WORLD'S BEST CYMBAL MICROPHONE
THE AUDIO TECHNICA ATM450 REVIEW
by Mark King for proworkshop.com
Everybody has opinions, mine have been developed and derived from over 50-years of recording experience. Life has given me many unique opportunities to try out lots of equipment. Back in the 70's I had virtually no money to play with. That led me to try out microphones by a Japanese company called Audio Technica. Their electret condenser microphones were a particular favorite of mine because they were affordable and sounded good. They had fantastic clarity and uniform frequency response that made them indispensable in my recording adventures.
Today, I'm still a huge fan of the Audio Technica brand. If you asked me about which low priced microphone to buy it would most certainly be an Audio Technica model. Their budget-priced offerings sound like professional microphones without all the unnecessary high frequency boost and poor frequency response so often heard from low-priced Chinese microphone products.
In this article we're going to look at one of the truly unique offerings from Audio Technica, the ATM450. The ATM450 is a slender pencil shaped microphone that picks up from the side rather than the end of the body. This pickup is referred to as "Side Address".
Pictures of the microphone are a bit deceiving. When you see it in person it's a rather small microphone, it is a hair over 3/4 of an inch in diameter and five-inches long. The black exterior finish is flat and does not draw attention to the microphone.
Two small switches on the body of the mic provide bass rolloff (80Hz, 12 dB/octave) and -10dB attenuation options. The audio comes out a standard, balanced, XLR 3-pin connector and requires 11-52 volt DC phantom power to function.
I originally acquired this microphone for use on the snare drum, it provides incredible tone and unique mounting options. It functions beautifully as a snare drum microphone and I'd use it there if I did not already have the world's best snare drum microphone (which you can read about here).
The ATM450 has a very smooth frequency response up to 13K where it has a mild dip that comes back up at 15K and extends smoothly to 20K. Since this is a small diaphragm condenser microphone it has a bright and airy sound that accentuates cymbals beautifully. I'd much rather have a little dip in the high-frequencies than a peaky sounding boost.
I've used it on hi hat and it sounds beautiful but normally I don't mic the hi-hat since there is plenty leaking into the other drum kit microphones.
One cymbal that continually gives me trouble is the Ride Cymbal. Normally it is picked up just fine by the overheads but some drummers have a very light touch with their sticks. This can cause the ride cymbal to be too quiet in certain passages. The side-address ATM450 is perfect for mic'ing the ride cymbal. It's easy to position it out of the way of the drummer and have the cardioid pickup element pointed directly down on top of the ride cymbal. During mixing I don't leave this mic open throughout a track but if the drummer goes to a section of ride cymbal work then I can bring this mic up and make the ride-cymbal work beautifully present in the mix.
The brilliant high frequency response of the ATM450 is the perfect compliment for recording bell-ride cymbal work. The clarity and percussive character of a quality cymbal are reproduced with amazing detail, presence and power by the ATM450 microphone.
This is not a cheapie microphone but it's not terribly expensive either. I love the sound of this mic and it is pretty much living on the main ride cymbal in our drum kit. I'm a big fan of large-diaphragm condenser microphones and have built and modded many for our studio. The ATM450 is a small microphone that provides a big quality sound. If this mic was lost or stolen it would be on my short list of replacement models because it is such a useful tool and has great sound quality.
The ATM450 is a unique microphone, the physical packaging provides opportunities for placing the microphone relative to the instrument that a traditional small pencil mic can't match.
The sound quality of the ATM450 is up there with much more expensive offerings from other microphone manufacturers. If you don't have experience with Audio Technica microphones they are worthy of your study time. The relatively low purchase price of AT microphones will leave you with more money you can put into more microphones or other studio gear. The ATM450 build quality is also up there with the world's best, it feels like quality in your hand.
If you're wanting or needing a small diaphragm microphone that is extremely versatile give some time to the ATM450, see and hear what you've been missing.
Good music to you!