SonicScoop Reviews: Audio Technica's AT4080 & AT4081 Ribbon Mics - Indablog - Indaba Music
News, Sessions and oddities from the Indaba Community
Thursday June 17, 2010 at 05:54 PM
Sonic Scoop was hanging out in Westchester, NY with Indaba Artist in Residence Frank Portalatin testing out mics in the studio, here are the results:
By Rick Slater
OSSINING, NY: It was a beautiful day for a drive up to Bi-Coastal Music in Ossining to check out the new Audio-Technica (AT) AT4080 and AT4081 ribbon mics. We wanted to do a ribbon mic shoot-out and Bi-Coastal had a very nice array of ribbon mics for us to compare.
Both Tarik Solangi of Prime Time Sound (Mt. Vernon, NY) and musician/producer Ray DeTone were looking to add a ribbon mic to their locker, so they came by for a listen. Frank Portalatin and Doug Brown were there from Audio-Technica.
Audio-Technica has taken out 19 patents on this new ribbon technology. These mics are phantom powered, bi-directional and can withstand up to 150spl. When you look inside, the ribbon element is in a very sturdy housing and AT says you can store the mics horizontally (something that would ruin other ribbon elements). The outer housing of the 4080 is comparable in size to any medium size condenser mic while the 4081 is in a pencil style housing, excellent for tight miking applications.
Truth, be told I had already had a private screening at Quad NYC with Frank Portalatin and J-Styles of Blackstreet. (Frank wears a lot of hats: producer, writer, guitarist, etc.) I used the AT4080 on Styles’ vocal with an Avalon 737 channel strip. The sound was very surprising; it was clear and yet extremely present without having to use much compression at all. It did need a little nudge at 10K as the mic drops off around 8K.
I used the 4081 on Frank’s guitar in the control room. The first thing I noticed was that the 4081 is very sensitive and being figure-eight in its pattern, picked up a good deal of the room. As he was facing a small alcove, away from the control room speakers there was a good deal of low-end build up. I had him face back towards the speakers to avoid the low frequency build up in that alcove of the room.
The 4081 sounded brighter than the 4080 because it doesn’t roll off until about 10K. It lacks the low bump and has a flatter response than the 4080 too. If I wanted a leaner, more modern sound on the source I would tend to choose this mic. If I wanted to warm something up and perhaps soften its brightness, then I would use the 4080.
At Bi-Coastal Music, we set up a Fender Deluxe with the two AT mics as well as a beyerdynamic M160, beyerdynamic M260, a Royer R-121, and a Coles 4038. Frank riffed on a Fender Stratocaster. The mics all went to Millennia mic pres.
The 4080 sounded fuller but less bright than the beyer M 160. It was closer to the 260 but showed more presence and felt more “up front." The 121 was a little flatter in the lows around 200 than the 4080 with a similar top end.
The 4038 sounded somewhat more organic but less modern than the 4080. Though if you wanted a vintage sound, then the 4038 was your mic.
Again the 4081 had a flatter response in the lows and sounded a little smoother up to 10K. Very similar, I felt, to the 260.
With these new Audio-Technica ribbon mics, I would certainly use them to close mic amps or horns (if I wanted closed miked horns) and even try them on drums. Perhaps out in front of the kick even, where I usually would use a condenser.
At the end of the day, these mics stood solidly against the mics we compared them to and everyone felt they would make a fine addition to anyone’s mic locker. They are available through Dale Pro Audio.
I would like to thank Jason at Quad NYC and Hal at Bi-Coastal for their gracious hospitality. — Rick Slater
Rick Slater is a NYC-based producer/engineer who’s recorded and/or mixed with Chuck D, Robben Ford and James Chance, and worked in NYC studios such as Mediasound, Quad and Sony. Check him out at www.slatermix.com.
SonicScoop is a pioneering online destination that provides New York City’s thriving music and sound production community with a vital central hub. The ideal merger of regional focus and global appeal, SonicScoop is designed to be a premier music and sound production resource. Visit SonicScoop at www.sonicscoop.com.
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