This ground-breaking new tube mic design can run directly from phantom power. But how does it sound?
From the outside, the Audio Technica AT3060 looks like a conventional large-diaphragm capacitor microphone, but inside it's a somewhat different story. This is the first tube mic I've encountered that doesn't need a separate power supply — it runs from regular 48V phantom power and draws only 3mA of current. This seems impossible when you consider that conventional tubes require high plate voltages and high heater currents, but the AT3060 uses no conventional tube. It doesn't even use a miniature military-grade Nuvistor tube. Instead it uses a miniature low-current tube developed for use in hearing aids, the aim being to achieve tube warmth at a lower UK price point and without the need for bulky power supplies.
The AT3060 is built around a large-diameter back-electret cardioid capsule not physically dissimilar to that used in other Audio Technica mics such as the AT4033, though its frequency response curve seems to have been deliberately shaped to produce a specific 'vintage' tonal character. While the frequency response is wide, there's a presence hump around 5kHz and the upper response starts to drop away gradually above 10kHz, which makes the official -3dB response 50Hz to 16kHz. At 20kHz, the response is down by around 10dB. Other aspects of the mic's spec are more traditional, with a respectable 25.1mV sensitivity at 1Pa and a maximum SPL handling of 134dB. Electrical noise is reasonably low at 17dBSPL, yielding a dynamic range of 117dB and a signal-to-noise ratio of 77dB at 1Pa (at 1kHz), where 1Pa equates to an SPL of 94dB.
Supplied with a soft pouch and a good-quality shockmount, the AT3060 is well engineered and stylish, measuring 170.5 x 52mm diameter and weighing 540g, making it substantial but not so heavy that a typical mic stand will sag under its weight. It connects via a regular three-pin balanced XLR mic cable, but, as with any tube device, it needs around ten minutes to warm up and stabilise after the 48V phantom power has been applied.
Although the AT3060 has a tiny valve, the sound is anything but tiny. I was initially concerned that a miniature tube might sound very different to the tubes used in mainstream tube microphones, but I needn't have worried. There's nothing overtly overblown about the valve sound, but the mic does manage to sound warm, with plenty of density in the lower mid-range where voices often need support. Furthermore, the frequency response tailoring isn't at the expense of the high end, which is clear and well extended without being strident or artificially sizzly. In fact the whole sound offers a good combination of smoothness and clarity.
In addition to checking the AT3060 with vocals, I also used it to record a violin track with the mic set up behind and slightly above the player and found that this setup delivered a silky sound quality, with focus and clarity but not too much edge. The AT3060 also turned in a good result with acoustic guitar, which suggests it would make a good all-rounder as well as a very nice vocal mic.
Overall I feel the AT3060 delivers the essential flavour of what most people think of as the tube microphone sound, but without pushing the tube sound in your face. Although some spectral tweaking has been done to give the mic a specific character, this is subjectively quite subtle and, when used with vocals, the overriding impression is of a well-balanced, natural sound rather than anything too hyped. If you're after an attractively priced tube mic and fancy a change from all the 'me too!' Chinese models currently doing the rounds (very nice though some of them sound), then the AT3060 is an obvious contender, and the fact that it runs from regular phantom power rather than a separate PSU is a bonus.