A kick drum mic has been specially designed to accurately pick up and reproduce the unique sound of a drum set kick (bass) drum. The best kick drum microphones have some specific attributes that make them ideal for their purpose, and maybe not so good for vocals or other uses. Many drummers decide to buy one at some point in their careers because it’s useful for both live performance and home studio recording.
And of course, at live shows, the audience loves the deep, low thump of a kick drum. Also, a stronger kick helps the rest of the band keep time and sound tighter. This makes it important to get the best kick drum microphone you can afford.
When recording a drum set in a studio, and often at concerts, engineers place mics near each drum and the cymbals. With this configuration, they can balance the volume of each component and selectively apply EQ to get the best sound from each drum.
Kick drum mics are generally mounted on a stand very close to the drum head that is opposite from the beater (facing the audience). Sometimes they are placed inside the drum itself. The sounds from these two methods are different, so sometimes two or more mics are used and mixed together.
If you already have a handle on the basic technical concepts, you can go ahead and start looking for the best kick drum mic. But if all this is new to you, you might prefer to jump ahead to the Buyer’s Guide first and to get up to speed on all the industry jargon.
So, let’s go through the best kick drum microphones and find the perfect one for you…
- Top 10 Best Kick Drum Microphones On The Market 2020 Reviews
- Best Kick Drum Mic Buyer’s Guide
- And The Best Kick Drum Microphone Is…
- Final Thoughts
Top 10 Best Kick Drum Microphones On The Market 2020 Reviews
1 MXL A-55 Kicker
The MXL Kicker is a cardioid dynamic mic that’s optimized for kick drums, floor toms, and bass guitar cabinets. Its very rugged construction is surprising for such an affordable price. Relatively light at 14 ounces, it easily mounts on a boom stand.
The A-55 Kicker has a slightly scooped frequency response of 30 Hz – 15 kHz with 6 dB peaks at around 80 Hz and above 2 kHz, to better capture both the bass “thump” and the beater attack. With no output transformer, it has a somewhat lower output than many of its competitors, but not enough to matter in live performance.
MXL Microphones is a leading American manufacturer of high-performance audio products. Kicker is part of the company’s “Live performance” line. A big advantage of the A-55 Kicker is its low cost, which makes it an excellent choice for drummers doing a lot of live venues.
- Very affordable.
- Sturdy but lightweight.
- None for the price.
2 CAD Audio D12
The CAD Audio D12 cardioid dynamic mic was designed specifically for kick drum, but it also performs well with floor toms, and electric guitar and bass cabinets. The heavy-duty metal casing – it weighs 20 ounces – holds up well under the stress of live performances. Neodymium magnets reduce the coil mass for a better transient response.
Its stated frequency response is 30 Hz – 12 kHz, with a very strong low-end response that gives a fat bass sound. At 60 ohms, it has the lowest output impedance of any of the mics we looked at. It includes an integrated swivel mount.
CAD Audio may not have the same level of brand recognition as some microphone manufacturers. But the Ohio company has been around since 1931, originally as the Professional Audio division of Astatic.
- Lightweight neodymium magnets for clear transients.
- Very strong bass response.
- Low cost.
- None at all, considering the very low cost.
3 Shure PGA52
The Shure PGA52 is a professional-quality dynamic kick drum microphone with a very robust design and construction. It’s ideal for all performance or recording applications with low frequencies and high sound levels, especially for kick drum. It features an updated industrial design with a metallic black finish and grille that’s visually unobtrusive.
The mic has a cartridge design that favors low frequencies and a cardioid response pattern. Its frequency response is conservatively rated at 50 Hz – 12 kHz, with a 4 dB boost at 75 Hz, and +7 dB at 4.5 kHz.
Weighing 20 ounces, it’s available either including a 3-pin XLR cable (model PGA52-XLR) or without (GA52-LC). Also included is a protective zipper pouch. Shure is one of the biggest names in the professional microphone business, and its products have a well-deserved reputation for quality and durability.
- Frequency response curve optimized for kick drum.
- Included quick-release stand and zipper pouch.
- Very sturdy construction.
- None, especially considering the price.
4 Sennheiser e602 II Evolution Series
Sennheiser has a well-deserved reputation for making extremely high-quality microphones and headphones. And they back it up with a 10-year warranty. The e602 II is part of its Evolution series, conceived as a family of highly specialized vocal and instrument mics. It’s optimized for kick drums, bass guitar cabinets, and tubas.
The large diaphragm of this dynamic mic helps enhance pickup of very low frequencies. Its nominal frequency response is given as 20 Hz – 16 kHz, but in fact, it’s “scooped.” That is, its output is more than 10 dB higher at 50 Hz than at 200 Hz, and then rises more than 20 dB from 1 kHz to 5 kHz. This is measured with the mic about 3 feet from the kick drum head. As you move it closer to the head, the proximity effect kicks in (no pun intended). At a distance of 2 inches, frequencies below 500 Hz get a 6 – 10 dB boost.
The e602 has a cardioid response pattern to reject sounds from the sides and behind, and it can handle sound pressure levels of more than 155 dB. The design includes a humbucking coil to eliminate noise from power lines.
Its lightweight aluminum body (a mere 11 ounces) helps make it stable on a long mic stand boom arm. The integrated mic stand mount is very convenient, and the sleek black design gives it a strong aesthetic edge.
- Large diaphragm capsule for enhanced bass response.
- Capable of greater than 155 dB SPL.
- Humbucking coil for noise reduction.
- 10-year warranty.
5 AKG D 112-MKII
The AKG Model D 112 cardioid dynamic mic has its roots in the company’s earlier D 12. It’s been widely respected in the recording industry worldwide for over 30 years for its ability to deliver fat, punchy bass at high levels sounds from kick drums and bass guitar cabinets. Its rated maximum SPL is a teeth-rattling 160 dB. It comes with a built-in windscreen that also makes it suitable for high SPL instruments like trombone and tuba. Even at the highest sound levels, it has virtually no distortion.
The high-frequency response is tailored to keep kick drums and bass guitar clearly distinguishable in a mix. Officially, it’s rated at 20 Hz – 20 kHz +/- 10 dB, and 40 Hz – 17 kHz +/- 3 dB. Like other quality mics in this category, it has peaks in the bass and in the treble (in this case, around 4 kHz), with a scooped midrange. When placed close to a kick drum, the proximity effect gives it even more output below 500 Hz.
It also includes an integrated hum-reducing coil. The latest design includes an integrated, flexible mount, and the XLR cable connector was moved, so it’s easier to position it. It’s lightweight at just 10.6 ounces.
- Very good bass response.
- Integrated humbucking coil.
- Handles sound levels up to 160 dB.
- Due to its massive popularity, it is often faked, so make sure you buy from a reputable dealer, and if the price is too good to be true, you’ll know that you are not getting a genuine AKG product.
6 Shure BETA 52A
Of all the microphones we looked at, the Shure BETA 52A can handle the highest sound levels – a whopping 174 dB. For reference, that’s about as loud as a howitzer cannon. The moving coil dynamic mic uses a neodymium magnet for greater sensitivity and higher output.
It has a “modified supercardioid” pick-up pattern that provides better off-axis sound rejection and maximum gain before feedback. Its rated frequency response is tailored specifically for kick drum and bass instruments, 20 Hz – 10 kHz, with a large gradual peak at about 4 kHz. As with other kick drum mics, the bass response increases dramatically when placed closer to the drum head.
The BETA 52A has a very rugged design. The body is enamel coated to resist wear and abuse. An advanced pneumatic shock mount system minimizes mechanical noise and vibration, a big problem for drummers. And in front is a strong dent-resistant steel mesh grille. No wonder it weighs 21.6 ounces!
The built-in stand adapter has a dynamic locking system that simplifies setup. And it comes with a leather pouch for safekeeping.
- Built like a tank.
- Can handle the sound of a tank.
- Supercardioid response.
- Pneumatic shock mount.
7 Audix D6
At only 7.7 ounces, the Audix D6 dynamic cardioid mic is very lightweight and compact, making it easy to position. It’s ideally suited for kick drums, floor toms, and bass cabinets, or any other instruments with an extended low end. Designed, manufactured, assembled, and tested by Audix in the United States, the D6 comes with a 5-year warranty.
This mic has been a favorite in the studio since 2002 and comes in three designs. All have a precision machined aluminum body, steel mesh grill, and gold plated XLR connector. The D6 has a black anodized finish, while the D6S is silver anodized. The D6KD has an integrated boom stand mount.
The D6 has a “VLM” (very low mass) diaphragm to provide an excellent transient response. And it can handle SPLs up to 144 dB without distortion. Its cardioid pickup pattern provides off-axis signal rejection greater than 20 dB.
It has a relatively smooth frequency response from 30 Hz – 15 kHz. There’s a small 2 dB bump at 60 – 70 Hz, an 8 dB dip at 600 – 1,000 Hz, and an 8 dB peak at 5 kHz.
Several optional accessories are available. These include DFLEX dual pivot rim-mounted clip, DVICE flexible mini-gooseneck with a spring-loaded rim mount clamp, DCLAMP flexible mini-gooseneck with a drum tension lug mount, and STANDKD short pedestal stand with a telescoping boom arm.
- Small and lightweight for easy positioning.
- Smooth frequency response.
- 5-year warranty.
- Not very versatile, creates one very good kick drum sound, but can not be used to make a number of different ones.
8 Shure BETA 91A
At first glance, the Shure BETA 91A doesn’t look much like a microphone, with its low profile rectangular shape. That’s because its designed to sit inside a kick drum resting on a cushion, not positioned on a stand in front of it. It’s often employed in combination with another, more traditional kick drum mic. Another common use for the BETA 91 is to record a piano.
The BETA 91A is different in other ways, too. For one, it’s a condenser mic, so it has no moving coil or magnets. And it includes an integrated power supply, preamplifier, and XLR connector to reduce stage clutter and allow for quick setup.
Like condenser mics generally, it has a very wide, flat frequency response, in this case, 20 Hz – 20 kHz, with a 5 dB peak at 7.5 kHz. It also includes a two-position contour switch on the bottom of the mic. This selectively attenuates the signal by 7 dB at 400 Hz, in case the normal sound is too boomy.
The 91A has a cardioid polar pattern only in the hemisphere above the mounting surface. This is otherwise known as a “half-cardioid” response pattern. It can handle very high SPLs, up to 154 dB, with a signal-to-noise ratio of 64.5 dB.
- Very flat frequency response.
- Contour switch.
- No mic stands needed.
- Works better with felt beaters; plastic beaters can cause an audible click from the attack, depending on the drummers playing style.
9 Sennheiser e901
Similar in overall design (and price) to the Shure BETA 91 is the Sennheiser e901 condenser microphone. When used as a kick drum mic, it normally rests on a pillow inside the drum. It’s also suitable for piano and percussion or on conference tables and podiums.
It includes an integrated power supply and preamp for an uncluttered look, plus a gold-plated XLR connector. It not only looks cool and futuristic, but it’s rugged enough to survive being stepped on. And it comes with Sennheiser’s unique 10-year warranty.
The e901 has a half-cardioid response, so it must be placed in position at the level of or below the sound source. It has a frequency response from 20 Hz to over 20 kHz, with a gently rising peak at about 8 kHz. And sound levels as high as 154 dB are no problem for this mic.
It’s often combined with Sennheiser‘s e902 cardioid dynamic kick drum mic positioned at the resonant drum head. In this case, the e901 should usually be phase-reversed to avoid phase-cancellation effects, but it is worth experimenting because it varies from session to session.
- Very flat frequency response.
- No mic stand needed.
- 10-year warranty.
10 Beyerdynamic M88 TG
If price is not a concern, but high quality is, you should consider the Beyerdynamic M88 TG. This best dynamic microphone is an updated version of the original M88 introduced in 1962. As well as working well as one of the kick drum microphones, the M88 TG is equally impressive for vocals or wind instruments.
It features an integrated coil that reduces power line hum by up to 20 dB. Its hypercardioid pattern means that sounds to the side are severely rejected, and feedback is extremely low. Included is a reinforced mounting basket to withstand rough handling.
The M88 TG has a wide, flat frequency response of 30 Hz – 20 kHz, with a gentle 5 dB boost at 7 kHz. This makes it ideal for all kinds of applications. When used to mic a kick drum, an external pop shield, such as their PS 88 or WS 59, is strongly recommended.
As befitting a mic of this quality, it carries a 10-year warranty.
- Very flat response.
- Hypercardioid pattern for focused pickup.
- Humbucking coil.
- 10-year warranty.
- A superb and versatile microphone, but many will not want to pay this much for a dynamic microphone.
Best Kick Drum Mic Buyer’s Guide
In this section, we’ll take a look at some general technical concepts to help you shop knowledgeably for the best kick drum mic (for you). We’ll also help you decipher the detailed information you’ll find in the manufacturer’s specifications. Some of it is important, and some isn’t.
The Microphone Type
Today there are at least three unique microphone technologies in general use. For live sound reinforcement or recording of drums and other loud instruments like guitar and bass cabinets, both “dynamic” and “condenser” microphones are commonly employed.
How Are They Different?
A dynamic mic has a coil of wire attached to a diaphragm and suspended near a magnet. It’s much like a speaker in reverse. When sound hits the diaphragm, the coil moves through the magnetic field and induces an electrical current in the coil. Dynamic mics can handle high sound levels well, take a fair amount of physical abuse, and are relatively inexpensive. And they don’t require power. These attributes make them a natural choice for close-miking of drums and speaker cabinets.
Most magnets are alloys of aluminum, nickel, and cobalt, known as Alnico. More recently, magnets made from the rare earth element neodymium are becoming common. Because neodymium magnets are much more powerful, they can be made smaller and lighter. Some microphone manufacturers claim that this results in a faster transient response.
One significant problem with dynamic microphones (and guitar pickups) is that the coil can pick up hum. Some high-end mics include a second “humbucking” coil. Because it’s wound in the opposite direction, the hum generated by each coil is canceled out while the mic signal becomes louder.
A condenser microphone works on a completely different principle. A thin, electrically-conductive diaphragm is mounted close to a solid metal plate. An electric charge is applied between the diaphragm and plate to make it behave like a capacitor (condenser). As sound striking the diaphragm makes it move close to and further from the plate, the capacitance changes.
Condenser mics have an excellent high-frequency response. They’re also very sensitive, which makes them great for vocals and instruments but not for very close-miking. And they don’t have coils to pick up hum. Condenser mics require a power source, usually supplied through the cable from a mixing console.
Frequency Response Curve
All microphones are sensitive to a limited range of frequencies, measured in Hertz (Hz). To have meaning, this range should be qualified by the deviation in decibels (dB), and the distance between the sound source and mic. So a well-written mic specification would be something like “50 Hz – 15 kHz. +/- 6 dB, measured at 1 meter”. Even better is a graph showing the frequency response over the mic’s complete range. This allows you to see exactly where there are any dips or peaks in the response.
For a kick drum mic, the low-frequency response is extremely important. Ideally, it should be good at least down to 40 Hz. However, it can be difficult to compare the specs of two mics directly. One that’s measured to 40 Hz +/- 3 dB might actually have better bass response than one rated at 20 Hz +/- 10 dB. This is where the graph, and of course your ears, are a better judge.
Polar Response Pattern
Microphones usually pick up sounds coming from different directions unequally. A mic specification sheet usually includes a “polar graph” that illustrates its sensitivity to sounds coming from all around. It will vary somewhat by frequency, so a more accurate graph will show the response at several frequencies.
Vocal and instrument mics usually have a “cardioid” pattern, so named because it resembles a heart shape. Cardioid mics are much more sensitive to sounds at the front than at the sides and back. Variations of this design in the kick drum mics we’ve reviewed include supercardioid and hypercardioid. These mics are even more sensitive to the direction of the sound, with greater side rejection but somewhat more sensitive to sounds coming from behind.
Maximum Sound Pressure Level
Maximum sound pressure level, or SPL, indicates how much volume a microphone can withstand without excessive distortion or even damage. It’s measured in decibels. This is an important consideration for kick drum mics because of the very loud transients that drums produce. A good kick drum mic should be capable of handling a sound level of at least 130 dB. More is better.
Expressed in ohms, impedance is the measure of total resistance to an alternating current, like the output of a microphone. Professional mics are almost always low impedance in the range of 50 – 600 ohms. Impedance varies with frequency, and the exact impedance of a mic is not a significant concern.
This might perhaps be the hardest to understand precisely because there are several measurement standards. In a nutshell, this number indicates how much voltage is output for a given sound pressure level. A more sensitive microphone isn’t always better, and for kick drum mics, it’s not important.
And The Best Kick Drum Microphone Is…
First, we have a disclaimer. Every kick drum microphone reviewed here will perform very well. Each is a high-quality product. Our top choice represents a combination of sound quality, physical ruggedness, and cost. You might want to own several of these for different applications. Ultimately, your own ears must be the judge.
With all that said, our choice for best kick drum microphone is the
It can handle sound pressure levels up to an ear-splitting160 dB. It has an excellent frequency response all the way down to 20 Hz. And you can adjust how much the midrange is scooped by changing the distance from the drum head.
We also like the integrated humbucking coil to reduce power line noise. And while it’s not the cheapest mic in this review, the price is quite reasonable. And it’s backed by AKG’s 2-year warranty.
But maybe most important of all, it’s from AKG, an Austrian company known since 1947 for the highest quality audio products. The D 112 MK II microphone is the latest iteration of a design that has proven itself onstage and in the studio for more than 30 years. In the minds of many audio professionals, the D 112 is the best kick drum microphone ever made.
Plus An Honorable Mention…
Maybe the AKG D 112 MK II is beyond your budget, or you just need a great kick drum mic that will survive live gigs. In that case, we recommend the…
It sounds fantastic, it will survive accidents or roadies with attitude, and it won’t break your budget. Shure microphone designs are classics that hold their value for a long time.
In the end, choosing the ideal kick drum mic is a very personal decision. We advise you to read the manufacturer’s technical sheets and honest product reviews. But even more important is to listen to drummers who have a nice fat kick sound you like and find out how their kit is mic’ed.