving one, the first thing I noticed is that the Subkick looks like a drum, with drum hardware holding it in place. Yamaha claims the shell “focuses the sound” to the 6.5''speaker/mic, but this seems implausible — a 10'' shell focusing a 55 to 110-ft waveform?

The shell is a nice idea, but bulky and unnecessary in my mind. For one, the unit is easily prone to tipping over due to its weight. For another thing, if you make something look like a drum, people will hit it. No kidding! In the first week, several folks gave the Subkick a good, solid whack. (I hope they don’t notice any dings when I return it.)

Anyway, it’s equipped with an XLR output so there’s no need for a DI box (I’m assuming there’s a transformer inside), and you can plug it right into a mic preamp. The manual mentions that the “SKRM-100 be used in conjunction with a microphone designed for bass drum use.” During a recent tracking session, I set it up in front of a kick drum alongside an Audix D6, routing the Subkick to its own track so I could mix in each mic to taste later. The Subkick picks up a very muddy signal. No cymbals and barely any snare came through — just a big, solid thump. In fact, no high end from the kick came through. The thump peaked around 63Hz, rolling off gradually each way according to an RTA.

This thing works, but only in conjunction with another mic.

On its own, the Subkick didn’t really work with the other mics on the kit, but mixed in with the D6, it worked well. The low thump could be blended in under the standard mic to fill in the lows. It actually sounded pretty cool. I had to be careful though — a little too much, and the mix became too bottom heavy! The final verdict is that this thing works, but only in conjunction with another mic. And it’s a nice looking way of putting a speaker in front of a kick drum. It piqued my interest enough that now I’m gonna try some other speakers as mics. BTW, I doubt any clients will try to hit my shell-less DIY speaker mics! ($499 MSRP, $299 street)

Read more about the Yamaha SubKick dynamic microphone.

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