Recording

Audio-Technica AT4054 and AT4055, May 1998

HANDHELD CARDIOID CAPACITOR MICROPHONE 5/13/2004 8:00 AM Eastern

Nine years ago, Audio-Technica began setting its sights on the pro studio market with the introduction of its AT4031 and AT4051 condenser microphones. In the years since, these models—which were followed by the introductions of models such as the AT4033 and AT4050—have established Audio-Technica as a serious contender in the eyes of professionals. Over the same time period, A-T also developed higher-performance handheld mics such as the ATM61HE dynamic and the ATM89R condenser. Audio-Technica has now applied some of the principles of its 40 Series studio mics to a high-end vocal design for live performance. The result is the AT4054 and AT4055.

Priced at $499 each, the two microphones are essentially identical, except the AT4054 incorporates an LF roll-off curve, while the AT4055 has a linear LF response. To keep the two mics distinctive, the 4054 has a thin blue line surrounding its windscreen basket.

Physically, the mics are 7 inches long and weigh 10.6 ounces. The baked-on, non-reflective black finish is tough, and the body fits nicely into the hand and balances well. The mics are shipped with a stand adapter but will fit snugly into standard mic clips.

The windscreen is a tough, stainless steel mesh basket that unscrews easily. Beneath the mesh, an open-cell foam screen provides a second layer of pop protection and can be removed for cleaning. The mic capsule, which was derived from the technology used in A-T’s popular AT4050 studio mic, is housed in a hardened steel enclosure. A true condenser design, the AT4054/55 uses a medium-diameter, two-micron-thick, gold-sputtered diaphragm, which goes through a five-step aging process. According to A-T, the pre-aging process helps provide consistent performance characteristics over the life of the mic. From the capsule, the signal is routed through a low-noise, transformer-balanced preamp, ending in a male XLR (wired pin 2 hot).

After a quick reassembly, I clicked on the console’s 48-volt phantom power and checked the mics out. Although the 4055 provides response down to 20 Hz, I was surprised by the mic’s smooth low frequency response, even on low baritone and bass voices. The degree of proximity effect was just about perfect—just enough to provide an extra boost to a performer who really knows how to “work” a mic, while not being boomy or mushy. Obviously, with the 4054’s LF roll-off, proximity effect was substantially reduced, but I liked the fact that the LF attenuation curve is a gentle -3 dB/octave beginning around 180 Hz, then going into a -6dB/octave roll-off about 90 Hz, continuing downward. The curve has a more natural (and far less drastic) sound than the type of LF attenuation typically offered by mics with roll-off switches. Also, the 4054’s built-in roll-off is particularly well-suited for use with consoles that lack sweepable HP filters.

Further up the spectra, the midrange was nicely balanced relative to the high frequencies. As with most live vocal mics, the 4054/55’s upper response exhibits a presence boost designed to improve vocal intelligibility. But in the case of these mics, the HF rise is a long, gradual slope starting about 1 kHz and ending in +3.5dB peaks centered around 4.5 and 10 kHz. The net effect is a very natural sound that worked well for male and female vocalists.

The mic’s polar response is a fairly tight cardioid pattern throughout the midrange. The tightness of the pattern offers ample rejection of unwanted sounds, and isolation from sounds coming from 180° (behind the mic) was excellent. This feature maximizes gain before feedback, though the tightness of the pattern could be a problem with untrained singers who fail to stay on-axis. The mics’ off-axis sound was impressive: essentially an attenuated, uncolored version of the on-axis sound.

In creating the AT4054 and AT4055, Audio-Technica has achieved its goals of producing live vocal condenser mics that have a natural studio sound, yet provide excellent feedback rejection. The tight polar pattern may be problematic for some artists, but professional vocalists who are willing to learn how to work this mic should be pleasantly surprised at what they hear.

Audio-Technica U.S., www.audio-technica.com

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