(click thumbnail) I reviewed the Earthworks SR-77 microphone a few years back and bought a pair because I liked them so well. I like the Earthworks company because they are committed to the utmost in audio quality, often by unconventional means. Earthworks’ most innovative product to date is the new Earthworks DrumKit System. The concept behind this product is the use of only three microphones to completely capture the sound of the drum set. While developing their new 25 kHz Series of percussion microphones, Earthworks engineers discovered that by placing a single microphone on the kick drum and two carefully positioned overhead microphones, they were able to capture every nuance of sound from each piece of the drum set with such an exceptional clarity and cohesiveness, that it sounded like a live set of drums, not a bunch of separate pieces as the case often is when using a half dozen mics or more. This breakthrough led to the development of the Earthworks DrumKit System. It does an amazing job of capturing the sound of the drum kit while using only three microphones.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, broadcast, sound reinforcement
Key features: Packages for live or studio applications; SR25 and/or TC25 microphones; wood case
Contact: Earthworks at 603-654-6427, www.earthworksaudio.com
There are two variations of the DrumKit system, each incorporating four elements. The first variation is the DK25/R which is designed for recording and the second, the DK25/L which is designed for live performance. Both variations make use of the SR25 and the KickPad for capturing the sound of the kick drum but the recording version uses two (omni) TC25 microphones for overheads and live version uses two (cardioid) SR25s. The SR25s work better for the live system because their cardioid polar pattern provides a more uniform off-axis response and is less susceptible to acoustic feedback. Both variations include a beautiful wood carrying case that holds all three mics and the KickPad.
The problem with most good kick drum microphones (like the AKG D112, the Audix D6, etc.) is that they only sound good on kick drum (and sometimes bass guitar). This is because they have a built-in EQ curve designed to compliment the sound of the kick drum.
Having versatility in mind, Earthworks developed their kick drum optimization curve into an external device known as the KickPad. The SR25 coupled with the KickPad becomes the Earthworks kick drum mic but the microphone without the KickPad is a versatile high quality microphone that sounds excellent on everything from percussion and strings to woodwinds and guitar.
The TC25 has a frequency response of 9 Hz to 25 kHz +1/-3 dB and an omnidirectional polar pattern. The mic requires 48V phantom power (10mA) and has a sensitivity of 8 mV/Pa (-42 dBV/Pa). The mic has a peak acoustic input of 145 dB SPL and noise of 27 dB SPL equivalent (A-weighted). The mic is 6.5 inches long, has a diameter of .86 inches and weighs 160g (.35 lb.).
The SR25 has a frequency response of 50 Hz to 25 kHz ±2 dB @ 15cm and a cardioid polar pattern. The mic requires 48V phantom power (10mA) and has a sensitivity of 10mV/Pa (-40 dBV/Pa). Like the TC25, the SR25 has a peak acoustic input of 145 dB SPL. The mics noise is 22 dB SPL equivalent (A-weighted). The mic is also 6.5 inches long, has a diameter of .86 inches and weighs 160g (.35lb.).
My first chance to use the Earthworks DrumKit System was during a tracking session at Nashville’s Omni Sound Studios.
Omni’s tracking room is among the best in Nashville which made it a prime location to see how well the DrumKit System really works. I was fortunate to be recording Brian Haley, one of Nashville’s premier drummers, and I surrounded his five-piece kit with my usual entourage of a dozen microphones as well as the three microphones composing the DrumKit System. Omni’s API Legacy console beautifully compliments drums and when coupled with four channels of Gordon Instruments mic preamps and a few other audio gems we were ready to rock. I configured the console so I could easily switch back and forth between microphone groups and then we went to work. Throughout our 14-hour tracking session, I routinely switched back and forth between the two configurations and I truly was impressed with the Earthworks DrumKit System. The kick drum sounded great though I slightly preferred the blend between the EV RE20 and the Neumann U47 FET (of course the EV/Neumann blend costs more than twice the price of the entire Earthworks DrumKit System).
The two TC25s did an amazing job capturing the sound of the entire kit, far better than I ever would have anticipated. In most instances I still preferred the sound of the fully miked kit over that of the DrumKit System though there were a few occasions where the DrumKit System worked better. In every instance the comparison was far closer than I would have ever anticipated. There is cohesiveness to the DrumKit System that lends itself perfectly to more acoustic and natural sounding music such as folk or traditional jazz. The music I was tracking was straight ahead pop/rock, which, in my experience, requires the ability to independently control the effects and EQ on the snare, the toms, etc.
Typically, one of the difficulties in capturing great sounding drums is the importance of multiple high quality mic preamps. With the DrumKit System, a studio fortunately only needs three top-notch preamps instead of 10 or 12.
I unfortunately didn’t get the opportunity to use the Live version of the DrumKit System though I anticipate that it would work well in more of a traditional jazz setting where the natural sound of the kit is preferred.
The beautiful thing about the DrumKit System is that besides drums, they sound good on virtually everything. I had great results using the SR25 to record acoustic guitar and percussion and I found the TC25s to work extremely well on piano. Both models have amazing high-frequency detail and definition.
The DrumKit System is the perfect solution to enabling a studio to record professional quality drum sounds without spending an extravagant amount of money. [Earthworks offers a free demo CD at its website, www.EarthworksAudio.com – Ed.]