There are two groupings for the Audio-Technica range of microphones. The 'Artist' series, prefixed ATM and the 'Pro' series, prefixed Pro as one might expect. It is interesting to study mic marketing, for several manufacturers have found it necessary to tag on the pro description nowadays. Overall, there are some sixteen mics in both ranges and this month we take a look at the PRO4L, ATM41 and ATM10R.
The PRO4L is a ball headed moving coil mic with a black tapered body and a cardioid pickup pattern, listed as being for vocal use. The L suffix refers to the low impedance. To remind readers - low source impedance allows long leads without high frequency losses, hum and noise pickup. The low impedance connection is preferred if the mixer/recorder or whatever has suitable input impedance. This will usually be balanced which further avoids hum and noise pickup. High impedance inputs are unbalanced, so beware as mic performance is seriously affected when connected to the incorrect input. Audio-Technica's PRO4L is supplied with a 5m XLR(F) to XLR(M) lead and the mic itself has an on/off switch.
The ATM41 is a dark grey colour, cardioid, also with a tapered body but no on/off switch. Like the rest of the mics in the review the ATM41 has an XLR outlet. No lead is supplied but a stand clip is, together with a vinyl pouch. The body has a 'special' reverse curve near the head mesh to suit hand held usage.
The third mic from the Audio-Technica stable is the ATM10R model. We chose this one as it is a remote phantom-powered electret or as A-T call it 'Fixed-Charge' condenser microphone. A good description actually, as the capacitor element is permanently polarized at the manufacturing stage. The external powering is needed for the FET based preamp. Ordinarily this is provided by the commonly used 1.5V cell often associated with electret mics but I personally do not like relying on batteries anywhere in my system, so I welcome the phantom facility. Non-electret capacitor mics on the other hand use the external powering to actually polarize the capacitive transducer as well as power the mic's internal preamp.
A preamp is essential in both varieties to give a very high input impedance to the transducer (hundreds of megohms) and present a low source impedance (hundreds of ohms) down the mic cable.
Back to the ATM10R. The suffix R indicates the need for the remote phantom powering, which can be, incidentally, between 9 to 52V DC well smoothed. There is also the ATM10 in the A-T range, which is powered by an internal 1.5V AA cell as is more usual for electrets. A stand clip once again is provided together with a vinyl pouch.
The two vocal mics have both similarities and differences, due to the complexities of their on and off axis characteristics. In the sense of normal good front to back discrimination, the cardioid directional abilities showed up well. At the side (90°) the ATM41 seemed brighter than on axis. This was confirmed by some feedback provoking tests where it exhibited a higher frequency of ringing than the PRO4L.
With all these mics, subjective judgement will depend on personal preferences, the amplification settings with any equalising away from 'flat', the characteristics and colourations of the monitor loudspeakers in use. The room used will also affect judgement. If comparisons are being made, it is essential that similar levels be used - a mic could clearly be condemned because 'apparently' the feedback started 'sooner'. In any case a sound's characteristics change with level, especially voices, so beware!
Both the PRO4L and ATM41 have the usual cardioid proximity rise at low frequencies. The PRO4L goes deeper than the ATM41 in these circumstances and if used really close would need some LF roll off - but the judgement could be affected by the speakers used. If these are bass light you could be over thickening your vocals.
Summing up - both the ATM41 and PRO4L have, at normal distances, a very decent vocal sound with an acceptable amount of presence as far as I'm concerned. Nicely, this presence peak is high up the range, an aspect I prefer as it produces less coloured sound than with lower peaks.
The omni ATM10R was equally so endowed, but has a high frequency directional tendency. Curiously the sound is almost muffled, seemingly not just from a more extended low frequency (LF) but probably an HF deficiency. Handling noise, as with omnis generally, is low but unexpectedly the P blast susceptibility was higher than expected.
With the vocal mics the many layered mesh and internal foam shielding did an above average job for P blast protection. Handling of the PRO4L was well above average and very bassy. The ATM41 was more as expected and around par for the type. Interestingly, on this occasion I was not really aware of the prices when reviewing the mics and it came as a pleasant surprise to relate my opinions of the mics to the prices asked. The two vocal mics, and others in the Audio-Technica ranges must rate as value for money and again I suggest trial auditions.
Prices including VAT are: Audio-Technica PRO4L £47; ATM41 £75; ATM10R £69.
Distributed in the UK by John Hornby Skewes & Co Ltd., (Contact Details).
Gear in this article:
Review by Mike Skeet
Previous article in this issue:
Next article in this issue:
mu:zines is the result of thousands of hours of effort, and will require many thousands more going forward to reach our goals of getting all this content online.
If you value this resource, you can support this project - it really helps!