Published by spiral on 31st March 2012
Audio Technica AT4081 active ribbon
This is my current favorite "everything" mic. There is nothing i have found yet that doesn't sound great in front of this mic. Mostly i have been using it on a Fender amp clone, and acoustic archtop, and male vocals. The build quality is fantastic and it is one of the sexiest mics i have seen.
The AT4081 is a phantom powered ribbon so it acts as sort of a hybrid mic: it gives you the natural smooth high end you expect from ribbons but more detailed than a typical ribbon, like an accurate condenser. The low end isn’t hyped like many ribbons so you can use it close up on sources without overloading the low end. The phantom power helps you get the mic to loud levels for quiet sources like acoustic guitar which makes it wonderful on those types of sources. One mark against for Ease of Use is the self noise: when using the phantom power the mic has a pretty big noise floor when your source isn't very loud, so you have to manage that threshold. The good news is that this is only an issue on the most quiet sources. On guitar amps or vocals the mic absolutely gives you back what you put in. Moving the mic to different positions on a speaker cone reacts like your ear does.
The AT4081 is a perfect performer on sources where condensers have been harsh in the past and is gorgeous on acoustic instruments if they are loud enough to avoid the noise floor. This could easily become the modern ribbon for everything. I stopped looking at other ribbons when the AT4081 moved in.