Audio-Technica has just released a microphone that I've been waiting on for years. The ATM450 is a small-diaphragm condenser microphone. Audio-Technica makes several excellent small-diaphragm condenser mics already, but what makes this one different is its side-address design. The ATM450 is designed as a close mic for drums, with a high SPL tolerance and a moderate output. It comes standard with a carrying bag and an AT8471 clip (which also fits other 40 Series mics like a dream-I reviewed this
item in Tape Op #42). I haven't found it to be an overly
flattering mic, especially on acoustic instruments like acoustic guitar or banjo, but it's perfectly suitable as a utility microphone. I've found myself leaving them up for things like ambient electric guitar, bass guitar amp, grand piano, cardboard box, and percussion. They usually faired well in these situations with a predictable amount of depth and detail. As for using them on drums, it's all the design stuff that makes them happening. The side-address arrangement makes them super-useful as far as placement is concerned. I still prefer them maybe 3-5 inches away from the drum when I have that sort of space, but positioning them closer sounds nice, too. It's also far easier to get these mics positioned towards the center of the drumhead without the back end of the mic being obtrusive at all. They handle loud sources without any problem at all, and their output seems perfectly reasonable for these sorts of applications. I've been able to use them with high-gain preamps like Syteks without the need for an additional inline pad. The 10 dB pad on the mic works perfectly well, and although the LF rolloff works as it should, I found myself preferring the sound of the mic "flat" on drums. As a spot-mic in an overhead-heavy drumkit mic'ing scheme, it's a great mic for snare drum, too. The ATM450 has a little bit going on up-top (in a pleasant way), which makes it just right for recording brushes. It would be easy to want to compare this mic to other A-T small diaphragm mics like the 4051, 4031, etc. It's a different beast, although definitely related to these fine microphones, with the same excellent build quality. I should also make a note that Warren Dent at Front End Audio went above and beyond to ensure that I got a few of these mics to use on sessions in a timely manner. Kudos! And for the record, I bought three of them and will probably pick up another couple in the near future. At a street price of $220, it's a hard deal to beat. ($369 MSRP; www.audio-technica.com)
Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.