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Get The Noise Out Of Your Cables!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Home Recording Review!
Audio-Technica AT4050ST
Stereo Condenser Microphone

Microphone

Brevis...
Price: $1,625 retail
Likes: stereo versatility, well-made
Dislikes: We don’t have any...
More info: AT4050ST

by Ty Ford

  The AT4050ST came out in September 2009 along with three or four other significant A-T mics. In the land of microphone manufacturers, Audio-Technica is a giant mic manufacturer. They make so many microphones that when they decide to release three or four at the same time, it’s easy to lose track. We finally got around to noticing the stereo AT4050ST.
  The AT4050ST is part of Audio-Technica’s top of the line 40 Series. In that line, alone, there are about fifteen different microphones. With a list price of $1,625 and a street price of $1,299, in this economy, you have to remind yourself that the AT4050ST is a full-featured stereo condenser, side-address mic with two separate capsules under the grille; a cardioid and a figure eight.

Features
 The AT4050ST is a clever repurposing of existing AT4050 transformerless technology. They already have the BP4025 X/Y stereo field recording mic that has a fixed-position pair of one-sided large diaphragm capsules mounted in one head grille. Why not take it a step or two further? How about a 90- degree X/Y, a wider 127 degree X/Y and a discrete Mid/Side array, all in one mic? Your choice via a three-way switch. Add a -10 dB pad and an 80-Hz high pass filter and you have the AT4050ST.
  The dual-membrane AT4050ST capsules are externally polarized requiring 48V DC phantom power capable of 6.4 mA. Each 50-ohm capsule is separately powered. The grille is said to be very transparent, reducing internal reflections. The mic uses a five-pin XLRM connector, and a 16-foot, 8-conductor, shielded cable (with two 3-pin XLRM-type connectors on the output end) is provided; the kit also includes the AT8449 shock mount for 5/8"-27 threaded stands.

The audition
  In case the implications are not apparent, having two capsules mounted in the same head grille means a more solid stereo image with mono compatibility. (Lots of stereo audio recordings get used in mono. FM radios “blend” the stereo to mono when reception becomes challenging. Clock radios, elevators, in-store overhead systems, message on hold and other audio playback systems are mono. Having tracks with a tight stereo pattern, without a hole in the middle, is a good thing.
  A good stereo mic, like the AT4050ST, gets high points for practicality. One mic, one cable, one mic stand; done. Drum overheads, individual acoustic instruments, even amps can be stereo miked. Drum overheads is a no-brainer, but which of the three arrays to use might cause you to think a bit. If you can’t figure out which to use, go with the mid/side array and record the front-facing cardioid and side-mounted figure eight to separate tracks. Record the figure-eight to two tracks. Then, before mixing, hit the polarity switch on one of them, pan each full left and full right and subgroup them. Start with the front-facing cardioid. As you bring up the figure-eight tracks, the sonic spread will widen.
  If you start with the wide 127-degree array and find an audio “hole” in the middle, either pull the mic back some or switch to the 90-degree array. (You can also just reduce pan during mixing to pull the edges back in.) There may be some cancellation due to the overlapping, but it may be inaudible. 

The made-in-japan AT4050ST is a top-tier class, solidly made, versatile, high-end stereo microphone that can be used in numerous configurations.

  Stereo miking solo instruments can also improve your sound. While setting up a typical left/right recording of an acoustic guitar, I found the AT’s 127-degree array provided a very wide stereo image without losing the center. You just have to position the mic, as with any stereo mic or arrayed mono mics, in the right place. For example, if you record acoustic double bass, there are sounds coming from both the upper and lower bouts, even the fingerboard. Instead of left/right, you can position the mic so it gets the top and bottom of the bass as well. Because the sound of a clarinet and sax comes from the bell and the body, you can do the same thing to capture the whole instrument.
  Although it is a stereo mic, you don’t always have to use the AT4050ST in stereo. The figure eight is my favorite singer/songwriter pattern for vocals. For those who can play and sing at the same time, here is a way to mic both voice and guitar separately and still get enough isolation to work with each track separately. Orient the figure eight so it’s horizontal to the ground; sideways, if you will. Slide the mic into place for vocals while someone is singing and playing acoustic guitar. Listening with headphones, twist the mic in the suspension mount until the acoustic guitar is in the null of the figure eight. Then, put a hypercardioid on the guitar and aim it so the singer’s voice is off the back. Record it to separate tracks. Notice the amount of separation you get.
  Or, even more simply, try either of the AT4050ST X/Y patterns, but as with the bass and wind instruments, position the mic to go up and down instead of left and right. Aim one lobe at the mouth and let the lower lobe pickup the guitar. When I tried it, I liked the 90 degree array best. The AT4050ST also works really well on any stereo amps with chorusing or other stereo effects. 
  If you’re into nature or other types of outdoor recording and it want to record those sounds in stereo, the AT4050ST will deliver excellent results. The mic might need a wind screen, but whether its a busy cityscape, rolling ocean waves at the beach, crickets around a campfire or a summer rain, the results will be well worth it. 

The verdict
  The AT4050ST is basically two mics and a mid/side matrix for $1,300+. If you’re used to spending $150 to $400 for mics, this may seem like a lot, but the made-in-japan AT4050ST is a top-tier class, solidly made, versatile, high-end stereo microphone that can be used in numerous configurations. If you are looking at a condenser stereo microphone that is a cut above, take a serious look at the AT4050ST. We are giving it an Everything Audio Network Stellar Sound Award for its excellent sonic capabilities. 

  Based in Baltimore, sound engineer Ty Ford is a veteran of numerous broadcast, live and recording adventures, as well as an accomplished acoustic guitar player. He may be reached at www.tyford.com


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1 comment:

Rich said...

Typical excellent quality A-T microphone and typical excellent quality Ty Ford review!

RAS