Navigating the world of audio recording is particularly tough when it comes to drums. There are many different parts of a drum kit, all of which have their own unique sound, what is best for one drum certainly isn’t best for another. In this guide, we look at the best tom mics.
Getting your mic selection and placement right is nothing short of vital. It doesn’t matter if you are playing live and connecting to a live mixer or desk, or whether you are tracking songs in the recording studio. In general, the best live tom mics and the best studio tom mics are the same thing, which is one headache less for those who need microphones to do both. However, navigating which brands and models are best for picking up the boomy, low to mid range sound of a tom drum is a tough task, made easier by our listing of the 4 top options for toms.
Check out our list below for a full rundown. For those who want to get straight to the recommended mic, check out the Sennheiser e604. An incredibly durable, clear-sounding and easy to use tom mic which comes complete with clamp and even boasts a 10-year warranty.
Clips, Clamps and Mounts
Before we run down through our reviews, a quick word about clips and mounts. Drum kits require a lot of microphones to get a detailed sound. If you are micing your toms (not everyone does, though we recommend it) it isn’t realistic to have mic stands for each one, they would simply get in the way. That’s why the majority of tom microphones come with clips and mounts, meaning they can very simply hang onto the edge of the tom and point towards the center where they will be picking up sound from.
Recommended Tom Mics
As always, we’ve tried to recommend the best products for different uses. It is all very well just telling people what we think is the best product available, but people are on different budgets and require different things. You may need a live mic, you may need a studio mic. You may have a $500 budget, you may need something under $50. We’ve got options for all of these scenarios covered below.
There aren’t many lists of top microphones which can afford to ignore the SM57s, especially for live use. We’ve recommended the SM57 previously for everything from rap vocals to hi-hats. There’s an argument for the SM57 being the most versatile microphone of all time, it is used in studios and live venues all over the world and can pick up a wide range of sounds.
It may not be the first choice in recording studios and doesn’t provide the same detail as a condenser microphone, but for toms, we recommend a dynamic mic such as this because they are more robust. There’s every chance of them getting bashed, and a condenser microphone may not stand up to these rigors.
Another benefit of buying an SM57 is the fact that it can be used for such a huge range of applications, and doesn’t have to specifically be your tom mic. Because it is used so widely, the SM57 doesn’t come with a clip or clamp for the rim of a drum, but this is something you can easily purchase separately.
MXL A-5t Dynamic Tom Drum Microphone w/ Mounting Clip
At the time of writing, this is a spectacular price, making it a good budget tom mic for those who don’t want to spend a lot of cash. This doesn’t mean it is poor quality at all though.
- Sturdy metal body to protect it from getting bashed around, and from external noise.
- Custom built for drums with a frequency response great for toms.
- Adjustable mount which sits on the rim of the drum and can pivot to your preference.
- High SPL meaning it can handle a lot of volume without distorting.
It might not be the mic they use on toms at Abbey Road, but if you want a good option that doesn’t cost the earth, the MXL A-5T is well-built and gives a good sound considering. A good option for beginners, home recordings, small gigs and even home studios.
Another offering by Shure, this one built with toms and snares specifically in mind. Shure are undeniably one of the most prolific mic brands in the world, and perhaps the king of the dynamic mic. The PGA56, much like many of the other mics mentioned, has a cardioid pickup pattern which means it does a good job of picking up just the source sound and no ambient noise.
The rugged design of the PGA56 means that it doesn’t damage easily, which is definitely something you need to consider when placing any mic on a drum kit. Due to being designed with toms specifically in mind, it comes with the swivel mount needed to clip it nicely onto the rim of the drum. The simplicity and ease-of-use are worthy of note as this is so simple to set up and adjust.
Shure ship the product not only with the mount but with a carry case, and there are bundles available which include an XLR cable with the microphone. The price is somewhere in the ‘mid-range’ for this type of microphone. It certainly isn’t expensive when compared to condenser microphones or high-end vocal mics, but for picking up a clear audio representation of your tom (or snare), the PG-56 does a fine job.
Sennheiser E604 Dynamic Cardioid for Snare and Toms
Sennheiser are another powerhouse in the world of audio. Frankly, their E604 is just about as high-quality as it comes for tom mics, and deserve to be recommended as the best microphone for toms and even for snares as well.
Not only does this offer most of the features of the other products mentioned (ruggedness, ease-of-use and the ability to take a beating) the sound quality is truly exceptional.
The high SPL and low-distortion design mean that this can handle loud volumes, so even the hardest-hitting drummer should still give clean audio when using this microphone. The e604 is incredibly durable due to having a reinforced glass-fiber body. Amazingly, this is so well made that Sennheiser offer a 10-year warranty on the product.
The whole of the e600 range is great for instruments, and the 604 is designed specifically to pick up drum sounds with ease. It will fit perfectly for both live and studio use, and in spite of costing a little more than many other options, the quality is clear to see (and hear).
Tom Mic Tips
Do I Need To Mic Toms Individually?
This is an area of some debate, and there are a lot of different microphone setups. The truth is that it is better to have and not need, than to need and not have. If you use a microphone on a tom and choose not to use it in the mix, that isn’t a problem, but if your tom goes missing and you have no way of boosting it, it really is a problem. Some people claim that their drum overheads pick up all the tom they need, and some amazing drum recordings have been made with minimal gear, but the safest option is to mic up.
So that’s the “Why?”, now onto the “How?”
How to Mic Toms
Most of the clips, clamps and swivel mounts included are quite self-explanatory, and standard XLR connections are common, but if you still have questions on the process, the below video does a good job of explaining.