The Best Preamps for Drums in 2019
If you are starting or considering recording your drums, then you know that you definitely need a good mic preamp.
Recording your drums and getting that punch and clarity depends on a lot of factors.
There are a lot of factors (which we will cover in this article) that you need to consider when recording your drums.
But one of the main ones is knowing the best drum preamps out there and then making a choice on which one to get.
In this article we will be looking at the top 5 preamps that you can get that are great for recording drums, things to consider before you make a purchase, and how to make sure you get the best out of your new purchase.
What is a preamp and do I need one?
In simple terms a mic preamp is a device or equipment that helps to boost your mic level signal up to a line level signal.
What this means is that when you do any recordings (vocals or equipment) without passing it through a preamp, you get a mic levels which is between 50db and 80db
You cannot get anything higher than that without getting distortion.
But when you pass same recording through a preamp, you get a much better and clearer signal without the distortion even at a higher volume.
So the simple answer is YES, you definitely need a preamp when recording your drums and vocals if you want to get the best possible signal quality.
How to get a good drum recording
There are some factors that need to be in place to ensure that your drum recordings are crisp and very clean.
The first thing you want to do is to make sure that each individual drum that make up the drum kit is well tuned.
This means everything from the toms to the snare and then the kick is well tuned.
When it comes to tuning your drum kit, the best advice is to go with your ears.
What this means is that you need to listen to how it sounds and then adjust the pitch until it sounds just right for you.
This is based on all other conditions being the same. These conditions include
The quality of the room
The atmospheric conditions
How loud the drums are being played
The force at which you strike the drums
All these conditions will help in determining how you tune your drums and make sure that you get it right.
The next thing you want to consider is the positioning of the drums and the players.
This is where having a good sense of the room acoustic will help you a lot.
If you find yourself working in an environment that you are not used to, then ask someone (whose judgement you trust) for the best location on where to place your drums.
If the rooms is somewhat symmetrical then you should place your drums equidistant from the walls.
Also you need to work with the drummers and find a middle ground that ensures that you place your mics properly while also getting the best sound from the drummer.
3. Choosing your mics
Another thing you need to consider before recording your drum kit is the type of microphone to use.
The best advice I can give you is to use what you feel comfortable with and what sounds right for you.
You can listen to what others use but in the end it all boils down to your personal preference and what sounds great to your ears.
4. Your mic preamps
This is probably the most important choice to make if you want to have great sounding drums.
A great mic pass through a mediocre preamp will sound dull and weak while a normal mic passed through a great preamp has the potential to sound great.
Like the mic selection mentioned above, choosing a preamp is all down to personal preference but there are some factors you need to consider.
Here is a YouTube video showing you what to do
Things to consider before you buy a preamp
1. What is the coloration?
Coloration of a preamp is simply the way it sounds when paired with a certain microphone.
The simple truth is that there is no bad choice when it comes to choosing a preamp based on the coloration.
Some people might prefer certain preamps because of the warm flavor that it adds to their drums while others might like the gritty flavor it adds to their drums.
It all depends on you and what you like.
2. What is the form factor
This simply means the design of the preamps’ case.
This boils down to three choices; desktop, rackmount or 500 series.
Whichever choice you make depends on how many pieces of studio gear you hope to buy in the future.
If you see yourself expanding and getting as much studio equipment as possible then you want to consider a rackmount or a 500 series.
If you are only recording vocals (which is not the case here) and you have no reason to expand, then a desktop preamp should serve you adequately.
3. How many channels do you need?
Finally you need to consider how many channels you will need.
Basically you will need to make a choice between a single channel, a dual channel or a multi channel preamp.
It is advisable to start with at least a multi channel preamp of say 4 to 8 channels.
Our Top 5 Best Preamp for Drums
1. PreSonus DigiMax D8
This is a good and cheap preamp that is great for recording drums.
It has 8 channels with a balanced analog output that ensures that you get quality crisp and clear sound output.
It has an ultra wide dynamic range that helps it balance the input signals
It comes with a +48V phantom power that gives it all the power needed to run smoothly
It has a discrete design that delivers low noise and transparency
1. It is great for recording drums
2. It has a +48V phantom power
1. The phantom power switches are at the back which may not be suitable for everyone
2. ART TubeOpto 8 Tube Microphone Preamp
This is a tube preamps that delivers exceptional quality when used.
It is very similar to the one mentioned above but comes with extra features that will make your life so much easier
It has 8 class A preamps for recording as many inputs as you like.
It has 8 channels each at 44KHz for superior audio quality
It has input gain and output controls on each channels allowing you to adjust and control how you audio sounds when recording.
It also has an input pad, phase flip and frequency roll off switches that also help in controlling how your audio sounds.
1. It is an 8 channel preamp
2. The phantom power is located at the front
3. It has superior control and knobs on each channel
1. You will need to make some adjustments to prevent it from clipping
3. Focusrite OctoPre MkII Preamp
This is an 8 channel high quality preamp made by the guys over at Focusrite.
It has 8 built in channels at 96KHz output which ensures superior sound quality when used.
It’s mic preamps are well optimized for drums tracking giving you the best drum signal every time.
It has 2 Hi-Z instrument inputs and 5 LED input metering on every channel helping you track your signals to avoid clipping and distortion.
It has +48V phantom power on every channel making it ideal to handle loud inputs such as your drum kicks and snare.
1. It is great for recording drum kits
2. It is designed to prevent clipping and distortion
3. It is well built and designed
1. It has no pad for heavy drummers
4. API 3124+ Preamp
This is a high end and expensive preamp that is also very good for recording drums.
It is a 4 channel preamp that has 4 female XLR inputs that helps you connect your mics easily.
It uses the unique API 2520 Op amps with the front panel polarity switches that delivers awesome audio quality.
It has 4 ¼ inches Hi-z instruments that are located at the front for easy reach and navigation and can take high input levels without clipping
It’s front panel has 20db pad switches that helps in controlling the audio output.
It is designed to prevent clipping and distortion of your audio.
1. It is very easy to setup and use
2. It does not clip or distort audio easily
3. It is ideal for recording drums
1. It may be very expensive for most people
5. Solid State Logic Alpha VHD Preamp
Made by the guys at SSL known for their high end mixing consoles, this is a lower priced preamp that delivers incredible sound.
It has 4 channels giving you option of plugging in up to 4 mics
It has a unique and ultra clean SSL preamp that comes with about 70db gain
It has 20db pad switches that light up when you experience signal overload. This helps to keep your metering on point and also reduce clipping
It has Hi-z switches that helps you accommodate your equipment signals and monitor them.
1. It has a smooth tube like distortion
2. It has a clean SSL preamp which is great for recording drums
3. It is rugged and well built
1. It is a bit heavy and bulky
A good preamp for your drums will definitely make recording it so much easier.
There are a couple of factors to help you make the right choice. All you need to do is to follow the instructions in this article and you should be recording your drums in no time.
All images sourced from Amazon.com