Tom mics have the potential to add a serious amount of beef to your drum sound. Whether you’re playing live gigs or recording in the studio, using a decent set of tom mics will bring out clarity of tone and reflect as much of your drum sound in the mix as possible.
Finding good tom mics isn’t always the easiest thing. Most microphones aren’t advertised as tom mics, so it can be daunting to choose ones that you think will work well.
I’ve put together a list of five of the best tom mics that cover different budgets to help you make an informed decision. Let’s check them out.
5 Highest-Quality Tom Mics for the Money
We’ll start the list off with an incredibly strong tom mic option. The Senheiser MD 421-II is designed to be used with a multitude of instruments. However, it feels like it was made just for your toms.
The best way to describe it is that it makes your toms sound how toms should be. Many other mics need a bit of tweaking to the sound whereas this mic will produce a warm and large tom sound as soon as you plug it in. I
t has a serious snap to it with a hefty thump on the larger toms. It’s no surprise that this is one of the go-to mics for toms. You’ll find several of them in the mic lockers of studio producers all around the world.
If you want some of the highest-quality mics that are still within reach for the general buyer, getting a few of these will enhance your drum sound dramatically.
As good as this mic is, there are a few things to mention that I don’t like. Firstly, it’s fairly expensive. You probably won’t be buying just one of them, so getting a few will cost a scary amount, especially if you have a large drum set.
The biggest problem is the mic clip. It’s not designed well, and it buzzes when you clip the mic onto the toms. This is why most people who use these mics attach them to boom stands instead of clipping them to the toms.
If you’re in a static space like a studio, using boom stands for tom mics won’t be a problem. It’s a different story if you’re limited for space. Trying to set up cymbal stands as well as multiple boom stands all around the kit can get frustrating at the best of times.
The boom stands will also make your shot look cluttered if you plan on making drum videos with these mics.
However, the sheer quality of the mics more than makes up for the bad clip design. If you can make a plan to get around that, I’d highly suggest getting these mics for your toms.
2. Shure PGA56
The Shure PGA56 wildly contrasts the previous mic as it’s the most affordable mic on this list. Getting a budget mic is always something to consider, especially when you can get one as good as this. Let me tell you why.
The PGA56 has been specifically optimized for percussion instruments, meaning it works best when picking up sounds from snare drums, toms, or any other aggressive sound source.
I found that the mic fits very nicely onto the toms and doesn’t get in the way of the sticks. Some larger mics are difficult to position, but these are a breeze.
The mic has a surprisingly solid build and will be able to tank many stick hits over time. That’s always something you need to worry about, especially on toms where your strokes may not be as accurate as you’d like them to be.
The other popular mic from Shure is the SM57. Compared to that, the PGA56 has a rounder tone which is why it works best on the toms. It’s not the highest-quality mic around, so you’d need to fiddle a bit with the EQ to get the best sound possible.
However, I feel that getting a few of these at a cheap price and then splurging a bit more on high-quality overheads and a bass drum mic is a fantastic idea.
The clip is designed quite well, meaning you can attach the mic to any tom without worrying about it moving around or getting in the way. It can sometimes produce a bit of unwanted buzz, but that can be fixed in your mix.
If you want to avoid that completely, you’ll need to put the mic on a boom stand.
If you liked the sound of the Sennheiser MD 421, the e 604 is another worthy mic to check out. I’m particularly fond of this mic as it borrows many of the high-tech designs of the MD 421.
However, it’s a lot smaller and less bulky. It also doesn’t need to be put on a boom stand. It’s one of the smallest mics on this list and it clips comfortably onto any drum rim.
In terms of sound, I found that it captures the attack and sustain of toms very well. This means you get a strong initial impact followed by a booming and resonating tone.
The sound is fairly deep, yet extremely clean. I’m highly impressed at how Sennheiser has managed to include so much depth in such a small microphone.
I’ve also found that this mics isolates sound better than the Shure PGA56. When you place it on one tom, you very rarely get sounds from the toms around it. This makes it easier to mix when you’re recording your drums.
My one gripe with the mic is that it’s made of plastic. It doesn’t feel as secure and solid as many of the other microphones on this list. While it may survive a few stick shots over time, it definitely won’t last as long as mics with metal cases if you use it heavily.
However, the silver lining is that the plastic casing makes the e 604 a cheaper option to get than a similar mic that has a metal casing.
Overall, it’s a wonderful alternative to the famous MD 421 that comes at a cheaper price and with a less bulky design. I’d suggest getting this if you want something similar to the MD 421.
The sE Electronics V Beat mic isn’t as popular as the ones we’ve gone through so far. However, it’s worth mentioning as it offers some unique qualities that the others don’t. sE Electronics is doing some cool things in the microphone world and this mic offers a small taste of that.
Firstly, it’s a dedicated drum microphone, so it’s optimized for loud drumming. The sound it produces is clear with a tight bottom end. The mic does well to eliminate any low-end muddiness that many other dynamic mics tend to bring out from toms.
The best way to describe this mic is to compare it to a Shure SM57 as it is similarly priced. It sounds a tad bit darker than the SM57, giving you deeper tones to work with. My favorite part about this mic is the way the sound comes through for you to EQ.
It’s pretty much a plug-and-play kind of microphone since nothing needs to be taken away in the EQ. It sounds really good as soon as you play through it. You have the option of adding things to the EQ to get unique sound, but you don’t need to eliminate any frequencies as you do with other mics.
The sound isolation is also excellent. I found the V Beat to be a great choice for drummers who like to position their cymbals low in their setup. Since the sound isolation is good, the cymbals don’t get picked up even if they’re very close to the toms.
While all the mics I’ve gone through could pass by when placed on a snare drum. Unfortunately, the V Beat doesn’t cut it. However, that’s only a small gripe as the goal is to find a good tom mic. It just means the mic isn’t very versatile.
5. Audix D4
The final mic on this list is the Audix D4. The difference between this mic and the others is that it caters more to lower-frequency sound sources. This means that it’s meant to be used on floor toms.
It works fairly well on kick drums as well but for the sake of this list, we’ll stick to floor toms.
I first saw this mic being used by a drummer on YouTube called Austin Burcham. He has one of the nicest sounding drum mixes I’ve ever heard, so I had to find out what mics he was using.
The Audix D4 was sitting snugly on his floor tom and producing a beautiful, deep and clean sound.
If you want to get a bit more low-end out of your floor tom, this is a great mic to get. It’s going to make your rack toms sound boomy which you may not like. Audix offers the D2 mics which are intended for that instead.
I love how all Audix mics have a great built-in EQ, meaning this mic sounds great before you need to do any tweaking. If you’re not confident in your mixing abilities, the D4 is a good mic to get.
It also has a great clip-on design that doesn’t produce any unwanted buzzing, especially if you clip it on as tightly as possible. The design of the mic itself is also very high-quality.
I feel that Shure and Audix are two popular companies to look for drum mics. If you’re not a fan of the Shure mics, you should check out mics from Audix.
This D4 may just be what you need to get a powerfully deep floor tom sound.
Are Tom Mics Essential?
You may be wondering whether tom mics are essential to getting a good sound in the mix. There are a few layers to this question. Firstly, you should know that tom mics are the last thing to think about when selecting mics for your drum set.
The most important mics will always be the overheads and the bass drum mic. The overheads will give you a clear overall sound of your kit while the bass drum mic will enhance the beefiness of the bass drum.
If you have a good set of overheads and a kick mic, then you can think about the snare drum and toms afterward.
Putting mics on your toms will enrich and add depth to your tom sound in the mix. If you don’t have them, they may sound distant. Putting mics on them will bring them closer and it will allow more control when you’re EQing.
So, they definitely do make a valuable difference, but make sure your overheads and kick drum are covered first.
Whichever way you choose, just make sure that the mics fit what you’re looking for and are in your budget.
You get some really good mics that are affordable. However, they’ll never give you as much depth as the more expensive mics.
Like I said earlier on, you should consider getting cheaper tom mics and then using the saved money on higher-quality overheads or a kick drum mic.