recordinghacks



Audio-Technica AT5040 Voiceover Mic Review

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013 | by


Voice Actor Corey Burton with the AT5040 and U87
Corey Burton

Most of what can be said about the Audio-Technica AT5040 depends on the voice we are hearing and the other microphone with which we were comparing it. Listening to several voices and against several microphones was far more informative than the usual head-to-head “shootout” with a single sound source. I have been claiming for years that there is no single “best” microphone for every situation; this broad sampling is further evidence of that claim.

Compared to most of the other mikes, the AT5040 had a slight advantage in the bass. Most of the mikes on all voices seemed to bring out a little more of the mids than the AT5040, but the mic never sounded lacking either. There were moments of presence, air, and even top end shimmer on the AT5040, though never hyped or exaggerated.

Voice Actor Stephanie Sheh
Stephanie Sheh

I don’t think the AT5040 can be characterized as entirely “true,” but the embellishments it brought were sweet and subtle, never heavy handed. It always managed to sound coherent and clear, while some of the other mikes were smeary or thick by comparison. Consistent clarity is a wonderful quality for a microphone.

It seemed like the AT5040 flattered the low end of male voices, but only slightly. It was a tad more round and rich sounding than the Neumann U87Ai or Microtech-Gefell UMT 70, but not as warm as the Lawson L47MP. The AT5040’s low end sounded tight and true with female voices. The U87Ai seemed a bit bigger, and fuller on women to the point of sounding unnatural. The AT5040 was more realistic in the first octaves.

Julie Nathanson
Julie Nathanson

On some of the quieter performances, I noticed spikes around 18 kHz on an RTA. I suspect this could be the resonant frequency of the elements, or an artifact of the summing matrix used to combine the outputs of the four elements, though I could be wrong. [Audio-Technica's engineering department states that none of their AT5040 frequency analyses, nor time-domain analyses show any spikes at 18kHz. --Ed.]

I was concerned that the mic had no pad, nor low rolloff. There were times when the mic popped on plosives, but it didn’t seem any more prone to pops than other mikes. I suppose the lack of pad might be a problem in some situations, but we had some crazy loud yelling performances and the AT5040 never clipped.

AT5040 vs U87Ai

Neumann U 87 Ai  Stephanie Sheh
 Corey Burton
 Julie Nathanson (character)
 Yuri Lowenthal (intimate)
 Yuri Lowenthal
 Yuri Lowenthal (shouting)
Audio-Technica AT5040  Stephanie Sheh
 Corey Burton
 Julie Nathanson (character)
 Yuri Lowenthal (intimate)
 Yuri Lowenthal
 Yuri Lowenthal (shouting)

The AT5040 sounded clearer. The Neumann U 87 AiNeumann U 87 Ai seemed to have a resonant and lingering bass, whereas the AT5040 was tighter and truer. The U87 seemed to have a bit more mid-range, which was more present for some voices, but more nasal on others. The AT5040 sounded more coherent in the high end compared to the U87, which sounded a little smeared. I believe this helped the u87 seem less sibilant in some cases whereas the AT5040 delivered every piercing sound faithfully.

When room reflections got in the mic, the U87 tended to let us hear the upper bass and mid-range. The AT5040 room reflections seemed lower — a deep bass. Depending on the voice and performance, the room reflections sounded better in one mic or the other, but not consistently favorable in either. Overall, the AT5040 sounded direct and true, with a little embellishment in the very lows and very highs. The U87 seemed thicker, revealing the upper bass and mid-range, with some high-end hype.

AT5040 vs L47MP Mk II

Lawson Inc L47MP MKII  Corey Burton
 Corey Burton (character 1)
 Corey Burton (character 2)
 Julie Nathanson
 Julie Nathanson (shouting)
Audio-Technica AT5040  Corey Burton
 Corey Burton (character 1)
 Corey Burton (character 2)
 Julie Nathanson
 Julie Nathanson (shouting)

The Lawson Inc L47MP MKIILawson Inc L47MP MKII had a creamy, sculpted quality. It was bigger and rounder than the AT5040, which sounded dry and flat by comparison. The L47 had authority; it got my attention. The AT5040 sounded naked, exposed, without the voice flattery. Bass tones lingered from the L47, whereas the AT5040 was tight and true on bottom. The L47 was a bit glassy on top, but the AT5040 sounded direct, dry. Neither mic seemed airy, though. The L47 was thicker, though the AT5040 did not lack weight. The AT5040 had a bit more edge, but not shrill compared to the L47. The L47 tended to allow less sibilance than the AT5040. The AT5040 seemed more intimate with quiet reads, and allowed a bit less off-axis room sound.

AT5040 vs UMT70S

Microtech Gefell UMT 70 S  Yuri Lowenthal (shouting)
 Yuri Lowenthal
 Tara Platt (shouting)
Audio-Technica AT5040  Yuri Lowenthal (shouting)
 Yuri Lowenthal
 Tara Platt (shouting)

The Microtech Gefell UMT 70 SMicrotech Gefell UMT 70 S seems more present, to a point of sounding aggressive, though not shrill. The AT5040 seems full and true in the low end, while the UMT70S seems thin by comparison. The UMT70S had better clarity and a diction advantage. Not that the AT5040 sounded veiled or thick, just that the UMT70S seemed punched up when listening side by side. The AT5040 sounded more open on top, bringing some voices closer. The extended high end also enabled the AT5040 to allow more sibilance than the UMT70S. But neither sounded harsh. As we might expect from the overall profiles of these mikes, the room tone of the AT5040 was deeper than the UMT70S.

AT5040 vs AT4050

Audio-Technica AT4050  Tara Platt (character 1)
 Tara Platt (character 2)
 Tara Platt
Audio-Technica AT5040  Tara Platt (character 1)
 Tara Platt (character 2)
 Tara Platt

The most noticeable difference is the high end, where the Audio-Technica AT4050Audio-Technica AT4050 was brighter and the AT5040 was duller. The AT4050 sounded bright on most voices — too bright. On some voices the AT4050 was sibilant, even harsh. By contrast, the AT5040 sounded thick though this was almost always desirable compared to the hype of the AT4050. Otherwise these mikes were quite similar. The lowest of low end on the AT5040 seemed a tad bit more round, but this was a subtle difference.

Session Details

Location: Igloo Music Studios, Burbank, CA
Recording Engineer: Ethan Friedericks
Microphone Positioner: Randy Coppinger
Format: 32 bit floating point, 96 kHz sample rate
Acquisition Chain: Grace m501 → Apogee Rosetta 200
Voice Actor Tara Platt
Tara Platt

All recordings were made with two microphones recording the same performance at the same time. Every effort was made to position the microphones similarly in front of a performer and use identical recording paths. There should be little or no difference in performance nor acquisition chain to distract the listener from the qualities of the microphones under comparison.

Conclusion

The AT5040 impressed, and seemed like a mic that will be considered a classic. With so many microphone choices, what separated this one from most others was the unique design and the subtle, tasty sonic enrichment on voice. For the price it had better be a very good mic, and it lived up to that expectation for me.

Voice Actor Yuri Lowenthal
Yuri Lowenthal

To be honest, I anticipated the combination of four elements might create strange artifacts. But in actual use I found the mic more accurate and coherent than the other mikes under comparison. The AT5040 achieved its stated goal of being a voice microphone, with flying colors. Anyone who records voice would be well served to own this mic.

Voice Actors

Find out more about the five wonderful voice actors who participated in this evaluation:

Corey Burton
Yuri Lowenthal
Julie Nathanson
Tara Platt
Stephanie Sheh

Pirates and Announcers

To hear more of Corey Burton’s voices, through a lot more microphones, please see:

Corey Burton with Ribbon Microphones

$60,000 Ribbon Mic Shootout: Voiceover

Corey Burton with Cardioid Ribbon Microphones

Unidirectional Ribbon Mic Shootout

10

If you ever record voice, even your own voice, you can probably improve your results immediately with tips #1, #5, and #6 from this piece on 10 Voice Recording Essentials.

Tags: , , , , ,
Posted in Microphones, Reviews, Shootouts, voiceover | 9 Comments »




9 Responses to “Audio-Technica AT5040 Voiceover Mic Review”

  1. David Beneke

    July 10th, 2013 at 5:01 pm

    Perfect shootout! Million Dollar voices, studio and equipment, doesn’t get any better. The AT 5040 is certainly a worthy contender against any of these mics, the Neumann sounds tubby (is that a real term?), the Lawson to my ears was the real winner of all the samples on all voices. Are the files compressed here? If so it would be nice to download the uncompressed files and listen in a DAW.

  2. Randy Coppinger

    July 12th, 2013 at 6:15 am

    Thank you for the kind words, David. Every one of these mikes has strengths and weaknesses. The reason I love to conduct comparisons like this is to learn better which mic to choose for each recording situation.

    I would like to make the full bandwidth files available David. I’d also like to apply a typical processing chain on these recordings and hear how they fair after compression, EQ, etc. I plan to post that kind of follow-up work to my site in the weeks to come.

  3. Steve Faul

    July 13th, 2013 at 1:54 pm

    Excellent shootout, and a real education in voice acting.

    I’m going to buck the trend and say that to my ears listening on AKG240 headphones the U87Ai sounded cleaner than the AT5040. Especially with Corey, the midrange seemed to be a bit muddy on the AT5040, as if he was off axis. Maybe my ears are more “tuned” to a U87, but that’s the impression I got. Still, the AT5040 is up to the task.

    The most fascinating comparison was against the Lawson. Corey’s characters fairly leaped into my ears on the Lawson, with a low end was profound yet natural. BUT the AT5040 added gravel to “character 2″ that gave it more dimension. At that point, it comes down to a creative choice based on what you’re trying to achieve. Either mic is a winner, but personally I’d love to take home a Lawson.

    It’s a shame Corey didn’t use the Gefell. I would’ve liked a direct comparison there. The UMT70S complimented Yuri’s natural delivery, while again I felt the AT5040 put a slight scoop in his midrange. The U87Ai added brightness to his more upbeat delivery, but not too much. For Yuri, the Gefell is the winner.

    The AT5040 is a winner on female voices, although the difference between it and the U87Ai to me was very subtle. With the AT5040, you might never use the de-esser or high-pass filter ever again.

  4. Randy Coppinger

    July 17th, 2013 at 7:55 am

    Thanks for giving the recordings such a thorough and thoughtful listen, Steve. I think each one of these mikes is great under the right circumstances. The 87 is popular for a reason. The L47 is one of my mainstay mikes for voice. When I first started using the Gefell I didn’t fall in love with it, but then I realized that I was often EQing other voice mikes to sound like the raw character of the UMT70 in the final mix. It’s especially helpful for tenor and alto range voices. Agreed, I wish it was practical to hear all of the mikes on all of the voices, but we spent the better part of an evening just recording what’s been presented here. Thanks again and happy recording.

  5. David Beneke

    July 19th, 2013 at 12:25 pm

    Looking forward to the samples Randy. Looking at the studio photos and remembering my previous experiences with U87’s, what I may be hearing is slap back from the control room window. The U87 picks up the room more than most mics I have worked with, which is a testament to the mics sensitivity. Steve above is right, different headphones do make the mics sound different AKG240’s give the mics a different sound than Beyer DT 770 Pros, but listening with both makes me lust for a Lawson!

  6. COZ

    August 5th, 2013 at 5:47 pm

    I have always loved the AT4050. The mic sounds great on its own or if you run it through a processor. For the price tag it is a buy and sounds as good as mics worth much more.

  7. bern21

    August 31st, 2013 at 10:01 am

    The L47 sounds best. The 5040 (5400?) just sounds ‘tubby’ to me. Perhaps, buy 3 to 6 mics with character, rather than the 5040.

  8. Perfectionist

    May 11th, 2014 at 4:23 am

    I have rare ears so you’re lucky to get my analysis:

    The 5040 will not be a success. There is no possible chance because I am objectively correct – the 5040 will factually hurt people’s ears. A-T is going to have to work on some revision.

    I hear lots of crackling, HF breaking, distorting, clicking, sharp resonant frequencies that sound like spit inside the mouth being amplified in a negative way.

    Not pleasant to listen to and the problems were consistent across every take and actor. It’s a kind of inconsistent breaking resonant distortion.

    Really nasty sounding. Not professional.

  9. Slau

    May 11th, 2014 at 2:25 pm

    Hey Perfectionist,

    I have a rare mind so you’re lucky to get my reply to your comment. Whether you realize it or not, you’re in the minority with your views on the 5040 by an outrageous margin. That should tell you something. That’s all.

Leave a comment