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What Audio Technica 40 Series mics do you recommend most?

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by audiokid, Oct 5, 2015.

  1. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    We're doing an AT - Audio Technica promo until Dec 31, 2015. This thread is here for us and them. (y)

    We have an opportunity to get:
    "REBATE: Buy a select 40 Series Microphone and receive FREE ATH-M50x Professional Studio Monitor Headphones with qualifying purchases between September 1, 2015 and December 31, 2015. Click here for details."

    I've been looking at their headphones for a few years so maybe this is a good time to get a deal. I'm looking at the AT4050 and the AT4047.

    What AT mics do you recommend and for what? My requirements are mostly based around vocals, guitars and other stringed instruments but this thread isn't just about me. Thanks for any suggestions and the support towards Audio Technica. :love:

    Eligible microphones include:

    AT4033/CL - Cardioid Condenser Microphone
    (classic version of the AT4033)
    AT4047MP - Multi-pattern Condenser Microphone
    AT4047/SV - Cardioid Condenser Microphone
    AT4050 - Multi-pattern Condenser Microphone
    AT4050ST - Stereo Condenser Microphone
    AT4060 - Cardioid Condenser Tube Microphone
    AT4080 - Phantom-powered Bidirectional Ribbon Microphone
    AT4081 - Phantom-powered Bidirectional Ribbon Microphone
  2. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    I have no experience with any AT mics other than some older dynamics: (.
    I have had one eye on the ribbon mic?
  3. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Ribbon - I know :love:... The AT5040 is on my list but, anyone use the AT4080?
  4. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I have a friend who swears by his 4033 - although he's told me that he's been told that there have been a few different versions of this mic floating around over time - the model number has never changed - but apparently, the original earlier models are the best-sounding.

    I can't personally attest to this, but I realize that it is at least possible; there are those who will claim that the original Rode NT1 sounds better than later NT1 releases...and I know for a fact that there have been many different 414's over the years, with some versions sounding better than others.

    I've recorded my friend at his place using his 4033 with a Grace preamp several times; ( the Grace is a pretty transparent sounding pre as mic pre's go, so I feel as though I was really hearing the mic) and it's always sounded very good - to my ears, anyway. It has a nice presence without being harsh, I wouldn't go as far to call the top end "silky" in the way I've heard other more expensive mics sound ( like 414's or U89's) but, it's not like it has an unpleasant top end, either...and honestly, I feel that the mic could probably be priced a bit higher, say at $500, and it would still be worth it - but ...I'm basing this opinion on his 4033... and his is the only 4033 I've ever had any experience with.

    I've also used the 4050 a few times in my rounds as a hired-gun engineer at other regional studios; I've always found them to be very good-sounding mics; although on all occasions, the preamps used with it were upper level models like Grace, Focusrite and Vintech 73 and Neve 500 Series mic pre mods...

    I've used the 4060 Tube once - very recently, in fact. The person who bought it said that they paid $1600, and I felt that to be overpriced based on what I heard. It did sound good... but IMO, not "$1600 worth of good".
    I've heard better results using less expensive SS condenser mics through standalone tube preamps, both of which combined have totaled up to far less than $1600.

    AT's world HQ and factory is located less than a half hour from me, in Stow, Ohio ( which is a suburb about 5 miles north of Akron), so over the years, a few studio engineers in this area have gotten to know some of the R&D cats who work there; and from time to time, you'll come across beta/prototype versions of their mics.

    While I've haven't yet had a chance to work with it, the 5040 is supposed to be the finest-sounding condenser mic that AT has ever made.

    I keep hoping that one of these days in my studio travels, I'll finally get lucky enough to come across a 5040 so that I can hear it for myself; but, as of this writing, I haven't yet had that opportunity.... priced at $3000 (U.S.), that's pretty expensive (only a couple hundred less than a U87) - so it's not what most small to mid level production facilities can usually afford to $ drop on one single-pattern ( cardioid only) condenser microphone.

    But, until I get the chance to actually use/hear one, I'll have to reserve judgement on whether it's priced at its actual worth... or not . ;)
  5. thatjeffguy

    thatjeffguy Active Member

    Chris, I had a 4080 for a while. I bought it for vocals but found the mids too 'boxy' so I sold it off.
  6. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I've used 4050s quite a bit, used to own one. They can be brittle with mundane preamps, but the Solo 610 we're using knocks the edge off and makes them more pleasing. I have not heard one through a Grace but I would bet it sounds even better. AT4033s are pretty similar but without the multiple patterns. As I understand it there are at least two version, the newer using with SMT components.
  7. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    I've used 4050s quite a bit, used to own one. They can be brittle with mundane preamps but the Solo 610 we have takes the brittle edge off. The acoustic guitars and vocals on the song Crawlin' that I've linked to elsewhere are done with that combination.
  8. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That might confirm what I mentioned in my post regarding what my buddy was telling me - that his 4030 was from the first year they were released, and that it "sounds better" than subsequent releases.

    Not that I'm anti-SMT or anything, because I'm not... but I do believe that there can be a difference in sound with that architecture.

    Which is all relative... to the sound of the source/vocalist, to the room, to the preamp, to the style of the song itself...

    The following isn't aimed at Boulder - who, as a pro, obviously already knows the following - I've posted it as more of a suggestive guide to those who might be newer to the craft, and who might want to know a bit more about microphones...

    You'll notice above that I didn't say that SMT sounded worse than models with wires, resistors, transistors and capacitors... just perhaps different - and that "difference" could be good or bad, either of which is dependent on the gain chain, as well as on the perception and preference of whom is listening at the time.

    A newer, SMT version of a 4030 series mic might sound fantastic if it's gained-up through a really nice preamp - or, maybe the original version wins out. As to which one is "better sounding" is a choice that can only be determined within the context of its use, and the preference and perception of the listener. There are many who prefer vocal mics to have a hyped presence in the 4-7k range, because modern production/mix trends tend to favor a more pronounced top end "edge" and brightness on lead vocals. Others might instead prefer a more pronounced mid range, while still others might prefer a mic to be as "flat" and neutral-sounding as possible across the entire frequency range.

    Even the venerable Neumann U87 and AKG 414 mics have had slight differences in the various models of each mic over the years; and some say will sound a lot different from each other - while others claim the differences to be subtle.

    For the U87, many prefer the "warmer" and "slightly compressed" sound of the older "i" models, while others desire the more "airy", open sound, and increased gain ( +10db) of the more current "Ai"models. Those who like to use AKG 414's might have a preference for the older models - EB's and before - where the original CK12 brass capsule was used - the result being a very warm, rich and "silky" sound; and yet, others might prefer the more modern 414 versions; like the XL's and the ULS models, which use the Nylon/Teflon capsule ring; because they like the hyped-presence that is inherent and more pronounced with those later models.

    It's all subjective, really - unless we're talking about specs that quite obviously and so drastically differ sonically - (or that perhaps have issues that you just can't help but notice) - but usually, the differences are subjective, and it comes down to personal preference.

  9. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Nicely put. I think I'll include this (with a slight tweak) in about every post I make from this point on lol.

    Being said, I've never used an AT mic in 40 years. I've always thought of them as less than pro which I hope to be reformed over that opinion.
    The two I'm thinking about would probably sound really good through my M-2b. Everything I put through it sounds excellent. I wish we all had one of those gems. Maybe if I can get 100 members to buy one M-2b each, we could get a better deal lol. Kidding of course. But earnest in my wish for us to know the impact those have had on me.
    The word on my chain in clean is the new colour lol.

    What does SMT mean? I've not read that term before. But, I'm just starting to reach into other mics these days. The 4047 has a bit more weight I'm told. Anyone here try that?

    Thanks Jeff on the update for the 4080. I think I remember you mentioning that before now.

    Donny, Boulder, Pan, I appreciate your posts a well.
  10. bouldersound

    bouldersound Real guitars are for old people. Well-Known Member

    Surface mount technology. It uses tiny components that are machine loaded and soldered onto the board. It's a more advanced way of manufacturing a circuit board compared to the more traditional through-hole method.
  11. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    There are indeed ways in which identical circuits that are laid out and built with leaded (through-hole) components and SMT components can sound different. It's an argument I have fairly often with the production houses of designs that I have been involved with.

    Price considerations aside, the big advantage of SMT is that the whole design can be made physically smaller, and this can offer less board, track and component capacitance to have to compensate for. The boards built using SMT are usually very consistent from one unit to the next, almost eliminating the need for matching, at least at the electronic level.

    The disadvantages are more subtle, but the one standout factor is the higher susceptibility of SMT resistors to change of resistance with terminal voltage compared with their leaded equivalents. It's not something that you would ever see specified on a data sheet, but the effect is there, and you can demonstrate it by measuring the difference in distortion performance of audio circuits built entirely using leaded resistors and the same board using leaded resistors constructed artificially from SMT components. I have even shown an improvement in an all-SMT design by replacing a 30K feedback resistor with three 10K resistors in series to reduce the voltage across each resistor. It's this sort of subtlety that managers of production houses have difficulty getting their heads around. Components cost money!
    audiokid likes this.
  12. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member


    " the AT5040 represents a milestone in condenser design, offering remarkably musical high-fidelity performance, with profound realism and depth, presence and purity of sound.
    Designed as a first-choice vocal microphone, the
    Audio-Technica AT5040 features an extremely smooth top end with controlled sibilance. Large-diaphragm characteristics and fast transient response also make it ideal for recording acoustic instruments such as piano, guitar, strings and saxophone.
    Four-part rectangular element
    The first of the design criteria for the AT5040 was purity of sound. To achieve this, Audio-Technica engineers developed a four-part rectangular element, the pinnacle of their recent breakthroughs in sound-capture technology. Four exquisitely matched ultra-thin diaphragms function together (with outputs proprietarily summed) as Audio-Technica's largest-ever element, providing combined surface area twice that of a standard one-inch circular diaphragm.
    By using four diaphragms in a single capsule, the AT5040 delivers the benefits of an exceptionally large diaphragm — along with an extremely low noise floor — without increased weight, decreased transient response or other drawbacks that typically restrict diaphragm size.
    Another key AT5040 design feature is advanced internal shock mounting that effectively decouples the capsule from the microphone body. For additional isolation, each AT5040 is also provided with Audio-Technica's innovative new AT8480 shock mount.

    100% quality control
    Every AT5040 is hand assembled and individually inspected for 100% quality control. Each microphone is enclosed in an elegant housing of aluminum and brass with high-quality gray finish for durability and low reflectivity. Discrete components have been selected for optimized capsule performance; in fact, every aspect of the microphone has been carefully considered to minimize any effects on the audio signal.
    Pure innovation"


  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I like that. I think it's completely accurate to say that "transparent" is its own type of "color".

    The following isn't directed at Chris; it's for others who may be researching...

    IMO, I think it's best for every studio to have at least one super-clean, transparent mic pre, along with whatever other "colored" pre's they may also have. There's absolutely nothing wrong with having a pre with character; I like character, I like textures and color, and they have their place .... but having only that kinda limits you to being a sonic one trick pony; especially if you're using the same colors all the time for everything.

    I recently put up a link to the equipment list at Peter Gabriel's Real World Studios. While their mainframe desks are Neve and Sony Oxford, if you read their list of racked peripheral gear, it shows an inventory of all kinds of mic pre's;
    API to Antelope, SPL to SSL, Millennia to Manley... so obviously, with the inclusion of Antelope, SPL and Millennia as choices, they are also looking at "transparency" as its own shade of "color" as well.
    And, while very few can afford to have Real World's inventory, it can be done on a smaller home studio scale with as little as 2 different preamps, and a couple different mics - and the mics don't have to be $2500 each, either.
    One nice condenser, one nice ribbon, one nice dynamic.

    In the best case scenario - as far as my personal scenario preference - I'd like a pre with the color of transformers, a tube pre ( or tube mic) for "that" sound, and a pristinely clear preamp (like a Grace, Millennia, etc.). To me, this seems to be the best scenario. Choices are good. They can help to widen the scope of the tracks without having to insert a bunch of plugs in the mix (I'm not against plugs, either, they have their place. )

    Also, not relying on just one microphone to do everything is important too, especially if you are a musician who is doing many - or even all - of the tracks yourself. Bos ( @Boswell ) has mentioned this several times; in that one performer using all the same gear in the gain chain for everything has a tendency to make productions sound "generic", and lacking contrast. Same voice, same mic, same pre, same room ... things are bound to start to sound somewhat shallow, to smear together, and the more tracks there are using all that same gear, the more lifeless a mix can potentially become. It can't help but to start to sound like a "one size fits all" type of sonic signature.

    Imagine a still-life painter having only 2 colors on their palette to choose from - this isn't really all that different from a studio having just one pre and just one mic.

    Having a choice of mics and pre's allows us to add sonics that are just different enough from each other, that they can provide a nicer and more natural-sounding definition and contrast; and ultimately, sound more pleasing to the ear; and while transformers and valves can offer their own shades of color, so can transparency.

    IMHO of course.
  14. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    I have used and own several Audio Technica mics. All different flavors. The is NOTHING lower level about ANY of the 40 series mics. Some folks may not LIKE what they give them in their particular usage and I think this goes for ALL recording gear. But there is nothing 'unpro' about these mics. I have also heard the 20 series and 30 series mics and here is where the corners start to get cut in the implementation of the build. Still, the price point for performance in the 30 series makes them a serious contender for true bargains. Now the 40's.

    My choice for a mic that could be considered one of the Swiss Army Knives of mics is the 4033. It never sounds "bad" on anything. Not always "perfect" but never bad. Like a 57 of the condenser world. I use mine a lot on acoustic guitars, not as the main mic, but as a filler. It sounds really good on a big box when mic'd from the edge of the lower bout. You can really capture the top expressing itself and the 4033 is bright enough as well as having some excellent low-mids to pick this up. I also use them on toms with a well isolated drum kit. Something I learned about from Kurt. It works really well for this.

    The 4050 is much the same. It is also a mic that, much like a chameleon, can change character dependent on the mic pre. It plays really well with fast, modern, clean, reproducers and has a nice tight pattern without the tonal drop offs you can hear is some mics in its price range. The newer model has patterns and friends have told me this makes it an even better instrument mic when you want some room to your noise. I would use this mic as a side fill for a choir but it doesn't deliver the vocals as well as other versions. That is a personal choice in this case. There's nothing wrong with it in this use, just not what I like to hear. U67's will spoil the heck out of ya......

    The 4047, on the other hand, is a really good vocal mic. Smooth and rich sounding without getting strident. Accurate to the point of some lesser singers having a problem with their vocal sound, seriously cringing at the repro. I would say this mic is as close to a Neumann as you can get without the price tag. It has that 'quality' to it. What ever that is.... They make a patterned mic in this type as well as a fixed cardioid. At least I think there's two versions still.

    I've used a 4060 tube mic once. It must have been decent because I don't remember it too well other than it was heavy and built like a tank.

    The SDC mics in the 40 series are very good. I own four 4041's and a pair of 4051's. The reason being, is I wanted enough SDC's to do a live stage if needed. The 4041 is an electret. It is clean and precise. It'll take any amount of cymbal bashing and hold up nicely. It has a roll-off but no pad. It is about as 'honest' a mic as I have ever heard. What you point it at you get back dutifully detailed and clear. This would be an "uncolored" mic in the truest sense.
    The 4051 is a true condenser...a pencil condenser....There's a pad and a roll-off. It'll handle high spl's like all AT mics. This one has some character to it. Its not as intensely bright as an AKG 451 and it doesn't have the head bump like a Shure SM81. So its somewhere in between and a mic in the same budget. It really shines, for me, on the small acoustic instruments....mandolin....fiddle...uke...nashville'd guitars. Something where you want to upper mids and the highs to stay focused and have impact without having them overload the spectrum of a mix.

    The 5040 was mentioned. As you might know, I have close friends who have the retail shop for recording gear in town. They are AT dealers. Much as I try to get a demo of this thing it can't be done. The mark is so slim on them from the manufacturers that they just can't let them out. But I have gotten a demonstration at the shop. All I can say is if you wanted to record the clear blue sky then this is the mic for that. Just putting a set of phones on and listening to the environment in the store was enough to tell what this is all about. I know they have sold a few to high-end mobile guys here in town for the symphony and recordings like that and the feedback has been very positive. These are guys with Schoeps , Neumanns, Josephsons, and MKH's. They should know....but like anything..engineers at that level are weird as can be. Me too.

    It has been my contention for quite a few years that someone STARTING a studio from scratch could stock it with all the different models of the 40 series Audio Technicas and never have a bad time finding a mic to use on anything.

    They are well built and serve their purpose admirably. My 4033 is almost 20 years old now and I wouldn't trade it for anything.

    As a side note...I have a couple of pairs of the headphones in my room. They are also quite good as are all the handheld vocal mics and of course the ATM25 mics.
    audiokid likes this.

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