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The 11 Best Tom Mics to Make Your Drums Pop

28/04/2023

When recording or mixing live drums in bigger venues, it’s not uncommon to need a little extra punch and detail from your toms. In a pinch, a good set of overheads could be enough to do the job, but mic’ing them up directly offers more depth, flexibility, and presence in the mix.

For the clearest, punchiest drums you can acquire, setting up mics on every available source on the kit is the way to go – and this includes tom mics!

So, what are the best tom mics? In this article, we’ll discuss 11 of the best and give you some tips on what to look out for.

In a hurry?

Shure SM57 Ultra-robust and versatile dynamic microphone with excellent sound pressure handling.Check the current price
Audix D2 High-gain dynamic microphone with a focused hypercardioid polar pattern.Check the current price
Sennheiser MD 421 IIWorkhorse dynamic microphone for studios and live venues.Check the current price

Best tom mics

1. SubZero GD100

Great entry-level choice

 

Pros Cons

Good all-rounder designed for multiple instruments

No high-pass filtering options

Supercardioid polar pattern

High-frequency response rolls off at 15 kHz for a darker sound

 

SubZero GD100 micThe SubZero GD100 is a versatile dynamic instrument microphone.

Great for guitar cabs, percussion, and brass as well as drums, this mic offers a solid frequency response with articulate low-mids that’ll help bring out the thump of tom drums.

Its hypercardioid polar pattern keeps things intense and focused, for the clarity you need.

The GD100 has a great sound pressure handling of 132 dB, making it well-suited to the intensity of tom heads on both live stages and home studios.

Coming in at a very inviting price with a durable metal enclosure, this microphone is totally reliable.

Shop now | SubZero GD100


2. Shure SM57

Best budget option

 

Pros Cons
Extremely versatile Cardioid polar pattern can still pickup spill in tighter spaces
Great sound pressure handling Larger body makes positioning more challenging

 

Shure SM57 micThe Shure SM57 is a veritable swiss-army knife of microphones, becoming a fixture of microphone lockers in studios and live venues alike.

Commonly used on guitar amps, acoustic guitars, horns, snare drums, and any number of other instruments that might crop up while recording, it should come as no surprise that one of the most versatile microphones ever is also great on tom drums.

The SM57 features a uniquely contoured frequency response with a natural sound and presence boost that adds punch to any source, and its cardioid polar pattern keeps things focused on what’s in front of it. Its flat grille makes it easy to position close to the source, letting you get defined bass by harnessing the proximity effect.

The SM57’s sound pressure handling allows it to capture the thundering boom of tom drums without clipping. Plus, it’s affordable, making it ideal for acquiring multiple to set up on your kit without breaking the bank.

Shop now | Shure SM57


3. Sennheiser e604

 

Pros Cons
Convenient clip-on design for quick and easy setup Cardioid polar pattern can still pickup spill in tighter spaces
Hum compensating coil for minimal noise Not especially versatile

Sennheiser e604 microphone

 

The Sennheiser e604 is another fixture of venues and studios.

Commonly used on drums and other high-pressure instruments like brass, this dynamic microphone can manage incredibly loud sources very closely and continue to record without distortion.

Its incredibly convenient clip-on design and cardioid polar pattern make it easy to set up on drum heads to get the sound you want.

The e604’s sound has boosted upper-mid and high frequencies to add further bite and punch to your toms, with a flat, accurate low-end to prevent muddiness. This clip-on microphone is built from a lightweight and extremely tough glass-fibre body.

To ensure your recordings or live mixes sound clean, the e604 also has a hum-compensating coil that reduces self-noise.

Shop now | Sennheiser e604


4. sE Electronics V Beat

 

Pros Cons
Compact design for easy positioning No high-pass filtering could risk low-end build-up
Excellent transient and frequency response  

 

sE Electronics V Beat micThe sE Electronics V Beat is a dedicated and compact tom and snare drum microphone that makes setup and placement easy.

Of course, the V Beat also has excellent transient and frequency responses to get a full-bodied tom sound. Great for live venues and touring, it’s another cost-effective choice for drums.

The V Beat provides a DMC7 X capsule taken from sE’s extremely popular V7 vocal microphone, giving you a great sound.

It also has an extremely focused supercardioid polar pattern to give your toms an upfront, snappy character.

The durable build quality ensures it’s reliable with even the most intense drummers, chaotic stages, and long-term studio use.

Shop now | sE Electronics V Beat


5. Audix D2

 

Pros Cons
High-gain design is perfect for intense sounds High-gain design requires a lot of volume-boosting to balance in mix
Hypercardioid polar pattern controls spill and gives upfront sound  

 

Audix D2 micThe Audix D2 is a high-gain dynamic microphone that’s designed for all kinds of intense sources – especially percussion.

Its hypercardioid polar pattern is extremely focused on whatever you set it up on.

Such a precise pattern is great for live mic’ing and recording multiple performers in live studio sessions, letting you achieve an upfront sound for your toms.

The D2’s compact design makes it easy to position the microphones exactly where you need to on the drum heads to get the optimal sound for your mix.

This mic’s tough, hard-wearing body is built from machined aluminium with a hard coat to keep things looking professional and protect internal components for total reliability.

Shop now | Audix D2


6. Sontronics DM-1T

 

Pros Cons
Condenser design offers a more detailed and full sound than some dynamics Lower SPL handling than many dynamics
10 dB pad for increasing headroom  

 

Sontronics DM-1T micThe Sontronics DM-1T is a condenser microphone designed especially for tom drums.

It has a detailed quality that’s ideal for capturing both the booming lows and cracking high-end of the stick against the drum head, giving toms exceptional presence.

Its cardioid polar pattern provides a focused but smoother characteristic that’s great on other percussion instruments like bongos, djembe, and tabla.

The DM-1T also offers a 10 dB attenuation.

This attenuation helps prevent clipping, whilst a high sound pressure handling of 125 dB without the pad engaged, or 135 dB with it, making it ideal for handling heavy drummers without sacrificing sound quality.

Shop now | Sontronics DM-1T


7. Shure Beta 56A

 

Pros Cons
Supercardioid polar pattern reduces spill and feedback High-frequency roll-off from 16 kHz can sound darker than other options
Included swivel mount makes setup easy Lacking in low end

 

Shure Beta 56A micThe Shure Beta 56A is an extremely compact dynamic microphone for snare and tom drums.

Commonly seen in live venues and studios, this robust microphone provides a supercardioid polar pattern that shines on big, percussive sounds, as well as brass and guitar amps.

The Beta 56A is also very commonly used as a vocal microphone for drummers!

Since its tight supercardioid pattern avoids spill from the rest of the kit, it’s great for picking up a drummer’s voice without catching errant cymbals or other drum hits.

This mic’s neodymium magnet also makes sure your sound is detailed, with increased sensitivity and higher output.

Shop now | Shure Beta 56A


8. Beyerdynamic M 201 TG

Best all-rounder

 

Pros Cons
Hypercardioid polar pattern adds punch and focus Quiet output from low sensitivity
Good all-rounder instrument mic Requires extra gain to get desirable levels

 

Beyerdynamic M 201 TG microphoneThe beyerdynamic M 201 TG is a cardioid dynamic microphone with a compact pencil housing for easy positioning.

It has the extreme focus of a hypercardioid polar pattern to prevent spill and feedback, which is great for live performances or getting an upfront sound on recordings.

The M 201 TG is also great for live-streamed or filmed performances due to its low profile.

Its humbucking coil prevents electrical noise and interference for a consistent and clean signal.

While it shines on percussion sources, the M 201’s frequency response is detailed enough to capture a huge number of other instruments, making it a no-brainer choice for constantly changing spaces with a variety of artists and instruments.

Shop now | beyerdynamic M 201 TG


9. Shure Beta 98AMP/C

 

Pros Cons
Detailed condenser capsule for fuller sound High output requires careful gain management in studios or on stage
Gooseneck design makes positioning and adjustment easy Clamp mounting can cause low-frequency build-up

 

Shure Beta 98AMP/C micThe Shure Beta 98AMP/C is a miniature gooseneck microphone.

It’s designed for percussion of all kinds but is especially well-suited to snares and toms.

With an ultra-thin diaphragm and condenser capsule, the Beta 98AMP/C provides a full, rounded sound with an incredible transient response.

The Beta 98A’s durable construction provides the reliability we’ve all come to expect from Shure, making it a great option to keep in any mic locker.

This, alongside its gooseneck clip-on design, makes setting it up easy and tweaking the capsule’s position to achieve your ideal sound incredibly fast.

It’s great for quick setups and teardowns in live venues, as well as getting the perfect studio recording.

Shop now | Shure Beta 98AMP/C


10. Sennheiser MD 421 II

Best premium option

 

Pros Cons
Excellent all-rounder for almost any source Cardioid polar pattern may still pick up some spill on tighter kits
Well-tuned frequency response with focused midrange Larger form factor isn’t ideal for smaller venues or studios

 

Sennheiser MD 421 II micThe Sennheiser MD 421 II is an extremely versatile dynamic microphone, giving most of the others on this list a run for their money.

Commonly used on vocals, acoustic instruments, and guitar amps, this microphone is also incredible for percussion with its detailed, full-bodied, authoritative sound character.

The MD 421 II features a five-position low-cut filter for removing low frequencies exactly where you want to remove them, depending on the source.

This is great on toms, letting you keep that low-end while keeping them out of the way of kick drums or bass guitars in the mix.

Durable and reliable, with a cardioid polar pattern for clean sound, the MD 421 II is a no-brainer for all kinds of microphone setups.

Shop now | Sennheiser MD 421 II


11. Audio Technica ATM230PK

 

Pros Cons
Full set of three tom mics for full kits Not very versatile for other instruments
Hypercardioid polar pattern for focused tom sound  

 

Audio Technica ATM230PK micsThe Audio Technica ATM230PK is a pack of three microphones for percussion, making it great for capturing all of your kit’s toms at once.

These mics feature a hypercardioid polar pattern for that extra clarity and punch you want in your drum bus, without spill from other instruments, other parts of the kit, or feedback.

Their extremely low profile is great for staying discrete while on-camera, too, ideal for streamed live shows, YouTube videos, and studio diaries.

The ATM230 has an extremely warm frequency response with a big sound that ensures thundering drum fills.

The magnets in the microphone capsules of this pack are made of rare earth materials to offer improved output and clear, snappy transient response while managing incredibly high sound pressures without distortion.

Shop now | Audio Technica ATM230PK

What to look for in a tom mic

The main things to consider in a tom mic are frequency response and SPL handling.

Frequency response gives you the most accurate measurement of a microphone’s sound; the most important parts of the toms are the low mids, around 200 Hz to 500 Hz, and high mids from around 5 kHz to 7 kHz.

If your chosen mic can pick up these areas well, you likely have the sound quality you want for recordings and live shows.

SPL (Sound Pressure Level) handling is a measure of the maximum volume of a source a mic can capture without clipping.

Percussion like toms tend to kick out quite a lot of pressure, so you’ll want SPL handling above 130 dB. This should give your recordings enough headroom to sit in any mix without being a distorted mess in live shows.

In studio settings, it’s still good to have a high maximum SPL, but since you’ll have more control and flexibility, this isn’t as essential as it is for live shows.

Durability is also important for drum mics, you want something rugged and tough because drum mics can sometimes take a bit of a beating. An errant hit from a drumstick can always be a risk, and as any good live engineer knows, anything can go wrong on stage, so something that can take a bump is very important.

A mic that’s robustly built with a solid metal housing should give you the performance you want. Fortunately, this is the case for most options on this list and a majority of alternatives – but when it comes to build quality, you do get what you pay for.

Polar pattern is extremely important too, of course. However, with how most percussion mics are designed, you’ll want some flavour of cardioid polar pattern, picking up the sources directly in front of it for ease of use.

Alternatively, supercardioid and hypercardioid polar patterns add more off-axis rejection from the sides and rear. These are great for especially tight or busy stages, preventing spill from other instruments, other parts of the kit, and avoiding feedback. Supercardioid and hypercardioid also add a sort of presence and punch due to the intimacy of their pickup, putting your toms upfront.

The final consideration is the size of the microphone. For live stages, livestreams, videography, and studio diaries, for example, or just to save space in a mic locker, you might want something compact or discrete. This also offers benefits to positioning to achieve the sound you want.

FAQs

What is the best budget tom microphone?

The Sennheiser e604 is a great budget choice for a dedicated tom microphone due to its good sound quality and simple clip-on design. However, any dynamic microphones you might already have spare in your locker can do very well if your budget is too tight to add new mics to your setup. The SM57, while being more of an all-rounder is commonly seen in recording and live setups, and these do well on toms too.


Can you use the SM57 for toms?

You can absolutely use the SM57 on toms. Thanks to its wide dynamic range, reliability, affordability, and midrange sound, the SM57 is a great option for mic’ing up toms. The SM57 is great for studios – used everywhere, from budget home studios to high-end recording spaces – and for live use.


What mics did John Bonham use for his drums?

When playing live, John Bonham’s drum techs mic’d up every single part of his kit with SM57s. Toms, snares, overheads, and even the kick (with one at the front and one at the back) were all captured by an SM57. On record, Glyn Johns used a pair of Neumann U67s, one overhead, and one on the floor tom, as well as a Neumann U47 on the kick, and a Neumann U87 as a mono room mic to capture Bonham’s thunderous drumming.


What type of microphones are used for toms?

Dynamic microphones are most commonly used tom drums, as they have better SPL handling, and they capture the midrange frequencies that toms tend to sit in very well. These mics should have a cardioid, supercardioid, or hypercardioid polar pattern for focus and spill prevention. However, in recent years, we’ve started to see more dedicated condenser microphones for toms, which can have better transients and wider frequency responses among other benefits.


How many microphones should be used for toms?

To capture tom drums, you usually want as many microphones as you have toms in the kit. If your kit has three toms, as they tend to, use one microphone for each tom. This along with overheads, a hi-hat mic, a kick mic, and snare top and bottom, gives you a detailed and controllable drum mic setup with just eight microphones in total.

Final thoughts

In order to capture big, punchy tom drums, you want a focused midrange, a forward-facing polar pattern, and a durable body with good sound pressure handling. Whether dynamic, condenser, specifically designed to work on percussion, or an all-around instrument mic, every microphone on this list has these characteristics – which is why we’ve picked them as our 11 best tom mics.

 

Content Writer - Live Sound

Callum is a former audio and music technology student who has a love of punk, rock, metal, and electronic music. In his spare time, he produces music, and DJs occasionally. He's also a freelance engineer when possible, helping local bands make their noise even noisier.

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