I have quite a few snare mics, but none that are actually named “Snare Mic.” That's about to change. I'm a drummer, and I've mic’d a lot of snare drums. I usually rely on dynamic microphones as a snare can generate high sound pressure levels (SPLs) that dynamic mics typically handle well. Most cardioid dynamic mics are also good at rejecting unwanted bleed from cymbals, other drums, or stage sound.
Enter Lauten Audio’s Snare Mic. It’s a 4.2-inch long large diaphragm, end-address, cardioid-only FET condenser microphone. Lauten Audio says it can handle more than 135 dB SPL and reject up to 28 dB of off-axis sound (everything you don’t want the mic to pick up), which is all very similar to a dynamic instrument mic. The mic came packaged in a foam-lined cardboard box, and a zippered CORDURA bag was inside. A "tea towel" was also included (to place on your snare for muffling effects), which I totally appreciated! I’ve used the tea towel technique frequently, both live and in the studio. But back to the mic: It feels solid, and the size reminds me of an Electro-Voice RE20 sawed in half. An adjustable hard mount fastens to the end of the Snare Mic with a captive nut, similar to one you might find on a shock mount.
I immediately put it to use during a drum tracking session. After enabling phantom power and checking levels, I was surprised that it was not significantly louder than the dynamic mic I had been using. I didn’t have to change the level (from where I typically set the dynamic snare mic) on the preamp at all. When I've tried other condenser mics on snare, they typically have a much higher output and require a pad (on the mic, preamp, or even both). Even with a loud 3 mm thick solid aluminum shell snare drum, I detected no distortion or overloading with the Snare Mic.
Compared to the super-cardioid dynamic I had been using in my studio, I did notice a little more bleed from the kick drum and cymbals while using the Lauten. The Snare Mic has both high-pass and low-pass filter switches, so I set the HP filter to 80 Hz (versus off or 140 Hz) and the LP filter to 12 kHz (versus off or 5 kHz); this reduced the bleed I heard without changing the fundamental tone. For another session, I left both filters flat to capture some jazz brushes. The Snare Mic alone got an excellent, tight sound, but in the end I did mix in a bit of mono overhead for a roomier tone. I tested other snares from my collection and found that the Snare Mic has a large sweet spot and doesn't require a lot of fuss to dial in a good sound.
But we can only use this for snare drums, right? Well, I won’t tell if you won’t! I tried it on some sleigh bells I was recording for a track, and it sounded perfect! I set the HP filter to 140 Hz and left the LP filter disabled. It had all the jingle I expected without any harshness. Djembe? Very solid! Congas? Oh yeah – it was so good it could be called “Snare and Conga Mic,” but that might not fit on the box. Electric guitar cabinets? I think it’s only fair. It has quite a bit more presence than the ribbon mic I usually use, but having both mics together worked nicely on a bluesy Fender Telecaster track.
At $398 street, the Snare Mic is about four times the cost of a very popular dynamic mic we often use. However, the sound and versatility of the Snare Mic, with its extended frequency response and tone shaping filters, certainly added value and helped this mic sound perfect on more than just snare drums – just don’t tell anyone you did it!