If you read my review of the Shure KSM 141's last issue, you know that I rarely spend my own money on mics. Instead, I rely on the kindness of others for most of my transducing needs. The AT4050 is one mic I did actually buy, and it's been my solitary "good mic" for years now. It seems many people mention this mic for vocals; but you know, I've never been too psyched anytime I've put it up in front of a singer. It always sounds "good", but rarely sounds "right." In these pages long ago, someone described the AT4050 as "kind of prissy," and for vocals, I would tend to agree. Something about the high end-it's like there's a weird dip and peak right next to each other. Maybe it's me. Anyway, for most everything else, it's great. I've used it on kick, overhead, room, bass, all kinds of guitars, organ, xylophone, cello, viola, djembe, piano, trumpet, wineglass, and every percussion instrument you can think of. It's multipattern (cardioid, omni and figure- 8), which makes it really useful in lots of different situations. To me, the AT4050 isn't the kind of mic you fall in love with-but more a really good, versatile workhorse.
The AT4040, on the other hand, is a real seductress. The folks at A-T sent one for review, and I have to say, I loved it from the get go. It's cardioid only, and like the AT4050, it has switches for -10 dB pad and low-cut filter. The frequency response graph shows some pretty serious peaks around 6 and 8 kHz, but I haven't found the mic to be harsh sounding in the least. The day it arrived, I tried it on a couple of guitar tracks. On playback, I thought, "Wow, that sounds exactly like what I just played." Maybe with the hi-end boost, it's "...exactly... plus a little sparkle"-but whatever, it sounds really good. I tried it on male and female vocals and was similarly pleased with the results. The other day, I had it over the snare, "three mic" style, and it sounded good; but there was kind of a lot of "midrange yuckiness." However, my AKG C 33E was having similar problems, which led me to believe it was the room, not the mics. So I moved the drums to a different room (what luxury!) and currently have the AT4040 handling side of snare duties. Yup, it sounds great. Not quite as bright as my old standby Oktava 219, but plenty thick and crunchy, which is just what I want from a snare mic. I haven't had a chance to check it out on anything else, but I'm certainly keeping it, and I recommend you check it out as well. List price is $495, list for the AT4050 is $895. Street price is a lot less. Both mics come with shockmounts. (www.audiotechnica.com)