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University of Massachusetts-Lowell - April 17, 2013

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Summary

The Drum Overhead Literacy project was born through conversation between the section's AES officers about the best way to set up drum overhead mikes. We thought it would be a fun, informative experiment to set up various overhead mikes in different arrangements, record them, and then compare afterward. It was split into two parts, the first for recording, and the second for analysis.

In part two of the Drum Overhead Literacy series, we analyzed the 9 previously recorded overhead techniques in our critical listening room. We set up Pro Tools so that switching between mikes was as simple as a single click. Listed are the arrangements:

C414-XLS Spaced Pair (Cardioid, approx 3ft apart)
U89 ORTF
C414-XLR Glenn Johns
KSM-44 Blumlein
KSM-141 XY
KSM-141 Spaced Pair (Omni, 1.5ft apart)
C34 Mid-Side
C34 Blumlein
Shure 55SH mono (under drummer's left rack tom, near floor, facing snare)

It was very interesting to hear the differences. As with all stereo miking techniques, the resulting stereo image and the phase coherency are very important factors to consider. For example, we found that the XY setup gave a very clean sound with minimal comb filtering, but a pretty narrow image. The C414-XLS cardioid spaced pair gave a very wide, larger than life image, but resulted in comb filtering and vague, spread stereo locations for each drum/cymbal. The KSM-141 omni spaced pair, which was less spaced apart than the C414's, split the difference: it gave a fairly wide image, much less comb filtering, and more tight locations for each drum/cymbal. The Shure 55SH, set up in the supposed way that many Daptone drums were recorded, provided a compressed, high-end lacking sound. However, the balance amongst the drums was surprisingly good.

We concluded that there are many benefits and caveats to each drum overhead miking technique, and none are absolutely superior. The correct choice will always depend on the genre and desired sound, but it is very helpful to understand these differences to ensure informed pre-production.

It is our hope that eventually the audio samples and accompanying photos will be available on srtalumni.org for all to enjoy.

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