Audio-Technica has knocked it out of the park with this hypercardioid dynamic instrument mic. This is definitely my new go-to mic for toms and even kick drum. I tried out a three-pack of the ATM230 on several sessions, with different styles of music. Each time, the mic delivered wonderfully. I was so impressed, I decided to do a shootout to make sure I wasn't imagining things.

During some downtime, my studio partner and I set up our three favorite dynamic mics for toms, alongside an ATM230. We sent all four mics into Vintech X73i preamps [Tape Op #47]. The Audio-Technica blew them all away! We were so surprised that we raced back into the live room to double-check the mic positioning to make sure something funny wasn't going on. The ATM230 sounded deep and punchy, with just the right amount of stick attack, without EQ. My partner pointed out how lifelike the bottom end felt on different hits. In comparison, some of the other mics almost sounded like drum samples with the low-end resonance feeling almost static and less dynamic in comparison. The stick sound from the ATM230 also felt clearer, and more open and natural. Next, I tried crashing some cymbals off-axis, and this time, the ATM230 really blew all the others away by having the best off-axis rejection. The cymbals were both darker and quieter than in all other mics. That's exactly what you want out of a tom mic. I wanted to be certain I hadn't just grabbed the lucky mic, so I put all three of the ATM230 mics up and compared them. They were all perfectly matched and indistinguishable. This is a really great product!

Then I spent the next few days using two of the ATM230 mics for toms and the third on kick drum. The first day, I had a very large kick with no sound hole. The ATM230 delivered a tight, focused, and punchy bottom end, with just enough beater presence to cut through the mix without sounding silly or forced. The second day, I had a smaller 22'' drum, and I placed the mic just inside the hole, pointing towards the beater. I think I'm in love.

Beyond just the sound, these are incredibly well-designed mics. They are super small and compact, which makes them much easier to maneuver around really tight setups. They are also much less likely to be hit by a stick in the middle of an overly passionate drum fill (but they are tough enough to survive a hit). I also like the mic's integral stand mount, so I don't have to search for a mic clip. Anything that helps speed the setup time in my studio is welcome by me.

The ATM230 also comes with an AT8665 drum mount that attaches to the rim of a drum. I would only call this mount satisfactory. It gets the job done, but doesn't have quite as much range as similar mounts I've seen from other manufacturers. [On the contrary, I purchased four AT8665 mounts because I prefer them over the many rim mounts I own from other manufacturers, including the ones that came with my Sennheiser MD 504 and e 604 drum mics. –AH] I almost never use any of these rim mounts though, because my experiences have taught me that drum mics sound noticeably better to me when I put them on standard mic stands. So, I see this addition as a small bonus that hardly has a bearing on my opinion of the mic.

The ATM230 is a great-sounding mic. Call me a convert. Audio-Technica might have just set a new standard for drum mics!

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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