For years I’ve been very happy with my Shure Beta 91. It’s been my go-to kick drum since I started back in 2001 and I feel that kick drums, generally speaking, have been the least of my problems. So I have to admit that I haven’t been a huge hurry to try out other kick drum microphones.
For the mega shootouts in Killer Home Recording: Drums, I thought it was important to try out an array of kick drum microphones. I got a hold of a Shure Beta 52, Audix D6 (as reviewed here), AKG D112, my good ol’ Shure Beta 91, my Sennheiser 421, my Shure SM7b, and a Sennheiser e602. You can listen to all of them in Killer Home Recording: Drums.
The Audix D6 is a large diaphram style dynamic microphone designed for kick drums. The second you solo the D6 it’s immediately clear that they were NOT going for flat frequency response on this booger. Not even close! They knew exactly what sound they wanted to get out of the Audix D6 and they voiced it to give the exact sound they wanted? So what sound is that.
Take a look at the frequency response chart of the Audix D6.
It’s clear that the engineers at Audix had no intentions of developing anything “subtle”. The frequency response chart says it all. The Audix D6 has a big ass low end, all the boxy crap scooped out by nearly 10dB and then nearly 10dB peaks at 5k and 10k. Ironically, this pretty much looks like what most of my EQ settings look like anyway when I track/mix a kick drum.
Set It Up…Do Nothing
Recording drums is a pain. I end up running low on mic stands, I have cables everywhere, I have the loudest, dumbest instrument to deal with and the tone is almost entirely in the drummers hands. By taking just one element out of this process, I free up 10 points of brain power to think about something else.
Because the Audix D6 provides a massive low end and the upper midrange / high end attack I require out of my kick drums for modern metal, country, pop, and just about any other genre I can think of, I have 10 more brain power points to put to something else. I REALLY like that!
This sounds-good-with-nothing idea is what separates the Audix D6 from other kick drum microphones. While other kick drum mics are often voiced in the direction of the D6, none of them seem to be bold enough to go all out to get exactly what I need right off the bat.
In situations where I did end up adding EQ to the Audix D6, I was clearly doing so for creative reasons and not necessarily because I was fixing the usual engineering problems.
Not So Versatile
The Audix D6 completely kicks ass for kick drums. However, it’s frequency response tends to be good for nothing but kick drums. You aren’t going to get the Audix D6 to work well on a bass cabinet or electric guitar cabinet. It’s way too mid scooped sounding to be effective on any other instrument that I can think of. (Just in case you are wondering, no, I don’t think it would be good on metal electric guitars either).
Personally, I like bold microphones. I rarely look for tools that do everything “okay”. I’m completely content with microphones that kick butt at one thing and one thing only! I want to make it perfectly clear that the Audix D6 does that one kick drum sound extremely well, but it’s not the only kick drum sound on Earth. The punch of the Shure Beta 52 goes quite a bit higher than the Audix D6. Some aren’t going to like this upper mid sound. Others are going to absolutely require it. So just remember the Audix D6 is a one trick pony.
I ended up snagging a mint Audix D6 on Ebay for $139 + shipping. That ain’t bad! Hell, they even through in a $10 XLR cable. You can snag the Audix D6 brand new at here Musiciansfriend for $200 .
My New Kick Drum Setup
While I could certainly get excellent kick drum sounds with the Audix D6 alone, my new setup is, by far, the most versatile kick drum setup I’ve ever used. I place my Shure Beta 91 inside the kick drum and the Audix D6 about 6” outside the kick drum port. The Beta 91 has an excellent snap/attack if I so need it and the D6 provides plenty of low end muscle. Tossing a blanket over this knocks down the bleed considerably. Blending the two together with zero phase problems has been a breeze. I can see myself using this setup for a long time.
I’m keeping the Audix D6. It’s an outstanding kick drum mic at a very fair price. I can’t imagine you not being happy with it. In most cases, zero EQ is required. You can just slap the Audix D6 on a kick drum and know that you are most of the way there. Audix has a winner in the D6 that I can see being around for decades. Best of all, it’s not too expensive.