I'm aiming to buy a sound interface to start recording. I need to record drums, guitars, vocals, and bass. I notice most products have XLR inputs with pre-amps (usually 2, 4 to 8), and have extra 6.5mm inputs on the back or front.

How many mics do I need as a minimum to get a good recording, and does that mean I need the same amount of XLR inputs? (mic the drum, use a 6.5mm jack to the back of the sound interface)

Also, if I use 6.5mm inputs, does that mean I will lose sound quality if I don't use a microphone jack for my drum elements?

It seems expensive to buy an 8-XLR input device for starters, but I really want to do this as well as I can for the budget.

  • 1
    You could save some money by just getting a mic mixer, setting some levels during a sound check, and recording all the drum mics into one input. Of course you can't then adjust in post, but that's the compromise. Remember plenty of great records were recorded on 4 tracks or fewer.
    – slim
    Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 10:44
  • :) Yes I agree mate Commented Dec 10, 2014 at 19:38

6 Answers 6


I have been doing a simlar thing for my (rock) band quite a while, with good results. Our drum kit is simple : bass, snare, 2 x tom, hi-hat and cymbals.

When recording for studio work, I use 7 mics : Bass, Snare(above - to get the drum note) and snare (below- to get the actual snare), Tom1, Tom2 and a pair of "overheads" above the kit, about 4 or 5 feet away. They catch everything, but are intended for the cymbals.

When recording a live performance, we need to record everything including 3 x vocals at once so I go for a simpler drum setup, with separate mikes for..

Bass, Snare (top only), and 2 x "overheads". Normally the only convenient place for the overheads is against the wall above the drummer, so about 5 feet diagonally up & out from his shoulders. (I did consider gaffer-taping them to his nipples, but he liked it too much)

So that's 4 x mics for the kit.

When mixing both setups, normally the best sound is gained by using the overhead mics as the main source, then embelishing with more bass/snare/toms as needed to make it fuller.

However, to be honest the simpler setup normally sounds every bit as good as the "studio" setup, it's just the studio one enables me to tweak it a bit more. From this I have learnt that, unless you want to go nuts with 30 tracks just for the drums, it's best to see the kit as an instrument as a whole, and try to record that, rather than as several individual pieces.

One last point .. I have also recorded our band with just a stereo pair of mics for the whole thing. They were set about 10 feet diagonally forward and left/right, at about waist height just in front of the PA. The sound was great, particularly the drums. Nice stereo wideness and lovely tone, especially the bass drum. I think this is behause the kit was on a drum riser (wooden box) which helps with the resonance of the kit, and the room was quite softly furnished meaning no bashy reverb.

Hope this helps


It depends on what kind of sound you are looking for.

With two or three well placed mics, if you have the time and the ears to experiment a lot, you can get a pretty reasonable drum recording as good as anything that was recorded prior to the 70's explosion in tech equipment. I have been in many recording situations where we did just that for stylistic reasons, but ended up noticing how much easier it was during mixdown and mastering when you already have 90% of the drums sound covered by careful recording.

You are right not to go overboard with inputs/money. It's a cliché, but nevertheless true, that you will learn a lot more about recording (and therefore achieve much better results) by starting off with as modest a setup as you can get away with. Eight drum tracks will not help you do that at all.

XLR inputs with phantom power are for for condenser mics, of which you are unlikely to have many anyway. However, you may well want the option of using a couple, and most interfaces have two phantom power XLR's.

  • So to extend your answer a bit, do I need microphone jacks or can I stick to 6,5mm jacks? Will that lose quality? Commented Apr 6, 2014 at 21:29
  • Stu, can you elaborate a little bit more on this? I think your response is great, but I would like to try this myself. Do you have any suggestions on good places to place the microphones? I currently have a high end condenser mic and a pair of Rode Nt-5s.
    – MrTheBard
    Commented Apr 7, 2014 at 14:08
  • @Ivan The XLR inputs (microphone jack would be the wrong term for these, btw) may decrease hum, if indeed you have any, but will generally make no difference to the jack inputs, so no worries there. Phantom power, though, don't forget you may need that, which you can't do via jacks. Commented Apr 8, 2014 at 3:10

If you only want to record the drums, it depends on what's kind of your drums. If you have standard drums with: snare, 2 toms, 1 floor toms, bass-kick, hi-hat, ride, and a crash, maybe you need 8 mics for drums.

But, you said: I need to record drums, guitars, vocals, and bass. So, you need more inputs. Or maybe you can put the drums' mic into a direct-box which combines 8 channels of XLR (best sounding, because it's compressed) into one 1/4 inch jack or an XLR jack, then go to the mixer. Or you can buy an electric drums which give you one output only.

Also, if I use 6.5mm inputs, does that mean I will lose sound quality if I don't use a microphone jack for my drum elements? Yes, a bit.


If you're going to record each part separately ( a good move, recording wise), then two mics will do the job - record each instrument in stereo (two channel) and mix down at the end. For this, two mics will suffice, so I'd go for condenser mics that would need phantom power. For this, you'll need XLRs, so make sure two of these are available. You would use two on drums, but maybe only one for gtr, or bass. In fact, they could probably be D.Id into the desk, cutting out the need for mics anyway, unless you wanted some ambience.Any other inputs, jack or whatever, will be a bonus for later, when you get more adventurous, but from hints you give, cheap and cheerful, but with quality gear, but not much of it, it's going to be a good start.


Our normal setup on the drum-kit in our church (a conference room holding up to 300) is:

  • Kick drum
  • Snare
  • 2/3 tom
  • 2 overheads, on stands placed either side of the kick

Some times we don't bother with the overheads and I haven't noticed any problems.


The amazing thing about mic placement is just how unpredictable it can be. I'm not kidding, the best snare sound I ever got (well, my drummer, actually) was from the mic of a laptop. I'm not suggesting this will always work, though, quite the opposite. It's always different. Try to have fun experimenting with as many combinations as you have time for. Over the kit, in front of the kit, close up, far away, it depends on so many variables, the room being one of the most important, that anyone who tells you "this is the way to do it' is really not giving you good advice. An hours' experimentation is way better than an hour's reading. Just don't put your condenser mic into the bass drum.


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