Audio-Technica AT4080 Active Ribbon Microphone Review

Aug 18, 2010 1:13 PM, By Russ Long



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The Audio-Technica AT4080 features dual-folded ribbons and other innovations allowing the mic to take up to 150dB SPL.

The Audio-Technica AT4080 features dual-folded ribbons and other innovations allowing the mic to take up to 150dB SPL.

In just more than a decade, the migration of ribbon mics into manufacturers’ product lines has rapidly increased, Audio-Technica unveiled its first ribbon mics—the AT4080 and AT4081—last year. The AT4080 (reviewed here) is a bidirectional, side-address, phantom-powered ribbon model that delivers the natural sound and warmth of a classic ribbon design with the extended top-end response and gain typically attributed to a condenser.

While ribbon models have a smooth, warm sound unequaled in the world of dynamic and condenser mics, they traditionally have had two serious flaws. First, they are intrinsically fragile; second, they have low output levels. With some significant research in its R&D department, Audio-Technica has resolved both of these issues, resulting in 18 pending patents.

The heart of the dual-ribbon 4080 is a pair of 1-micron-thick aluminum ribbons placed back to back with a small gap between, and folded several times to create an element capable of accurately handling SPL levels up to 150 dB. The company’s MicroLinear™ ribbon imprint minimizes ribbon distortion, yielding accurate sound source reproduction and durable performance. This process increases ribbon strength to the extent that Audio-Technica offers a five-year ribbon warranty, something not typically encountered in the ribbon microphone market. Lightweight, yet powerful N50 rare-earth neodymium magnets and the dual-ribbon design are responsible for the 4080’s high output. The two ribbons are arranged back-to-back, working to provide an additional 3 dB of sensitivity without adding noise. Stated frequency response is 20 to 18k Hz, and the 4080 has a nominal open-circuit output voltage of 11.2 mV at 1V, 1 Pascal. The 16.7-ounce body is seven inches long with a 2.1-inch diameter and a balanced, low-impedance (100-ohm) output.

Not unlike several new-school ribbon designs, the AT4080 requires 48-volt phantom power to supply the mic’s active electronics, which bring its output to near-condenser mic levels. The stable impedance and high output of the 4080’s active circuitry make it easy to integrate with a wide variety of microphone preamplifiers. The microphone’s housing is sturdy and robust, and it ships with a dust cover, protective carrying case and the AT8449/SV shock-mount.

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