You’ll need the best drum overhead mics if you want to record an incredible drum sound. Moreover, these microphones are integral to drummers who want to capture a balanced and clear sound of their cymbal sets. That’s why having the best overhead mics is a crucial component when recording acoustic drums.
The Best Drum Overhead Mics Reviewed in this Guide
As stated, drum overhead mics are integral ingredients within a drum mic kit. Typically, these microphones come in pairs, allowing drummers to get the best tonal flexibility possible through mic placements.
If you’re scouring the market looking for the best drum overhead mics, you’re in the right place. I collected 7 overhead microphones from all price points, providing everyone with the best performance regardless of skill and budget.
3 Best Drum Overhead Mics within a Budget Price-Point
Behringer C-2— The Cheapest and Best Drum Overhead Mics
Going cheap doesn’t mean that you’ll get the worst recording quality. With the Behringer C-2, drummers will surely get a great stereo recording of their drums and cymbals. In addition, they are also extremely cheap!
Behringer designed the C-2 overheads with a cardioid pickup pattern, eliminating cymbal feedback no matter their placement. Moreover, the C-2 microphones come with a low-mass diaphragm, delivering an ultra-wide frequency response for a clearer drum sound replication.
The C-2 Studio Condenser Microphones also come with a frequency roll-off adjustment. Consequently, allowing users to conveniently lower their input signal to avoid clipping and other audio-related issues.
- Cardioid pickup pattern
- Low-mass diaphragm
- Gold-plated 3-pin XLR connectivity
- Transformerless FET input
- Metal die-cast body material
The product’s combination of cardioid pickups and low-mass diaphragm helps produce a clear recording without unwanted feedback. Behringer’s utilization of Gold-plated 3-pin XLRs also helps these microphones retain high signal integrity. These microphones also allow users to conveniently reduce infrasound and clipping from high-gain sound sources.
The raw sound replication of these pickups is harsh to the ears due to their higher mid-end reception. However, you can solve this problem by EQ’ing the microphones on a mixer or interface properly.
Audio-Technica AT2021— The Best Drum Overhead Mics for Live Performances on a Budget
If you’re a drummer who plays in high SPL environments, such as a live performance, you’ll love this microphone! The Audio-Technica AT2021 Cardioid features a condenser microphone design that uses a cardioid polar pattern. Thus, allowing the set to reduce feedback from recordings.
Furthermore, Audio-Technica designed the AT2021 with a low-mass element that delivers an authentic sound replication. The AT2021’s utilization of a gold-plated XLRM connection allows it to avoid corrosion, providing users with a clear signal.
In conclusion, the AT2021 is a durable and budget-friendly condenser microphone perfect for live performances and touring.
- 30-20,000 Hz Frequency Response
- Permanently polarized condenser
- Corrosion-resistant Gold-plated XLRM contacts
- Cardioid polar pattern
- Low-mass element
The AT2021 Cardioid Microphone delivers a great frequency response that’s perfect for capturing a clear audio recording. This microphone also performs well under high-SPL situations like a live stage performance.
If you’re looking for the best drum overhead mics for live performance without spending much, this is for you. However, it’s not the best-sounding microphone within its price point.
Rode M5 Matched Pair— The Best All-rounder Drum Overhead Mics on a Budget
When I first heard about the Rode M5, I couldn’t believe its specification considering its price point. This microphone is like a swiss knife for microphones— it’s cheap, durable, and works within various musical settings. Therefore, if you’re looking for the best all-rounder overhead mics on a budget, it’s surely the Rode M5 microphone!
Firstly, the M5 features a ½” gold cardioid condenser capsule, providing users with a full response. The M5 also delivers a low-noise audio capture, eliminating unwanted noise from a recording.
Secondly, Rode constructed both these microphones as matched pairs, providing each with a frequency range from 20Hz up to 20KHz. This allows users to use the M5 within a stereo array, ensuring a clear capture without any dB variation.
Lastly, the Rode M5 comes with an RM5 pop-filter for air-noise reduction and cancellation. The M5 also features a clip that can easily attach to a drummer mic stand.
- ½” cardioid condenser capsule
- 20Hz up to 20,000Hz Frequency Response
- Amazon Basics Drummer Mic Stand
- RM5 Pop-filter
- All-metal construction
- Drummer Mic Stand clip
The Rode M5 comes with all the necessary microphone mounting accessories needed for a drummer mic stand. In addition, these microphones feature a matched pairing specification, allowing users to place these microphones in a stereo configuration.
These microphones sound thinner than professional-level microphones. Moreover, these microphones require users to be mindful of their microphone placement when recording drums. That’s why I won’t recommend the Rode M5 for beginners.
4 of the Best Drum Overhead Mics for Intermediate and Professional Drummers
AKG C451 B Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
AKG based the specification of the C451 B on its predecessor, the C451— considered one of the best drum overhead mics for studios. Aside from its identical features to the C451, AKG also improved upon these specifications. Consequently, providing users with rich and well-defined detail in every hit.
Furthermore, the AKG C451 B comes with a small and light diaphragm that delivers a noiseless sound replication. This microphone also features a pre-attenuation pad and highpass filter switches, providing users with better input control for easier mixing and mastering.
Moreover, the AKG constructed the C451 B using an all-metal body, reducing RF interference for crystal clear results. This feature also delivers incredible durability, making it suitable for a touring drummer’s kit.
- 20Hz-20,000Hz Frequency Response
- Preattenuation Pad Switch
- Highpass mic filter
- 3-pin XLR connectivity
- Cardioid pattern
This drum overhead mic is perfect for both studio and live settings. It also features switches that allow users to fully customize their input for better audio results.
The microphone’s highpass filter and pre-attenuation pad switches make it fairly difficult to operate if you’re a beginner. It also requires a phantom power— which you can also find in an interface for recording drums.
Rode NT5 – Matched Pair
If you record your drums using a stereo mic setting, you’ll love the Rode NT5! Firstly, the NT5 features a matched stereo pair design without costing more than a single condenser. That’s why the NT5 is one of the best drum overhead mics below $500.
Secondly, the Rode NT5 utilizes a small-diaphragm cardioid with a ½” capsule. This feature makes the NT5 ideal for capturing the details of cymbals and drums. In addition, Rode also implements an active J-FET impedance converter, providing users with a clearer signal.
Lastly, the NT5 dishes out a flat frequency response that enables them to replicate various frequencies from violins to drums. That’s what makes this microphone pair a highly versatile studio microphone for drummers.
- ½” gold-sputtered capsules
- Satin Nickel-plated body
- Free Mounting Accessories for a Drummer Mic Stand
- Full frequency response
- Tight cardioid pickup pattern
These matched pair microphones are highly durable and versatile pieces of musical equipment. Rode equipped the NT5 with features that allow them to record most instruments. Not to mention, its tight cardioid pickup pattern allows users to utilize these mics in filmmaking and voice recording.
The included Rode NT5 carrying case doesn’t have ample room for additional accessories, such as cables and adapters.
AKG Pro Audio C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone, Matched Pair
The AKG Pro-Audio C214 features a specification that peeks right through the domain of professional microphones without costing as much. That’s why if you’re in the market looking for the best bang-for-the-buck drum overhead mics, you’re in the right place!
AKG constructed the C214 with a 1” capsule mounted on a suspension system, eliminating unwanted noise in the process. In addition, thanks to its built-in attenuation pad, the AKG C214 is capable of recording high-SPL sources up to 156dB.
Furthermore, the AKG C214 comes with a bass-cut filter. Thus, allowing users to record instruments nearby without any adverse effects to sound quality.
- C414 dual-capsule system
- 20Hz up to 20,000Hz
- Custom back-plate technology
- 20dB Switchable Attenuation Pad
- 1” capsule
- Low-cut switch
The AKG Pro Audio C214 comes with a spider-type shock mount that eliminates noises from vibrations. Moreover, the mic’s integrated suspension further reduces the mechanical noise. What makes it better is it features high-end materials minus the hefty price tag.
AKG based this microphone set on the AKG C414 XLII ST Matched Pair. Therefore, this means that this microphone will not feature other high-end specifications that professionals would be expecting on a mic.
Neumann KM 184— The Best Drum Overhead Mics for Universal Use
The Neumann KM 184 features a small diaphragm that’s perfect for both studio and live performances. Regardless of your recording needs, these highly versatile paired microphones from Neumann are perfect for you!
The Neumann KM 184 features a high SPL capacity of up to 138dB, which makes it suitable for noisy stages and instruments. In addition, it also comes with a FET100 transformerless circuitry and cardioid mic pattern, providing users with a noiseless performance.
Furthermore, the Neumann KM 184 captures an incredible level of detail than entry and intermediate microphones. Not only this microphone pair is perfect for overhead recordings, but it’s also suitable with a hi-hat and snare drums.
- Cardioid pickup pattern
- 20Hz-20,000Hz Frequency Range
- 138dB SPL overload threshold
- FET100 Transsformerless Circuitry
- Nickel finish
The KM 184’s construction features a specification that delivers a clear and noiseless performance without coloration. Aside from being a great studio microphone, its high overload threshold also makes it a great stage drum overhead mic. The KM 184 is also suitable with most instruments, such as acoustic guitars and even a Cajon drum set.
Although this product is one of the best drum overhead mics for all-around use, it’s also the most expensive offering on this list.
Things to Consider When Buying the Best Drum Overhead Mics— A Buyer’s Guide
The overall sound of your cymbals and drums would boil down to the quality of your drum overhead mic. In this light, buyers should get the best drum overhead mics that they can afford.
However, finding the best microphones in the market is easier said than done. Therefore, I crafted this buyer’s guide to help you find the best drum overhead mics that’s suitable for your needs.
Dynamic vs. Condenser Microphones
When buying microphones, buyers may get easily confused between dynamic and condenser microphones. That’s why let’s dive into the nitty-gritty of these two microphone styles.
To put it simply, a dynamic microphone works similarly to condenser microphones— it utilizes a coil or wire that vibrates along an instrument’s frequency. Subsequently, a microphone translates this into electric signals that amplifiers, PA systems, and drum interfaces can understand.
However, a dynamic microphone’s capability is more of a “contact microphone” style of capturing audio. This means that the audio source should be near the microphone to get the best audio replication possible. That’s why dynamic microphones are perfect for capturing sound from amplifiers, snares, and toms.
Conversely, a condenser microphone features low-mass diaphragms that are extremely sensitive. In addition, condenser microphones feature a better frequency and transient response than dynamic microphones. This equips the former with better sensitivity which allows them to record sound at a distance compared to the latter.
Therefore, if you’re looking for the best drum overhead mics, you’ll have to find condenser microphones.
Frequency Response and SPL Threshold
A microphone comes with a specific frequency response and SPL threshold. Frequency response is the gauge to know how much frequency can a microphone reproduce. In addition, this also contributes to the level of sound quality it can capture and replicate. Therefore, I recommend users get a microphone with a frequency response of between 20Hz and 20,000Hz (20KHz).
Furthermore, we all know that drums are extremely loud. The sound that a drumkit produces is enough to anger an apartment neighbor if you do not have a soundproof drum room. In this light, a microphone will capture all the noise within a recording booth or live performance if doesn’t have the ample SPL threshold. When finding the best drum overhead mics, I recommend buyers find a maximum SPL threshold of 130dB or more.
Additional Mounting Kit
Like all microphones, a drum overhead mic would require drummers to mount them on a drummer mic stand. To fully utilize a drum mic, buyers should look for offers that come with free mounting kits, such as clips and spider-type shock mounts. This will help buyers save money on buying additional mounting kits for a drummer mic stand.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Best Drum Overhead Mics
What is a good overhead drum mic?
A good drum overhead mic will have at least a frequency response between 20Hz and 20,000Hz. In addition, it should possess a considerable maximum SPL threshold of at least 130dB or even more. For stereo drum recordings, a good drum overhead mic should be paired.
Here are 7 of the Best Drum Overhead Mics you can get today:
- Behringer C-2 2 Matched Studio Condenser Microphones
- Audio-Technica AT2021 Cardioid Condenser Microphone
- Rode M5 Compact ½” Matched Condenser Microphone
- AKG C 451 B Small-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
- Rode NT5- Matched Pair Condenser Microphone
- AKG Pro Audio C214 Professional Large-Diaphragm Condenser Microphone
- Neumann KM 184 Stereo Set Cardioid Microphone
Do I need drum overhead mics for drums?
When miking up a drumkit, each drum would have its microphone. On the other hand, a drum overhead mic is the one responsible for the miking of cymbals. Still, it’s an understatement to simply call a drum overhead mic a cymbal mic.
These microphones serve as a “glue” when recording drumkits. In this light, they also record the subtleties of drums as much as they capture the details of cymbals. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a drum overhead mic when recording drums.
What mics are used for overhead
Having a condenser microphone as a drum overhead mic is a must. Firstly, condenser mics have a wider frequency response than dynamic microphones. That’s why they are more sensitive than dynamic mics. Secondly, condenser microphones allow drummers to capture their sound from a distance— which they can experiment with depending on the sound they are chasing.
How do you mic overhead drums?
When miking up a drumkit using overhead drums, each microphone placement will provide users with a specific sound.
A higher drum overhead mic placement will provide a balanced sound between cymbals and drums. On the other hand, a lower drum overhead mic placement will provide users with better emphasis on the cymbals. Moreover, the farther the microphones are from each other, the more “stereo” a sound is going to be.
Drummers can also use the X/Y configuration where two microphone condensers face each other closely at a 90-degree angle. This microphone placement results in a more focused stereo sound.
On the other hand, you could also go with an ORTF placement which is the converse of the X/Y configuration. Here, you’ll have to place your mic close to each other but in the other direction at a 110-degree angle positioned 17cm apart. These microphone specs provide users with the same stereo sound but with enhanced mono capabilities.
How many drum overhead mics does a drum have?
There is no general rule when it comes to the amount of drum overhead mic you can use. You can experiment with any number of drum mics as long as they sound good. However, it’s better to have at least 2 drum overhead mics if you want a decent sound.
Enjoy the Best Drum Overhead Mics!
In conclusion, a drum overhead mic is a crucial component of a drum mic kit. Not only do they allow drummers to mic up their cymbals, but they also allow stereo recordings. Therefore, buyers must find the best drum overhead mics that will fit their budget and needs.
If you have the budget for the best-sounding drum overhead mic, you’ll be better off with the Neumann K-184. Conversely, if you’re on a budget, I would suggest you get the Rode M5 microphone pair.
Hopefully, this guide has been helpful in your quest on finding an overhead microphone. If you enjoyed reading through this guide, make sure to also check our other articles by clicking here!
With over 30 years of experience, drumming has been a huge part of Joe’s life. He has experienced every stage of drumming imaginable – from playing in my parents’ garage, to playing local venues and to doing national tours.
Today, Joe tutor kids on how to play drums and shares all the things he has learned about drumming to all of BasicDrummer readers. He also reviews the best drums and gadgets not only for kids but also for beginners as well.