The best kick drum mic for your setup is most likely going to be a specialty type of mic, rather than an all around recommendation like the SM-57 that I talk about all the time.
You need to mic your bass drum, even at small live gigs.
The kick drum is the beating heart of your entire band’s sound. If all the other drums and cymbals were to be washed out, and you only had to pick one drum to power through… it would have to be the kick.
Dynamic or Condenser?
Unlike your cymbals, you will generally find a dynamic to be the best kick drum mic for your application. As we’ll explain later, a low-end blast of bass sound vibrations can destroy a condenser microphone.
If you have the luxury of putting two mics on your kick (I honestly don’t get the point, but I still envy you for having that much gear), then #1 would be your dynamic directly on the reso head or right inside the reso hole and #2 would probably be a condenser or ribbon mic positioned a few feet away.
I’ve seen some people on forums talking about using 3 mics on their bass drum. One on the batter, one inside, and one on the resonant head. I think this is nuts, but if anyone out there can validate why that is necessary please reach out to us and we’ll feature you here on this site!
(We’ll actually take submissions of whatever your particular best kick drum mic set up is, so send us pictures).
Tuning, tuning, tuning
I can’t believe how many times I’ve seen ‘serious’ touring drummers neglect basic tuning. I totally understand what a pain it can be. It’s such an imprecise art, when you compare it to tuning something like a guitar or bass. Even when you’re doing it right, it still feels wrong. But trust me, you will get better, and the fact that you are making an effort puts you ahead of the 75% of mediocre drummers who couldn’t care less.
Oh yeah, and tune your bass drum up a little bit if your miking it.
Most drummers tune their resonant heads super loose, which is understandable as it helps eliminate the annoying ring and overtones. But if your drumhead is tuned too flat, it’s not going to hit the ‘sweet spot’ of your best kick drum mic frequencies.
Tune it up a little bit, and if you still need to eliminate overtones (you probably will), look into adding some muffling through a foam ring, patch, or yes…. even a pillow.
I never understood people who preferred overhead miking
The very popular XY overhead technique is something you’ll always hear drummers recommending as a beginner setup. I understand that if you are on a budget, it can be unrealistic to get a full set of mics, not to mention the mixer to run them all through.
If I had to pick where to place two mics, my best kick drum mic setup would place one in front of, or slightly inside the bass drum, and run one overhead.
I just think that an overhead setup does not properly capture the low end of the kick. And a flat drum sound dominated by cymbals and snare without a low end, just sounds lifeless.
SPL is crucial. You Bass has the power to DESTROY more fragile mics
SPL or ‘sound pressure level’ is a measure of how much air pressure the diaphragm of a microphone can take before blowing out. Each time your bass drum is struck, it creates a powerful blast of air pressure. You do not want to put a delicate condenser mic inside or right in front of the kick, which is tantamount to the center of the blast zone.
CAD Audio KBM412
So, I’ll be honest… I had never personally heard of this particular model, but from all I’ve read and researched, it’s a solid entry to the start of our list. It’s definitely the most affordable contender for best kick drum mic.
It was actually modeled after the Shure 52A (the next entry on our list), and many reviewers have claimed that it is similar in its ability to pick up the low ends and power of your bass drum.
The CAD is made in China, unlike the Shure, and it is constructed from cheaper materials. This is to be expected at this ultra-low price point, and I still think it’s a great value. Of course, if you have the budget and are really looking to invest in a fine piece of gear for the long term, I would recommend you go for the…
Shure Beta 52A
Shure is the brand name gold standard in microphones, and many drummers swear by the 52A. I personally think that the brand name itself adds a few unnecessary dollars to the price tag, but I totally get the desire to go with the trusted name… which Shure certainly is.
One great thing about the 52A, like many other mics from this company, is that it is durable.I’m a generally clumsy guy when setting up and breaking down my gear. And I can also get really energetic in my playing during a set, which can cause my bass drum to occasionally rock back and forth and bump the mic I’m using.
Due to these reasons, I personally can’t have some delicate mic that has to be babied, especially not near my kick drum.
AKG Acoustics D112
This might be the most popular on our running for the best kick drum mic, in terms of full-time studio musicians. The price point of the D112 might be a little high for an entry level bass mic, but when it comes to getting the maximum punch out of your bass drum, it is hard to beat.
Some people claim that the shape of this microphone is awkward, which makes positioning a challenge. Another common complaint is that the materials feel a little plasticky, especially at this price point. Those materials are extremely durable, so I appreciate that over a more metallic look.
Just to cover all of my bases, I threw a condenser mic on this list. Like I said earlier, I would much rather a dynamic as a bass drum mic any day of the week, but if you need a condenser to better suit your particular recording needs, this is a great option.
The SM-27 is a large diaphragm mic (remember the importance of SPL we talked about?) that is a favorite among vocalists, especially those with a lower vocal timbre or those who scream a lot.
It’s a fairly versatile mic, and can also be used for cymbals, toms, or snares, while still having the durability to handle the unique force that a kick drum produces.
As with many other condenser microphones, you will need phantom power for this one, so make sure that you’re hooked up to a good audio interface that offers this feature.
Floor toms and other applications
The same properties that define the best kick drum mic, also makes the best microphone for other low-end instruments such as your floor tom, or bass guitar (direct or amp).
What’s your vote for the best kick drum mic?
*And if you haven’t already, check out why I think most double kick pedals are overpriced and how you can get away with entry to mid range models with good technique.