As a drummer, live musician, and regular self-recordist, my right foot has faced most every good (and not so good) kick-drum microphone out there. And while I received useable results with all those typical make and model choices over the years, I finally discovered (and subsequently bought) my current kick microphone three years ago: Heil Sound’s flagship dynamic, the PR 40.
PR 48 While not advertised as a “kick drum mic” (but recommended as such among many other applications), the PR 40 sounded more natural, open, and overall better to me on kick than any of my former favorites; the PR 40 in front of a good drum in a goodsounding room (with a touch of EQ) suddenly took me pretty much wherever I needed to go stylistically.
Now, Bob Heil is touting his new Pro Series Drum Kit microphone line — featuring the PR 48 ($220) and PR 28 ($135), reviewed here — which I assumed were comprised of PR 40 and PR 20 mics, respectively, in a more drum-friendly chassis. That’s just the tip of the iceberg; while they do have a lot in common with their PR Series ancestors, they have been clearly refined and refocused specifically for drum and percussion use.
The PR 48 and PR 28 are dynamic cardioid microphones within hefty, black-steel housings with striking red grilles. Both are capable of handling 148 dB maximum SPL. The PR 48 features Heil’s 1.5-inch diaphragm element in a vulcanized (rubberized) shock mount; the PR 28 is similarly designed, featuring a 1.25-inch diaphragm element. The PR 28 is dual shockmounted within its body; its element is suspended in sorbothane, and the entire end cap (which the element is inside) is in a second sorbothane shock mount.
PR 28 The PR 48 offers a 30 Hz to 8.5 kHz frequency response with notable peaks and valleys (Heil specs note that the PR 48 utilizes high and low-pass filters that are 3 dB down at 30 Hz and 8.5 kHz). Between 50-100 Hz, frequency response rises 10 dB, then returns to flat at around 125 dB. It stays relatively flat to 4 kHz where it rises 4 dB, then crosses 0 dB (and continues south) at approximately 8 kHz. Rear rejection is 40 dB @ 180 degrees off axis.
The PR 28 offers a 55 Hz to 18 kHz frequency response, with a gradual, steady rise to +4 dB at 4 kHz before sharply tapering off at approximately 8.5 kHz. Rear rejection is 35 dB @ 180 degrees off axis.
With these two review units, we also received a Heil HH-1 snare/tom mic mount ($38) for use with the PR 28. It is made of heavy-duty steel and rubber parts; its design is patent-pending.
The PR 40 has given me everything I want from a kick drum mic, but the PR 48 gives me exactly what I need for most applications. During a half-dozen live gigs where I asked to change out the house kick mic with the PR 48, house sound engineers consistently commented about how it didn’t need EQ or much of anything, for that matter; it’s the punchy, full-bodied, and flattering kick sound that we generally labor over.
In the studio, I had an ideal opportunity to compare my PR 40 and the PR 48 directly, A/B-ing two files in my own familiar monitoring environment. Using the same kick drum, head configuration, and signal path to “tape,” the raw PR 40 track is full, all-encompassing, and malleable but great as is. The raw PR 48 track sounds finished: a punchy, large kick drum. I even looked to see if a compressor was in the playback chain (it wasn’t).
If the latter is what you want (it’s ultimately what I want 80 percent of the time), the PR 48 is simply a no-brainer on kick. The PR 40 can also give you that (and more), but you have to work a bit for it. That’s why I’d be happy to use both in the studio, but for live environments, the PR 48 is worthy of being a new standard. Considering the large amount of kick drum in modern live mixes, that’s no small compliment.
The PR 28 is a perfect complement to the PR 48. It too is full, punchy, and finished-sounding, and was used live (along with the PR 48, as described above) and throughout a five-song tracking session on 12-inch rack tom (paired with the PR 48 on kick). Heil’s drumcentric tuning of the PR 28’s frequency response proves to be ideal for toms; it provides just the right body and enough snap to translate the fullness and impact of a well-tuned tom. I used it on a 16-inch floor tom, too, where it also shined.
The HH-1 drum mic mount is outstanding. I used it both live and in the studio. It’s the sturdiest, best-designed drum mic mount I’ve ever experienced; I used it for the entire evaluation with the PR 28 (which is saying a lot, as I’ve never found a drum mic mount I wanted to use before the HH-1). Even if you’re not in the market for new drum mics, I strongly recommend the HH-1 mount. I never thought I’d prefer to use a drum mic mount over a stand, but now, I do.
Finally, these mics are built incredibly well. While I didn’t drop or hit either with a drumstick, I wouldn’t have worried about it if I did. I really appreciate their overbuilt physicality and expect that they could stand up to abuse on the road for years and years.
Bob Heil’s collection of dynamic microphones has generated quite a buzz in our industry because they are great-sounding, flexible, and affordable. The PR 48 and PR 28 are designed and built in the same spirit, but are specialty instruments, handling the specific job of transducing drum sounds so well that their results require very little attention from the engineer.
Contact: Heil Sound | 618-257-3000 | heilsound.com
Strother Bullins is the reviews and features editor for Pro Audio Review.