Audio-Technica attended the 133rd AES show in San Francisco to unveil a brand-new vocal condenser microphone. The AT5040 is a premium cardioid vocal mic boasting exemplary technical performance, thanks to some innovative and unique thinking by the Audio-Technica design team. Probably the most remarkable aspect of the new mic is its highly unusual four-diaphragm capsule. This incorporates four rectangular diaphragms (you can see them through the grille in the photo), the outputs of which are combined inside the mic’s body. The thinking behind this capsule is as follows: large-diaphragm mics tend to have less self-noise than those with small diaphragms, because they are less susceptible to the constant movement of the air that surrounds
them. Small diaphragms, however, are capable of more accurate high-frequency reproduction, because of their inherently lower inertia compared with diaphragms of greater mass. The combination, therefore, of multiple diaphragms to achieve a greater total surface area has the advantages of both types: low self-noise and a fast transient response.
In the case of the AT5040, self-noise is reduced even further, by summing the diaphragm outputs in a very clever way. The diaphragms are connected as two pairs, in series, with one pair providing the ‘hot’ signal and the other outputting the ‘cold’ signal. In a way comparable with balanced audio interfacing, this quadruples the sensitivity of the diaphragm array, while only doubling the total amount ofself-noise.
But why are the diaphragms rectangular, rather than round? Well, unlike circles, which have only one dimension from edge to edge, rectangles have two. The upshot of this is that, instead of having one pronounced resonant frequency (as normal diaphragms do), the rectangular diaphragms have two, but these are considerably weaker
than would be the case if the diaphragms were round, and therefore much less deleterious to the mic’s sound.
We at SOS have been lucky enough to get our hands on one of the first AT5040 models available in the world! Technical Editor Hugh Robjohns has been putting the mic through its paces, and says that its sound “certainly grabs the attention,” thanks to its “effortless sense of presence and vitality”. So not only is the AT5040 quite outstanding on paper (its self-noise figure of 5dBA is described as an “unusual achievement”!), but it also offers “excellent sound quality” in practice.
The AT5040 comes supplied in a hardcase, along with an impressively engineered shockmount, and is set to sell for £2999 including VAT. To read our world-exclusive review, pick up a copy of the December issue of Sound On Sound!