If you love playing music, you know about the particular adrenalin rush that races through your body when you hear something that knocks you out. A truly great sounding cymbal can command an insane price, many drummers own multiple snares so that they can choose just the perfect color for a song, and just about everyone is searching for that perfect bass drum sound. Well, Russ Miller and Yamaha have teamed up to create a new tool that just might give you that perfect bass drum sound, and force enough adrenalin through your system to keep you wired all night long!
The SKRM-100 Russ Miller Signature Subkick is called a “low frequency capture device.” It looks like a drum, but it’s not a drum. You can see a speaker behind the black mesh “head,” but it’s not a speaker. It’s a speaker functioning as a reverse-wired microphone. Microphones and speakers share many of the same electronics. The capsule inside a dynamic microphone is designed to capture sound by transferring the vibrations of sound waves into electrical signals. Speakers are designed to transfer electrical signals into sound waves by moving the speaker cone back and forth. For nearly 50 years, recording engineers — always on the lookout for new and creative techniques to record and manipulate sound — have used large speakers to record the very low frequencies of bass drums, bass guitar cabinets, and other instruments with a lot of low-end power and energy.
Yamaha has taken this basic idea and created a user-friendly way to tap into the technology. Yamaha’s Subkick is a 6 1/2" speaker that has been mounted into a standard 10" Yamaha birch and mahogany 7-ply drum shell. The shell is outfitted with Yamaha’s tom-mounting bracket and the entire system comes complete with a special 800 series stand designed to hold the Subkick close to the floor. Two mesh-style heads complete the package to protect the speaker on one side and provide an audience visual on the other. Instead of rigging up a speaker, messing with transformers and DI boxes, and custom soldering cables, just pull out the Subkick, put it on the stand and you’re ready to significantly beef up your live kick drum sound or lay down some tracks with enough bottom to rattle the walls.
The best way to learn about a device like this is to book several hours in a recording studio and check it out in a controlled environment. So, that’s what we did.
When a speaker is used for this application, it becomes a large-diaphragm dynamic microphone. Because the speaker cone is so huge, it reacts in a more sluggish manner than a traditional microphone. It doesn’t respond well to higher frequencies and doesn’t capture transient spikes very well. For that reason, you really should use the Subkick in conjunction with a regular bass drum microphone.
Every microphone has a certain “signature” that colors the 100-percent pure and natural acoustic sound of an instrument. This isn’t necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, it’s just reality. Many recording engineers and producers pick their mikes to match a particular color that they want to capture to tape or disk. As you might expect, you want different characteristics from a bass drum microphone than a microphone recording a Brazilian caxixi or a ride cymbal.
In order to keep our sanity, we used the same miking arrangement for three different instruments: a Shure Beta 52 as the bass drum mike dedicated to picking up the attack of the drum with the Subkick sitting about 8" in front of the audience-side head. The Beta 52 was selected because it is one of the mikes recommended by Russ Miller. It’s known to be a little brighter and can capture a tighter sound than some other kick drum mikes, making it a good choice for grabbing the mid frequencies of the beater ball coming in contact with the head. Some engineers feel that this mike is somewhat lacking in natural low-end. We felt that these features made it a natural choice for pairing with the Subkick.