Audio-Technica AT5040 Microphone

Jun 1, 2013 9:00 AM, Mix, By Barry Rudolph

New Four-Diaphragm Condenser Design

Polls


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I also found my choice of microphone preamp(s) more noticeable in their effect on the overall sound quality, depending on the sources and how loud or soft they are. The AT5040 is a modern microphone with plenty of output level that may exceed the dynamic range (headroom) of your console or stand-alone preamp when recording close and/or loud sources.

The microphone’s dynamic range is 137 dB with a 5dB (A-weighted) noise floor—so low that any added signal chain noise and distortion from compressors or EQs is easily heard. Maximum input sound level is 142dB SPL, and recording close and loud guitar or bass amps—even a snare drum—is no problem, but a preamp capable of minimal mic gain will be required if you don’t use an attenuator pad.

Vocals

For vocals, I found a precise and accurate sound: not overly bright but with sibilants heard clearly, clean and consistent. The AT5040 has a wide cardioid pickup pattern that seemed to lessen the effects of loss of clarity when singers get slightly off-axis on certain phrases and words. If I listened to the singer’s loud headphone mix, I could hear a definite sweet spot for optimal sound for vocalists who can stay on-point and at a consistent distance.

For this initial test, I used no additional outboard signal processing when I recorded a high tenor male vocalist who sings ballads very quietly. He sang about six inches from the pop filter placed right on the microphone. I found more than enough level with the API 1608 console’s preamp gain at minimum and no pad. To find the sweet spot, it is easy to experiment with mic-to-source by just small changes in mic gain, and usually there is no need for the pop filter unless you want singers closer than four inches.

For a different singer at another studio, I used about 15 to 30dB gain from my RTZ 9762 preamp (Neve 1272 circuit) for medium-to-loud singing within six inches of the mic. Great results—the singer himself, listening on headphones, even commented on the noticeable improvement over the Neumann U 87 Ai they had been using. The AT5040 has a smoother sound with less upward treble tilt, and with a touch of compression from an LA-2 leveling amp and no EQ, the vocal tracks were mix-ready.

I used an Ingram MPA685 (variable-impedance) preamp for the next vocal recording test at another studio. I liked using the preamp’s 2,500-ohm (high) input impedance position and the -5 to -9 gain positions (around 17dB of gain) for recording my loud rock singer. Again, the 5040 effortlessly captured everything right and wrong with his performance.

Acoustic Guitar

I recorded a Martin OMCPA-4 guitar in a large, wide-open tracking room and got the best sound for finger picking with the mic about 12 inches from the 12th fret and with about 40dB of mic gain from the studio’s Duality SE console preamp. Lowering the gain 5 dB and keeping the same distance but moving over the sound hole produced a thicker tone as expected, but not with excessive bass buildup. The AT5040’s pickup pattern provided wide coverage of the entire instrument in a balanced way, including the player’s very light foot tapping. Like when using a small-diaphragm condenser, aiming the AT5040 where the pick hits the strings (or not) dials in the “mix” of articulation/high frequencies versus the rest of the instrument, as you require.

Bass Amp

Initially, more as a whim, I put the 5040 midway between the dust cap and surround of one of the speakers in a bass amp cabinet. It was the best clean bass amp sound I ever got. It sounded like the DI, only with slightly more “hair.” The amp was set to low volume, and the recording was as present as the passive DI version—just with more personality.

The AT5040 offers the elegance and natural sound of a well-designed large-diaphragm condenser microphone with the precision, wide frequency response and high SPL handling of a small-diaphragm microphone. The AT5040 is like super high-definition video—it captures everything in truthful resolution.

Barry Rudolph is an L.A.-based recording engineer. Visit him at www.barryrudolph.com.

PRODUCT SUMMARY

Company: Audio-Technica

Website: audio-technica.com

Product: AT5040 Studio Vocal Microphone

Price: $2,999

Pros: Wide dynamic range, low noise floor and hyper-accurate rendering of the source.

Cons: May be too accurate for some applications.

TRY THIS

I found new life for an old trick when recording vocal doubles or stacks of double-tracked vocals using the same singer. Have the singer move to one side of center or change distance to the microphone for recording the double-track. For the first, or primary track, the vocalist would be on-center and lined up on the AT5040; then for the first double, I’d ask the singer to move 30 to 45-degrees off-axis to the right. For the triple-track, I would ask the singer to move the same to the left side. This is an old trick, but the AT5040’s high resolution makes the different mic-to-source distances and their effect more “hearable.”






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