Drum micing - User group opinions.
Please see Mii's full article on micing the bodhran
There has been some discussion on the bodojo group regarding the amplification of bodhráns for gig purposes. There have been varied opinions but a fairly consistent range of recommendations. I've listed the main contenders below.
There would appear to be a clear winner - a paired Shure Beta 52 and Shure SM 81- unsurprisingly it's the most expensive option.
Overall I'd say that there were two main considerations; convenience and sound quality. Cost didn't seem to be an issue really.
The 52/81 paired system offers the most accurate representation of the drum's overall tonal spectrum, especially in the lower frequencies. It uses a dynamic kick drum mic designed to deal with these tones, the Beta52. The sound is also detailed in the mid/upper registers by using the SM81 condenser. The whole mix is balanced at the mix desk or by the drummer's mini mixer.
Small diaphragm clip on condensers such as the AKG 418 and 419 are relatively cheap, clear sounding, hassle free, but won't have the body and 'balanceability' of the paired system. They provide the most consistent sound to the PA and offer optimum freedom to move, wireless if that's necessary.
I'd look at your budget and the types of gigs that you're playing. How important is it to you?
"The sound was PHENOMENAL! Rob Forkner was there and raved about the quality. I have to agree. I'm going to try a few more setups, but I'm pretty sure I've made up my mind. Anyone want to buy a 419 that's only been used once?? - Mark
- Concensus is that the microphone(s) are best placed on the open side of the drum.
- The closer the mic is to the skin, the better the bass response (proximity effect).
- ...for clarity can be placed near an area where you execute most high pitched sounds.
- ...will remain the same distance from the drum head at all times and therefore will have a more consistent sound level than a mic on a stand.
- ...provide convenience and give acceptable but not optimum sound quality.
- ...add weight plus their cable or transmitter pack - these may affect balance
- ...give you wings.
- Pro -
- sensitive (but relatively fragile) microphones designed to 'capture' a more accurate representation of the source instrument.
- Con -
- more expensive!.
- They are 'active' which means the backplate requires a small electrical charge. This charge is usually either phantom power provided from the mixing board or is an inline power supply.
- Not all mix desks will have phantom power!!.
- Condenser mics are sensitive and can be a source of feedback on stage.
- Pro -
- rugged & robust.
- require no external power
- Con -
- Reduced frequency range compared to a condenser.
Single Mic Systems on this page
- AKG 418 AKG 419 AKG 451 Audix adx-90
- Sennheiser 421 Sennheiser e604
Paired mic systems on this page
- Shure Beta 52 - Shure sm81
AKG 418/9 Condenser Mics
Mini diaphragm Condenser microphone
" Put it at the top inside the drum, and I play right under it for the top end pops and tone, and my bass notes down below, and I get both boom and pops. I also ask for an EQ curve with a boost at 80, a cut at about 200, and another boost at 6K, which brings out the bottom and top end of the drum much nicer than a flat EQ curve." Kevin King
 I have been using it for years now and I'm always happy - Rolf Wagels
AKG 451 - Small diaphragm condenser
Great instrument mic, maybe not sufficient capacity for low frequencies
"C451 is a great studio mike but I don't think it would be the best gig mike for bodhrán. Too sensitive. Not enough bottom. Gives you great articulation though. I use it a lot in the studio". Mii
"I purchased the Audix ADX-90 Clip-on Condenser Mic and was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the sound. Nice solid bottom and good range from lows to high pops. It was eqed flat so if we were to tweak the levels we might even get more out of it. For $80 it was a good buy. We used it yesterday in the studio while practicing for tonight's set at the pub. I'll give a quick review how it did live. The only thing that I am a little concerned with is that it uses phanthom power. I bought a mic because all to often the places I sing have mics for voices but not for percussion. Cheers". - Paulsjuris
Dynamic Microphones =
Sennheiser 421 - Dynamic
"I use a Sennheiser 421. With my Metloef drum, I'm not getting the pops and articulation that I want from this mike without a good tweaking from a good sound guy" - Mark Stone
"While the Sennheiser MD421 is a great mike for many purposes and my first choice for tom-toms, I can see what you're missing with it: a clear articulation of the high pops and taps of your Metloef. The 421 has a pretty good transient response and pretty darn good high-frequency response for a dynamic mike" Mii
Dynamic microphone, cheap & rugged. good for mid/low frequencies lacks some articulation in detail. Normally used for drumset toms.
"I have used the e604 live, and occassionally in the studio, for a while, and like it quite well. Thumpy but reasonably articulate. It's generally getting compressed pretty well, and eq'd a fair bit (pull at 330 , push at 80-100, push at 5k or so). I like the rounder sound from a dynamic mic, as opposed to the brighter pointier condenser feel". - John Anthony
Paired Mic systems
Shure Beta 52 and Shure SM81 - Far and away the best system of which we are aware.
As used by John Joe Kelly of Flook (pictured right) the Shure 52/81 combination appears thus far to deliver the optimum sound. The Beta 52 is a large diaphragm dynamic bass drum mic which is designed to pick up low frequencies from the drum. The SM81 is a small diaphragm condenser which will pick up detail. This system requires two channels on the mixing board and balancing by the engineer. Place both mics on the open side of the drum to avoid phase cancellation (see below)
"The sound was PHENOMENAL! Rob Forkner was there and raved about the quality. I have to agree. I'm going to try a few more setups, but I'm pretty sure I've made up my mind. Anyone want to buy a 419 that's only been used once?? - Mark Stone
" If you are micing a drum with two mics - one on the front and the other on the back - and their distance from the drum is approximately the same, the signals from the two mics will cancel a lot of each other out. The sound will come out undefined and fuzzy. Many mixing desks have a switch for reversing the phase of a channel. Reversing one of the two mic signals will solve the problem. (This is common snare drum miking and recording practise.)
"If your mixing desk doesn't have phase reverse switches for channels, do as Mark said: put both the mics on the same side of the drum."