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Ribbon transducers and microphones are not that common. This wouldn’t be all that strange if ribbon or planar design was something new.
However, this type of microphone was invented all the way back in 1920s. The principle of operation behind this technology is very interesting, however it also makes it rather expensive to produce.
Audio-Technica is one of the companies which has dedicated a good portion of their capacities to designing and manufacturing ribbon microphones.
Out of their current offer, there are two models that stand out. We have the AT4080, and it’s more affordable cousin the Audio-Technica AT4081. Today we are going to dedicate our time to the latter, and show you just what kind of performance you can expect from this microphone.
As it turns out, ribbon microphones are quite useful for a certain set of applications.
One of the main advantages of ribbon microphones in general is the fact that you can make them quite compact. Unlike their standard counterparts, the membrane dimensions aren’t linear.
You can make these microphones very slim and still get the type of sound quality you would otherwise need a really big membrane for. That is why ribbon technology is generally used in stick microphones, which is exactly what Audio-Technica AT4081 is.
Audio-Technica AT4081 sports a very slim form factor and comes with an enclosure made of high quality materials. Overall, it’s a very durable design, however you definitely don’t want to test its limits since ribbon mics are generally a bit more sensitive. This is a bidirectional microphone, which is somewhat standard for ribbon mics. Audio-Technica AT4081 requires phantom power in order to work.
The ribbon itself is proprietary Audio-Technica design. It features what they call a MicroLinear ribbon imprint which greatly reduces distortion and ribbon flexing during use. Compared to other ribbon solutions, theirs is one of the most advanced one on the market at the moment.
The output is pretty high for a mic of this size which is due to strong N50 neodymium magnets. You are looking at -42dB sensitivity and 100 ohms impedance. Maximum input sound level is limited to 150 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1% T.H.D. Finally, the frequency response is set from 30 Hz to 18 kHz. This microphone utilizes the standard XLR connector, which is to be expected considering it runs on phantom power.
The type of sound you can expect to hear from this microphone is highlighted by an extremely smooth high end of the frequency spectrum. Overall, the sound is pretty natural and organic.
This type of performance makes the Audio-Technica AT4081 a perfect microphone for recording acoustic instruments. It has a high enough output to pickup even the more quiet acoustic guitar tones, which would otherwise be hard to capture using any other microphone design.
The lower end is not as defined, however we are talking about a stick microphone. Even though it’s a ribbon design, having this form factor limits its capabilities in some ways. Less present low end is one of them.
What we like
Ribbon microphones are still pretty expensive. Therefore, if you decide to get one, you will want to receive the type of performance that would warrant the investment. Audio-Technica AT4081 delivers that, and so much more. Pretty much everything about this microphone is on point.
What we don’t like
Despite all the fine tuning and careful design, Audio-Technica AT4081 still adds a bit of coloration to the sound you are recording. On the other hand, it’s something to be expected from a stick microphone format.
When it comes to ribbon microphones in a stick format, Audio-Technica AT4081 is definitely one of the better ones. Not only is their ribbon design among the more advanced on the market, but Audio-Technica once again applied their balanced pricing.
Considering everything this microphone offers, it’s among the best value for the money models in circulation. If you need a good mic for recording acoustic guitars, drums or even amps, Audio-Technica AT4081 is definitely something you might want to consider.
On the other hand, if it doesn’t meet your requirements, you should probably take a look at AT4080. That model is a bit more robust.