Large Diaphragm condensers or Pencil mics?


Junior Member
Happy Holidays!

Ok, I was wondering what the consensus is with regard to large diaphragm condensers or pencil mics. I know it's a, "let your own ears be the judge", -type thing. But was wondering about some of the "pitfalls" with either that I may not be taking into consideration.

I have a decent sounding room where I play i.e., vaulted ceiling, asymmetrical walls, carpeted floor etc. I have a nice kit (in my opinion anyway); a Tama Starclassic Maple outfitted with decent mics: Senheiser 421mkIIs on the toms, SM57 top and bottom snare, SM81 for hi hat, AKG 112 on the Bass drum, and AT4041s for the overheads in a spaced pair array (I do like that stereo left to right sound).

I guess large mics would give me more of the room, right? more bass response, etc?
I'm considering purchasing a pair of AKG 214s to experiment. Another idea I was thinking of was a pair of AKG414s and experimenting with the polar patterns. Either in Omni or figure 8 to capture reflections off the ceiling -to really capture the room.

Thoughts? (I know, I know. Do what sounds best!)

One last thing:

I leave my mics hooked up. I see no reason for taking them down and putting them back up when I play; you know those moments of inspiration. What do studios do, use mic covers, socks or something like that? It can't be good to just leave them exposed: dust, etc.

Thanks for reading!


Senior Member
You didn't say what you would be using the microphones for but since you said condenser mics I'm going to assume your using them for overheads since close micd condensers on drums probably wouldn't end well.

If they're for overheads then I'd recommend larger diaphragm or anything bigger than a pencil mic as you are trying to cover a large area with only 2 mics, at my colleges we use a stereo pair of AKG C1000s.

As for the polar pattern, it's best to stick to the cardioid family since again your aiming for half a drum kit per mic instead of half a drum kit and half of the ceiling with figure 8. Over heads are used to get the cymbals and an overall sound of the kit together rather than to capture ambience from the room for a led Zeppelin sounding boomy kit, for which I would recommend omni-directional.

As for leaving the mics up I have nothing to help with dust proofing, maybe a large sheet to cover everything or just dust regularly.

Like you said let your ears decide but there's one crucial factor you left out when choosing mics which is the main influence in the sound of which is the frequency response of the microphone, I'd probably suggest something that boosts the high end to give cymbals a "shimmering" sound.

Well I hope I've helped :)


Silver Member
I dunno if you have extra channels on your mixer or audio interface, but you could consider adding a couple of room mikes.
CAD179m gets a lot of respect and are reasonably priced. You could use them as room mikes or any other position on your kit. They also have fully adjustable pattern.

Thx. Jorn


Platinum Member
A certain amount of physics comes into play with regards to diaphragm diameter. One is that the polar pattern with frequency is different. No unidirectional or cardiod mic is evenly unidirectional at all frequencies. They make use of vents or phase relationships to cancel out sound from the back and sides. Doing this by it's very nature is going to be frequency dependent. The larger the diaphragm (in either a microphone or speaker) the lower the frequency at which it naturally becomes directional. The net effect is that a large diaphragm condenser is much more directional at high frequencies than a small diaphragm. And tend to focus more on the kit. Less room sound and more of what it is pointed at. Especially cymbals and the attack transient of the drums. SDC's are more uniform in the polar pattern from the mids though the highs. Depending on reflections from nearby surfaces, standing waves in the room and and mics themselves, SDC's will give more of the room.

The other thing is that with the larger surface area, LDC's will give more low end or take higher sound pressure levels in the low end. If you are high passing your overheads and using them mainly for cymbals, this isn't much use. If you are trying to get the toms in them, it may be much more important.

These attributes can be utilized to advantage, or they can be a nuisance. Depends on the room and what you are trying to do.
I find the difference between large and small diaphragms mics is the tightness and clarity..
The smalls will have more definition, clearer top/mid range and handle transients better..
The large with be a larger sloppier sound.. So it depends on what sound you are going for..

I'm just comparing them used as overheads.. Large diaphragms work great as room mics,, As long as you room has a decent sound..

Using patterns on a 414 can be cool if you want a distant type sound, you are adding room sound directly to the source sound at the same time.. If you are going for a clearer sound.. Cardioid is the way to go..


Silver Member
I think moving up the food chain will make the biggest difference. AKG C414 will capture your kit beautifull as overheads as well as a nice set of Earthworks or Mojave. One bargain mic that is right up there with the c414 and can be had much cheaper used is the Audix scx25.


Junior Member
Great responses here, folks. Thanks for the input.
I should have clarified a little more in the beginning: Yes, the condensers I'm referring to are for overheads.
Again, the rest of the kit is closed miked, so the tightness is there. My purpose to to mainly have a "good room" sound, with the close mikes supporting the overheads, and not the other way around. So incorporating the "character" of the room is what I'm aiming to do. Since I've never experimented this extensively, I guess I'm testing out the drum room to see if it's really worth a damn. It might end up sounding better with a tight, close-miked sound, and using the overheads or room mics for a little bit of ambience. I am looking for a controlled type of sound. So my LDCs could be used without bass roll-off to capture more of the low-end transients as well as the highs of the cymbals. But one may argue that this may "clash" with the Sennheiser MD421s on the toms. Or "over-reinforce" them. I could engage the bass roll off switch and see if there is an improvement. Experimentation is key, here. Try combinations until I'm blue in the face, and take notes! One of the combinations my lend itself to a different sound that could be used later, right?

What I'm going to try is this:
Two overhead channels with pencil mics -with and withouot bass rolloff
Two overhead channels with LDCs mics -with and without bass rolloff,
So four different stereo tracks and audition for the best "room" sound
Blend the best stereo "room" track with the rest of the close miked kit.

FYI: The type of playing I do is progressive rock -ish type stuff. Just to name some bands that I like:

Rush, Yes, older Genesis, and The Police to name a few. But one of the things I like referring to is what Ted Templeman did on VH's first album. I believe he just used a couple of room mics on Alex's drums -but not sure. The room is definitely there!!!

Mr. Mike: Just caught your post...Do you know of anyone experimenting with the polar patterns on the C414s? I'm going to look into this Audix scx25

Over the next several weeks (or months -I don't have as much consecutive hours to devote to this as I would like)
I'll post my findings!!!

Thanks for reading!
Happy Holidays!


Silver Member
I use SDC's -- ADX51's -- as overheads and I love them. They have a nice but not overbearing high end; overall a balanced sound with a good amount of room, at least in my experience/the rooms I've recorded with them.

If you go for a big room sound, just make sure everything stays in phase.

You have a very nice set of mics, and you mentioned leaving them always set up. Maybe adjust their height and see how you like the results?


Platinum Member
Regarding the issue of dust on mics being left up, one of my friends who owns a nice studio full of really nice mics, puts all of his mics back in their cases when he's done. Only when he has achieved "that perfect sound" for a session, he doesn't chance taking them down between days. When that's the case, he's a stickler for putting sandwich bags on the mics with rubber bands to dust-proof them.


Senior Member
Your AT 4041s are fine for overheads. Don't over think it. Put up a room mic if you are trying to incorporate some room sound. I'm not trying to be mean but your mic's probably aren't the weak link in your chain. Your lack of experience is. I've used both for overheads and they both sound great. Just different. Not insanely different though. Your room will have a much bigger effect on your sound. Smeary transients are just one example. Sdc's are your friend in an untrusted room.


Platinum Member
Rush, Yes, older Genesis, and The Police to name a few. But one of the things I like referring to is what Ted Templeman did on VH's first album. I believe he just used a couple of room mics on Alex's drums -but not sure. The room is definitely there!!!

Mr. Mike: Just caught your post...Do you know of anyone experimenting with the polar patterns on the C414s? I'm going to look into this Audix scx25
Alex's drum sound (roomy, boomy) is almost the polar opposite of the other influences you mention (dry, focused). If you want a dry drum sound, then use a small booth with absorptive surfaces. The room you describe sounds big and lively -- suited to Van Halen, but not The Police!

If you are not limited in terms of mic inputs, run a stereo pair of room mics in addition to overheads, since you have a nice room sound going for you. A pair of multipattern LDCs (like the C414s) can be used in many different ways: XY or spaced pair in cardioid, Mid-Side (one mic in cardioid and the other in figure 8), or Blumlein (both mics in figure 8), just to name a few. The proportion of room sound to direct drum sound will depend on the distance and directionality/placement of the mics.

As far as overheads, I personally don't think it makes much difference if you use SDCs versus LDCs, especially after EQing and processing those tracks and the rest of the drum tracks. The difference is subtle, and, as Aeolian pointed out, most noticeable in the lower range, which doesn't concern cymbals so much.

You can run overheads in figure 8, hypercardioid, or omni to capture more room sound, but it will be the sort of room sound that is reflected from the ceiling, which may or may not be balanced in the way that you want it to be. If the goal is to capture room sound, then simply use a pair of mics as room mics, so that you can experiment with placement, distance, stereo configuration, and polar patterns. Also, once recorded, you can experiment with the processing of those tracks with EQ and compression, to better suit the other drum tracks and the vibe of the song, independently of the overhead tracks.


Do you know of anyone experimenting with the polar patterns on the C414s? [/QUOTE said:
When I have the extra time, I love experimenting with microphones and their polar patterns. Too many people believe you just have to get the microphone close to the sound source and everything will be honky dory. This is very far from the truth. There are many half truths or misconceptions in this thread already that it would take much time to try to clear up. I have close to one hundred high end microphones that I own for use in my personal studios as well as for location recording and gigging, not to mention the units that are available to me in the studios where I work. This gives me many opportunities to separate their strong and weak points comparing one microphone to another. If I'm auditioning microphones for voice artists, I may set up five or six different microphones to find the one that best matches the talent. If I would set up a large diaphragm microphone next to a small and depending on the sound source, a very high majority would not be able hear the difference between the two.

Polar patterns will vary much with the actual placement of the microphone and the effects the environment has on it. This is because anything placed even in moderate proximity to the microphone will affect its relative polar pattern. Microphones with a cardioid pattern have an almost omni direction pick up pattern at their lowest most frequency response. This is the reason "sub woofers" work as they do, being highly non directional with their low frequency content. The most commonly used pattern is the cardioid because if used correctly has a very good off axis rejection at most frequencies. In most condenser microphones the switchable polar patterns have a direct influence on their actual frequency response. My 414s have cardioid, hypercardioid, omni and figure eight patterns. Most of the time they're set on either cardioid or hyper cardioid pattern depending on the work I am doing.

Here's a spec sheet that came with one of my 414 b ULS units. They are fairly flat microphones that take equalization well, when needed. I never photographed the actual polar characteristic graphs of these microphones.

Here are some others. You can see how the polar pattern affect the upper high frequency response of the microphones in the last two.

In the studio, I like using AKG 414b ULS microphones for drum overheads. I own five of these because the 414 series works well on many different sources, including voice. Another favorite condenser microphone is the Neumann 87 or 87 ai. If I'm not using them for a pair of overheads, I'm using them as room microphones. There are many others that work well for drum overheads such as ATM 4033, Neumann TLM170, Shure KSM 141 and SM81s on location. The TLM 170 also has a fifth polar position, wide cardioid, in addition to the others listed above. There was a time or two over the years that I had to resort to SM57 microphones as overheads with very good results. A very blurry Neumann TLM 170R can be seen behind this SM7.

There is also one more thing that I would like to add. When someone says that there was no EQ added when a recording was made, this may be true, but most microphones have an exaggerated lower or higher frequency extension that will affect the sound of the source being feed into those microphones. An inherent EQ if you will. Most accomplished engineers will know how to use this creatively when picking the exact microphone for the job at hand, thus affecting the recordings that they make and in the direction they want. When closing the distance between the microphone and its source, this will boost the lower frequencies having the affect of sounding bigger or larger than life sometimes to the point of muddiness, this is called proximity effect. Some specialized cardioid microphones as well as omni directional mics have little to no proximity effect. I've heard many microphones that may have a low frequency boost of 5 to 20db coupled with the effect of proximity can boost that to almost 25 decibels. In other words, many sounds that you hear are not accurate replications of the source but only similarities, especially when all the other out board equipment is funneled in. The type of microphone pre amplifier used will also affect the sonic characteristics of the microphone, but not to the extent of the microphone itself. Add to this the sound altering affects of the Internet's compression and low rate mp3 files, no wounder many have a very difficult time negotiating decent sounding recordings when played from the Internet. So you see, saying no EQ means little in relation to everything else in the recording chain. For anything critical, go WAV file.

The Only accurate way to compare the source of a particular recording to that of the recording itself, is to be able to hear the exact source of the sound in person and then directly compare it to the recording. You would be surprised at the many differences you can hear between the two, even if no external or down stream equalization is used. This is just the tip of the iceberg, but it should be known for the sake of honesty and authenticity.

So yes, have fun experimenting with microphones and with a bit if critical listening and careful placement, you'll hear some of the many important configuration you can come up with.

Sorry for the book and happy holidays to everyone.
Last edited:


Platinum Member
Love it Dennis!

...feeling all motivated to start experimenting...been putting off micing self instruction for far to long now...


Junior Member
Thanks to everyone here for replying!
Sorry it's taken me so long to get back -holidays, etc.

Great info here! Dennis, you should publish this book! The info on polar pattern and proximity effect/distance to source is inspiring for someone who want's to experiment.

So much info to play and experiment with! And you're right, Aeolian; It's definitely lack of experience on my part. With the type of sound I'm aiming for -at least in the near future, is a tight and focused sound. So even though polar patterns can be applied in the overhead experiment, I'm now understanding that room ambience is best achieved with room condensers (makes sense). I guess this opens a whole different list of factors. My kit sits in a living room with a vaulted ceiling (about 14' at it's apex), and while the kit doesn't sit exactly beneath this apex, the fact that the ceiling is unparalleled to the carpeted floor offers "some" reflection control. Now, I have heard of some techs raising the overheads to get some distance from the cymbals in the interest of cutting down some of the harshness. I have also heard of PZM mics on the floor somewhat underneath them?! -that's out there, but hey, I'm up for it! I won't even bother trying to describe the rest of the room. It's asymmetrical over all, and the wall furthest away from the kit has an 8' ceiling. I suppose room mics could go here, or raised to the 14' apex? I guess the key here is distance, right?
I know, I know, it's confusing. What I'm going to do is just take some pics next opportunity and show you guys (a pic is worth a thousand words). I do have extra inputs however. I have a Presonus StudioLive 16 track that I have dedicated to my kit alone. I'm using 10 tracks right now. However, I do route the overhead condensers to my RME Babyface which sounds unbelievable.

I've also noted some of the mic manufactures mentioned here to try out as well -
This is a lot of fun, for sure -just need more time....more time. And yes, RetroV - i can't over think it....this isn't easy for me, but you're right.
All in all, the kit sounds great. If it ain't broken, right?

Thanks to every one


Platinum Member
By polar response, I was referring to the pattern with respect to frequency, not to the selected pattern of a multi-pattern mic. All mics have some degree of varying off axis response that depends on frequency. This changes how the room sound and the sound of adjacent drums gets picked up.

Here is the plot for an SM57, which is a really common mic most folks have experience with.
SM57 polar plot.jpg
As Dennis points out the mic is nearly omnidirectional at low frequencies like 125Hz. What is interesting is that it is much more directional at 500Hz than it is at 2000Hz. And sound 60 degrees off axis at 8000Hz will be nearly 3dB louder than the same location at 4000Hz.

What this means is that on top of the way the drum sound reflects off of the surfaces in the room, the mic will also color the sound depending on from which direction the reflection is coming.

Below is the published polar plot for a Neumann M149
The 60 degree off axis response narrows with rising frequency. At at very high frequencies is very low.

One more plot. This time for an Oktava Mk 012, which is a popular budget small diaphragm condenser. I have a calibrated pair from the Sound Lab as use them when I want the overheads to focus on the cymbals, as in when I'm close mic'ing the toms compared to capturing the entire kit as in Glyn Johns or Recorderman methods.
It doesn't give the very high frequency response. But you can see that at 8k it's widening back out. My experience with these mics is that the cardioid capsule is pretty even off axis high up.


Junior Member
This make sense (it's slowly sinking in)....

I've been spending some time studying what you and Dennis are talking about. So many variables i.e., mic characteristics, mic distance from source, mic angle from source, source characteristic itself (type of cymbals -in this case) room characteristics (symmetry, dimensions, attenuation, absorption), drummer playing style. And we're not even talking about mixing and EQing!!! I suppose with your points on polar response/frequency these things can hurt as well as help -with respect to source and room.

Since you brought it up, would there be a valid argument for using Glyn Johns or Recorderman overhead techniques in asymmetrical rooms?

I've heard some sound clips and am very impressed!

Thanks again!
You guys here are great here with the sharing of info!


Glyn Johns..
I use a version of this and it works really well with my sound, but on most client recordings I use a standard stereo set up.

Glyn's microphone technique is simple but here are a few things to remember about the positions of the other microphones.

The best overall sound and that 60's feeling, don't mic the snare directly over the hoop as normal but back it away and drop it a little so it looks at the shell, this give a warmer snare sound ( you going to get loads of snare in the opposite overhead)

Bass drum is up to you, direct or in a tunnel or like I do 2 sennheiser mics one inside ( the 901) and the other (902) just inside the front hole.

Remember after recording if you solo the individual drums and eq them like this you will find the overall drum mix is lacking ..something.
My experience with this is you have to mix the kit as a whole and eq it accordingly but unlike a modern production the basis of the sound is the 3 overheads and not kick and snare.
If you get the mics right then most of the time eq is minimal if any at all.

It's not for every one but for me and my Slingerland it works a treat.



Junior Member
Hey Simon.

Some great points here. Love the idea of getting a different vibe here, and mixing the overall kit instead of individual channels. I'll have to try it out and take some notes! Curious how it sounds in my setup!