I’m sure we have all seen the recording trick where you use a speaker, traditionally the woofer from a Yamaha NS-10 monitor speaker, to record the kick or bass drums from the outside. This technique is an excellent way to capture some real low-end sub tones but, there is nothing pretty about a homemade “Heath Robinson” contraption cobbled together stand arrangement to hold it all together and the commercially available NS-10 speaker in a box for kick drum have been a might on the pricy side. Could the Solomon LoFreq be an aesthetically and musically pleasing, alternative to the high priced Yamaha or DW alternative?
In Search Of Low-End
In an ideal world I would love to make the sort of recordings where I capture the sound of the instruments being recorded the way I want to hear them at the point of recording, to tape as it were. No need for massive amounts of EQ or dynamics processing in the mix (hey, it works for Al Schmitt).
Having just forked out the price of a kidney for a new drum kit, with a kick drum that creates a truly mighty thump I found that this was not translating into my recordings. However, I looking for a solution to this problem that is both compact, simple, road-worthy and does not break the bank. Don’t want much do I?
I first saw the LoFreq while at a NAMM show a couple of years ago but I never really followed up with them to get hold of one. But I was re-investigating the “recording with a speaker” trick and started googling.
Often we are sent mics, interfaces and other audio goodies to try out, play with and write about our experiences. We then sometimes get the opportunity to buy the review items. This time, I forked out my own money in advance for the Solomon LoFreq microphone. I’m not trying to be a hero but just letting you know.
The Solomon LoFreq
The LoFreq by Solomon Designs is basically a 6.5” speaker driver mounted in a Tolex wrapped fiberboard shell. I ordered the black one but it also comes in White and Grey. Speaking of cost, I got mine for just under £200 UK pounds but check with your local dealer to get an up to date price where you are. But I have to say, even when comparing to the second hand auction sites. The LoFreq is still a chunk of change cheaper than the Yamaha Sub-Kick or the DW Moon Mic which are the only commercially available alternatives I know of.
The LoFreq has a frequency response of 25Hz to just 3000Hz (3K) with a bi-directional (Figure 8) polar pickup pattern, which means don’t stick a bass amp or sub speaker directly in front of it when you are recording as you will pick that up as well. But other than that it is a very simple mic to use. It is mounted on a mic stand, I chose to use a short stand via it’s built in 5/8” thread and it connected to your mic-pre, interface or mixer via a standard XLR.
Ready For The Road Or Studio
The LoFreq is a very solid and well finished bit of kit. There is a heavy duty grill on the front and back to stop potential damage to the speaker cone and it’s just got a really nice weight to it (1.8Kg).
Anyone who has seen previous pictures of my studio knows that space is at a serious premium. I put the bass/kick drum of my kit far too close to the back well of the drum room, but hey, if I don’t do that, there is no space to get it and play the thing. You can see from the picture below in which you are looking down to the kick from from where the second Tom Tom would be, just how tight it is. I managed to get the LoFreq in just in front of my kick drum about 3” from the resonator head. You can also see one of the two other mics I use to record my kick drum, the Sontronics DM-1B just poking into the sound hole in the front of the head. The other mic is a Shure Beta 91A inside the drum about 3” from the batter head.
Kick Drum Recordings
Below you can hear 3 audio files of the same kick drum recording. The first is the inside and outside mics ONLY. This will give you an idea of how my kick drum recordings were sounding. There is no processing of any kind (EQ or Dynamics) on this file so you may need to turn it up to really hear it.
The Second file is just the audio from the Solomon LoFreq. Again, no processing, just the raw audio from the mic.
The final track is a blend of all three mics. The Kick Inside and the LoFreq are at about the same level but the kick out is pulled down about 10dB just to allow the LoFreq to really speak.
Plenty Of Low End
I love anything that makes my studio life easier or better or both and the LoFreq is definitely giving me a better, fatter, weightier tone from my amazing sounding kick drum and with a little bit of tweaking (rolling off the top end from both the LoFreq and Kick Out mics) the kick sounds truly huge.
If you record real drums and you want some serious low-end punch from your kick drum, you should check out the LoFreq. I know I’m a bit late to the LoFreq party as I believe the mic launched in 2015 but I’m very glad I put my hand in my pocket and I’m sure you would be too.