Putting two overhead microphones over your drum kit as overheads is the best way of getting a full drum kit sound. Next to a kick drum mic, these are your most important mics to have. Many drummers even stick with only that 3-mic setup.
So, choosing a good pair of overheads is vital in getting a good drum mix. Thankfully, there are dozens of matched microphones to pick from.
All of them offer various qualities that suit certain instruments, so we’ve picked out the best ones for drum kits. We’ve listed our top favorite ones, along with a few popular options that the drumming community collectively loves.
- 1 Top 3 Overhead Mics for Drums
- 2 Overhead Mic Reviews
- 3 How to Choose the Right Overhead Mics for Your Drums
- 4 Final Thoughts
Top 3 Overhead Mics for Drums
The Earthworks SR25 Matched Microphones are our Top Pick Winner. Earthworks microphones have taken the music world by storm, and these are some of the best condenser mics to use for a drum kit. They offer accurate detail with a surprising amount of controllability in your mix.
The Behringer C-2 Matched Microphones are our Budget Choice. These are the most affordable matched microphones we know of, and they’re the perfect option for beginner drummers who are just getting into the world of drum recording. They don’t have the best quality, but it’s decent enough to record demos and play live gigs with.
The AKG C414 Matched Microphones are our Editor’s Pick. If you’re looking for luxury microphones for world-class recordings, these are the ones. They have large-diaphragm bodies, giving you a boosted amount of control when working with them.
Overhead Mic Reviews
One of the most popular pairs of matched overhead mics amongst professional drummers.
These microphones offer extreme detail in their sound quality. They’re incredibly accurate, so you get your drum kit’s exact sound. They’re also a breeze to mix with.
You can’t go to too many places these days without seeing a set of Earthworks drum mics being used. These are arguably the most popular professional microphones amongst drummers, and the SR25 mics are perfect to use as overheads.
We love how flat the frequency response is, as it gives you a solid platform to mix from. You can go any direction with your EQ, or you could stick with the base sound, which always sounds amazing.
We were also impressed by how accurate these microphones are. Microphones often change the tones of your drums and cymbals, but these pick the sounds up very cleanly.
The best way to describe these would be to say that they’re reliable. You can buy them once, and you most likely won’t need to get another set of overhead mics for a decade or two.
The downside is that they cost over $1000. They’re not as expensive as the top-tier options, but they’re certainly pricier than the industry-standard options that sit between $400 and $800.
Verdict: The Earthworks SR25 Matched Microphones are our top suggestion for drummers to get. These mics provide top-tier studio quality, but they don’t cost thousands of dollars like many other top-tier mics. Their frequency response is very flat, giving you a fantastic base to work with when you’re dialing in your preferred EQ settings. They also look sleek and stylish, which many drummers will appreciate.
One of the most affordable matched pairs of overhead condenser mics available.
These mics are very inexpensive, but they work very well. They’re a good option for drummers looking to get their first pair of overhead mics without knowing what to spend money on.
Out of all the cheap condenser microphones that we’ve tried, we trust these Behringer C-2 microphones the most. You can find cheaper options from unknown brands, but we’d suggest picking these as your bottom-line option.
If you’re just getting into drum recording, you’ll appreciate how they make your drums sound. You just need to make sure that you’ve placed them in the most optimal positions. Otherwise, you’ll get a poor overview of your drum sound.
The other downside is that you need to do a good amount of work on your mix to get these to sound amazing. That’s why we wouldn’t recommend them to experienced drummers. You’ll instantly be able to tell that they’re low-quality.
Verdict: The Behringer C-2 Matched Microphones are a decent option for inexperienced drummers needing cheap mics. They won’t break your bank, and they’ll allow you to learn the ins and outs of drum recording and mixing. They’re a good starter pair of mics to use before you feel more comfortable spending a decent amount on higher-quality mics. They just don’t have the same durability as superior mics, and they’re also a bit harder to work with to get great sounds.
One of the best pairs of matched mics available for virtually every instrument.
These microphones are well-known to be some of the best options in the world. They work brilliantly for everything, and they have an unreal number of features to make them as versatile as possible.
If you have the money to get the best microphones possible, a matched pair of AKG C414s would be our biggest suggestion. These things have been used on so many professional studio recordings, and they’re some of the most versatile microphones that exist.
You can change between nine pickup patterns, making them amazing microphones for any instrument. When using as overheads, we’d say the different types of cardioid patterns would be best, but it’s great how you can get these to use for drums and then other instruments whenever you need to.
They make your drums and cymbals sound absolutely incredible, and you could even get away with just using one due to the large body.
The obvious downside is the scary price tag. We wouldn’t recommend these to anyone who isn’t too serious about recording and using mics. They’re mostly just an option for professional musicians and audio engineers.
Verdict: The AKG C414 Matched Microphones are some of the highest-quality microphones available. They work brilliantly as overheads, but they’re so versatile that you can use them for any instrument in any setting. They come at a seriously high price, though, so they’re only a viable option for musicians or audio engineers who need the best gear possible.
An affordable pair of small-diaphragm condensers that can be used in most professional settings.
These mics are a great option for drummers who want to level up their sound quality if they’ve been using cheap mics before. They’re very clear when picking up drum sounds, and their small bodies make them easy to position in the best places.
When we looked in the intermediate price range, these Rode M5 mics were one of the best options that we found. We were thoroughly impressed by how good they sounded when used as drum overheads.
They picked up the low-end sounds of the bass drum and floor tom just as well as they picked up the high-end sounds from the cymbals. This gave a very clear picture of the entire drum set.
We also loved how these made the drums sound in an open environment. That made us think that they’d be an excellent option for live gigging.
One small downside that we found was that their thin frame stopped them from fitting in all types of mic clips. You get mic clips when you buy them, so it shouldn’t be an issue. It just may be something that comes up in the future.
Verdict: The Rode M5 Matched Microphones seemed to be a steal for the price. They work very well on drum kits, considering how they accurately pick up both high and low sounds. We highly recommend these for live gigs, as they sound great but aren’t expensive enough to constantly worry about them getting damaged. They just don’t fit every type of microphone clip. You get ones that fit with them, though.
One of Shure’s best pairs of matched condenser microphones. They’re a brilliant drum kit option.
Shure is one of the most loved microphone brands for drummers, and these KSM137 mics are a staple pick for drummers. They have incredible sound quality, and they offer impressive sound isolation.
The thing that impressed us the most about these microphones was their sound isolation. You don’t want to have too much isolation with overheads, as you want to get a full idea of what the drum kit sounds like. However, these have enough to offer you a bit of extra control in your mix.
They’re brilliant if you’re working with a full set of drum mics, as you can focus them on the cymbals and use the close mics for the drums.
The 3-position dB pad also makes them a good option for drum sets. If you’re a hard player, you’ll need to switch it to the -25dB option, and it will handle your loud volume with no issues.
Overall, this is yet another reliable matched pair for drummers of all levels to consider.
Verdict: The Shure KSM137 Matched Pair is one of the best options from Shure to use as overhead microphones. These mics have impressive sound isolation, which makes them work very well within a full set of drum mics. The 3-position dB pad also makes them great for hard-hitting drummers. The drawback is that they’re quite pricey compared to other options with similar features.
sE Electronics sE8
Excellent condenser mics that are getting more and more popular every year for drummers.
These mics work brilliantly on drums for both stage and studio environments. The 80Hz and 160Hz highpass filters and 10dB and 20dB switchable pads are handy features that drummers can utilize.
sE Electronics offer a full drum microphone kit that has become extremely popular in the drumming world. You get this same matched pair in that kit, so it’s great that you can buy them on their own if you’re not looking for other drum mics.
The highpass filters allow you to adjust the noise levels, and the switchable pads are great for keeping distortion away. The pads don’t drop as many decibels as some other mics on this list, but we still found them to be very useful.
The other thing we loved was the case that comes with these microphones. It’s a solid metal briefcase, and it comes with clips, foam windscreens, and a stereo bar. The stereo bar was our favorite inclusion, as you don’t get one with many of the other mics on this list.
Verdict: The sE Electronics sE8 Matched Microphones are a solid mid-tier option to use for recordings and live gigs. They come with a pristine briefcase that includes a stereo bar, which is our favorite thing about this package. The only downside is that the dB pads don’t drop as many decibels as a few other mics we’ve suggested, but most drummers won’t be affected by that if they don’t play extremely loudly.
Neumann KM 184
Another excellent pair of high-end condenser microphones to use as overhead drum mics.
These microphones are top-quality options that provide extremely clear sound reproduction and a high SPL handling. They’re fit for professional studio use, and their sound quality is far better than most options.
Neumann has always been a high-profile microphone brand, and these KM 184s are very commonly used in professional recording studios.
They have a bit of a reputation for being very bright, but we think that quality is perfect for overheads, considering that you mostly want to pick up the sounds of cymbals.
They also have a fairly high SPL handling at 138 dB before they overload, so they’ll be usable by all the hardest-hitting drummers around.
Neumann microphones are never cheap, but you get two Neumann mics for under $2000 here, which most people would consider a steal. However, we know that many drummers wouldn’t even think of buying microphones at this price, so they aren’t a suggestion for everyone.
Verdict: The Neumann KM 184 Matched Microphones are another high-profile option to consider if you liked the Earthworks and AKG microphones. Neumann is another luxury brand, so you can be sure that these mics will make your drums sound amazing. They do sound a fair bit brighter than the other mics in this price range, but that’s a good quality to have for recording cymbals.
One of the most popular pairs of inexpensive mics that can be used in professional settings.
These mics are a step up from the Behringer C-2s, so they’re the best option for drummers on a budget that are looking for something slightly better.
We’ve seen these mics being used more at public venues than any of the others on this list. The reason for this is that they’re seriously affordable, but they still provide excellent sound quality.
If you’ve been eyeing out the Behringer C-2s but you’re happy to spend more money, you’ll be far happier with the Samson C02s. These mics also work brilliantly as hi-hat mics, so you can use one there if you ever upgrade to better overheads.
They make your drum kit sound a bit empty at first, but you just need to tweak your mix to counter that, and you’ll be good to go.
Overall, they offer durability, reliability, and affordability. What more could you want as a first-time overhead mic buyer?
Verdict: The Samson C02 Matched Pair is another amazing option for drummers with a tight budget. It’s our next suggestion after the Behringer C-2s, and it’s a worthy upgrade for beginners who are happy to spend a bit extra. These mics need a bit of work in the mix, but they sound fantastic once you’ve found the right tweaks.
An epic overhead mic that brings out pristine sounds from your drums and cymbals.
Another microphone made popular from being part of a trending drum kit mic set. It’s easy to use, and it makes your whole drum kit sound great.
This is the only single microphone that we’re suggesting for this list, but it’s only because we couldn’t find a matched pair being sold anywhere. That’s its one downside, and we suggest you buy two of these to use as overheads.
We just love how crisp this mic makes your cymbals sound. No matter what the qualities of your cymbal are, you’ll get clear and powerful tones from them.
This mic sounds fairly similar to the Shure SM81, which is a popular mic in the same price range, but the Audix mic is a bit more defined in the upper ranges. That’s what gives you such crisp cymbal tones.
Verdict: The Audix ADX51 is a solid condenser mic to consider that gives you crisp cymbal tones from the emphasis on upper-mid sounds. Unfortunately, it’s not easy to find a matched pair being sold, so you may need to purchase two separately. However, using two of these together will give you top-quality cymbal and drum sounds, so it’s worth missing out on the deal you get from buying a matched pair.
Yet another pair of affordable condenser mics with surprisingly good sound quality.
These microphones come at a steal of a price, as they produce crisp and high-quality sounds that most drummers will love. The small bodies make them easy to position too.
These are the final budget mics that we’re suggesting, but most drummers wouldn’t think that they’re budget mics when listening to them. They offer surprisingly good sound quality, making them a seriously compelling option to consider.
We loved how full and natural they made the drums sound, as it made it easy to get a good mix.
We also appreciate how small the diaphragms are. It’s always great to be able to position microphones in multiple ways without worrying about them getting in the way.
The one downside is that we found them to sound slightly different from each other, which isn’t ideal with a matched pair of microphones.
Verdict: The PreSonus PM-2 Matched Microphones are another solid budget option for drummers. They make the drums sound full and natural, and their small diaphragms make them easy to place. We think these mics punch well above their weight, and even professional drummers could find a use for them.
Studio Projects C-4
A versatile pair of microphones with switchability between omni and cardioid pickup patterns.
These are great mics to get if you want to use them as overheads at one stage and other instrument mics at a different one. It’s always good to have versatile microphones, and these offer that at a great price.
Studio Projects was the brand that we were least familiar with out of all the microphones on this list, but we were pleasantly surprised at the quality of these mics.
The standout feature is that you get changeable capsules to switch between omni and cardioid pickup patterns. Both work well when using these as overheads, so you just need to play around to see which setting you prefer.
The major benefit is that these mics are seriously versatile. If you’re someone who has a mic locker for different instruments, we’d suggest adding these to it.
Verdict: The Studio Projects C-4 Matched Microphones are versatile mics with interchangeable pickup patterns. They work well as overheads, but you can use them for several other instruments. This makes them a great choice for drummers who may use them for other projects separate from drumming.
How to Choose the Right Overhead Mics for Your Drums
The biggest thing to know about overhead drum mics is that sound quality will differ according to what price range they fall into. That may sound fairly obvious, but sound quality is a bit different with microphones compared to actual instruments.
When comparing two sets of overhead mics, they’ll both bring out the same sounds that your drums already have. However, the superior mics will pick up more subtle details. They’ll also be a lot more responsive to different levels of dynamic playing.
Microphones with better sound quality are a lot easier to use, as they make it a breeze to dial in sweet drum kit sounds. Lower-quality mics often sound boxy or muddled, and you need to do a lot of work with the mix to counter those qualities to get a good sound.
Experienced drummers will need to get mics with better sound quality, as they’ll easily recognize the unattractive qualities of low-tier mics. Beginner drummers won’t hear those at first, so they’re perfectly decent options for them.
When setting up microphones for your drum kit, you can choose to use one or two microphones as overheads. Most drummers use two to get the clearest picture possible, which is why we’ve mostly suggested matched microphones.
When you only use one mic, a lot of details get missed, as drum kits are such large instruments. It’s normal for drummers with small kits to use one mic, but a standard kit will need two.
It’s always a good idea to find a matched pair to buy, as that package will be slightly more affordable than buying two of those same microphones separately.
If you just want to use one mic as an overhead, we’d suggest getting a large-diaphragm one. They pick up more sound over larger areas than pencil condensers do.
Sound Pressure Level
Sound Pressure Level is a metric that you’ll see listed on every microphone. It refers to how much sound a microphone can pick up before you start getting distorted and aggressive sounds.
Drums are one of the loudest instruments out there, so you need to get overhead mics with high SPL handling. This is especially true with the cymbals always being the closest sound sources to the microphones.
Thankfully, condenser mics typically have high SPL levels, but always be sure to check. You don’t want to get caught out and then have to purchase a new pair of mics that don’t distort every time you play hard.
We briefly mentioned this earlier, but you get two main body shapes for overhead drum mics. These are pencil condensers and large-diaphragm mics.
Pencil condensers are long and thin, and they’re mostly used for instruments where they can be pointed at.
Large-diaphragm condensers have bulky bodies, take up more space, and they’re often used as vocal mics.
You’ll find pencil condensers to be more popular with drummers, as they’re typically more affordable and easier to position. However, you can get some amazing recordings when using large-diaphragm mics as overheads.
It’s very normal to see high-tier professional studio videos where the overhead mics have large bodies.
Something important to note about overhead microphones is that they all work the same way. Some make mixing easier than others and produce better sound quality, but a skilled audio engineer will be able to make a cheap pair of mics sound golden.
That should help you when deciding which mics to buy and what budget range to settle on.
With that being said, you can’t go wrong with our top three options. If you’re just getting started and looking for the cheapest thing available, the Behringer C-2 Matched Microphones are our best suggestion.
The AKG C414 Matched Microphones are our Editor’s Choice selection, as they’re luxury mics. The Earthworks SR25 Matched Microphones are the Top Pick Winner, as they’re high-end but still relatively affordable compared to the other top-tier microphones.