Overheads can be the difference between a great drum recording, or one that’s so-so. The best overhead drum mics will glue the whole kit together in a brilliant way and do more than just capture the sound of the cymbals.
Best Drum Mics for Overheads in 2021
A matched pair of either small or large diaphragm condensers is usually the first choice for drum overheads. When you get a properly matched pair from the factory, you can minimize annoying phase issues that plague multi-mic recordings.
In professional studios with a collection built over many years, engineers will often go for the best of the best. A pair of Neumann KM 184s, AKG 414s, or Neumann U 87s make excellent overhead drum mics. But, these are prohibitively expensive, with the 184s being the most ‘affordable’ at around $1600 per matched pair. Fortunately, there are amazing microphones out there for the normal budget, so you can still make fantastic drum recordings without needing to spend $6000+ on a pair of U 87s!
Best Drum Overhead Mics Under $500
Lauten makes some seriously impressive microphones that aren’t just ‘good for the price’—they’re actually amazing, giving microphones that are 3 or 4 times the price a run for their money. The LA-120 small diaphragm FET condenser is no exception, sold as a matched pair for just $419.
These come with switchable capsules for cardioid and omnidirectional polar patterns, as well as selectable high- and low-pass filters. Like any good pair of small diaphragm condensers, these pick up any sound source with detail and precision. Naturally they’re great for overheads, but you can get some serious mileage out of these on acoustic guitar, piano, orchestra, and more.
Røde is known for their quality and affordability. They produce two of the most well known inexpensive large diaphragm condensers—the NT1 and NT-1A—which have both been project studio staples for many year running. The M5 matched pair is a set of small diaphragm condensers showcasing Røde’s impressive quality for just $199.
Even engineers with way more expensive overheads will find the M5s more than adequate. Plus, Røde really goes out of their way to perfectly match stereo pairs, making these a phenomenal choice for any sort of stereo recording. As far as best overhead drum mics go, the M5s are high on the list with their combination of sound quality and affordability.
Lewitt LCT 040 MATCH
We reviewed the Lewitt LCT 040 MATCH before to determine whether the pair is one of the best values for small diaphragm microphones around. What immediately struck us about these microphones is their form factor. They’re very small and ridiculously lightweight at just 1.6 oz a piece, but still feel well made.
It’s sort of an afterthought, but weight is a consideration for the best overhead drum mics because you’re literally standing them up in the air. If your mic stands aren’t sturdy enough, a heavier mic will sag, but these ultra light 040s remove that problem altogether. Like the rest of the Lewitt line, sound quality is on par, the care given in matching the pair is top-notch, and the price is unbelievable at $189.
Here’s another great pair of small diaphragm condensers for overheads. Audio-Technica’s popular 20 series of large diaphragm condensers marries accessibility and professional sound. The 4041s are no exception!
One hallmark of the 4041 is a top-end boost for a bit of crispness and clarity. On overheads, this translates to added presence and air in the cymbals for a nice hi-fi image of the kit. They also come with a switchable high-pass filter in case you want to minimize any extra rumble from the kick and toms. At $499 a pair, the AT 4041s are a good midrange option for drum overheads.
Bonus: Soyuz 013 FET (Premium Overhead Mics)
The quality on Soyuz products is outstanding. 100% handmade in Russia, the 013 FET is a small diaphragm condenser perfect for drum overheads and any instrument where clarity and a larger-than-life sound is desired. These have some of the best transient response of any competitor out there, coupled with an accurate midrange and a smooth top end. As overheads, they can paint a complete picture of the kit in a way that’s warm, dynamic, and pleasant.
A pair of Soyuz 013 FET condensers will set you back about $1200.
We found four of the best budget overhead mics for drums from as low as $189 right up to $499, (plus one premium option!). Any of these would make a killer addition to your project studio, whether you’re actually recording drums or just need a matched pair of small diaphragm condensers for acoustic instruments or anything else!
- SEE ALSO: Recording Drum Overheads with Matt Weiss