Mono Drum Mic Fun and Games

Got my grubby mitts on a handful of very nice microphones for the evening, and I thought I’d do a quick test using each as a single front-of-kit mic to get a feel for them. I placed all four mics in roughly the same spot about five feet from the front of kit. Not super realistic in that I didn’t mess around to try to find optimum placement—just plopped them down. I’m simply looking for general mic characteristics here.

All mics except the Royer used a cardioid pattern. The Royer, for obvious reasons, used a figure 8.

Observations:

1.) Jesus, I’m a terrible drummer.

2.) Royer R-121 –Very dark mic. The cymbals sound smooth, but too dark. Probably work great with A-series or something brighter, but with the K-series cymbals on the kit, it’s just too dark. Heard a lot of people suggest using a pair as overheads, but I don’t think that would work out too well with my room and kit. The hi-hat kind is kind of subdued in mix, which might not be a bad thing under certain circumstances. Overall, the mic is a little trashy-sounding, possibly because the back lobe of the the figure 8 is getting the bounce off the back wall. Also a little boomy. It would be interesting to try this on toms, except one hit with a drumstick would kill it. The manual suggests trying it on kick drum, which might be cool.

3.) Blue Kiwi – Holy hell, this sounded terrible. No bottom end at all, and just a bunch of bright crap on the top. Thin and bright and awful. Only picks up the click off the kick. Useless in mix. Does horrifying things to emphasize the hi-hat. Where the hell is everything below 500 Hz on this mic??? I have no idea what I would ever use this for on a drum kit. The ride cymbal sounds kind of nice, actually. I give the ride cymbal more credit for that than the microphone.

I’ve used a Kiwi on vocal tracks before and really liked it, but either they were very specific vocalists, I didn’t know what I was listening for, or the particular mic I have tonight is fucked up. Yikes.

4.) Wunder CM67 – Wow. Even I can’t screw up using this thing. This is the kind of mic you don’t know you’re missing until you first hear it in action, and then your eyes light up. Amazing body without losing the highs. Huge balls, nice smooth top without being too dark. Just awesome across the whole spectrum. The only bad thing I can say about it is that it reveals just how unbelievably shitty my snare is. Sounds great in mix (the mic, not the snare). The balance and the overall sound is so good that I would have no trouble using it as the sole drum mic on a song. I have no idea how it compares to a vintage Neumann U67, but it sounds so good I don’t even care.

5.) Neumann U87Ai – Hmm. I used to think this was the bee’s knees, and it’s still pretty good, but the trouble is that comparing it to the CM67 is just plain mean. It sounds a little brighter on top than the CM67, but not in a particularly good way. When comparing sloppy hi-hat 16ths, the U87 sounds a bit brittle. The big difference, though, is in the bottom and low mids. The CM67 sounds full and round, and there’s something missing in the U87 down there. Might be able to improve that somewhat by moving the mic around or eq’ing it, but maybe not. The differences are not subtle. I did several blind tests of the two at as close as I could get to identical levels, and I never got it wrong.

I’d post audio, but I’m such an ungodly awful drummer it would be humiliating. If I try any of these on a guitar cab, maybe I’ll put up something then.


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