Audio-Technica AT3060, July 2003 - Mixonline

Audio-Technica AT3060, July 2003

PHANTOM-POWERED TUBE CONDENSER MICROPHONE
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The AT3060 tube condenser microphone is a new addition to
Audio-Technica's 30 Series but with a twist: Its onboard tube
electronics are 48-volt, phantom-powered and use ordinary XLR mic cables;
no bulky external power supply is required. According to A-T, removing
the PS allowed the company to put more money into the mic's components
and manufacturing. Beyond the added expense of a power supply and
specialized cables, other practical advantages become apparent once you
put this side-address cardioid mic to work. An ideal 3060 application
is location recording, where an AC source near the mic may not be
readily available. Live sound mixers who would like to use a warmer
tube mic will appreciate the mic's “plug-and-play” aspect:
no power supply to hide and protect onstage.

The 3060's silver-painted brass body is the same as that of the
AT3035's open acoustical housing design, which reduces case resonances.
The one-piece internal mic assembly—held in place by three small
Phillips screws—easily slips out for inspection. The 1-inch Mylar
diaphragm is two microns thick and gold-vapor deposited. The entire
capsule assembly with nickel-plated brass acoustic baffle is similar to
the one used in the A-T 40 Series mics.

The tube is a hand-selected, pre-aged, subminiature Raytheon 6418
triode. Mounted near the bottom of the mic, it is connected by
whisker-thin wires soldered to a PC board below it. The rest of the amplifier components, voltage
converters/regulators for the plate and filament (and output XLR) are
on this board. To prevent tube microphonics, the peanut-size triode is
surrounded in foam and shock-mounted in a brass block. I was pleased to
see a big output transformer (A-T says this contributes to the 3060's
low-frequency character) and that the top end extends out to about 17
kHz, according to the frequency response plot.

IN THE STUDIO
Using the AT3060 is the same as any other phantom-powered mic: plug it
in and go. The manual recommends waiting 10 minutes for warm up and
stable operation, but the mic comes on nearly instantly (with no thump
or pop) and is ready to rock in a minute or so. The included AT8458
shock-mount works well due to its clever design: Instead of a captive
clamp arrangement—which on other shock-mounts can wear out or
break with repeated use—the 3060 body has a groove machined
around its circumference that mates to supporting elastic cords. Once
the cord ends click into this groove, it takes a good tug to remove the
mic. Not surprisingly, the mic never fell out, even when it was
inverted or shaken.

I used the AT3060 to record two different female singers, a
chromatic harmonica and acoustic guitars. For the singers, I used an
Avalon VT-737SP channel and found the mic very clean, accurate and
open-sounding, with a very low noise floor. (Specs list EIN as 17 dBA.)
The frequency chart shows a 2dB rise from 4 to 5 kHz and this was a
good touch here; I didn't use any EQ when recording or when I mixed the
project later on. I liked the warm bottom end, even when the girls
sometimes “kissed” the mic: proximity effect, yes;
boominess, no.

I had no mic overload or compression with loud and close singing,
which is an initial concern, as there's no attenuator pad. I
encountered no sibilance problems or high-frequency hiss, even though
the mic's response extends to 17 kHz. This high-frequency response is
flat and smooth rather than lifted like many tube mics: yet another
reason to have this mic in your studio. However, the 3060's tight
cardioid polar pattern did require my singers to stay more “on
their marks,” aimed at the front of the mic. With this in mind,
I'm sure the 3060 would also be suited for live stage work due to its
good off-axis rejection. I'd like to try an omni or maybe a
multipattern version of this mic someday.

Recording chromatic harmonica was trouble-free: I miked it from
above the instrument, just above the top of the player's head, looking
down at the middle of the harmonica about 10 inches away. My player
moved around a little to work the mic and I did have to EQ out a little
of the 2 to 5kHz area as the producer was looking for a more mellow
tone out of this bright instrument. The 3060 captured all of the
player's mouth noises and breathing perfectly, while rejecting the
noise coming from a nearby air-conditioning vent. (I aimed the musician
and the back of the mic toward that vent.)

Acoustic guitars sounded full, yet bright and balanced. I required
no roll-off (the mic has none) and placed the 3060 between the sound
hole and the start of the fretboard, and about 18 inches out front. For
fingerpicking, I aimed the 3060 more toward the bridge and cranked up
mic gain on Universal Audio's new UA 6176 channel. I usually don't like
the sound of large-capsule condensers on acoustics, but this mic
surprised me! With nearly the same articulation as smaller-capsule
condensers, there was plenty of gain to capture it all with a good,
solid bottom end.

The AT3060 retails at $599 MSRP and—like all Audio-Technica
mics—has a one-year warranty. I found the mic's all-around
usefulness, smooth high-frequency response and warm sound make this one
a solid winner. If you work in recording or live sound situations where
external supply is an issue, you'll be even more impressed.

Audio-Technica, www.audio-technica.com