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Field Report: Audio-Technica AT3060
Over the years I have come to enjoy and respect the high quality of Audio-Technica microphones. For this reason I was excited to receive a pair of the company's latest tube microphone, the AT3060, for a demo. My professional experience is firmly placed in classical music broadcasting; because of this, I am always looking for a more natural-sounding microphone. The challenge is finding a microphone that has a full, unprocessed sound. Such a microphone will capture the true sound of each on-air personality, from the loudest, deepest-voiced announcer to the softer, higher-vocal announcer. I have found that, generally speaking, large diaphragm microphones accomplish this better than al-most any other microphone.
The AT3060 is a large-diaphragm (over an inch) tube microphone that requires a 48Vdc phantom power supply. It's interesting to note that the microphone's typical current draw is only 3mA at 48Vdc. A big plus is that no special power supply or cable is needed, which is especially advantageous if the microphone will be used for remote recording sessions. This not only saves money, but also eliminates one more potential point of failure. The tubes in the AT3060 are shock-mounted, hand selected, tested and aged to ensure peak performance.
|Performance at a glance|
|Operates on 48Vdc phantom power
Superior shock mount and case design
Stands out in recording studio using X-Y stereo configuration
Low cost includes case and shock mount
Useful for instrument recording
The mic exhibits good sensitivity with low noise and features a fixed cardioid polar pattern. The shock mount offers fantastic isolation and is no doubt based on other A-T large-diaphragm shock mounts. The output of this microphone is on a XLR male connector with the industry standard pin out. The manufacturer warns (for those who forget) that this is a tube microphone and therefore requires a warm-up time of about 10 minutes for the electronics to stabilize. The microphone comes standard with the shock mount, a protective pouch and a limited one-year warranty.Testing
The characteristic that stood out the most on this microphone was a bump in frequency response, which is from 2kHz to 7kHz with a +4dB peak at 5.5kHz. Figure 1 shows the frequency response. It was this bump that caused the most concern during testing. The bump adversely affected the vocal audio characteristics and produced a sound that was a little harsh — with less presence — than I anticipated from a large-diaphragm tube microphone. The findings were confirmed by multiple staff members with no influence as to what kind of microphone they were testing or what others thought about it.
The AT3060's true destiny might be in a performance-based recording environment. My employer, WGUC, is a classical radio station that also operates a professional multi-track recording studio. We proceeded to put the microphone through a few different studio-recording sessions that included instruments and vocalists. We didn't cover all possible scenarios for this microphone, but enough that we are satisfied with our conclusions pertaining to the best uses for it.
Figure 1. The polar pattern and frequency response of the microphone. Click on the image for a larger view.
Using a pair of the AT3060s in an X-Y configuration we conducted a variety of evaluations. As expected, the microphones had a high signal-to-noise ratio and good sensitivity. In a recording studio environment it was possible and desirable to minimize or eliminate the 2kHz to 7kHz frequency bump with onboard console equalization. This resulted in a much better sound that ultimately reflected the source material well. However, most broadcast consoles are not equipped with an onboard individual channel equalizer, which is the primary reason this microphone's best use may be in a professional recording studio. Adding attenuation to equalize a frequency bump out is usually more desirable and produces a much better sonic representation than adding gain to equalize a frequency dip out. Further evaluations showed the AT3060 microphone's best use more specifically may lie with recording string instruments.
Overall the microphone was good sonically, and in the proper environment and application, the results would be outstanding. Those applications are in a performance studio and not a broadcast studio. The relative low cost and phantom power operation are positives that are not generally found in the tube microphone market. The manufacturer indicated that the microphone really “stood out” when used in a two-microphone X-Y stereo configuration. Indeed, we found this to be an ideal setup for the microphone. Its superior overall appearance and rugged design makes it great to work with. With a single pick-up pattern it is not as versatile as mics with switchable patterns, but it is a solid performer nonetheless. The AT3060 is a good microphone to add to a collection and would certainly provide a quality tool for any recording studio.
Don Danko is VP of engineering for WGUC, Cincinnati.
Editor's note: Field Reports are an exclusive Radio magazine feature for radio broadcasters. Each report is prepared by well-qualified staff at a radio station, production facility or consulting company.
These reports are performed by the industry, for the industry. Manufacturer support is limited to providing loan equipment and to aiding the author if requested.
It is the responsibility of Radio magazine to publish the results of any device tested, positive or negative. No report should be considered an endorsement or disapproval by Radio magazine.
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