You would think that drummers had enough on their plates: learning to co-ordinate all four limbs and put up with ‘hilarious’ drummer jokes. These days we’re also expected to be switched on when it comes to recording our kits.
Once it was simply a case of lugging your stuff into a sweatbox of a drum room, set it up and have a knuckle-dragging assistant engineer come and sort out the mics for you. With the advent of affordable, computer-based recording, however, the creating of demos falls to the band. There’s no sleep-deprived engineer to rely on and drummers have to fend for themselves, responsible for choosing mics and placing them in the correct positions.
It can all be a tad confusing. We all know about shell thickness, cymbal alloys and stick lengths, but what about dynamic and condenser mics, phantom power and XLR outputs? It’s a whole new language. Which is why several manufacturers have stepped into the breach and created studio-ready drum mic packages as a one-stop solution to recording conundrums.
The Fab Five
BDC’s box-set of mics is enough to get started with basic demo or rehearsal recording.
Comprising a big old kick mic, a pair of smaller dynamic mics and two thin ‘mini-shotgun’ types, the kit isn’t extensive enough to take care of close-miking duties on big kits, but provides a decent foundation on which to build. The old studio adage ‘you can never have too many microphones’ rings as true now as ever, and on heavy duty sessions it’s not uncommon to find mics everywhere – a couple on the snare (batter side and resonant), the same on the kick, toms close miked, a couple of overheads, a close mic on the hi-hat plus room mics dotted around to pick up the ambience of the drum room itself.
That’s not within the remit of the BDC kit: this is designed to be a quick and easy route into getting your drums onto disk. As you’d expect for the sub-£100 price tag.
There’s oodles of info on mic types and technique out there, so, we’ll simply point out here that the bigger mics are dynamics (capable of withstanding high sound pressure levels and without the need for external power) while the little ’uns are condensers (more sensitive and ‘airy’-sounding, and requiring phantom power from a mixing desk). Typically, the dynamics will work close up on kick and snare, while the condensers will fare best as overheads, to catch the sound of cymbals and provide high-end sheen to the kit.
Sourcing mics from off-shore manufacturers, as BDC has done, means good value for musicians. You’ll get better performance from spending through the nose for posher Neumanns and the like, but pocket-friendly sets such as this are a real boon for drummers who record regularly but would rather spend their wedge on sexier things like extra splash cymbals or add-on toms, and the quality of mics like these is commendable for the price being asked.
Socket to 'em
The dynamic mics are sturdy which is of key importance bearing in mind they’re in close proximity to flailing sticks. Even the smaller condensers appear well-built enough to save you worrying about them hanging on boom stands above your kit.
The XLR sockets make for a very secure connection too. A couple of the mics here put up something of a fight in this regard, with the leads needing a firm hand to slot the connectors in and get the tabs to pop. Better this way than a sloppy fit though…
Soundwise, the BDC kit holds no nasty surprises. Spending proper money on mics will always yield better results, with more solid, low-end, clear, taut mids and listening, smooth highs. But even thrown up in front of a fairly tired rehearsal kit the BDC mics delivered tone that’s hard to judge too harshly. The bass drum mic balances definition with acceptably weighty depth, and a little time spent positioning close-but-not-too-close to the batter head is well rewarded.
The two smaller dynamics also cope well with whatever’s presented to them (toms and snare-wise; they won’t be great for flutes…). Their naturally mid-range focused response is good for those drums where you need plenty of poke without too much woofly low end, and just a tad of mid-cut on the desk helped arrive at nicely clear, mud-free sounds.
Getting an ass-kicking recorded sound depends on tuning, positioning, head choice, kit location etc. The mics, important as they are, form only a part of the chain. But the BDCs are unlikely to be the weakest link for decent demos, song sketches and live recordings.