Snare Drum Microphones Comparison

Andrew —  — 2 Comments

snare mic

We’ve compared and reviewed some of the best snare drum microphones around, to help you choose the right one for the perfect snare sound. Microphone choice is very important, because the sound of the mic is the foundation that you build the snare sound from.

Dynamic Mics

Recording with dynamic mics has always been a firm favourite when it comes to snare drums. This is because they are robust, can deal with very high ‘Sound Pressure Levels’ and at high SPL’s they naturally compress the sound by the way they work. (See here for more detail) This compression effect squashes the transient, or attack, of the drum and brings out more of the sustain and natural tone, giving a very full and chunky sound.

Shure SM57

The obvious choice when it comes snare drums. They are cheap, virtually indestructible and sound superb. If you are only ever going to buy one snare mic, make it this one because it’ll last forever. You can put them as close to the drum as you like and the closer it gets, the more mid to low end it will pick up, giving the drum sound more weight. They sound very clean, with a nice mid frequency punch.

Shure SM58

Very like the ’57 in cost, robustness and tone, except that it has a bass roll-off. This means you can get the mic up nice and close to get a lot of natural compression, without the sound getting thicker as the mic gets closer. Ideal if you are looking for a very tight and crisp sound.

Sennheiser MD-421

A bit more costly than the Shure mics, but has a much punchier high-mid to it. It sounds great with drummers who play very loudly, the natural compression handles transients very nicely and the top end is all there but is not too harsh.

Sennheiser MD-441

A much older Sennheiser mic than the 421, but it is a snare drum favourite across the world. It doesn’t have as much top as the other mics listed here, but does have an excellent middle to low end. If you are looking for a bright and sharp snare tone this one isn’t for you, but it is great if you want a warm and thick vintage sound.

AKG D112

This is a mic based on the aged D12, which was a classic mic for kick drums. This version has an extended high end and is extremely punchy in the lows. Great if you are looking for a little less compression from the mic, but want to get as much body as possible.

Condenser Mics

These don’t have the built-in compression of dynamic mics, but can usually tolerate high enough SPL’s to be able to manage snare drums comfortably. As they don’t compress the transient of the drum, the attack stays at a much higher level than the sustain of the drum. They are perfect if you are looking for a very crisp and clear snare sound with a lot of attack to cut through a mix.

Neumann KM84

The KM84 and the newer KM184 are excellent as snare mics, they have an outstanding high end response and transient response which takes absolutely nothing away from a very bright snare drum. They also make great overhead mics. Both mics are excellent all-rounders

Audio-Technica AT4041

A good amount cheaper than a KM184, and a reasonable compromise on tone. They don’t offer quite as clear mid or highs, but their transient response is still nice and crisp, a decent choice for an under-snare mic.

Audio-Technica AT4040

The large diaphragm version of the AT4041, with a similarly excellent transient response and high frequency tone. It is a lot cheaper than a U87, but not quite as flattering.

AKG C414

A superb mic, with an outstanding transient response and high frequency tone which will give a snare drum brightness. It is a compact mic for a large diaphragm condenser so is quite easy to position, and works particularly well as an under-snare mic.

Neumann U87

As you would expect from a very high quality, large-diaphragm condenser mic, the U87 sounds great across the frequency range on just about anything, including snare drums. Because they are significantly bigger than every other mic here, they can be difficult to position so that they are close to the snare drum, but not in the way of the hi-hat or the drummer’s sticks!

[image via supergiball]

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