Every business needs to upgrade its capital assets at strategic times. In the voice-over services field, the assets that we use are our studio, our microphones, audio interfaces, computer, and software tools that are involved in recording and creating a finished voice-over that is ready for the client’s use. Unlike many other fields of work where capital assets are consumed when creating the finished product, capital assets for voice-over last for many years, so frequent upgrades aren’t really necessary.
Thanks for reading the most boring intro paragraph in the history of blogging. Don’t worry, the rest of the article gets more interesting.
Why Upgrade My Microphone?
For the last two years, I’ve used a very competent tool to record voiceovers for a range of clients from small creators to large corporations. I’ve used an Audio Technica AT815b shotgun microphone, connected to a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd gen audio interface, and it produces great-sounding audio – crisp, rich and free of external sound.
I’ve not had any complaints about the quality of my recordings, so there wasn’t any real need to upgrade the microphone as yet. But as artists and business people, we are always on a quest to deliver ever better content to our clients…
Also, truly speaking, the AT815b is intended for professional video production (the AT815b is a Line + Gradient Shotgun Microphone), and not for voiceover.
Using this kind of a microphone isn’t uncommon for VO artists. The ever popular Sennheiser MKH416 is also a shotgun microphone that is intended to be used for location audio, yet it is one of the revered gold standards for VO microphones too. We’ll get into the reasons why these microphones are used in a future post. Let’s say for the moment, that the AT815b is a very competent microphone for voiceovers.
For me, the reason for the upgrade was a little different. The AT815b is 18 inches long, and has a very narrow, super cardioid pickup pattern. I’d decided that I didn’t want to have to remain stiff as a board while speaking (which was required, if I wanted to avoid subtle variations in recording levels).
The fix was simple – I needed to change to a microphone with a slightly wider cardioid pickup pattern. Instead of simply changing the mic, it makes sense to upgrade to a microphone to one that will last me years, even as I develop my performer skills. I would need a large-diaphragm condenser microphone with a cardioid pickup pattern. Simple, right?
Hmm… Not really, because there are so many of them that are really good! I’m spoilt for choice! A nice problem to have. 😄
Well, microphone shopping is a fun activity as some of you might know … and one that eventually gets more expensive than expected. I had to approach this with caution, and I had to set a budget first.
The Microphone Upgrade Candidates
The fundamental requirements are that the microphone should be a condenser microphone with a large-diaphragm, excellent construction, low noise, and great sound reproduction characteristics. The list of microphones that satisfy these requirements is quite long, and they are available in every price range, starting with the likes of the Samson C01, going on to the Audio Technica AT2020, AT2035, Lewitt LCT 240 Pro, TZ Stellar X2, and upwards in price and quality…
Not wanting to buy a microphone twice (I really wanted a microphone that would last a long time), and not wanting to spend as much as $1,100 on a Neumann TLM 013, I decided to look at microphones in the price range of around $300. This list was the result:
My Selection of Microphones Around $300
There are some really good candidates on this list, and a few more that I’ve not included, like some of the beautiful microphones that Aston makes.
I’d probably be just as happy with the CAD E100Sx, the LCT 440, or the Rode NT1. In the end, familiarity and great product design were determining factors. Also, some brands are simply not easily available in India, like CAD… I settled on the Audio Technica AT4040 – a microphone which I will probably use for a few decades to come.
Which Microphone Did I Choose?
The Audio Technica AT4040 is a beautiful microphone that comes with its own shock mount, and even a fancy-schmancy velveteen dust cover.
Visually stunning, yes. But is the AT4040 any good in the studio?
In my testing so far, I have seen that it is exceptionally sensitive, and picks up every nuance in a way that the AT815b didn’t. The sound is more full, and smooth. Yes, I have more to learn about this microphone. The sweet spot of the AT4040 is different from the AT815b, and the post-processing needed is a bit different too!
In terms of the technical specs, here’s a link to the Audio Technica website.
The recordings that I’ve made so far are immaculate, and I look forward to sharing my first few recordings of spoken word with the AT4040 in the near future, but not just yet.
I’m currently in the process of recreating my demos & samples and updating my various website profiles with the new material.
Is There Something That You Want to Know About The Audio Technica AT4040?
Is there something that you want to know about the mic? If so, leave a comment down below, and I’ll try my best to satisfy your curiosity as I get to learn more about the characteristics of this microphone.