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Rode NT5s or NT1000s for drum overheads?

Discussion in 'Room & Overhead' started by ChrisH, Nov 29, 2011.

  1. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Hi everyone,
    I can't decide in between a pair of NT5's or a pair of NT1000's for drum overheads.
    I use overheads as the main mics, I place them to pickup the boom of the toms, not just the cymbals.
    I'm looking for a big open sound.
    The price difference is not an issue.
  2. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    If this is really an issue about whether you should be using LDCs or SDCs as overheads, then you have to look carefully at things like your room, the type of drumming and whether the drums are being laid down as separate tracks from the rest of the mix. The effect of the room is particuarly important in achieving the "big open sound" you mention.

    NT1000s are great LDCs for use as overheads, but they do demand a good acoustic space in your studio and also need to be out of bleed range of any other instruments being tracked at the time.

    Using SDCs is more forgiving of your acoustics, and also SDCs generally give a better off-axis account of themselves than many LDCs by virtue of having the smaller diaphragm. If you do go the SDC route, do pay the bit extra and select the NT55s rather than the NT5s, as the pad switch can make quite a difference when tracking drums. You also get the additional omni capsules, which makes them more versatile, for example, when needing A-B configurations.
  3. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    I'm not to say anything here because Boswell is right on the money. What I'm tracking a band with a drum kit in a lousy acoustical environment, I usually use SHURE SM 81's SDC for overheads. In a better acoustic space and with more space between members, LDC AKG-414's or Neumann U 87's. And that's largely because LDC sound god-awful picking up anything that is not directly in line with the capsule (called off axis). Whereas the smaller the diaphragm the better the off axis response is and far less audible response anomalies will be heard. Actually some of those itty bitty tie tack microphones you see on your TV newscasters can actually sound even better. The trade off here is that the smaller the capsule, the better the response, the better off axis sound we'll be at the trade off for more noise since there is less of a diaphragm to convey electrical energy with. Before tiny specialized drum condenser microphones were available like the SHURE SM 98's, 20+ years ago I was using wooden popsicle sticks & cheap bendable steel kitchen forks to affix Sony ECM 50's & Sennheiser MKE2 tie tack microphones duct taped to the tom-toms, taped to and underneath cymbals. They were omni-directional and so required a little bit of a bass boost to simulate the proximity effect you get from any SM57. I also used those tie tack microphones to make custom bootleg recordings for conductors of orchestral events that couldn't get full union approval. They always reserved for me the place I would want to sit in the audience to be the perfect dummy head. And I might add that I'm one of the world's best dummy heads, heads of most dummies when I'm in charge and want to forge a head which gets a little hot.

    Is it soup yet?
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  4. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Cool, thank you guys for the info.
    Now, should I get NT55's or SM81's?
  5. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    What they said!

    On the SM81 / NT55 question - those are my two pairs of SDCs. The NT55s have the extra capsule and (to me) are more neutral sounding. The SM81s have a characteristic frequency response that I like for all kinds of pop music applications - including drum overheads. (I know that the spec sheets look like the SM81s are flatter. They always seemed to have a nice, subtle presence bump to me. Am I hearing things? Maybe I'm hearing the lack of a high shelf bump as a presence bump.) At any rate, I like them both and own them both. They sound different. So it's a matter of taste unless the omni capsule on the NT55 would come in handy.

    [Addition:] The NT55's are smaller, so it's easy to fit them in tight spots like under a snare.
  6. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Which pair sound the most natural for drum overheads? I want my Cymbals and Drums to sound warm... Am I looking at the wrong mics?
  7. BobRogers

    BobRogers Well-Known Member

    Ok, uh...I think of both "natural" and "warm" as pretty subjective words. I'll say that I feel the NT55's have more extended high frequency response. (I think of that as more "hi-fi." Is that more "natural?" Your call.) I perceive a nice little "presence" bump in the SM81s at about 3-4 kHz. (Does that make them "warmer?" Your call.) I think we're getting into the talking about music = dancing about architecture phase.
  8. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Is the term "full" better?
    Let me explain..
    Right now i'm using Sterling Audio ST51's in an xy configuration, going straight into a presonus firepod.
    My studio is properly acoustically tuned, and the drums are properly placed in the room, great drums, great cymbals.
    My recorded overhead tracks sound good, dont get my wrong, but when compared to a recording done with professional pre's, converters, and mics, they sound thin, and harsh.
    I'm just making sure that the next overhead mics I buy will sound "pro"
    I'm also aware that it's probably also due to the pre, and converters i'm using in the firepods.
  9. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    Some years ago I did an interesting and educational set of tests on miking a drum kit. I made successive recordings using 6dB gain reductions in the pre-amp and compensated each one with an extra 6dB in the line amp. I included the use of pads on the overhead mics (Rode NT55s in this case), but the kick mic was an RE20 and the snare mic an SM57, which, being dynamics, do not have pad switches.

    The effect of changing the gain staging on each bit of the kit was different, but the relevant point is that the overheads sounded fuller and less thin when padded and running into a pre-amp set to a lower gain than simple signal levels would indicate. In your case, you are using budget large diaphragm condenser (LDC) mics as overheads, so you have an additional problem with the off-axis colouration, which may be contributing to your dissatisfaction with the sound. In addition, the max SPL figure of 134dB may be being exceeded by cymbal transients, and there is no pad on the mics to overcome that.

    I think you should try reducing the gain trim in the overhead pre-amps by a good 10dB and re-record a test. You will, of course, need to bring up the levels again at the mix stage, but listen out for any change of timbre in the sound. If there's no discernable difference, it may be that you are running those mics as good as they will go in this situation, and there's not a lot you can do other than positioning them so the principal sound sources are less off-axis and maybe not quite so close.
  10. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    While those Sterling condenser microphones you have are a budget LDC, they ain't bad. You're just not using them correctly. Drum overheads absolutely don't need to be used in any kind of XY blah blah way. You stick one on the left side over the left cymbal floor Tom side. One over the cymbal hi hat snare drum side. Yes, approximately 3 feet apart. You know, like you see on television shows like Jay Leno, Saturday Night Live, etc.. The phase problems are really quite minimal in this style and configuration of use. However, as indicated, this microphone has no built-in capsule pad. And because of that, the capsule is overloading that probably single FET impedance converter in the body of the microphone. It's actually patterned more after the Neumann U 87. The differences that the 87 had a rear capsule allowing for cardioid, Omni, figure of 8 patterns. And the 87 had a capsule pad switch. One of the ways they tried to create the similarity with the 87 is with the thicker 6 mil mylar plastic film. 6 mil is what's in the 87. Most of the newer condenser microphones that are LDC's today, have 3 mil & even 1.5 mill thick mylar capsules. So these are darker sounding because of the increased thickness. The thinner capsules have a crispier almost exaggerated high-frequency response. AKG 414 are also popular overhead microphones and generally the ones you see most often for overheads when one wants LDC overheads.

    Boswell is trying to describe here what actually happens when gain, levels & pads are utilized. It's almost like having a special equalizer because the tonality & perception of the microphones can change greatly. I just went through this with a client of mine who has NT 1's on his piano. He was amazed at the subtle but huge difference this made. It really changes your perception of what you're hearing. This is primarily the reason why I'm not really hot on the way Mackie has designed fool proofing into their preamps. Those preamps are actually not adjustable. When you change old-school style preamps, this changes the " negative feedback loop " gain structure of the preamp. These old-school designs, actually change the tonality. When you increased level you are actually reducing the amount of 180° out of phase " negative feedback " to the microphone preamp which varies gain. When you turned down the gain trim, it is actually increasing the amount of negative feedback bets 180° out of phase. This actually has the effect of literally causing the sound through that preamp to sound more " squeezed ". Where if you increase the gain, you aren't lowering the 180° out of phase negative feedback. This makes the preamps sound more open, less squeezed. In this situation, combined with the microphone pad switch, you can pad down the input to the preamp. This will force you to turn up the gain trim (reducing the negative feedback to the preamp input) producing a more open sound. Operational amplifiers operating at maximum gain also has other effects on the frequency response, head room, noise levels, distortion characteristics. So the old world style preamps offer a greater degree of tonal control. The Mackie is fixed at 20 DB gain while the buffer amplifier is being modified as described above but with less of a overall sonic difference. And that's how most modern, entry level devices designed for novices do better with. You have to be an engineer understanding these concepts to take proper advantage of them. This is why sometimes, it might take you 3 hours to get the sound of the drums, just right. That's because, you have to run through all of this craziness to get the tonality you seek. So it goes way beyond just microphone selection & placement. It all comes in to play together. Sort of like an auto race. It would be fun to have an auto race with just 1 car on the track as you know who would be the winner. With all the cars on the track it opens up all of these variables even if the cars are similarly configured. And only the more experienced drivers really know how to deal with such a large gaggle of cars around them. Of course that doesn't include the extremely enthusiastic younger drivers who are more likely to take more chances than their experienced counterparts. And what do you see when that goes on? Lots of spectacular crashes that people want to see. They don't necessarily want to hear it in your mixes.

    Please don't just follow the speed limit. Learn how to drive instead. Some people always follow the speed limit but never actually learn how to drive. I don't care if they even have PhD's. Coming from Detroit and its automotive heyday, folks from Detroit generally know how to DRIVE. Where most other people only know to follow the speed limit as they drift along down the road in packs. That's because they really don't know how to drive. And you have to learn how to drive your audio to win. There are some exceptions such as the Neve 1073's. Those actually had fixed gain preamps like the Mackie, also. The biggest difference is, they come off the starting line already superior sounding to most anything else on the planet. And because of their mostly class A., transistorized nature, increased open loop gain structure in the subsequent buffer stages can be overdriven to create this incredibly fantastic sound. My later Neve 3115's modules actually have variable gain microphone preamps and so there are those folks that actually thinks that the preamps I have by Neve have the capability of sounding more or less aggressive if I want it to. So sometimes, I will switch on the pad on the microphone and gain up on the Neve to get a certain sound. And in other situations, you're not only dealing with the pad on the microphone, you're dealing with the pad on the preamp along with how much open loop gain you have set.

    So actually I don't think there is anything wrong with your Sterling microphones but without a pad on the microphone, you are limited by the sound pressure level from the instruments plugged into the preamp. If the microphone has already been overloaded, it doesn't matter how good a preamp you have, the microphone is outputting overload distortion before it ever sees the preamp. And that sucks because I believe all condenser microphones, with the exception of tie tack microphones all should have switchable capsule pads. You don't need them if you're not going to record drums, most generally, extremely loud guitar amplifiers, screaming vocalists won't cut the mustard without a switchable capsule pad.

    So, yeah, NT 55's and/or SHURE SM 81's, have switchable capsule pads making them appropriate for drum recording.My Neve preamps not only have variable gain capabilities but there are also input pads also built into the circuit when you are turning down your trim gain sensitivity. In this particular design, you don't necessarily have the ability to just push a button to select the pad. It's incorporated into the function of the gain control trim adjustment. So the different padding at different amplification settings along with the microphone pads give me a far greater variability in the sound that I capture, based upon the gain structure I have set up. This is all part of this confusing the issue called " GAIN STAGING ". Which many novices have trouble getting their head around with. So we might trade off a little extra noise to get a more open quality or a little less noise and receive a slightly more squeezed like quality. Neither is perfectly right and neither is perfectly wrong you just want your recordings to sound perfectly fabulous even if they're not perfect.

    Gain staging 101 & a half
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  11. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Awesome, I've been "engineering" for 8 years, and never once have heard about gain staging, so thank you for filling me in, i can't wait to try it, ashamed I didn't know already.
    I've tried many different mic placements for the overheads, I think it's just the combination of a budget signal chain.
  12. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Guest

    You're welcome. It's funny for myself to think that I've been building up my own digital audio workstations since 1996. I configure computers for other folks wanting to produce audio & video. However, you'd think our would know how to build websites a little more competently? I don't. And HTML to me may as well be Greek. So I use crappy entry level build your website at home cheap software and wonder why my site doesn't look like those other fancy Flashy sites? I know it's because I'm an idiot there so I'm still learning also. Thankfully I had a mentor in my younger years when I was still in my mid teens. And this old MS EE taught me things that no University offering " Recording Arts & Sciences " degrees teach. And even electrical engineers are not taught to use analog basics. Everything is digital & computer centric. So even friends of mine who have bachelors/masters degrees in electrical engineering have consulted me about audio. I've always been amazed about that but they've definitely indicated I know the stuff they weren't taught. And I never went to college, exactly, for any length of time so I'm just a common Schmuck that knows some audio stuff from good authorities. Oh yeah, my other mentor not as deeply involved with me, having an even better studio than my other mentor, was an LSD dropping freak whose father was one of the founders of IBM's computer division. And I was quite inquisitive so when I had questions, I got multiple answers from good sources. And when you can apply those concepts you suddenly find yourself.

    I can produce excellent crap or produce crappy excellence.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  13. OneUpMastering

    OneUpMastering Active Member

    I have a pair of NT5s as well as an NT4. While the 5's will do the job, they are kind of lackluster IMO. I would try to scrape up another $100 or so dollars over the price of the nt1000s and get a Matched pair of Josephson c42's. I bought them as an alternative to KM184s and 84s and they have blown me away time and time again. Stereo strings, drum OH, guitar cabs, solo strings, etc. I don't think I have used km (1)84's since. they fit the bill when I don't want the dark smooth sound of a Royer 121 (or 122) or the hyper-realistic sound of my EW qtc-40s
  14. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Have you used the NT1000's for overheads??
    I can get a discount on Rode mics at my work, so I can't turn down a pair of NT1000's. I've decided to go with LDC's now after hearing the difference.
    How much better will the NT1000's sound in comparison to my Sterling Audio ST51s?

    By the way... I never used compression on overheads till today and WOW, it added exactly what I was missing from my drum sound, ambience and more explosiveness on the cymbals. I DONT NEED ROOM MICS NOW =]
  15. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    What set of tests was this? What difference did you hear? Were the tests done in your drum room using your pre-amps?

    The NT1000s are fine mics, but for use as overheads, you need the right environment to let them have the space to work in.
  16. ChrisH

    ChrisH Active Member

    Spaced stereo pair configuration, placed as identical as possible, matched levels, and then a/b back and forth.
    Yes, the tests were done in my drum room that has correct absorption, and I used my own pre-amps (which are not great).
    It's not really a completely fair test, as there is many other variables that go into each mic besides the diaphragm size but
    I feel that it gave me a ballpark idea of how the two different sizes sound.

    What exactly do you mean? Are you talking "type" of room? Cause I feel that a acoustically controlled environment should work.

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