Earthworks Audio DK7 Drum Kit Microphone System Review by Al Unsworth
By Al Unsworth
As the name suggests, the Earthworks DK7 kit it comes with 7 microphones and the appropriate mounts. There are 4 DM20s for tom and snare, 2 SR25s for overheads and 1 SR20LS for bass drum. They come in a heavy duty peli style case with locking clasps and a moulded foam insert for each microphone and accessories which include 7 foam windscreens, 4 rim mounts and 3 microphone clips.
The DM20s are for snare and tom recording, the first thing you’ll notice is the excellent high quality solid stainless steel construction. The goose neck is very rigid, once bent into position it doesn’t move. The DM20s are mounted using rim mounts which are also metal with dense rubber to hold the microphone firmly in place. There is also rubber under the clip and the rim clamp is plastic to protect the drum. The clamp has a rather neat design feature in that it has different grooves cut into it allowing you to position the microphone at different angles.
The DM20s and the other microphones in the kit are condenser type so require 48v phantom power. The SPL handling is 150dB which should be enough for the loudest of drummers. The polar pattern is cardioid but with an equal frequency range across the entire pattern, the off axis rear rejection is very impressive at -32dB all of this contributing to limiting phasing issues as much as possible.
The pair of SR25s are directed towards use on overheads but could also be used effectively on hi-hat, ride or even snare. Again stainless steel is used for the construction which certainly gives this microphone and the others a very high quality feel. The same cardioid and off axis rejection as the DM20s minimises phase issues. They feature a 145dB SPL rating with a frequency response of 20Hz to 25kHz. The SR25 comes with a standard microphone clip.
The SR20LS is designed for use with the kick drum. It features the same stainless steel construction, a standard microphone clip, 150dB SPL, and cardioid response similar to the others but with the fastest impulse response of any bass drum microphone on the market.
DK7 Kit In Use
I had a few days tracking at the Forge studios in Oswestry for a newly signed band called Rozzelle. This was a great opportunity to try out the microphones and see how they sounded. Their drummer, Jarv, is actually a good friend of mine and we’ve worked on projects in the past so I had no worries about playing ability, drum setup and tuning (he’s the best drummer I’ve worked with!)
Jarv’s kit for the session was Red Sparkle Premier Classic with 2 rack and 1 floor toms and the addition of a Tama SLP 6.5" deep snare and Zildijian cymbals.
I started out by miking up the snare and toms with the DM20s, the rim mounts are quick and easy to setup and the rubber on the mounts protects the drum from any marks and the notched clamp worked well in angling the microphones in position (I actually prefer this method of mounting microphones over mic stands, quicker setup time and less mic stand incidents, the less mic stands round a kit the better). The goose necks are rather stiff and took a little bit of bending to get in the correct position but the stiffness is necessary to retain the microphone in place. There is nothing worse than having a drooping microphone touching the skin of the drum halfway through tracking.
The SR20LS for the bass drum was placed halfway inside on an angle not parallel to the head as recommend in the manual.
The SR25s were used for the overheads and were placed at equal height over the left and right cymbal array.
Once microphones are in position I always make sure the drummer is comfortable with the set up and is not going to be compromised by the microphone placement or worse still hit any of them. The great thing about Earthworks is the size and discreetness on the kit, I can get them in optimum position with no adverse effects on the drummers playing.
The bass drum, snare and overhead microphones went into a Neve 4081 and the toms went in to a CLM DB8000. Phantom power on and I padded each channel. No compression or EQ.
Getting Jarv to run through the kit while setting levels I could instantly hear how great these microphones are. The clarity and definition was superb, the toms had the weight but a nice detail on the high mids, the snare had a bit of weight and great transient response and the top end was accurate without being harsh. The overheads again were very detailed and clear but smooth. The Bass drum had good attack and mid-range but the low end was lacking a little. But after consulting the manual, Earthworks recommend adding 60 Hz to 80 Hz shelving EQ which worked.
Listening back to the recorded kit sounded really impressive, very detailed and accurate, a lot of this is down to the off axis rejection and the equal frequency polar response which greatly reduces phasing issues.
To conclude, these microphones are the best drum microphones I’ve used, they captured the sonics and detail of the kit exceptionally well. With a list price of £2,999.00 inc. vat. they are certainly not the cheapest but I think the results are worth that and more. Also, these microphones are not just limited to drums. I actually used the SR20LS on bass cab which sounded very good and the SR25s on electric guitar and acoustic which also produced great results. The SR25 seems like a good all round instrument microphone and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for other applications.
The video files show the DK7 set on a Ludwig Kit at The Forge Studio. The audio cuts between a room mic and the DK7 set. Audio of the Earthwork DK7 set does not include any processing.
DK7 vs Room Mic