When it comes to choosing microphones for live sound applications, a rugged, low-profile mic that can handle high SPL levels is often desirable. This is a review of the newest instrument mics that Audio-Technica offers with these characteristics in their Artist Elite and Artist Series lines.
The Artist Elite AE2300 is a cardioid dynamic mic tailored for guitar amps, brass and percussion. The Artist Series ATM230PK is a three-pack of hypercardioid dynamic mics intended as a drum kit miking choice, and includes stand-or rim-mounting options. The Artist Series ATM350a includes a single ATM350a cardioid electret condenser mic with a choice of UniMount systems for a variety of miking solutions. That’s three mics and their mounts, providing plenty of options for different drum and guitar amp situations on a live stage
The AE2300 is a low-profile dynamic mic touting Audio-Technica’s proprietary double-dome diaphragm that offers improved high-frequency and transient response. The body of the mic is metal and feels quite sturdy. It is shipped with an isolating rubber stand mount, a soft protective pouch and a ⅝-to-⅜-inch stand adapter. It also features a lowpass filter rolling off around 6 kHz to help eliminate unwanted high-frequency material.
I first tried the mic on a few different drums. On kick, I found it to have a nice attack and a good amount of low end. When used for its attack, and complemented by a mic that has a bit more low-end punch, the AE2300 makes a fine bass drum choice. As a snare drum top mic it has a big and fat body to it. When used on the bottom of the drum, it brought out the pop of the snares without being harsh. When I tried the LPF in this position, it added a gentle roll-off to the snares that would work well if a less aggressive sound was desired. On toms the AE2300 offers a lot of nice stick attack and good off-axis rejection of the other drums and cymbals. The low-mids were a bit strong for my taste but easily tamed with a small bit of EQ.
The AE2300 as a guitar amp mic placed at half a radius from the center of the speaker cone represented the amp well. For clean Stratocaster tones, it produced the quintessential “jangle” perfectly. With an overdriven Fender Twin and Les Paul bridge pickup, it afforded a throaty, aggressive, classic rock sound. I would recommend an HPF around 80 Hz and a gentle low-frequency shelf cut around 125 Hz to tame the low-mids.
Try This: When placing a mic on a guitar cabinet begin with the mic at half a radius from the center of the cone to the extreme outer edge. This will generally be the flattest frequency response of the speaker. A speaker will produce the most high-frequency energy at the center of the cone, so if the half-radius is lacking HF, move the mic slightly closer toward the middle of the cone. If it has too much HF, scoot the mic toward the outer edge.
PROS: Low profile. Offers nice top-end attack.
CONS: Strong low-mid response that may require a bit of EQ.
The ATM230PK features a package of three hypercardioid dynamic ATM230 mics in rugged metal chassis similar to the AE2300. The package includes three mounting clips that will attach directly to the rim of just about any drum. The mics can also be stand-mounted and include a ⅝-to-⅜-inch stand adapter, as well as protective storage pouches.
I tried these mics on a variety of drums and percussion instruments. While not a great mic choice on kick drum, the ATM230PK worked well on snare, in particular snare top. On snare bottom I found the AE2300 to be a better choice.
Actually, the two mics complemented each other well to create a big powerful snare drum sound. On toms the ATM230PKs produced a good low-end response without as much low-mid as the AE2300, and the attack was sufficient. On a set of congas, the ATM230PK brought out the fundamental frequency well and produced a quite natural tone.
Try This: When using a top and bottom snare mic, try to aim the bottom snare mic up and pointing directly at the on-axis point of the top snare mic, creating a mirror image. Now, reverse the polarity of the bottom microphone at the console. With the mics in this “mirror image” configuration and the polarity flipped, the blending of the two mics will have a very strong summing result in the mix.
PRODUCT: ATM230 and ATM230PK
PRICE: $139 and $349
PROS: Cost-effective. Low profile. Smooth low-mid response.
CONS: No highpass filter.
The ATM350a systems are made up of a single AT350a cardioid condenser mic and several mounts. System models include the universal clipon system with 5-inch gooseneck (ATM350U and wireless ATM350UcW); universal clip-on mount with 9-inch gooseneck (ATM350UL); woodwind mount (ATM350W), magnetic piano mount (ATM350PL) and drum mount (ATM350D). All wired systems come with a power module (AT8543).
Each mount is cleverly designed with various adjustments for precise placement on each instrument, but the drum mount is my favorite. Its design allows it to attach to the top of one of the drum’s tuning lugs. The mount then provides its own tuning lug atop that so the drum can still be tuned freely. Very cool!
The ATM350a has a 12dB/octave highpass filter switch and can also be outfitted with an optional omnidirectional capsule or wireless option. I listened to this mic on a rack and floor tom. In both instances it had an even, round tone to it that extended into the lower midrange nicely. For floor tom, I prefer a little bit more low-frequency extension than the 350a provided, but it had sufficient attack as well for both toms.
Try This: When placing tom mics, be aware of the polar pattern (i.e., cardioid, supercardioid, hypercardioid). With the AT350 being cardioid, the rejection zone is 180 degrees off-axis. To isolate the tom mics from cymbal bleed, try to point the rejection zone of the mic at the closet cymbal while still pointing the on-axis point of the mic at the center of the tom.
PRICE: ATM350UcW $199, ATM350U $299, ATM350UL $309, ATM350W $349, ATM350PL $349, ATM350D $349, UniMount systems (systems without mic) $69-$119 and UniMount components (gooseneck or mounts) $30-$89.
PROS: Diverse choice of mounting options. Warm round tone.
CONS: Could use more low-frequency response for bigger drums.
Kyle Welch is a Nashville-based live sound engineer and educator.