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How to Record Acoustic Drums With A Compact Setup in 2024


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How to Record Acoustic Drums With a Compact Setup in 2024

Drums are one of the hardest instruments to record when you consider just how big they are. Unlike a guitar or saxophone, you have multiple components that need to be heard clearly through a mix, so you typically need several microphones.

However, it's easier than you think to get a great drum mix with a compact setup. In this guide, we'll explain how to get a decent drum recording with just two microphones and Symphony Desktop.

Here's everything you need to know.

How to Record Acoustic Drums with Apogee Products (5 Steps)


Before looking at any gear, you need to set your space up optimally. The better position your drums are in, the easier it will be to get a good drum recording.

Our biggest suggestion is to face your drums away from a wall. If they're directed at a wall, the cymbals and shells will project sounds against it. Those sounds will bounce off quite aggressively, causing a bad room sound.

By facing your drums away from the wall, you cut down on the number of ugly frequencies.

You should then do your best to insulate the room. You can do this by hanging sound panels on walls or filling the room with a bit of furniture.

Sound insulation can get really expensive, but the basic principle is that you want to stop sound from bouncing around the room. It could really help to just bring in a couch, as that will absorb a lot of sound.


For the sake of having a compact setup, we're just going to use two microphones. Something like an sE Electronics sE7 would work well as an overhead, while a Shure Beta 52A would work well as the kick drum mic.

For the overhead mic, you'll need to set it up above your kit. Position it above the ride cymbal, and make sure it's in a diagonal position from the snare drum.

If the mic is too high, you're going to get more sound from your cymbals. If it's too low, it'll pick up more of the drums. It also may get in the way. So you just need to play around to find the best height.

Set the kick mic up inside your bass drum if it has a port hole. If it doesn't, position it a few inches away from the resonant head, but make sure it's in the middle.

Audio Interface

The Apogee Symphony Desktop is a great audio interface for drummers, as it includes two pre-amps that you can connect the mics two. This will set you up with the two-mic recording setup.

When you've connected the mics to the interface with XLR cables, make sure to get the right gain levels. This means that they should be loud enough, but they shouldn't peak when you strike the drums.

You can then fine-tweak the settings to whatever sound preferences you prefer. Remember that placing the mics and getting good gain settings is more important than how you mix them later. It makes mixing much easier.

One of the big benefits of the Symphony Desktop is that it includes on-board processing with a variety of plugins. This gives you extra tools to shape your recordings.

Digital Audio Workstation (DAW)

Your next step is to use a Digital Audio Workstation to have control over the recorded sounds being sent through the interface.

The most popular DAWs are Logic Pro, Ableton Live, and Pro Tools. Those all cost a bit of money, so you can use Garage Band or Audacity if you want something free.

When using the DAW, you'll need to set the preferences so that the Apogee Symphony interface is the primary sound source. You can then create two tracks for the overhead and kick drum mic.

You should be able to record the drums and hear what they sound like.

For example, if you're struggling to get good low-end from your mic positioning, you can add the Pultec EQP-1A plugin to better shape the recording.


Mixing is incredibly subjective, and some drummers prefer certain sounds over others. However, there are a few things to do when you start mixing the sounds.

The base sounds coming through the microphones aren't optimized well, so you can use the interface to edit them to sound a lot better.

You basically just want to clean up any frequencies that make your kit sound bad. You can then boost certain frequencies to get louder and more powerful sounds. Add a bit of reverb to really spark up the sound quality and you're golden.

From there, you have your recording setup sorted. Just save all of your settings to use as a template. You can then record your drums in the same way every time you go through the motions.


Do You Need a Mixer to Record Drums?

No, you don't need to use a mixer. Most drum recording setups just use an audio interface, which channels the signals from your microphones through to your computer. You can use a mixer as an extra step to control those sounds, but it's not essential by any means.

How Do You Get High-Quality Drum Recordings?

There are a few vital things needed for high-quality drum recordings. Firstly, you need to have your drums setup in a sound-treated room. This cuts down on harsh frequencies and unwanted reverb.

You then need a high-quality set of microphones. Those microphones need to run through a decent audio interface. It's then up to you to mix and master the sounds to get the best drum recording possible.

The best microphones in the world will still make your drums sound bad if you don't know what you're doing when mixing.


Here's a summary of the recording process:

Make sure your room is treated for loud sounds

Face your drums away from the wall

Set two microphones up one above the kit and one in front of the kick drum

Connect the microphones to an audio interface with XLR cables

Set the audio interface up with a DAW on your computer

Record the drums and then apply a mix to make them sound as good as
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