Good quality overhead mics can make a massive difference to sound quality, both live and in the studio. You can even get away with a very minimal mic setup if the overheads are of good quality and well-positioned.
Overhead mics stand out for drums because of the positioning they are designed for, especially the condenser types. They ensure you can pick up the overall sound of your cymbals and drums.
My top recommended overhead drum mic is the Neumann KM 184. A low-noise mic of great quality that offers superb level stability.
My second recommended overhead drum mic is the Rode M5-MP Matched, this is a great option for those on a budget.
- The 7 Best Overhead Drum Mics (2023)
- 1. Neumann KM 184 Small Diaphragm
- 2. Rode M5-MP Matched
- 3. AKG C 451 B
- 4. Behringer C2 Condenser Microphones
- 5. Shure KSM137/SL Stereo
- 6. sE Electronics SE8 Stereo Set
- 7. Rode NT5 MP
- What Kind of Microphones are used for Drum Overheads?
- What Polar Pattern Work Best for Overheads
- Overhead Mic Placements
- Why are Matched Microphones Important for Overhead Drums?
The 7 Best Overhead Drum Mics (2023)
Let’s compare these in more detail.
1. Neumann KM 184 Small Diaphragm
Georg Neumann is the forefather of today’s condenser microphone. But in addition to the U87, U89, M 149 Tube, TLM 103, and a few other treasures in the current range, the non-modular KM-180 series is particularly popular. The KM 184 cardioid microphone is often used in miking studio drums, but it can also be seen on stages.
- Good level stability
- Low noise
- Signals can be well-shaped
- No switches for lowcut filter or pad
The KM184 gives records quality audio, which can be shaped excellently. In the bass range, the microphone shows a roll-off, which starts around 100 Hz and reaches -3 dB attenuation at around 80 Hz. At 20 Hz the level loss is around 10 dB.
Both the KM 184 and KM 183 are well processed and deliver very professional, low-noise signals that are very useful in every drum situation.
2. Rode M5-MP Matched
The M5-MP from Rode is a good option for those that are on a budget, but that still want decent quality overheads for their drums.
- Good price-performance ratio
- For use in studios, rehearsal rooms, and on stages
- Decent sound
- Sound not as good as some of the more expensive ones on this list.
- Doesn’t include switches for the filter or pad.
These are a nice compact set of matched overheads that punch well above their weight in this price range, that said they certainly don’t match the sound quality of the Neumann KM 184 or the AKG 451s.
Overall, if you want a budget-friendly yet quality set of overhead mics, this matched pair will do wonders for you.
3. AKG C 451 B
The C451 B from the Austrian manufacturer AKG is another option for overhead drum mics. They record a very balanced, neutral sound that is easy to process. These are also the first set of mics on this list to include a pad and filter switches.
- Natural, balanced sound
- Filter and pad switches
- Clear and open sound with no harshness
- Not that versatile
- There are better options for a similar price
The AKG C451 B is a well-rounded microphone that offers a clear and very open sound while eliminating any harsh elements. The main drawback would probably be its features as it probably lacks the versatility compared to other mics.
This quality nickel-plated mic is a good choice for a moderate price, however, there are slightly better options out there for a similar price.
4. Behringer C2 Condenser Microphones
As you would have guessed if you’ve checked the price, no special feature whatsoever is to be expected with these microphones. However, they can do the basics quite well when it comes to overhead miking.
- Very affordable price
- Ideal for multiple applications outside of drumming
- The sound quality doesn’t match more expensive pro mics on this list
If you also want to use the filters, you have to make a decision: Pad and HPF cannot be selected at the same time. It’s not the first microphone I’ve seen this on, but it’s not ideal. Especially in the near field of sound sources, I would like to be able to use both at the same time. That said, in this price range, you can certainly live without it!
This is truly a low-budget option but one to consider if you’re running on a really tight budget and can’t spend any more.
5. Shure KSM137/SL Stereo
The KSM137 Stereo has almost everything you need out of an overhead mic set. It includes a good quality matched pair of overhead mics, as well as a mic adapter for proper stereo positioning, windscreens, mic mounts, and a good quality carry case.
- Includes all necessary accessories
- Filter and pad switches
- Low noise
- Robust construction
- A bit pricey
- Slight loss of bottom end
If you want to change the angle, it is easy to just twist the microphone holder. Then, pull the microphones out a little further or push them back.
If you listen to the Shure KSM137 in idle mode, you can see that the noise is pleasantly low. It’s a versatile mic to have in the studio.
6. sE Electronics SE8 Stereo Set
The sE Electronics sE8 is a great stereo pair to consider. They are small-diaphragm condenser mics with surprisingly high performance that offer so much for their given price.
- Clean and crisp sound
- Great response
- Huge dynamic range and SPL handling
- Quality build
- A bit pricey
- No changeable capsules
These stereo mics allow for a very clear and crisp sound and a shockingly high dynamic range with great SPL handling. With sturdy construction, you cannot find much wrong apart from the lack of changeable capsules.
Overall, you get your money’s worth with this stereo pair and many great features as well as a balanced and clear sound.
7. Rode NT5 MP
The last entry on the list is another Rode product, this time the NT-5 matched pair. It’s no surprise that Rode mics are becoming extremely popular in the music world, much like the first Rode entry, this one is also quite popular.
- Easy to setup
- Great sound recording and production
- Very durable build
- No pad
- No high-pass polarity switch
The NT-5 matched pair are very user-friendly and quite easy to set up. The level of sound quality is superb for both producing and recording sound. Additionally, the build quality is very durable so longevity is not a problem here.
With no pad and no high-pass polarity switch, it does lack features, however, it is still a great option to consider.
What Kind of Microphones are used for Drum Overheads?
A matched pair of cardioid condenser microphones are typically used for drum overheads, which allows you to get a more detailed stereo sound recording with good sound quality. When using condenser mics, you have to apply acoustic treatment to your room as much as possible as they will bring in sound reflections and background noises in the room.
What Polar Pattern Work Best for Overheads
Unidirectional polar patterns such as cardioids are outrightly the best for overheads. All my picks are cardioids. They are the best for drum overheads as they capture the noise from below and block most of the sound from other directions.
Overhead Mic Placements
There are different mic placement techniques for drum overhead. These include the spaced condensers, ORTF technique, XY technique, and Glyn Johns technique. Read our guide on how to record drums for more information about these. Also, if you’re looking to get a full set of drum mics, then check out our guide on the best drum mic kits.
Why are Matched Microphones Important for Overhead Drums?
You’ll get the most accurate results with two matched mics than with a pair of unmatched ones. Matched pairs of microphones produce the best stereo sound. They will give you the most accurate results as they minimize phase issues. Phase issues can cause issues such as “comb filtering” noises, which are not welcome when you’re looking for a quality recording.
dB switchable pads are a good criterion to consider while choosing. A dB pad reduces the sound from the mic to your interface and is good for loud sound sources. Not all condenser microphones come with them, but you’ll find these in the AKG C 451 B, Behringer C-2, and the Shure KSM137/SL.
Drum overhead microphones need phantom power, which is needed to power your condenser mic. You need a mixer or audio interface with phantom power for condenser mics.
Overhead mics handle frequencies and polish the sound to your liking. A full frequency response is just as important as the polar pattern on the mic. The frequency range is a good thing to keep in mind when selecting an overhead mic.
Overhead mics are a huge part of the studio as well as live performances, particularly for drummers. They can make a significant difference to stage vocals, acoustic guitars, and other elements so choose the best drum overhead mics. The above list offers budget-friendly options as well as more expensive options, there is something for every type of drum kit.
My top pick as the best overhead drum mic is the Neumann KM 184 Small Diaphragm. With this small-diaphragm condenser mic, you will get splendid signals of professional quality, which can be shaped excellently.
My budget pick is the Rode M5-MP Matched, which offers very decent sound quality and punches well above its weight in its price range.