The Festive Season is upon us, many of us are starting to buy Christmas gift for loved ones. A friend recently contacted me asking my advice for gift ideas for their son. Their son is a student and also a very talented drummer who is keen to record his own acoustic drum kit. My friend asked me to recommend some affordable studio gear that will enable their son to record multitrack drums. My friend's son already has a modern PC and a set of studio headphones, my job was to source the rest.
My friend is prepared to spend up to £500... my first reaction was that this amount may be a little modest and may not enough to get the core studio gear items for multitrack drum recording, however, after some research I quickly discovered we could easily get the essentials and come in under budget.
If you are looking for a low-cost multitrack drum recording solution then the items in this list are well worth checking out.
Audio Interface - Behringer UMC1820 U-PHORIA
To be honest, I didn't need to think too hard about the audio interface for multitrack drum recording because I have owned several low-cost audio interfaces. The Behringer U-Phoria range first came to mind as these interfaces are great value for money and sound pretty good as well. The model I own is the Behringer UMC404HD U-Phoria (features 4 MIDAS mic pres)
Sadly, for multitrack drum recording, the UMC404 isn't the best choice. An audio interface with 8 mic pres would be better as 4 mic pres can quickly become a limiting factor. The model U-Phoria I recommend for multitrack drum recording is the UMC1820 (features 8 MIDAS mic pres). The best price currently in the UK I found for this unit is £230 including VAT and free delivery. That's a fair price for a USB audio interface that I know sounds great. It will provide my friend's son with a rock solid interface in their new multitrack drum recording chain. These units also have ADAT I/O meaning an addition 8 inputs can be expanded at a later stage if needed.
- 18x20 USB2.0 Audio/MIDI Interface with ADAT I/O for recording microphones and instruments
- 24-Bit/96 kHz
- Streams 18 inputs and 20 outputs of ultra-low latency audio to your computer
- Mac & Windows
- Optical I/Os supporting S/PDIF, ADAT and S/MUX formats up to 96 kHz
- Zero-latency direct monitoring of all analog inputs while recording
Drum Microphone Set - Fame Drum Mikrofon Set "Studio"
Drum microphone kits can cost quite a lot of money... not always the case. Some brands do offer low-cost kits such as Fame, sold by Music Store. For £170, this kit features 7 drum microphones that I feel would be a perfect drum recording starter kit.
- 7 microphones:
- x1 kick drum mic
- x4 toms and snares
- x2 overhead microphones
- x 4 microphone clamps
- Rugged hardshell case
Before you shoot me down in the comments please remember that quality recordings don't always come from costly quality microphones. Knowing how to use microphones and position mics correctly is how quality recordings are captured. An expensive set of microphones may as well be a low-cost set of microphones if not used correctly. As I stated earlier, I feel these would be a great drum mic starter kit that could be used and abused for years while my friend's son develops his drum production and engineer skills.
At this point, we are at £400 and there are some additional items required for drum recording. Two microphone boom stands (for overhead microphones) and a single short stand (for the kick drum microphone) are also needed. Luckily these items are fairly inexpensive and easy to source online. I recommend not purchasing the cheapest mic stand that pops up in internet searches as it will most likely disintegrate after a couple of uses which could end up toppling over and damaging a microphone. Invest in mic stands that have good reviews.
Similar advice from microphone stands here, don't buy the cheapest XLR/XLR cables going. Look for well know brand names and make sure you get cables that are suitable in length. 1-meter cables are never long enough for drum recording so find cables between 2 to 3 meters in length and make sure you get enough cables that will ensure all the drum microphones can be plugged into the audio interface.
The budget sadly won't stretch to include a copy of Pro Tools but there is a selection of legitimately free DAWs available that could get my friend's son recording multitrack drums. Pro Tools FIRST and Studio One Prime come to mind but sadly both of these platforms have limits on the number of inputs that can be recorded simultaneously - we need 8 for multitrack drums. If my friend's son was using a Mac then Garage Band, which is a free DAW included in the purchase of a Mac Computer, my friend's son would be able to easily record 8 inputs of multitrack drums.
Waves Tracks Live is a free multitrack audio recording platform. I/O isn't limited in the software so the platform is able to make full use of hardware I/O, however, Waves Tracks Live isn't a DAW that enables users to use plug-ins. Waves Tracks Live can be used to record multitrack audio but users would then need to expert the audio stems, which only takes a couple of button presses, to then import audio into a free DAW such as Pro Tools FIRST or Studio One Prime.
Studio One 3 Artist, which is very well priced, looks to be the only option as this DAW solution doesn't enforce a limit on how many inputs can be recorded simultaneously.
All the items featured in this post will get my friend's son recording drums quickly and easily. If I was looking to invest £400 - £500 of my own hard earned into a budget starter drum recording setup then these items would be my ideal solution.