9 Best Drum Overhead Mics 2022

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Best Drum Overhead Mics

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If you’re looking to get drum microphones, the most important ones to get first are your overheads. These mics will pick up the overall sound of your drums, and they’ll set the tone for what your drum mix will sound like.

Choosing overheads can be a bit daunting with so many options available, so here’s a list of some recommended picks to make things a bit easier.

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Shure KSM137 – Best Overall

Shure KSM137

The Shure KSM137 Microphones (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are undoubtedly one of the best matched pairs on the market. While these things aren’t cheap, they’re a lot more affordable than the top-tier microphones out there, yet they act very similarly.

There are so many features to mention about these mics that make them as good as they are, and all the features work together wonderfully to make these work brilliantly as overhead drum mics.

My favorite feature is the transformerless preamp in each mic. It gives the microphones a very fast transient response, and that makes them sound extremely clear. It also stops them from distorting.

The mics also have 3-position pads that allow you to adjust the SPL depending on what instrument you’re using. When you use these as drum overhead mics, I’d suggest switching the pads to the -25dB setting.

The mics also have 3-position highpass filter switches that eliminate vibration sounds from your stands. These are very useful for busy environments on live stages.

The final thing worth mentioning is that the mics have gold-layered Mylar diaphragms that further boost the transient response, but they also feel incredibly solid. They give you a good sense of stability and durability.

Overall, the Shure KSM137s are some of the most reliable overhead microphones you can get.

Polar pattern: Cardioid

Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz

Max SPL: 159dB

Weight: 0.22 lbs.

Earthworks SR25 – Premium Option

Earthworks SR25

The Earthworks SR25 Microphones (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are some of the highest-tier drum mics that hundreds of drummers are using at the moment. Earthworks have taken the world by storm in recent years, and these mics have become extremely popular as overhead options.

The most impressive thing about them is the accuracy that they deliver. They’re incredibly detailed, and they tend to give you the exact sound that you hear in person from your drums. This makes them very easy to work with, and it allows you to get a high-quality mix that you wouldn’t be able to get with most of the other mics on this list.

The frequency response is very flat, and that’s what makes the mics sound so natural. It’s also what makes them so easy to work with when mixing.

These microphones also do an excellent job of rejecting bleeding sounds that may come from other instruments around you. This makes them a great choice to use for live gigs. However, I’ve found that most drummers prefer to use them as studio recording options.

They’re very expensive compared to all the other options I’ve listed, but the quality that they bring to the table easily justifies their high price tag. A lot of drummers never turn back after trying these mics out as overheads.

Polar pattern: Cardioid

Frequency response: 50Hz – 25kHz

Max SPL: 145dB

Weight: 0.35 lbs.

Behringer C-2 – Best Budget Option

Behringer C-2

The Behringer C-2 Microphones (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are some of the most popular condenser microphones on the market. The big reason for this is that they’re some of the most affordable microphones available.

Even though they’re very cheap, they do a great job of picking up all your drum sounds and giving you a good platform to mix from.

The sounds aren’t as transparent and accurate as what the other mics on this list give you, but they’re good enough for me to suggest these mics to any beginner or drummer looking for the cheapest option possible.

These mics are very small, and they’re surprisingly well-built. You’ll have no issues if you drop them or hit them a few times with your sticks.

You just need to know that these mics won’t make your drums sound good from the get-go. You’ll have plenty of work to do when mixing, and that often gives people the impression that these mics sound bad.

The clips that come with the mics are also fairly wonky compared to the solid clips you get with higher-priced mics. You’re getting what you pay for, though, and I’d say that the C-2 mics are a bargain considering the fact that you can get amazing drum sounds with a bit of work.

Polar pattern: Cardioid

Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz

Max SPL: 140dB

Weight: 0.2 lbs.

sE Electronics sE7

sE Electronics sE7

The sE Electronics sE7 Microphones (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are amazing value mics that won’t set you back much, but they’ll give you amazing sound and build quality. They’re one of my favorite matched pairs of overhead mics, purely due to the price-to-value that you get when you buy them.

They have very thin diaphragms that give them an excellent transient response, and they have very low self-noise, thanks to the intuitive internal circuitry. That basically means that you won’t be fighting humming sounds with these mics when you’re recording and mixing.

They come with built-in switchable 20dB pads, which I’d say are essential for recording drums with. Having the higher SPL handling makes them able to take on the heaviest of drummers with no signs of distortion at all.

They also have switchable highpass filters to cut out any low-frequency rumbling that you may hear. Those two switch features are incredibly useful when it comes to setting these up as drum overheads.

Something to note is that these mics are quite long. A lot of pencil condensers are relatively small, so you may be surprised by their length. It will only affect you if you have weak microphone stands, though. Otherwise, the extra length and weight won’t be an issue.

Overall, the sE7s are solid microphones that work equally well in live and stage settings.

Polar pattern: Cardioid

Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz

Max SPL: 156dB

Weight: 0.28 lbs.

Rode NT5

Rode NT5

The Rode NT5 Microphones (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) have been popular overhead drum microphone options for decades. These things have stood the test of time, and they remain just as competitive in the market as they did when they were released.

They offer everything you need from a good pair of overhead drum mics. I love their balanced sound from the flat frequency response. It makes them easy to work with, but you’ll also find that they have a bit of a low-frequency dip in certain areas. It gives unique sounds from your bass drum and floor tom if you don’t close-mic them.

The other thing to mention about these mics is that they’re very small. They’re advertised as compact microphones, and they’re one of the most compact matched pairs on this list. This means that you can comfortably place them anywhere in your setup without worrying about cymbals getting in the way.

They come with foam windshields as most matched pairs do, but I particularly love how these sound with those windshields attached.

These mics are quite a bit more expensive than the sE7s, but you’ll also notice a huge upgrade in quality compared to those. The thing that surprises me the most is just how much quality Rode has put into mics that are so small.

Polar pattern: Cardioid

Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz

Max SPL: 143dB

Weight: 0.22 lbs.

Samson C02

Samson C02

The Samson C02 Microphones (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) are another highly affordable option to consider.

These mics aren’t as popular as the Behringer C-2s due to them being about double the price. However, they’re still a fraction of the price of all the other high-quality mics on this list. I personally prefer them over the C-2s, and I think they’re worth spending a bit extra on.

These microphones sit on the brighter side compared to all the mics that we’ve looked at so far. They make your drums and cymbals sound a lot more lively compared to the flat sounds that the other mics give you. Not every drummer is a fan of that, but you can also do a bit of tweaking in the mix to bring the lows up a bit.

What I love about these mics are their durability and weight. They’re cheap microphones, but they feel a lot more rigid than the Behringer C-2s, and that gives you the impression that their quality is a lot better.

These mics also work brilliantly as hi-hat mics, so it’s a good idea to get these when you want affordable overheads and then use one as a hi-hat mic when you eventually get better overheard mics somewhere down the line.

I’d suggest closely looking at these and the Behringer C-2s to see which mics you prefer.

Polar pattern: Cardioid

Frequency response: 50Hz – 20kHz

Max SPL: 134dB

Weight: 0.37 lbs.

Audix ADX51

Audix ADX51

The Audix ADX51 Microphone (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is a great high-quality condenser to get as a single option to consider. Unfortunately, you can’t find these being sold as a matched pair very easily, but that helps if you’re just looking for one condenser mic to purchase.

This ADX51 works very well in a single-mic setup, especially if you have a bass drum mic to fill in the low-end kicks as well. I know a lot of jazz guys to record drums like that, and this would be one of my top options if I had to as well.

However, you’ll get the clearest and most authentic drum sound if you buy two of these to use as a matched pair. They’ll make the drums sound incredibly clear and strong, and the cymbals tend to sound very crisp when using these together.

The standout part of this mic is that it reacts very quickly to high transients at high sound pressure levels. That makes the mic very reactive, which is a fantastic quality to have.

Another thing to mention about this mic is that it’s a lot lighter than it looks. You may expect it to feel quite heavy, but you’ll be surprised when you pick it up. It’s still very durable, though, so don’t let the lighter weight fool you.

Polar pattern: Cardioid

Frequency response: 40Hz – 18kHz

Max SPL: 132dB

Weight: 0.41 lbs.

AKG C214

AKG C214

The AKG C214 Microphone (compare price on Sweetwater and Amazon) is another fantastic option if you’re looking to just buy a single microphone. This one is a large-diaphragm mic, meaning it has a larger body and a huge dynamic range.

This mic is inspired by AKG’s popular C414. It shares many of the same features, but it comes at a much more affordable price. A lot of people use it as a vocal mic, but it works brilliantly as a drum overhead as well.

You can either use a single C214, or you can buy a second one to create a matched pair. I love how this mic sounds when using a single one, but you’ll find mixing and EQing to be a bit easier when using two.

Large-diaphragm mics wouldn’t be my first suggestion for live gigging, but this one is definitely the exception. It has such a durable body, and it’s been kitted with a scratch-resistant finish, along with a dent-resistant grille. This means that it can take on most things and come out just fine.

This mic performs even better in studios than on live stages, though. Your drums will come out sounding great, and you’ll only need to do a few tweaks here and there to get them to sound even better.

Polar pattern: Cardioid

Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz

Max SPL: 156dB

Weight: 0.62 lbs.

Audio-Technica AT4041

Audio-Technica AT4041

The Audio-Technica AT4041 Microphones are my final suggestion, and these are another high-tier option to use in any kind of professional setting. These are technically intermediate mics, but they produce pro-level audio.

Their smooth frequency response and high SPL handling make them ideal mics for using as overheads. They make your drums sound incredibly crisp and clean, and they easily bring out all the subtle nuances that you may play around the kit.

I found them to compete quite closely with the Earthworks SR25 mics. While those are the clear winner, these mics come very close, and they’re less than half the price. Now, that’s value for money!

These mics are also very light compared to many other options on this list, but they feel durable enough to take the force of multiple stick strikes over time.

Audio-Technica is an amazing audio brand that I mostly know for making great headphones. These microphones remind me of those, as they’re built wonderfully, and they radiate quality.

If none of the matched pairs of mics I mentioned before these suit your tastes, these just may be the option for you. They even come in an awesome wooden box. It’s the best microphone case out of every option on this list.

Polar pattern: Cardioid

Frequency response: 20Hz – 20kHz

Max SPL: 145dB

Weight: 0.26 lbs.

What To Look For In an Overhead Drum Mic

Single vs Matched Mics

When looking at drum sets that have microphones set up around them, you’ll mostly see setups where there are two overhead mics. However, it’s not entirely necessary to have two overheads every time.

In some situations, you can use a single overhead and still get a good drum sound. It just depends on what overhead you’re using for that. Large-diaphragm condensers tend to work the best, as they have a wider pickup range.

Buying a single overhead is a good way of saving money, as you can get a higher-quality microphone for the same price as a lower-quality matched pair.

However, you’ll have an easier time getting a good drum mix if you use a matched pair, and a matched pair will give you a clearer picture of your drums in most settings. So, you should get a matched pair if you don’t want to deal with the struggles that come with only using a single overhead microphone.

Dynamic vs Condenser Mics

When choosing overhead microphones, it’s best to look for condenser mics. They’re more expensive than their dynamic counterparts, but they work a lot better in overhead placements than dynamic mics do.

Dynamic microphones pick up sound from a single direction, whereas condenser microphones have wider pickup patterns. You’ll hear more from your drums with condensers than you will with dynamic mics.

The downsides are that condenser microphones are more expensive. They also require phantom power to work. Those are two things that you need to keep in mind when making a buying decision.

Thankfully, you get a lot of matched condenser pairs being sold together, whereas you don’t see that happening with dynamic microphones.

If you have dynamic microphones already, you can get away with using them as overheads, but you’ll get a better-sounding mix with condenser mics. So, you should save up for a pair and then use your dynamic microphones as close mics for the snare and toms.

Sound Pressure Levels

All microphones have a maximum sound pressure level. This refers to how much volume the microphones can take before they start distorting and sounding ugly. When looking for drum kit mics, you need to get ones with very high SPL levels.

Drum kits can produce up to 130 decibels, so you need to get microphones with SPL numbers that are higher than 130.

All the microphones that I’ve listed above have high SPL ratings, so you’ll be safe with any of them, but keep this aspect in mind if you choose to get other microphones to use as overheads.

Condenser microphones with small diaphragms tend to have the highest SPL handlings, whereas large-diaphragm condensers have slightly lower SPL handlings.

Body Shapes

As I mentioned earlier, you get two main body shapes for overhead drum microphones. The small, thin, and long ones are called pencil condensers, while the bulky ones are called large-diaphragm mics.

Apart from the SPL handling difference, the biggest difference between these two types of microphones is the way that you position them.

Small pencil condensers are very easy to place around your cymbals and on a stage. They don’t take up much room, and you can maneuver them to fit almost anywhere.

Large-diaphragm microphones are a bit trickier to manage, as their bulky frames make them difficult to position in tight areas. You won’t often find this being an issue, though. I’ve only ever had issues in very small venues with low roofs.

The other thing to mention is that large-diaphragm mics are heavier, making them more challenging to transport around.

Those differences aren’t significant enough to make any difference, though, so you should choose the best mics for you, no matter their body shape.

Polar Pattern

The polar pattern refers to how microphones pick up sound waves. The commonly found polar patterns with microphones are cardioid, supercardioid, omnidirectional, hypercardioid, ultradirectional, and figure eight.

When it comes to drum kit overhead mics, you’ll mostly want to look for ones that have a cardioid pickup pattern. These cardioid microphones typically have frequency ranges of 20Hz to 20kHz, which is ideal for drum kits.

Drum mics need to have wide frequency ranges so that they can accurately pick up all the lows, mids, and highs from the drums and cymbals.

Supercardioid microphones tend to work quite well as overheads too, but every single mic I suggested above has a cardioid pickup pattern. It’s the safest bet to go with.

Build Quality

Build quality is another aspect of microphones that you should always look into before buying them. You should check what the diaphragms are made of and see how durable the microphones are.

Drum microphones need to be the most durable mics, as there’s always the potential of you hitting them with sticks accidentally. There’s nothing worse than buying an expensive piece of gear just to have it break after.

So, make sure that you’re getting solid microphones. The best way of getting reliable mics is to get them from popular brands that are highly established.

You should also check for various build features in the mics. Some mics have switchable dB pads to raise the SPL handling when you need to, while others have other features that alter the pickup pattern somehow.

Weight

Weight is a fairly minor feature to look out for, but it’s something that can make a difference if you plan on hitting the road with your overhead mics.

Most condenser mics range from 0.2 lbs. to 0.8lbs. This weight gets affected by how heavy the bag or case is that holds the condenser mics.

Large-diaphragm mics are always the heaviest options, especially if you have a matched pair of them. Pencil condensers are very light, so they’re the easiest to travel with.

You should also consider all your other microphones and how heavy they are. That may just affect which overhead mics you choose for your kit.

Sound Quality

The sound quality of microphones is determined by all the aspects I’ve mentioned above. The SPL handling, pickup pattern, frequency response, and overall build quality will affect how good the overhead mics sound when recording your drums.

If you’re new to using drum mics, you won’t be able to distinctly hear how one mic is better than another. The skills come with time, but that’s why I suggest newer drummers only get affordable drum mics.

The better the sound quality is of a mic, the easier your drums will be to mix. However, it’s good for new drummers to learn how to mix properly, so that’s another reason why getting affordable mics is a better option.

If you’re experienced with microphones and mixing, you should aim to get the best overhead microphones that you can.

Drum Mics vs General Mics

You’ll find that some microphones are advertised as drum kit mics, while others are advertised for a variety of purposes. This may seem confusing at times, but most condenser microphones can work fairly well as overhead drum mics.

The audio companies just know which features are best suited for drum kits, so they advertise their mics with those features for drummers.

Most other condenser mics won’t have anything related to drumming in their names, though, as they’re meant to be used on a wide variety of instruments.

If you’re not sure what to get, getting dedicated drum mics will be your best option. If you have a bit of microphone knowledge, then you may find a better deal with multi-purpose microphones that can work well as overheads.

Price

Microphones have two extremes when it comes to pricing. Some matched pairs don’t cost much more than a good t-shirt, while other matched pairs cost as much as an entire professional drum set.

If you’re a beginner player, you’ll have no problem with the most affordable overhead mic options. They’ll serve you very well for a few years.

If you’re more experienced, you should look for something a lot better, but I don’t suggest spending thousands of dollars on overhead mics.

I’d only recommend those top-tier microphones to studio producers who know exactly what they’re doing at all times.

You’ll find all the best and most loved microphones only costing a few hundred dollars.

Best Overhead Drum Mic Brands

There are dozens of excellent audio brands out there. However, there are a few specific ones that most drummers gravitate toward. All these brands sell microphones that tend to work very well for drum kits, whether that’s in studios or on live stages.

Shure

Shure is an incredibly popular audio brand, especially due to their SM57 mics being one of the industry-standard drum kit options. They also sell excellent condenser mics that work as overheads.

The KSM137 microphones were the top option on the above list. So, Shure is undoubtedly one of the best brands to check out.

Audix

Audix is often seen as a competing brand to Shure when it comes to drum kit microphones. Many of the brand’s mics have very high SPL ratings, making them work wonderfully for drum sets.

When it comes to overhead mics, the brand only has a few appropriate options, but they all sound amazing.

Earthworks

Earthworks is one of the leading microphone brands in the world at the moment, especially among drummers. The brand mainly offers luxury microphones that are more expensive than the common choices in the market.

With that being said, you’ll get some of the best drum sounds you’ve ever had with Earthworks overhead mics, so they’re well worth the higher prices.

Behringer

Behringer is a fantastic brand to consider if you want affordable microphones. The brand has a large range of high-quality mixers and interfaces, but many of their mics are aimed at budget buyers.

It’s a good brand to consider if you’re buying overhead drum mics for the first time. You won’t spend too much, and you’ll get a good feel for how they work with your kit.

sE Electronics

sE Electronics is the final brand to mention that drummers tend to love. The brand has a strong collection of drum kit microphones, and all of them are very easy to work with.

There are two or three overhead mic options, but the sE7s are undoubtedly the most popular. They give you a general feel for how all the other mic options from the brand perform.

Top Drum Overhead Mics, Final Thoughts

The best way to get a reliable set of overhead microphones is to choose a matched pair from a trusted brand. The other option is to get a single condenser mic that has a wide enough pickup range for your whole kit. It should also be from a trusted brand.

You can get a decent drum mix with only overheads, and that’s why they’re the most important microphones in your setup.

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