Author: Jones, Butch
Date published: August 1, 2010
Journal code: MDDR
The KickPort is a "tuned port" that can be installed on any bass drum that has a reinforced 5''-5½'' hole in the resonant head. The product is designed to generate a low-frequency boost at 20-30 Hz, while also tightening up the overall kick drum sound. At those low frequencies, the boost should be felt more than heard, but the tighter tone should be clearly audible. Let's see.
The KickPort has a pretty cool setup for creating a seal with the resonant head. One end is coated with foam weather stripping, which runs flush against the outside of the drumhead. Then there's a flap placed about midway along the port, which is flexible enough to fold in two directions so you can seal and unseal the KickPort against the head from the inside.
For installation, you need to have the flexible ring folded back, and then you carefully work the KickPort through the hole in the head. Once the KickPort has been pushed through to the flange edge and the outside seal is flush, you reach through the hole and pop the ring back to make a seal against the inside of the head. You can use the back end of a screwdriver or a Sharpie pen to accomplish this if your hands aren't small or flexible enough to reach. Once the flap is completely turned back toward the head, the KickPort is installed and you're ready to rock.
I checked out the KickPort on a 22'' bass drum with an undampened Evans EMAD Resonant head. I placed an Audix D6 kick drum mic approximately 4'' from the hole in the head, looking straight inside the drum. I recorded the drum into Pro Tools without processing, first without the KickPort, and then with the product installed. I placed the two audio tracks side by side in Pro Tools so I could alternate playback between the two sounds.
The first thing I noticed was that the KickPort pulled out the range of frequencies (200-350 Hz) that I normally cut with EQ. This is great, because with the KickPort you no longer have to worry about getting rid of the cloudy overtones that most kick drums put into all of the other mies on the kit. I always feel that when it comes to EQ, less is best, whether it's in the recording studio or at a live venue. So I liked the fact that the KickPort did a bit of pre-EQ'ing for me.
The second thing I noticed when listening to the recorded files was that with the KickPort the bass drum had a thicker, punchier sound, which is something I normally get only after spending some time filling the inside of the drum with my own custom muffling elements. Again, I appreciated the extra help the product provided in carving out a workable drum sound.
To hear the full impact of the KickPort, you really have to listen to what it does to the tone of a bass drum on recordings or through a full PA system. While the KickPort wouldn't keep me from using my Subkick to capture super-low frequencies, it certainly helped me dial in a cleaner overall sound before turning on a single mic. The KickPort lists for $59.95.