Audio-Technica 30 Series, May 2002Audio-Technica's 30 Series condenser mics offer extended frequency response, high-SPL handling, excellent 5/13/2004 8:00 AM Eastern
Audio-Technica's 30 Series condenser mics offer extended frequency response, high-SPL handling, excellent dynamic range and low self-noise—at an affordable price. The newest additions to the line are the large-diaphragm AT3035 cardioid ($349) and the small-diaphragm AT3031 cardioid ($259). A small-diaphragm omni (AT3032) is also available. All three are fixed-charge backplate, permanently polarized condensers requiring 11 to 52VDC phantom power; each includes -10dB pad, and 80Hz, -12dB/octave bass roll-off switches.
The AT3035 is a side-address design with a 6.7x2-inch, 13.8-ounce body and an attractive pewter-look finish. The mic ships with a simple, yet effective shock-mount that holds the body securely with a definitive “click.”
In the studio, the AT3035 proved surprising. Despite its low cost, the mic was extremely smooth, to the point of being almost ruler flat from 50 to 15k Hz. If you're looking for a mic with attitude, weird vocal bumps or excessive top-end boost, then this one isn't it. Instead, the AT3035 puts back a near-identical picture of what's in front of it, while providing an impressively low self-noise of 12 dB. It was ideal for recording a fairly bright 12-string, where mics with a more “traditional” condenser top end would have yielded a brittle sound. Recording tenor sax, the opposite was true: Here, I chose a mic with more edge, while the AT3035 was very nice—smooth and natural—on alto and soprano sax.
The AT3035 excels on female voices, providing the right blend of close-in proximity effect for fullness, with a linear HF response that was never shrill or edgy. On male vocals, the AT3035's flat response meant reaching for the EQ to add a slight (2 to 3dB) presence boost to increase intelligibility. In either case, working in closer than 6 inches or so, I did need to use a stocking-screen filter, as the LF roll-off was a bit too much for vocal pops—it's better suited for wind noise or general bass filtering, for drum overheads and the like. Also, the AT3035's off-axis response was excellent—I never had to worry about the mic's character changing when singers moved around while tracking.
The AT3031 is a small-diaphragm cardioid, in a familiar, probe-style 5.7-inch-long package that's just over 3/4 inches in diameter. Overall, the AT3031 exhibits a more typical condenser mic response, with a gentle +2dB HF rise that kicks in from 9 to 15k Hz, and then levels off and extends out to 20 kHz. Its unpadded 148dB SPL handling capability and wide response scream out for percussion applications, and the AT3031 was spot-on for drum overheads and close-up on hi-hat, yet retained plenty of LF moxie for near-field recording of a 28-inch Paiste symphonic gong—the proximity effect combined with the mic's sub-40Hz response for a powerful, thundering result.
Next up for the AT4031 was capturing overdubbed harmonic grace notes on a Taylor acoustic guitar. Here, the extended top end was a real plus, while the mic's stated 16dB self-noise (this spec seems very conservative) combined with the ultraclean sound of an Aphex 1100 preamp revealed some weird clicking noise, which turned out to be the guitarist's wristwatch!
Audio-Technica might have made a mistake in categorizing its 30 Series for “home and project studio” use. These are quality engineering tools that can hold their own in any pro environment—stage, studio or broadcasting.