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Large or small Diaphragm ?

Member for

7 years 9 months
I have (in my short life as a recording enthusiast) always used a pair of c1000,s as overheads but I have primarily used them to mic up the cymbals (rolling off everything below 500hz).
I am now trying to progress and to purchase 2 mics that I can use as true overheads. I want two mics that will give a good sound of the whole kit so that all I need to add is a kick and snare mic.

Should i be looking more at large diaphragm mics (AT4050) or would something with a small diaphragm (Neumann KM184, Earthworks SR0) be just as good ?
I cant really afford a pair of AT4050's so if I do need large diaphragm mics, then what else is suitable ?



Member for

20 years 9 months

AudioGaff Thu, 06/14/2007 - 15:57
Users choice. One choice is not beter than other as much as each his just different. You really need to take the time to try various mic's and come to your own conclusions. I use and have used 4050's, 414's, TLM103's, KM184's, SM81's and 451's/452's all with great results.

Keep in mind that the sound of the room you record in, can be as important as the OH mics that you choose to use.

I for one would prefer to use even SM57's over the C1000. I just have always disliked the sound of that mic.

Member for

14 years 8 months

Link555 Thu, 06/14/2007 - 16:54
Yep the C1000 is a little harsh. I have a set of earthworks QTC50s. I really like those on the overheads, so far I haven't needed a snare mic. I typically have been getting good results with the QTC50's and a D112. But I typically don't record "in your face drums". THe room is very important.

Member for

7 years 9 months

chips Thu, 06/14/2007 - 17:34
Great advice.
Thanks for that. The room I record in is pretty "live" sounding but it sounds pretty good. I am looking at getting floor to ceiling curtains (very thick drapes) fitted to all four walls so I have the option of closing the curtains and deadening the room a little.

I know that earthworks are out of my financial league at the minute so I have kind of narrowed my choice down to either 414's or at4050's

Any advice anyone ? I know it comes down to individual preference and choice but I would appreciate your input. I am also hoping to use the mics for other applications also i.e. guitar cabinets, vox, acoustic etc

What do you think ? Have you had the chance to use both or either of these mics ?

Member for

18 years 5 months

pmolsonmus Fri, 06/15/2007 - 06:03
I don't think you'd go wrong with either, but I purchased the 414s as "go to" mics for all kinds of apps years ago and haven't regretted the decision. I've never been able to get great vocals with the 4050 but that's me in my room.
I have used the 414s as OH's, piano mics, choral mics, vocal solo, chamber ensemble, toms etc.... they may not be "the best" on eveything but they're never bad on anything.

I would second Gaffs advice to try them (beg, borrow or rent) before you buy and put them to the test side by side.


Member for

16 years 2 months

RemyRAD Fri, 06/15/2007 - 10:46
I've generally always enjoyed my U87 or my 414's as drum overheads but also frequently use Shure SM 81's, KM 84/86's, AKG 451's.

I generally make my decision based on the sound of the cymbals to begin with, when I hear them in person. If they sound like somebody bashing on heavy trash can lids, I'll use a small capsule condenser for their extra zing factor since it seems to leave out those darker, lower resonant trash can like qualities.

If their cymbals have a beautiful, sweet, clear and zingy clear quality, I'll use a large diaphragm condenser microphone which I feel enhances the already exquisite color of the instrument, since it has a tendency to accentuate those lower midrange resonances. Which, on good cymbals sound quite lovely.

I'm a symbol of a good engineer
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

16 years 6 months

blaumph2cool Fri, 06/15/2007 - 19:42
All this talk about Large Diaphragm mics, how come no one is suggesting small diaphragm mics for overheads.

For micing drums in most cases i have prefered using small diaphragm mics such as Shure SM81's or Rode NT5's. it tends to capture more of what i want a drumkit OH to capture.


Member for

21 years 2 months

Pro Audio Guest Sat, 06/16/2007 - 10:57
But I typically don't record "in your face drums". THe room is very important.
i couldn't agree with you more. I had a decent size room but had it too dead and lost the bigness of the drums in the mix. I also had a cheap drumkit mic setup [[url=http://[/URL]="http://www.zzounds…"]Audix Fusion 6 Drum Microphone Package[/]="http://www.zzounds…"]Audix Fusion 6 Drum Microphone Package[/]. They don't tell you that the real good mics that you need for the kick cost about as much as the kit and they sell better over heads. So with not so good mics and a dead room i still had a happy client but i felt like this can sound much better but i had a tight budget. just use what you can and get the best sound out of it but thats just me.

Member for

17 years 8 months

Cucco Sat, 06/16/2007 - 12:23
blaumph2cool wrote:
All this talk about Large Diaphragm mics, how come no one is suggesting small diaphragm mics for overheads.
Here here!

My favorite mics for overheads (in order of favoriteness...)
1 - Schoeps CMC6 MK4
2 - Neumann KM84
3 - Sennheiser MKH800
4 - Gefell M300
5 - Beyer M130/M160 in MS or 130s in Blum
6 - Royer SF12 (only used once thus far hence the reason it's so far down on the list - I did thoroughly love it though, so it's probably going to move up the list real soon!)
7 - SM81
8 - TLM193
9 - C414 ULS
10 - 100 everything else.

Granted, most of these mics are "cost no object" mics, but most of them are either SDC's or Ribbons. IMO, I can't ever quite get the right sound out of large diaphragm mics.

Personally, I like to mic the kit as minimally as possible - 2 overheads and a kick mic and "tune" the sound of the kit using placement of the overheads. With LDCs, I find that I get too much of a bloated sound quite often and it makes me want to reach for EQ (which I NEVER like to do with drum kit!)

My personal advice for inexpensive mic'ing of a drum kit -
2 Rode NT5's over the kit (your choice of placement however, I typically use a spaced pair facing down over the kit. Need more snare? Pull one of the mics more "over" the snare. Need less? Move it a little away.) XY or ORTF work well over kits too, but I find them very limiting in terms of tuning the kit via mic placement. MS in front of the kit with the right tools can sound friggin fantastic!

Try your large diaphragm condenser in front of the kick drum. Make sure it can handle it first, but go for it. Chances are, if you place it well and the drum head is tuned well, you will need no EQ whatsoever. You'll get plenty of thud and plenty of click! more dent in the armor of the LDCs over the kit...Do you have the mic stands and sand bags necessary for this? Factor in at least $300 for the pair of mic stands and $80 for the sandbags (for some reason, they ain't cheap!)



Member for

16 years 2 months

RemyRAD Sat, 06/16/2007 - 14:39
What do you mean nobody recommended small diaphragm condenser microphones? I use them all of the time. I also use ribbon microphones. I also use large diaphragm condenser microphones. I've even used Sennheiser MD441 & 421 dynamic microphones as drum overheads which work out quite nicely.

Granted, crappy acoustic environments are generally too faithfully reproduced with large diaphragm condenser microphones. But nothing sounded sweeter than a pair of U87's 10 feet above a drum kit, in the center of the room, of studio A (the main sanctuary of the former 57th Street Baptist Church off of eighth Avenue in Manhattan) at Media Sound through the Neve console. Exquisite!

If all you want to hear is the cymbals, use small diaphragm condenser microphones that are close to the cymbals. Perfect for that eight-foot tall basement studio in your 10 foot-by 12 foot room.

Drums R Us
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

17 years 8 months

Cucco Sun, 06/17/2007 - 12:03
I don't think I understand you right Remy...Are you suggesting that SDCs don't pick up the lower frequencies as well as LDCs? This seems backwards from everything that I've learned and experienced.

Generally, when I want a full and accurate bottom end, I turn to small diaphragm mics. If I want more proximity effect to enhance the low frequency stuff, I turn to LDCs.

Otherwise, companies like Earthworks and DPA would be out of business real fast...

Member for

7 years 9 months

chips Sun, 06/17/2007 - 13:44
ok, thanks for all the advice. I feel like I have opened a can of worms here !
To be honest, I am just as confused now as I was when I posted. Thanks for all the advice. I am really trying to take it all onboard. I know it comes down to personal choice but I am dreading making a mistake.

Cucco, thanks for your list of mics. I have bookmarked so that in the future, when I have some money kicking around I can possibly look into getting some of those really nice mics.

At the moment I can just about afford either a pair of Neumann KM184's, a pair of AKG C414's (this will be really putting me into the red with my bank though !) or I could go for the Rode NT5's that were mentioned before and spend the spare money on another mic.

What to do ???!!!!
I am really hoping to be able to use what ever i buy on as many other instruments as possible (especially acoustic guitar, possibly electric).
Thanks guys for all the help
What do i buy !!!!!!

Member for

16 years 2 months

RemyRAD Mon, 06/18/2007 - 00:54
Well, Jeremy, I didn't quite mean it that way? Yes, I do enjoy the low-end much more so on small diaphragm condenser microphones since their linearity and off axis response is generally superior to that of the large diaphragm condenser's.

What I was trying to say is that the small diaphragm condenser microphones have more zing in the high end with a smoother, better defined low frequency response which does not seem to accentuate that trash can like quality in low-cost cymbals, which seem to be more accentuated by large diagram condenser microphones. And poor acoustical environments seem to sound even worse, with large diaphragm condenser microphones. So, yeah, he probably would do well with the NT5's. A poor man's KM 84/184.

Always trying to confuse the issue. But what else is a woman to do?
Ms. Remy Ann David

Member for

17 years 8 months

Cucco Mon, 06/18/2007 - 05:51
Ahh yes...I understand. Of course, I would contest that some mics are better at "zing" than others (sometimes a positive, sometimes a negative.)

RemyRAD wrote: So, yeah, he probably would do well with the NT5's. A poor man's KM 84/184.

Agree 100% In fact, I prefer the NT5 to the 184 (not the 84 though). The NT5 has a smoother top end and a better off-axis response not to mention that they're so much cheaper!

Member for

19 years 11 months

Davedog Mon, 06/18/2007 - 20:33
Buy the Neumanns'. Or find a really good used pair of AKG 451 EB's in good shape. I also like the Rodes....but these mics, K184/451 will last you a lifetime. NOT something you will need to upgrade from....Anything else past them will be simply something different.

No one has mentioned the pattern focus...The SDC will be quite a bit smaller than an LDC and in a room with issues this can make or break the recording.

Member for

18 years 10 months

tifftunes Sat, 06/23/2007 - 15:23
Granted Oktava mics are not the choice of the day. However, a pair of MK012 SDC mics purchased from The Sound Room or OktavaMod (factory matched pairs with separate verification being the reason for these two particular sellers) may give you the best sound for the buck. They seem to have a better "energy" or "feel" for lack of better descriptors, than the NT5s. Though the Rode sound very good, they are a little too "dry" for my taste.

To further obfuscate the Over Head mic issue, try using a single good quality dynamic mic (ala Sennheiser MD421, even an SM57) centered over the kit's sweet spot.

It is my humble opinion that stereo drums aren't always the best, unless the sound is drum focused, and/or the song demands a huge drum sound.

Member for

17 years 8 months

Cucco Sun, 06/24/2007 - 17:25
tifftunes wrote: It is my humble opinion that stereo drums aren't always the best, unless the sound is drum focused, and/or the song demands a huge drum sound.

I find that this is only occassionally the case. Often in jazz or classical/pops where a kit is used.

In most pop/rock/country if not all, I think stereo drums are the order of the day. I don't think they need to be unnaturally wide, but appropriate width is crucial.

When folks close mic all the drums and then spread them all over the pan field, this results in a horribly wide and inappropriate sound for most any situation.

On the flip side, when only using mono drums, it's often a very "flat" sound and the toms often conflict with lead vox and guitar.

I look at the drum as a wide instrument which eminates from a wide point - unlike guitar, bass, vocals, etc. To represent it in mono (IMO) is not representative of reality.

I think it's all a matter of taste and logic though as well as personal preference.