The kick drum is such a critical element in so many musical genres. It’s also quite an interesting instrument and requires an equally special microphone to capture it sufficiently.
The Shure Beta 52A (link to check the price on Amazon) is my number one recommended kick drum microphone. Of all the microphones I’ve tested on kick drums, the Beta 52 delivers, by far, the best results.
Let’s dig a bit deeper into why this microphone performs so well on kick drums and why it’s my top recommendation to anyone miking up a kick.
“Best” is a dangerous word. There is really no such thing as a “best microphone” for any situation. The microphone(s) listed in my Recommended Microphones And Accessories” page are simply my recommendations. These recommendations are based on my own experience and are mindful of budget. It would be easy to suggest an ELA M 251 or U47 for most scenarios. However, these tube mics are very expensive, putting them out of a hobbyist’s price range and making it difficult for professionals to make their money back on the gear.
Another important note is that the microphone or equipment you choose is not the most important part of recording audio. In fact, there are many factors that are arguably more important than the choice of microphone. These include:
- Performer (whether a musician, speaker, or otherwise)
- Microphone technique/placement
- Number of microphones used
- Natural sound of the room
- Content (whether that’s the song, discussion, or otherwise)
- Signal chain (including mic cable, preamplifier, console, and/or interface/computer)
With that being said, some microphones and gear suit some instruments better than others, prompting this series of articles under “Recommended Microphones And Accessories.”
What To Look For In A Kick Drum Microphone
When deciding on a microphone to place in front of a kick drum, there are a few factors to keep in mind. Here are a few guidelines to follow to get the best sounding kick drum microphone:
- High Maximum Sound Pressure Level: Kick drums are typically the loudest instrument in any scenario. Some kick drums have been recorded at a whopping 145 dB SPL! Choose a mic that can cleanly reproduce these levels.
- Low-Frequency Response: A solid, clean low-frequency response is essential to keep a good, deep, rich kick drum sound (“thud”).
- Mid-Frequency Cut: A slight cut in the frequency response between 250 Hz – 4000 Hz will make the low end sound even better.
- Presence Boost: A boost in high-mid frequencies will help the kick drum punch through a mix (“thack”).
- High-Frequency Roll-Off: A roll off of sibilance frequencies effectively rejects the cymbals of a drum kit, thereby producing a cleaner capture of the kick drum.
- Directionality: It’s essential to pick directional microphones when close miking any part of a drum kit. Directional mics capture what they’re pointed at rather than everything around them.
- Price: A typical drum set only has one kick drum so it’s okay to spend a bit more on a nice kick drum microphone. However, kick drum mics aren’t very versatile, so budget should be on your mind when it comes time to choose your kick mic.
- Mounting: Pick a kick drum microphone that is maneuverable. A good test of maneuverability is fitting the microphone through the sound hole at the front drum head.
How Does The Shure Beta 52A Compare To The Above Criteria?
So now we have a solid framework for choosing the best kick drum microphone. Let’s see how the Shure Beta 52A compares!
Maximum Sound Pressure Level Of The Shure Beta 52A
Kick drums are loud. Up to 145 dB SPL loud! That’s loud enough to overload many of the condenser microphones on the market. I’d always suggest going with a dynamic microphone, like the Beta 52, when miking up a kick drum.
Most dynamic mics do not even come with a maximum SPL rating because the true max SPLs are either much higher than any practical sound source or unmeasurable.
The max SPL of the Shure Beta 52A is rated at a whopping 174 dB SPL! That’s louder than a stun grenade.
Frequency Response Of The Shure Beta 52A
The frequency response of the Shure Beta 52A is listed as 20 Hz – 10,000 Hz. Here is the frequency response graph of the Beta 52A:
The various lines drawn about the lower end of the frequency spectrum relate to the proximity effect. As we can see, the closer the Beta 52 is to the sound source, the greater the bass frequency response!
The proximity effect is exhibited by all directional microphones.
The sound source, in the case of a kick drum, is where the beater hits the beater head. However, it’s not that simple since the entire drum resonates with each hit. Placing the microphone closer to the beater head inside the drum may actually reduce the amount of low-end in the signal while increasing the beater attack. Regardless, placing the Beta 52A near or inside a kick drum will yield excellent low-end!
Placing the Shure Beta 52A at the front head or inside a kick drum will yield an excellent low-end frequency response. This give the kick drum audio signal the weight it deserves.
The mid-frequency cut between roughly 200 Hz to 2,000 Hz helps eliminate the “boxiness” sound of the kick drum.
However, it’s not so much the cut of these low-mid-frequencies we’re truly concerned with when choosing a kick drum mic. Rather, it’s the low-end boost below these frequencies and the presence boost just above these frequencies that give the kick drum mic its weight and attack, respectively.
The Beta 52A’s boost around 4 kHz is perfect for capturing the beater attack of most kick drums. This frequency band is essential for clarity of the kick drum in an audio mix. Otherwise, the kick drum signal would only be low-end and get lost under everything else.
Kick drums do not provide a whole lot of sonic information in the brilliance range (6 kHz – 20 kHz) so why capture it?
Now, EQing a kick drum audio signal so that it has no information above 6 kHz isn’t a great idea. That would kill the brightness and some of the kick drum/microphone character. However, we’re probably safe to cut around 10 kHz, which is exactly what the Beta 52A does!
Much of the brilliance information in a drum kit is produced by the cymbals.
The high-frequency roll-off of the Shure Beta 52A allows for the capture of a kick drum’s character while effectively rejecting the brilliance of cymbals and snares. This is a great way to better isolate the kick from the nearby drum elements.
Directionality Of The Shure Beta 52A
Speaking of isolation, the directionality helps further isolate the Beta 52’s audio signal.
The 52’s directional polar pattern is supercardioid. This means the microphone is very sensitive to sound where it points while rejecting most of the sound of its sides and rear.
This directional pattern works well inside and outside a kick drum.
Outside the kick drum, a Beta 52 pointed at the kick is effective at picking up the kick and rejecting the other instruments.
Just inside the port hole is another sweet spot for a supercardioid pattern. Here, the Beta 52 will pick up the beater attack and quite a bit of the resonance of the kick drum.
Inside the kick drum, the supercardioid pattern isn’t as overwhelmed by the reflections and resonances within the shell.
Price Of The Shure Beta 52A
For under $200 USD, the Shure Beta 52A is a steal!
As with most microphones considered to be “kick drum microphones,” the Beta 52A isn’t very versatile. Even though the kick drum is an extremely important instrument, it may not work well in the budget to spend buckets of money on a one-trick-pony.
The Beta 52 won’t break your bank!
Mounting Of The Shure Beta 52A
The Beta 52 is incredible easy to attach to a mic stand and position inside or outside a kick drum. There’s no separate mic clip. The thread connector is right beside the XLR connector.
The Beta 52A is also very small compared to its diaphragm size, making it even easier to place within the port hole of a kick drum.
Recap On The Shure Beta 52A
The Shure Beta 52A is tailored to work with nearly any kick drum. It’s capable of capturing the loudest kick yet has such a small, maneuverable footprint. The 52 has an ideal frequency response designed to compliment kick drums for nearly every genre of music and mixing style.
And at the unbeatable price point, it’s worth grabbing for your mic locker whether you’re a drummer, audio technician, or venue owner!