An Engineer's Lucky Charm
Kelly SHU Bass Drum Miking System
If you’ve ever been vexed by a mike boom stand drooping under the load of a heavy microphone or by the unwieldy proliferation of mike stands vying for space around your drum kit on stage or in the studio, there’s something new called the Kelly SHU that could ease your frustrations. Kelly Concepts’ innovative bass drum microphone shock mount is shaped like an enormous horseshoe and strings up like a spiderweb, either inside the shell or externally across the front of the kick drum. The setup is customizable for just about any bass drum.
The Kelly SHU is made of lightweight solid aluminum and is very well constructed. It measures 8" across and 7" inches from the base to the top and features ten mounting holes (five on each side) padded with shock absorbing rubber grommets. A threaded microphone mount adapter is attached via a screw-down knob and washer to a slotted extension that juts out about 3" from the bottom of the U shape. This allows the mike to be moved closer to or further away from the head. Simply reversing the position of the Kelly SHU gives a total adjustability of around 6" forward and backward. A knurled wheel can lock the microphone down to any desired angle.
Thankfully, the Kelly SHU comes complete with all the necessary parts for installation. Along with the main mounting unit (the SHU itself, which is available in clear-coat anodized aluminum or in matte black), the installation accoutrement includes 20 plastic support cord hooks, 20 plastic collars, 10 interior loops (leather straps), and a sufficient length of anti-shock rubber support cord to install the SHU externally or internally on any bass drum with lugs. Simple detailed installation instructions are included, along with a limited lifetime warranty on the aluminum mounting piece and 30-day money-back guarantee.
SOME ASSEMBLY REQUIRED
At first I was a bit daunted by all the little bits because I was in a hurry to set up during my initial testing session at a live sound drum miking lab at Ex’pression College For Digital Arts in Emeryville, California. But a quick glance at the installation instructions put me right at ease. All I needed on my end was scissors to cut the rubber cord to the appropriate lengths. For internal installation, a screwdriver is necessary to attach the loops to the lug screws inside the drum. My first foray was to set up the mount externally on a 22" Pacific kick drum with a center port in the front head.
The rubber support cords must be custom cut for each setup because different drummers, bass drums, and microphones will have different requirements. I measured out six lengths of cord to position the mounting system where I wanted it to be on the drum. The instructions called for cutting the cords at about half the distance from the selected SHU’s mounting holes to each of the lugs where the apparatus will attach. This shorter length gives the mount the necessary tension to hold it in place.
The hooks and crimp collars were really easy to clamp onto the ends of the rubber cords, and I found them to be surprisingly effective. Installation was simple once a placement was determined. I had the external mount together in less than 15 minutes, and it took only a little longer for internal setup during a subsequent test on account of having to loosen the lug screws and washers to attach the little leather interior loops. I tried the mount internally on a 20" DW kick drum, and also on an 18" Ayotte kick drum with success. I went down in size from the largest to the smallest drum because I had to trim the rubber cords down with each new setup.
The live sound instructor, Hani Gadallah, was skeptical about the mount’s ability to hold up a heavy microphone without tanking. He cited the ElectroVoice RE20 as the heaviest microphone he’s dealt with, so I grabbed an RE20 and set it up on an external arrangement with the mike extending through the port in the front head. The mount held the mike securely without getting torqued out of position. Having had consistent problems with this mike on standard mike stands, Gadallah was impressed.
In addition to the RE20, I tried the mount with a Shure SM57, a Sennheiser e602, an AKG D112, an Audix D6, and an older Shure Beta 52. The only issue I encountered was with the Beta 52. There is a newer model, the Beta 52A, which has a wider base and therefore wouldn’t present the problem I experienced with the XLR connector not quite clearing the mounting apparatus. To get around the issue with my older model Beta 52, I replaced the large knurled locking wheel on the microphone post with a smaller one from a mike stand so that it wouldn’t obstruct the XLR jack, and then cranked down the mounting adapter at the very end of the SHU’s slotted tab so that I could attach the cable. The fitted piece of the adapter that inserts into the groove of the tab was not nestled snugly in the slot, but it held when I tightened the screw. Not totally ideal, but functional.
As the Beta 52 is a large, heavy mike and is quite tall in profile, it is recommended that the mike be mounted inside the drum, so that’s what I did. The only limitation of using a Beta 52 (original or Beta 52A) is that the position of the XLR jack requires that the mike be mounted at the very end of the slotted tab, so you lose that incremental forward/backward mobility. But if you know where you’d like the mike to be positioned, you can remedy this simply by making sure the mounting system is set up inside the shell at the correct distance from the head. Carefully selecting which lug screws you attach the hook loops to, and then cutting the rubber support cords to the proper length, can implement this effectively. The other mikes that I tried were fully adjustable with the Kelly SHU system.
I was very impressed with the Kelly SHU, as were the drummers and engineers who were involved with the testing procedures during this review. The shock mount system is simple in its design and extremely sturdy and versatile. I found the customizability of the Kelly SHU to be virtually endless. The SHU could be set up upright, upside down, or laterally, and the support cords can be cut to position the mounting system anywhere internally or externally on nearly any bass drum to accommodate pretty much any microphone.
Once installed, the setup can be left in place indefinitely. If you have a favorite kick drum mike, you can even leave it attached to the shock mount for the ultimate convenience for you and the sound engineer – simply plug in the cable and you’re ready to go. Since it is a shock mount, there is the added benefit of cutting down on mechanically borne vibrations interfering with the pickup of your kick drum sound. Th e Kelly SHU cuts down on set up time, saves space, and gives you consistency from venue to venue. With an attractive list price of $154, it no doubt would prove a worthy investment for the working drummer.