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Yamaha Subkick, November 2003

Nov 1, 2003 1:28 PM, By Kevin Becka


Using a speaker to mike a kick drum is certainly nothing new. But often the homemade setup for this device looks like it came out of a grade-school metal shop. Yamaha's new Subkick ($499) takes the concept to the next level by perfectly blending aesthetics and function. A collaborative effort between Yamaha and drummer Russ Miller, the Subkick is a 6.5-inch woofer (frequency response: 20-8k Hz) shock-mounted inside a 7-ply birch/mahogany 10-inch shell and covered with black-mesh heads. Mounting hardware and a stand are also included. The device couldn't be simpler, sturdier or more attractive. Setup is simple, with audio connection made by simply plugging a mic cable into the XLR connector mounted in the side of the “drum.”

I was able to try the Subkick on three separate kick drums with stellar results. I placed it an inch away from — and centered on — the outside of the head. In every case, I had another mic on the inside of the drum to provide some “point” for the kick drum mix. There are a number of things to like about the Subkick, most of all its sound. It definitely gives you the thump you'd usually have to dig for with EQ when using a traditional setup. Also, the rock-solid snare stand and tom mount used for “mic” placement are ingenius. In every application, it was a quick and easy setup without drift or drop. It stays where it's put.

I A/B'd the Subkick with my usual “large-diaphragm mic outside the kick” setup, and it blew it away. Because of the nature of the beast, it completely ignores any cymbal or drum spill over 100 Hz, making for a nice, clean track at the bottom of your mix. A nice trick is to use the naturally clean Subkick signal to feed the key on a gate used for the internal kick mic, resulting in an easily accomplished clean kick signal.

The Subkick was also used to record a cajon, a large wooden box that a percussionist sits on and hits with a combination of open palm and fingers to get various tones. The Subkick was placed in front of the port at the front of the box, and was used in addition to a pair of cardioid mics at either end. The Subkick offered all of the low end you'd need for this instrument and mixed in nicely with the other mics. I imagine that you could also use it to mike the bottom of a floor tom with equally good results, although I didn't get a chance to use it in this application.

The Subkick is something that every engineer and studio should have in their bag of tricks. It was a winner in every application, and although it's a one-trick-pony, what a fantastic trick it is!

Yamaha, www.yamaha.com.

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