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Earthworks' KickPad

A secret weapon for kick drum sounds By Frank Moldstad

Earthworks' KickPad  ($120 MSRP) is a secret weapon that audio engineers should have tucked away in their backpacks. It is a passive device designed specifically for kick drums that is inserted between a mic cable and a drum mic. Essentially what it does is optimize the signal with a tight well-defined bottom end and a slight midrange boost. The result is a kick drum sound that cuts right through a mix.

Earthworks developed the KickPad as part of its new Drum Kit System, a three-mic set that the company is marketing as a replacement for the seven or eight mics that audio engineers often use to mic a drum kit. Faced with developing a mic specifically EQ'd for kick drums that would not be very useable on other sound sources, they hit on the idea of doing the signal optimization externally. This creates more flexibility in mic choices, since you don't have to use a dedicated kick drum mic with the KickPad. Any good full range mic will work, and it can be used on other sources than the kick drum later.

The KickPad can be used with either dynamic cardiod or  condenser mics, and does not require phantom power. It is not recommended for use with omni microphones because of their low frequency response, which is typically in the 4Hz to 10Hz range.

Even with a Shure SM57, the KickPad produces a good combination of bottom end and beater attack. I tried it with several other mics, including an Audix D6 and an AKG C5600. In each case, the sound was remarkably consistent, although using better mics results in more definition. Lately, the Audix D6 has been my preferred kick drum mic. Even with the KickPad around, I wouldn't use it automatically without listening to the sound produced by the D6 alone. Likewise, I wouldn't preset the EQ knobs on a console without auditioning a sound source first. But if the D6 wasn't producing a desirable sound, I wouldn't hesitate to reach for the KickPad, because I know it will sound good.

Besides serving as an EQ device, the KickPad also incorporates a pad that helps prevent signal overload in high sound pressure level situations. This gives recording and live sound engineers more headroom in maximizing the signal before redlining.

Physically, the The KickPad is a stainless steel barrel-shaped tube measuring about three inches long, with gold plated XLR connectors on either end. To connect it, you insert a mic cable into one end, connect another mic cable into the other end, and run that to the mic. As a passive device, it doesn't need to be turned on or adjusted -- you just plug and play.

Although the KickPad is sold separately, as mentioned, it is an integral part of Earthworks's Drum Kit system, which for recording consists of two Earthworks TC25 omnis for overheads, an Earthworks SR25 cardioid for kick drum, a KickPad and a windscreen. A version for live sound substitutes SR25 cardioid pattern mics for the omnis. I would be interested in trying out the entire DrumKit system to see for myself how three mics can replace eight. I have no doubt, given Earthworks' stellar reputation for microphone design, that the system works as billed. But for approximately $2,000 MSRP, the entire Drum Kit system will have to be a longer range objective for me. In the meantime, it's nice to be able to pick up a high-quality and very useful device like the KickPad for a $99 street price!

Earthworks includes a sample CD with recordings of kick drums with and without the KickPad, using a variety of standard mics, including the Audix D6 and the AKG D112. The sources also include instruments such as acoustic guitar and piano recorded through EarthWorks SR25 mics and other leading mics. Those who are interested can contact the company to get a copy of the CD at this address:

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Related Keywords:Earthworks, KickPad, Drum Kit System, kick drum, SR25


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