It’s kind of a shame that so many musicians and engineers don’t think about using microphones to record bass guitar. We have all gotten so used to DI boxes and bass amps with nice XLR outputs that we simply pipe the bass into the board directly and go for it. While that is a great and useful way to track bass, it’s not the only way to rock. Whether live or in the studio, a microphone on a good-sounding cabinet can add another dimension of warmth and bottom to that direct sound we’re so accustomed to hearing. Record one track of direct bass and one of the mic on the cabinet and blend the two together for amazing results.
In this article, we will look at five of the best microphones out there for use on a bass cabinet or kick drum. All are worthy of your consideration and, if you’re a bassist or recording enthusiast, you should probably own at least one of them. Consider these mics as secret weapons you can use to make your bass tones world class. These are ranked in no particular order, as we all have our favorites. They will all, however, add a lot to the capturing of any bass instrument.
1. AKG D112 MKII
AKG is one of the most famous names in microphones and it’s tough to go wrong with any of the company’s products. The D112 MKII is just the kind of thing one needs to record a loud bass cabinet or a kick drum. It is a large diaphragm dynamic mic with a cardioid pickup pattern. Its frequency range is optimized for recording bass and other low-range instruments. One cool feature is that the D112 has an internal windscreen that helps guard against those annoying ‘popping’ sounds low transients can produce. Its best selling point?
It’s an AKG and has proven itself on stages around the globe. Use on anything from a bass amp to a bass drum to a trombone.
2. Shure Beta52A
The Shure Beta 52A is another time-tested and road-proven bass microphone. Like all Shure mics, it’s known for its rugged dependability. What makes the Beta 52A a little different from most mics of its type is its supercardioid pickup pattern. This makes it an absolute champ at rejecting off-axis sounds, the kind you don’t want bleeding into your beautiful bass track. This is especially important when tracking in a small room with a live drummer. Supercardioid mics are more sensitive to where you position them than other mics and also deliver an increased proximity effect, which can be used to warm up a cold cabinet. It handles high Sound Pressure Levels (SPL) extremely well and is capable of very high gain before feedback. If you’re one of those Shure fanboy types, this is your next mic, if you don’t have one already.
3. Audix D6
The Audix D6 is a very well-known microphone and it’s one that inspires many strong opinions for and against. It has a very identifiable sound that makes it a ‘love it or hate it’ type of item. Critics of the D6 complain that it has a clickiness that can’t be EQ’d out. Fans of the mic think of it as an enhanced attack and love using it. A lot of this comes from Audix’s VLM (Very Low Mass) diaphragm technology that results in a much lighter diaphragm than bass mics usually have. Because it’s lighter, it moves more quickly, and delivers the enhanced attack/clicky quality the D6 is known for. It’s a normal cardioid pickup pattern and can handle SPLs of up to 144 decibels. Try to audition one of these before you buy and make sure you dig its unique properties.
4. Sennheiser e602 II
Sennheiser is another of the can’t-miss microphone companies of the world and its products are found in professional situations everywhere. The selling point on this one is what Sennheiser terms Frequency Independent Directivity which is a fancy way of saying that the e602 II sounds good no matter which way you point it. It delivers a consistent frequency response in any position. This makes the e602 II an easy-to-use, bare-knuckle microphone that sounds killer live or recorded. Sennheiser is, like Shure and AKG, known for making a durable and roadworthy product and backs the e602 II with a 10-year warranty. The 602 is also capable of enduring SPLs of more than 155dB, which should be plenty unless you’re recording jet engines up close. The mic is very good at rejecting unwanted sounds from off its axis and provides the high gain before feedback needed for live work.
5. Sennheiser e902
The folks at Sennheiser are so good at what they do that they get two spots on this list. The e902 is a TEC-Award-Winning microphone that a lot of microphone power users consider the best ever made at what it does. It has fans that like it better than any of the other mics mentioned here and must be heard to be truly appreciated. It has a tight, defined, and extremely dynamic sound that provides natural-sounding captures of bass instruments. The e902 can handle all the SPL you can throw at it and is, once again, backed up by Sennheiser’s 10-year warranty so you can sleep well at night or in the morning or whenever the session is done. It’s another mic with a very fast attack, so be sure to preview one, if you can.
These five mics are only some of the options available for micing up a bass cabinet, kick drum, or any bass instrument. You really should get one and experience the magic of mixing the mic and DI channels together to create bass tracks like you’ve never heard before. Live or in the studio, getting the bass tone right is crucial to your overall sound and it’s nice to be able to combine the tight and hard sound of the DI with the warmer sort of room sound a mic provides. Use your ears to get the blend where you like it, consider a high-pass-filter EQ on each to cut the rumble, and let those bass tracks move the crowd!