What is - in your opinion - the best overhead mic? I'm not talking megabucks vintage mics here, just the better quality-for-the-price overhead mic available in the market today.
How much are you looking to spend? I use a pair of Audio Technica AT3035's. They're not to be confused with the AT2035's, which are made in china and are black - the 3035's are made in Japan, are silver and from the AT 30 series. The 30 series was recently discontinued, so I got my pair of 3035's used (even had 3 at one time) for under 200 bucks. I also have a pair of Oktava MK-012's, which I also bought used and I essentially got a pair for around the price of one brand new one. The AT3035's are large-diaphragm condensers, and the Oktavas are small-diaphragm pencil condenser mics. They're both designed to withstand high sound pressure levels. The AT's have a switch that activates a -10db pad, and the Oktava's have in-line pads that you can screw in between the capsules and the mic body. The AT's also have a high-pass filter switch, which will attenuate low frequencies.
They both have a different sound, but they're both very versatile mics. The consensus from my own research seems to be that a Large-Diaphragm Condenser mic tends to pick up more room sound than a Small-Diaphragm mic on drums. My own experience confirms this, but I also set up my overhead mics using the recorderman technique, so I don't get a lot of room sound to begin with because with that setup the mics are relatively close to the drums and cymbals and capture a lot of direct sound.
A lot of people say that SDCs handle fast transients better, because their smaller diaphragms react quicker and large 1" diaphragms on LDC's can smooth out (or 'blur' depending who you ask) out those fast transients. But often exactly that is a desired effect, and it's the reason why some people lover certain LDC's as drum overheads, while others like the precisiveness of SDC's. But decent LDC's still capture a lot of detail. I find them to sound more colored overall than SDC's, although my Oktavas to me are definitely more colored mics than my AT's! In an overhead shootout I conducted a while ago, I found that some LDC's, such as the Audix SCX25A's were too "slow" and tended to muddy up intricate cymbal work. The AT2020's, which can be had for as little as 75 bucks each did astonishingly well, even with mics that cost as much as 900 bucks a piece in the same shootout.
Now, I know you have a relatively big kit with a lot of cymbals. Most condenser mics have a fixed cardioid pattern. With a pair, you might not be able to capture your entire kit as well as you'd like to without getting the mics too far away and getting too much room sound. Although if you placed a pair in ORTF you'd probably get a pretty good image. More expensive condenser mics are multi-pattern, which let you choose the pickup pattern of the mics. If you want just two mics, you might want to get mics that have the option of a wide-cardioid pickup pattern. That way you can get a much broader pickup pattern with each mic and not position them too far away. But that will cost $$$ so it all depends on your budget.
Thanks for the great reply! I tested 2 AKG C1000S with the hypercardiod capsule adapter and without them. They capture the sound of all my cymbals fine, and they offer some detail but they sound too boxy. I used the separated parallel positioning, left and right, at exact 58 inches from the center of the snare drum. The stereo image is great, no phase issues. BUT, the sound of these AKGs is not very transparent.
What I am looking for is a pair of mics that are clear and transparent, offering good detail. My budget is the lowest possible, with a limit of $220 each.
I don't have any first-hand experience with the C1000's, but I've read a lot of horrible things about them.
For that budget I'd recommend both the AT3035's. They have a lot of clarity and detail. Check your PM, I've sent you a few recordings where I used my AT3035's as overhead mics. If you don't want to look for used ones, the AT2035's are also a great choice. The difference between them and the 3035's is quite slight, with the biggest difference being the 2035's have a slightly more hyped top-end. But with a little EQ you could probably make them sound the same as the 3035's.
I own one AKG C1000 S and use it once in a while to mic a snare or hi hat. I bought it many years ago when they first came out and were black in color. I can see how they would sound a bit boxy especially using them as overheads with their hypercardioid capsule under a standard height ceiling. My favorite overhead microphones and ones that I've been using for more than 15 years are the AKG 414 ULS's in a spaced stereo configuration and either in a cardioid or wide cardioid pick-up pattern. I prefer the sound and smoothness of the 414's compared to that of the Neumann KM 184 pair. With the 414's many selective patterns, high pass filters and multi attenuation pads, it's just a more useful microphone in my opinion. Through the years the AKG 414 ULS went through some electrical changes in manufacturing and is know now as the AKG C 414 B-XLS. Other overhead microphones I like a lot are the Shure SM81's and AKG 451's. Another Shure mic I would like to try as an overhead pair is the KSM137s. They look good on paper with their 20 to 20,000 response and 170 SPL ratings, but the proof is in the listening.
Dennis, I absolutely love the 414's as much as the next guy, but they're pricey at around 800 bucks each! That's way above and beyond the OP's budget, I don't think you caught that bit!
I caught it but I was taking his comments about the mega bucks vintage mics more to heart. There the sky's the limit, lol. I've seen quite a few 414 mics on the used market for about half their new cost, but again it all depends on their condition and how eagerly their owners want to get rid of them. It's easy for me to spend someone else's money.
I'm going to jump in and say that I LOVE my pair of AT3035's. Even though I don't have a matched pair, Jesus H they are amazing. I didn't pay a lot for them: traded a Studio Projects C1 for one and sold a Nady RSM-4 for $70 and paid $30 out of pocket for the second. They sound great on just about everything but guitar amps. Not to say they sound awful on guitar amps, but with all of the positioning I've tried they haven't yielded the best results (not awful, but not the most usable). As far as SDCs, I've got a pair of MXL 604's, which are actually ok on overheads (very nice on acoustic guitar), but now that I know more about how good mics sound I'm looking to replace them. I've used the ATs on overheads once and they blew me away! I couldn't believe how good they sounded over the 604's. They sound particularly great on voice, as well.
I think the best value for drum overheads is the Chameleon Labs TS-1 for $500 New / $400 Used. MILES AND MILES better than the Rode NT-5s I used to use. They are also amazing on acoustic guitar and I really like mics that have multiple uses.
I also have 2 AT3035's and agree... nice overheads. As far as I know, the AT2035 is the same mic, they just rolled it into the 20 series because there was no point in have two "mid-range" mics. Now I don't know about the whole made in China bit. The specs for the AT3035 and AT2035 read nearly identical, and even Audio-Technica said they are the same but... that doesn't mean the Chinese are making them to spec. The questionable business ethic of China is well-documented, so....
Anyway... I've had good times with the AT3035 as an overhead, but I think where it excels, is as an "underhead" mic. By that I mean say...
one positioned about a foot away from your floor toms, and another about a foot away from your high toms; but below the cymbals, and pointed at the snare. Depending on your set-up, this may or may not be a practical application, but for me it works great.
I've also use the AE5100, also from Audio-Technica. It's a "medium-diaphragm" pencil condenser, and of higher quality than the AT3035. It also costs more but.... The AE5100 is a bit more direction and handles the room better...particularly if you have a bad sounding or loud room. It's designed for live applications, but is still very quiet and works well in the studio. High SPL capability also allows the AE5100 to be to be used on snare.
That's my vote - AE5100 msrp:$429.00
Last edited by PYRRHO; 07-02-2010 at 08:36 PM.
Reason: typed 'ethnic' rather than 'ethic'
Originally Posted by dubsnack
Interesting - I haven't heard of the Chameleon Labs before. Price is kinda steep for me on both, including the AE5100 that Pyrrho mentioned. But it might be worth saving the money. My room is far away from ideal, but it does have some wall treatment and some reflective surfaces. My intention is not to get super professional sounding drums because I know that is not possible - Mackie is no SSL And I really like 2 inch tape instead of hard drives but that is completely out of my league.
Originally Posted by PYRRHO
The overhead question was because since there is a lot of sound from the entire kit going into those mics, I want something that is as clear as possible within my budget.
My style of playing is on the heavy side. I have a good "punch" without too much effort, and that enables me to have the gain on the mics normal to low. I am no jazz player by any means, and I let the stick wood do most of the job (I use 2B nylons) and my kick drums are fierce when heard live in this particular room.
But anyways, thanks for the advice guys and if you have any other models you think I should look into, keep'em coming!
The AT3035's would make a **** good pair of overheads for $200 or less.
Originally Posted by ws6freak