Electro-VoElectro-Voice N/D868 and Audix D4, January 1998ice N/D868 and Audix D4, January 1998BASS DRUM MICROPHONES 5/14/2004 8:00 AM Eastern
Every day, microphones get more and more specialized. This month, Mix looks at two new kick drum mics: the Electro-Voice N/D868 ($370) and the Audix D4 ($329).
The N/D868 and D4 are different in design and sound, yet offer certain similarities: Intended for low frequency reproduction, both are finished with a black body/grille and feature dynamic (moving coil) capsules, large-diameter diaphragms and an ability to handle SPLs exceeding 140 dB.
The N/D868 has a 5.22x2.36-inch steel case and EV’s proprietary Memraflex™ grille, which “gives” slightly to resist dents and bends. The N/D868’s mic clip has a thick nylon split ring that tightens securely around the mic stem via a thumbscrew.
The D4 has a more compact 3.75x1.5-inch aluminum body with a stainless steel mesh grille and gold-plated XLR pins. The mic ships with a simple plastic mic clip. Optional is a mini-gooseneck mount that securely clamps onto a bass drum hoop, allowing placement near the plane of the front head, which turns out to be near the D4’s sweet spot for optimum sound on kick drum.
Under the hood, the N/D868 has a cardioid capsule with a neodymium magnet assembly, but featuring a lower sensitivity than other models in the N/Dym® line, keeping the mic output level from being too hot. (Since kick drums are inherently high-SPL sources, a high sensitivity mic will often produce an output signal level capable of overloading a mixer input.) The hypercardioid D4 uses a combination of a conventional alnico magnet with a lightweight Very Low Mass (VLM™) diaphragm.
The frequency response charts of the two mics are as different as their capsule materials. The N/D868 exhibits a classic “smile” response: +5dB peaks at 50 and 2,000 Hz, a wideband -5dB (max) dip centered in the 400 to 600Hz region and an HF response that drops off sharply above 7,500 Hz. This is nearly identical to the EQ curve I apply to relatively flat mics (such as E-V RE20s) used on kick drum. The 50Hz peak adds “boom,” the mid peak adds “snap,” and the wide cut centered around 500 Hz reduces the upper bass/lower mid “mush” for a solid sound. Based on this information, I knew what to expect from the N/D868, and the mic sounded nearly perfect on a rock session, for which I miked an early ’70s Premier 22-inch kick inside the drum about three inches from the beater. The sound was round, tight, sharp and huge—all I had to do was add about 2 dB at 1,500 Hz for some extra snap.
The D4 has a more linear frequency response, and offers nearly flat response from 50 to 1k Hz. It then exhibits a condenser-like rising top end, starting at 1 kHz and peaking about 10 kHz. Another feature of the D4 is the mic’s extremely tight cardioid pattern, which remains fairly consistent, even at low frequencies, compared to the N/D868, which is nearly omnidirectional below 100 Hz. I began by placing the D4 inside the kick, about three inches from the beater head. The beater “snap” was spot-on, but the fullness was lacking. I moved the mic about eight to ten inches back from the beater, and suddenly the sound opened up—rich and full, with plenty of attack and punch. At this point, all I did was add a touch of boost at 50 Hz for “boom.” On a later session, I miked a single-headed kick with the D4 mounted on a 5-inch desk stand, and set up directly in front of the kick without a boom. The results were superb, with excellent off-axis rejection.
So which mic wins out? Both models are road tough and—right out of the box, with no EQ—can take you 95% of the way to that elusive “killer” kick sound. And on either mic, a couple dB of tweaking (to taste) gets you even closer to that ideal. In terms of kick drum reproduction, if I had to pick between the two, I’d give the edge to the N/D868, purely on the perfection of its tight, round (almost compressed-sounding) low end. The N/D868 is clearly a kick drum-only mic. However, the D4 proved excellent in LF applications besides kick drum, such as miking guitar and bass amps (sweet!), floor toms and even horns, so anyone needing a more versatile microphone may choose the D4.