Non-Drummer seeking advice: refurbished vs. new kit

Lefty Phillips

Regular Poster
Lot's of people use ribbons as overheads, me for example.
I played a Pearl BLX on a few high profile recording sessions in the late 80's. Great drums (MLX and BLX).
Right. Are both mics positioned above the kit in an A/B or X/Y configuration as true overhead mics, or is one mic above the snare, and the other next to the right side of the kit, as Mr. Johns would have done?

Personally, I would hesitate to put a ribbon mic within a few inches of a ride cymbal.
 

Chris Whitten

Drum Expert
Mr Johns (Glyn) mostly used U67 condensers.
Yes, my ribbons are placed in stereo mode about 2ft above the kit. I try to make them equidistant to the bass drum, you don't want an off centre kick in your mix. The most common ribbons in the studio are Coles 4038, although now there are a wide variety of amazing ribbon mics you can use, like Royer, AEA, Stager and Extinct Audio.
A very good quality ribbon is much cheaper than a very good quality condenser, which is the attraction to me. Coles are about £800/$1000 each. A U87 is much more and a U67 $5000 plus?
 
Right on. You clearly know what's up. Much respect.

I had to google Violets, but it was worth the time. Some nice mics! My recommendation stands, after reading the remarks of veteran drummers who know drums better than I do; if it tracks right, it is right. Players will want to come in with their own snares and cymbals almost 100% of the time, so there's that. They'll need stands and booms and such, which might be in your interest to provide.

I'm really interested to hear how ribbons work out for you as the "overheads". Are you putting one a few feet above the snare and the other to the right side of the kit, or are you genuinely using them as overheads, in an X/Y or A/B configuration somewhere above the entire trapkit?

Large diaphragm condensors are the standard, and rightly so. I happen to prefer small-diaphragm condensers at 40" to 48" from the snare, one directly over the snare, the other just to the right side of the kit. If you haven't already, I would recommend trying it, if only for fun. I went with the Sennheiser 602 for the kick, but it's only marginally better than an SM57. As I'm sure you know, you get most of what you need from the condensors; the other mics are just salsa.
OK so, I am not a professional engineer, my methodology is just built over the years from experience of what sounds right for the artists I was recording in the rooms I was in, but for what it is worth:

I prefer large diaphragm mics for overhead on rock drumming, while I find small diaphragms are great for softer touch/precision work. I am lucky enough to have some mics which are mid-sized diaphragms (also violets -fingers) which, as you’d expect, are sort of best of both worlds and very useful.

I far prefer Glyn Johns with ribbons to spaced pairs. The traditional figure 8 sound huge and naturally capture less of the cymbal’s sizzle. The problem with the figure 8 is that you need a good room. The beyerdynamic M160, in Glyn Johns, has a more focused mid-range that beautifully captures the snare. I sometimes do not even mix in the snare mic when I use the M160s. A bonus is that the M160 is cardioid and therefore the quality of your room is less relevant.

A tighter configuration to the Glyn Johns is the “recorder man” array. This is a very close miced overhead technique (usually 32” from snare center) that is similar to Glyn Johns and it is your best bet with a bad sounding room IMO. I have played with this method with M160’s and my mid-sized condensers successfully. For what it is worth I am not afraid of a mono overhead or even a single mic for the drum kit if it’s a good room and the drums are a secondary player for the song. A great jazz drummer (in this case I mean someone with complete control of the dynamics of his kit through his/her playing rather than through my mixing) in a great room can sound amazing with a single high quality mic that its placed just right.

I only use overhead spaced or OTRF if I am micing kit drums individually. IMO that is most applicable for a drummer who wants a very controlled, very artificially balanced (meaning the balance/mix is artificial, the drums themselves sound natural) sound as an artistic choice.

My favorite in-kick mic is the EV868, I sometimes use a heil pr40 or beyerdynamic m88 for a less scooped sound. Outside I use the TGx-50 I mentioned or a large diaphragm condenser. A ribbon pulled way back can be cool in a nice room.

Personally, I only ever use a beyerdynamic M201 on snare. I have never recorded fancy brushwork personally, but I’d be inclined to try a small diaphragm mic on the snare for that.

For room/ambient I use all sorts of stuff ranging from precision to low-fi depending on the sound that the drummer is going for and whether I am trying to capture more than just him/her (for instance amps, piano etc. to create a “live” vibe). I am a big fan of bleed (picking up multiple instruments in a single mic capture) if the band is good enough to control their dynamics or the composition is carefree enough to benefit from intentional sloppiness.
 
Mr Johns (Glyn) mostly used U67 condensers.
Yes, my ribbons are placed in stereo mode about 2ft above the kit. I try to make them equidistant to the bass drum, you don't want an off centre kick in your mix. The most common ribbons in the studio are Coles 4038, although now there are a wide variety of amazing ribbon mics you can use, like Royer, AEA, Stager and Extinct Audio.
A very good quality ribbon is much cheaper than a very good quality condenser, which is the attraction to me. Coles are about £800/$1000 each. A U87 is much more and a U67 $5000 plus?
I like the beyerdynamic Ribbons, the M160 and M130 which are smaller-ribbon have much less of that huge bass sound that long ribbons have. They are sort of the perfect "set-and-forget" mics that require little eq in a mix. For that massive traditional ribbon sound I like AEA/Coles/the affordable Cascades etc. I am particularly impressed by Stagers. Personally I use a couple sets of older Groove Tubes ribbons that are no longer made when I want the long-ribbon sound. One thing that I would note about ribbons is that I most typically use a ribbon as a room/ambient to contrast to a condenser overhead or vice versa. I find using the same type of microphone for both overheads and room/ambient is less rich than a contrast.

I'd love to have vintage 67's but they are way outside my price range. For condensers I use Violets, older Latvian made blue models and have heard good things about the JZ 67's. These are modern affordable mics that share some of the 67 vibe at a fraction of the price. I also have been impressed by some of the new neumanns (I liked what I heard of the TLM 193 for overheads) and geffells. Finally, on a budget I have always though that Audio-Technica makes wonderful stuff.
 

Lefty Phillips

Regular Poster
@Drumtourist & @Chris Whitten

Thanks very much for sharing your methods and talking about the mics you use. I might just go ahead and invest in a ribbon mic and see what happens with it. I like the idea of using one to pick up the kit as a whole, as an addition to my usual mics.
 
@Drumtourist & @Chris Whitten

Thanks very much for sharing your methods and talking about the mics you use. I might just go ahead and invest in a ribbon mic and see what happens with it. I like the idea of using one to pick up the kit as a whole, as an addition to my usual mics.
My one word of advice, for whatever it is worth, is that making sure your room sounds good is often more important than microphone selection. A modestly priced microphone in a room with excellent acoustics is often preferable to a $5k microphone in a room with poor acoustics. Just my 2 cents.
 

SharkSandwich

Junior Member
Dave Grohl recorded the Queens of The Stone Age record using a cheap Pearl Export snare from the 80s.
 

Lefty Phillips

Regular Poster
My one word of advice, for whatever it is worth, is that making sure your room sounds good is often more important than microphone selection. A modestly priced microphone in a room with excellent acoustics is often preferable to a $5k microphone in a room with poor acoustics. Just my 2 cents.
That's definitely my mode of operation. Working on some bass traps and quadratic diffusors this month. You can't really do right with the Glyn Johns method if the room doesn't have a good sound.
 
Dave Grohl recorded the Queens of The Stone Age record using a cheap Pearl Export snare from the 80s.
Good point. I am certain that Hendrix would have sounded awesome on a $50 harmony guitar too.

I am just trying to have the best tool that I can available for any drummer coming in without his own kit. I understand that it ultimately comes down to the composition and his skills, but I want to provide the best foundation I can to help him/her.

So far consensus seems to be to have the existing kit looked over and restored if worthwhile.
 

wildbill

Platinum Member
I would keep the Pearl drums, only adding heads if needed.
And then use the money that would have gone into restoring it, to get another newer set (new or used) with smaller sizes.
 

opentune

Platinum Member
So far consensus seems to be to have the existing kit looked over and restored if worthwhile.
I don't see what needs 'restoring'. Ok it doesn't look great but again its just for sound. You could instead invest in some orphan Pearl 10, 12 or 16 maple toms, that need not match, for a drummer who comes in and wants different sizes. There are a lot of older BLX and MLX orphan toms on the used market.
 
I actually think that the set looks really cool. I agree with opentune - just restore things that really annoy you. If metal parts squeak, budge or get stuck, then fix that by removing rust, replacing stripped parts and so on. Of course you could shine up the chrome a bit if you can't stand looking at it, but it doesn't look bad in the photo. You probably only need about $10 worth of hardware store items to improve functionality and looks. :)
 
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