Audio-Technica AE2500 Dual-Element Mic, June 2003 - Mixonline

Audio-Technica AE2500 Dual-Element Mic, June 2003

SOMETIMES, TWO HEADS ARE BETTER THAN ONE
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A totally new, innovative mic design, the Audio-Technica AE2500 uses
specifically designed dynamic and condenser cardioidtransducers mounted side-by-side in perfect phase
alignment in a single microphone body. This dual-element approach
offers audio engineers a kind of “remote control” at the
mixer position. Whether you mix the mic's two elements together or
record them on separate tracks, the $699/list AE2500 offers many
creative processing options when miking LF sources such as kicks, floor
toms and bass cabinets.

The sturdy, all-metal windscreen cover of this 13-ounce mic unscrews
to reveal two all-new A-T capsules mounted on a rigid, polished,
nickel-plated metal support structure to withstand excessive shock and
vibration. The dynamic element's neodymium magnet structure is
specifically designed and tuned to capture the beater's attack. The
companion condenser element has a self-polarized (electret),
11mm-diameter capsule with a 2-micron-thick diaphragm and is housed in
a special structure to help reduce high-SPL distortion at subsonic
frequencies.

The build quality is excellent: I'm sure that the AE2500 would stand
up to the “drop-kick” test that any mic should pass before
being placed near a drummer. The AE2500 comes with an AT8471 isolation
clamp mount and a 5-pin XLR connector with mating plug, and a 16.5-foot
cord that fans out to two standard XLR-3 plugs. Thoughtfully, the ends
are marked “dynamic” and “condenser” so you
know which requires phantom power. Onboard electronics for the
condenser element include a switchable -10dB pad and a -12dB/octave,
80Hz highpass filter.

IN THE STUDIO
My first look at the mic was for a drum-sample session in which we
sampled two different bass drums. Besides the AE2500, I used an AKG D
112 and a Shure Beta 52 as a reference, not as an A/B test. The kick
drums were an 18-inch 1971 Slingerland floor tom (with a Danmar
Percussion Tom Kick Riser conversion) and a clear Remo Emperor head. I
also recorded a 1967 22-inch Ludwig kick with a Remo Powerstroke 3
head. Both drums had new single Remo heads with Remo Flam Slam patches.
We also used a Danmar felt beater. On all tests, the mic was centered
exactly on the shell's diameter, pointed at the beater, with half of
the mic's body inside the drum and half outside.

My recording setup was a PreSonus M80 8-channel preamp and a Pro
Tools|HD system set to 24-bit/192 kHz. No processing was used. Drummer
Jimmy Hunter played snare and hi-hat for some of the recordings to
assess differences in the amount of leakage.

Comparing the AE2500 to two really good dynamic kick mics (AKG D 112
and Shure Beta 52), I noticed that its dynamic element had more output
than both and less snare/hat leakage. The AE2500's dynamic captured the
attack of the beater in a balanced way compared to the Shure's
accentuated top end. The D 112 was smooth-sounding in the highs, but I
had to add top-end EQ later in the mix. I found the AE2500 dynamic had
better upper-bass response than the Beta 52. While the D 112 sounded
good on both kicks, I couldn't get the presence I got with the AE2500
dynamic.

The Beta 52 offers more subsonic level than either the D 112 or the
AE2500 dynamic; adding in the AE2500 condenser element quickly changed that! The
condenser produces a deeper and rounder sound quality than the dynamic,
and I found using the -10dB pad produced a consistently hotter digital
recording level than without it. Compressing just the dynamic half and
mixing in the condenser unprocessed, I sure found a cool new bass drum
sound.

I loaned the AE2500 to engineer Erik Zobler, who was tracking artist
Will Downing. Zobler put the AE2500 on snare, where he also had a Beta
56 EQ'd with a Pultec with about +8 dB at 10kHz shelf. Using the AE2500
and mixing the two outputs equally together (the condenser with -10dB
pad in), he got a good-sounding “crack” from the snare
without EQ.

Next up, at prerecord sessions at Capitol Records in Hollywood for
the 2003 Academy Awards, engineers Tom and Dan Vacari used the AE2500
along with the Shure Beta 52 on drummer Harvey Mason's kick drum. They
got every sound needed for all the different music styles required for
that show.

A NEW TREND
The AE2500 leads what I hope is a new trend in mic design, where
now—beyond the exact mic choice and placement—a new level
of microphone control is possible. I liked the option of mixing and
processing the mic's two elements with perfect phase integrity for a
cohesive bass or snare drum track that you just can't get using two
separate mics.

Audio-Technica, www.audio-technica.com