The 85% Rule with Eyal Levi of Audiohammer Studios: Small Diaphragm Condenser Microphones

There’s no magical piece of audio equipment that works the same way for every situation 100% of the time. It just doesn’t exist. And you can take that further by saying that there’s no approach to recording and mixing audio that works 100% of the time. You have to be willing to try different things. And you have to work very hard to kill your preconceived notions that a certain piece of gear is going to be “the one.”


I have noticed that there is some gear that works out most of the time. I call it my 85% gear pile. It’s taken me 15 years to really refine what’s in my 85% pile but I gotta say, it really works. 85% of the time the stuff in this pile gets the job done well for whatever record I’m working on.

Lets take a peek into this pile I’m hoarding… We’ll start with small diaphragm condensers. And specifically for use on cymbals.

People are always asking me if I like LDC or SDC or Spaced Pairs or ORTF or this or that etc. And the answer is, “I love all of it!” The trick is to know when and how to use any of it. And attached are some pics of my three favorite SDC microphones for cymbals and a sample use.


Neumann KM84

I usually use these for close miced  overheads. With It’s slight  low end rolloff and pretty flat response up top it’s an ideal choice for Overheads . And you can see below it also makes a good spot mic. When going for a whole kit picture in your overheads these are NOT the mics to choose.



AKG C451 B

Some people shy away from this mic as an overhead because it is slightly brighter than the KM 84. They think it’s harsh. I think that’s what makes it perfect for hats and sometimes chinas.



Shure SM81

I used to be a snob and didn’t give this mic a chance due to it’s low price. It’s a cheap mic. But it’s a great one. Some people I know say that out of all the overheads this one has the truest sound. And if you look at the frequency chart it is pretty damn flat. All I know is that this thing sounds phenomenal on rides and splashes.


Want more recording wisdom from Eyal Levi? You may want to mark your schedule for his “Mastering Metal Mixing” clinic on CreativeLive, also featuring Will Putney, Mark Lewis, and Josh Newell. It airs from September 29 to October 1st. You can sign up for the class at this location.

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Your source for all things gear as related to playing heavy metal music.

Latest comments
  • Great rundown!

  • Thank you!

  • Awesome! Can’t wait for the next one.:)

  • KM84’s have always worked fine for me to get a whole kit picture, but if you don’t like them, what do you suggest for such an application?

  • If you don’t like KM84s then the other two microphones I listed here work pretty well. But I’ve found that if you’re going for the whole kit picture LDCs tend to work better. But that’s just me.

  • michael joly at oktava mod makes a killer clone of the km84 andhe mods the mxl 991 for 199 and its as good as the original

    also his MLE-44 mic is outstanding for 599

  • I’m in the market for new overheads and was wary of the SM81 because it’s low price, I might just try it out now. Looking forward to more of these articles!

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