Audio-Technica AT5045 by Funkybot
The AT5045 is Audio-Technica’s new side-address cardioid condenser microphone. Size-wise, this is about 2.5” longer than your typical small diaphragm condenser (think NT5) and roughly the same diameter. But don’t be fooled by it’s size: this is actually Audio-Technica’s largest diaphragm design, just in a very small package.
The microphone looks gorgeous and pairs ship in a well-padded flight case that includes a set of windscreens and “isolation clamp.” Before I even plugged anything in I spent a few minutes just digging on the design and build of the mount. It’s all metal with two wings that clamp down on the microphone body, with a lever up top to lock it into position. It’s got an almost steampunk element to the all-metal design. I’ve never seen a mount that’s impressed me quite as much as this one has, and wish every mount could look as good.
The build quality of the microphone is absolutely fantastic with a sturdiness and heft that exudes excellence as you hold it. As you take a look through the grill, you’ll likely notice that the diaphragm doesn’t look much like a condenser diaphragm and looks almost ribbon-like due to the rectangular shape. Audio Technica indicate that this tall, narrow, diaphragm design allows them to capture the high-end and transient detail of a small diaphragm microphone while also getting the lower noise and dynamic range of a large diaphragm condenser.
Spec-wise, the AT5045 boasts some very impressive figures, particularly with its 149db max SPL and low self-noise, resulting in a high signal-to-noise ratio. The diminutive size, side-address form factor, and high SPL handling mean the AT5045 may be a Godsend for getting the microphone into tight spaces when tracking drums (which unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to do in my time with it) or even on tasks like electric guitar amps (more on this later).
The AT5045 was put to test in my home studio, with the first opportunity to use it in a session coming while tracking acoustic rhythm guitars. An initial take was already completed with a 67-inspired microphone, but the arrangement called for a double-tracked acoustic which is where the AT5045 stepped in. From a sonic perspective, the low self-noise and detailed transient response on the high end were the first things that stuck out. The lows were much tighter than the 67-style microphone, which had a bigger bottom and hyped mids in comparison. The AT5045 sounded incredibly detailed while requiring less EQ to get to fit in the mix due to the tighter bottom and airy but smooth top-end. The acoustic sound was almost startlingly lifelike and very true to the sound in the room. In fact, the only downside was the microphone was that it’s so quiet that my entire (semi-treated) room was clearly audible through the microphone. Even with the room being more clearly audible than I’m used to hearing, the initial results with the AT5045 were impressive.
The next task at hand involved close-mic’ing the old Wurlitzer console piano in my living room. This piano suffers from all the flaws of small console pianos that you’d expect (lack of low end, notes not very well defined, lacking the volume of a larger upright) but it holds tuning relatively well and can work as a character instrument in the right mix/arrangement. The track in question was a busy rock and roll song with a dense arrangement, and this particular task made me quite appreciative of the small design and maneuverability of the AT5045. I was able to get the pair inside the piano and very close to the hammers for what ended up being a cool sound within this particular mix. Again, the sound was clear and detailed without being hyped. Just as importantly however, the microphone took healthy doses of bottom and top end EQ incredibly well which really got things popping when it came time to mix.
On banjo, the AT5045 was a winner again. Mic’d at about 20” back and aiming near the edge of the drum head, the AT5045 captured the percussive transients without sounding the slightest bit harsh. This was proving to be a solid all-rounder and the excellent results on some percussive banjo playing gave me the idea to try the AT5045 out on hand percussion. This was yet another task where I really came to appreciate this microphone, particularly tambourines and shakers. The fast transient response and detail of the AT5045 really favors percussion, especially an instrument like tambourine that can be deceptively difficult to mic up. And the AT5045 definitely passes the keychain test with flying colors.
While you don’t look at the AT5045 and think “now that’s a vocal microphone,” I decided to give the AT5045 a go on my own vocals just to hear it in that particular application. Now, can a microphone be too honest? In my particular case, I’d say yes. My voice can use all the sweetening it can get and favors microphones with a large proximity effect and/or bottom-end. The AT5045 didn’t do me any favors at all. That said, if I were recording a female vocalist in a nice room, the AT5045 might just be the perfect microphone for the job.
My last test with the AT5045 was on electric guitar. Recording some surf guitar (Jaguar through a vintage Fender Princeton Reverb) with the microphone placed a few inches from the center of the speaker, the AT5045 captured the sound of the amp in the room with scary accuracy. Everything I liked about the sound of the amp in the room was there, without any obvious problem areas. This was yet another task where the AT5045 excelled, which was a common theme of this microphone.
The AT5045 isn’t your daddy’s large diaphragm condenser microphone. It’s an innovative take on what a large diaphragm condenser can be. Getting great sounds was consistently easy with the AT5045 due to the detailed, but never harsh sound and fast transient response. As an instrument microphone, I never felt like the AT5045 was working against me and it was a consistent all-rounder. I’d highly recommend the AT5045 for just about any task at hand.
Incredibly detailed sound
Excellent build quality
No pad or additional polar patterns
Price: $1,399, $2,499 (matched pair)
Sound Quality - 5/5: Sound is articulate and detailed but not at all harsh with very low self-noise.
Ease of Use - 5/5: Small form factor, side-address design, and clever shockmount combined with great sound mean great sounding results come quickly.
Features - 5/5: No frills feature set with only a single polar pattern and no pad. Very cool shockmount design.
Bang for Buck - 4/5: Not inexpensive, but the results speak for themselves.