If you’re trying to figure out the favorite inside kick mic Steve Albini uses in his recording sessions, this article is for you.
Steve Albini is one of the most respected engineers in the world, and for good reason. Nirvana, The Pixies, Bush, and PJ Harvey are just a few examples of bands Steve worked with. There are only a few engineers with Albini’s considerable reputation and experience.
If you’re looking to get the best kick drum sound out of your recording, it’s no wonder you’d try to use Steve’s approach to recording the kick sound.
Let’s get started!
Is There a Standard Inside Kick Mic Steve Albini Uses?
The simple answer is no. Steve Albini has said time and time again that he doesn’t follow a certain setup for recording.
Some people say a standard Albini approach would be using a Figure-8 microphone and a second lavalier microphone to add an extra punch to the kick drum. However, the legend himself has said this isn’t true in the slightest.
Steve Albini uses a lot of techniques to get the kick sound he wants, but it almost always involves a dynamic cardioid microphone and some processing.
Albini says he likes to have a conversation with the drummer and get a feel of how the track should sound before deciding on a setup.
After that, it’s all about choosing a microphone that brings out the accurate kick sound. Albini sometimes uses some EQ to enhance the reverb, reduce the bleed, and control the dynamics.
What Does Steve Albini Look For in an Inside Kick Mic?
A microphone that’s able to produce excellent sound quality is generally what Steve looks for. However, when designing the e22S microphone with David Josephson, Steve had some requirements that would translate perfectly into what the inside kick mic should be like.
The first requirement was portability. Steve says the most important aspect of the inside kick mic is to have a profile that fits anywhere inside the kit. Even drums with a tight layout should be able to fit the inside microphone without any issues.
The second requirement was proximity boost and lobing. Steve says the cardioid mic should have minimal lobing across the frequencies and the proximity boost should be stable with no unexpected behavior.
High SPL is essential when recording heavy drumming. This is why all the microphones Steve uses are able to handle high sound pressure levels without distorting, even with preamps.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but Steve emphasizes the importance of having a durable microphone. Drummers get frustrated often, and this means the brass housing on the mic needs to be able to withstand heavy blows without breaking.
Six Inside Kick Mics Steve Albini Uses
Here are six of the most common inside kick mics Steve Albini uses.
- Electro-Voice RE20 Dynamic Cardioid Microphone
Steve uses the EV RE20 microphone quite often. He likes the balanced profile especially if he’s recording a percussive kick sound.
He describes the RE20 as a “mid-rangy” microphone that records a clean, popping sound. A great all-rounder for most projects.
- AKG D112 MKII Cardioid Microphone
The AKG D112 takes the spotlight for tracks that don’t catch a lot of mid-range. The D112 is able to record a more hollow sound than the rest of the microphones. Steve uses the AKG microphone for a more pronounced attack and bass.
- Sennheiser MD 421-II Cardioid Microphone
Steve describes the Sennheiser MD 421 as the perfect middle ground between the D112 and the RE20. It doesn’t record the mid-range as well as the RE20, but it does it better than the D112 while retaining some bass response.
Steve describes the MD 421 sound as “aggressive.” He says this mic works best if he’s looking for a more pointed or harder sound.
- Beyerdynamic M88 TG Microphone
The M88 mic excels in the kick drum because it records deep bass tones while still producing a balanced sound profile.
This is one of the microphones that ticks all the boxes in Steve’s dream microphone. It’s also extremely insensitive to high SPL and rarely ever gives unwanted feedback. This is partly due to the hyper-cardioid structure.
- Earthworks SR20LS Microphone
The Earthworks microphone excels in picking up most of the click sound in the beater. Sometimes, this mic is paired with an outside Bock iFet47 and a sub mic to achieve that chest-thumping kick sound.
The SR20LS is also a favorite of Steve because of the impulse response. This microphone has perhaps the quickest impulse response of any kick drum microphone.
You’ll find the SR20LS in the miking setup when Steve wants to capture every bit of attack coming out of the drum kick. Paired with a high range of frequency response and an impressive SPL threshold, it’s no wonder this microphone is a favorite.
- Beyerdynamic M380 Microphone
Once a fan favorite among all sound engineers, the M380 is now slowly becoming a collector’s item.
Steve loves the M380 for its exceptional proximity effect and low-end response. The sound produced by M380 is often dubbed as “bold,” with Steve praising its high SPL and intuitive bidirectional pick-up pattern.
The only thing stopping this mic from entering the hall of fame is probably portability. The M380 is bulky and nowhere near as versatile as the M88 or the RE20.
Even if the M380 is capable of producing the most accurate sound, Steve now prefers other dynamic mics to do the job.
There isn’t one standard setup that Steve Albini uses for recording. It all depends on the type of project he’s working on and how the kick drums are utilized in the track.
We tried to pinpoint the inside kick mic that Steve uses the most. However, it seems that any balanced dynamic microphone does the trick. If you’re looking to incorporate Steve Albini’s recording style in your tracks, you can’t go wrong with any of these microphones!