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Audio-Technica AT4040 Microphone Review: The Gold Standard

By Christopher Coke on November 07, 2018 | Hardware Reviews | Comments

Audio-Technica AT4040 Microphone Review: The Gold Standard

Over the last year, we’ve looked at a number of items from Audio-Technica. Whether it was the open-back, ADG1X audiophile gaming headset, the AT2020USB+ content creation mic, or the best-in-class ATH-M50X headphones, we’ve been impressed. Today, we’re looking at the AT4040, which may just be the best mic we’ve ever used. Whether you’re streaming, podcasting, creating videos, or anything else, this is a mic you need to know about.

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Specifications

  • MSRP: $299 (Official Site)
  • Element: Externally-polarized (DC bias) condenser
  • Polar pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency response: 20-20,000 Hz
  • Low frequency roll-off: 80 Hz, 12 dB/octave
  • Open circuit sensitivity: -32 dB (25.1 mV) re 1V at 1 Pa
  • Impedance: 100 ohms
  • Maximum input sound level: 145 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1% T.H.D.; 155 dB SPL, with 10 dB pad (nominal)
  • Noise: 12 dB SPL
  • Dynamic range (typical): 133 dB, 1 kHz at Max SPL
  • Signal-to-noise ratio: 82 dB, 1 kHz at 1 Pa
  • Phantom power requirements: 48V DC, 4.2 mA typical
  • Switches: Flat, roll-off; 10 dB pad (nominal)
  • Weight: 12.7 oz (360 g)
  • Dimensions: 6.69" (170.0 mm) long, 2.10" (53.4 mm) maximum body diameter
  • Output connector: Integral 3-pin XLRM-type
  • Accessories included: AT8449a shock mount for 5/8"-27 threaded stands; microphone dust cover; protective carrying case
  • Audio-technica case style: R1

Audio-Technica made their name in the professional audio world. They’ve produced recording equipment used by some of the biggest recording artists today. At the same time, content creators have picked up on the fact that if you want professional results, you sometimes have to step outside the world of gaming. That’s the case with the AT4040, the hands down best mic we’ve ever had in for testing and one used throughout the recording and voice-over industries. This is a professional mic that delivers professional results.

The AT4040 comes in at $299, which clearly places it in semi-professional to professional category of microphone. It’s not something the average streamer with 100 subscribers would really consider, but once you start getting bigger or aspiring higher, investing in your setup begins to make sense. The AT4040 could see a streamer’s career through and deliver the kind of vocal quality that leaves viewers wondering what it is you’re using.

Much of this is because the AT4040 is a large diaphragm condenser microphone; you can actually see the capsule behind the grill in the picture above. This allows it to capture with a richness and clarity that’s much truer to life than many of the more common small diaphragm streaming mics, like the AT2020USB+ or Blue Yeti (both good in their own right). In this case, hearing is believing so have a listen to the audio sample below.

As you can tell, the AT4040 sounds much better. They are classes apart in design and performance, which accounts for that price jump. This is very much a case of not knowing how much better something can get until you actually hear it. The Blue Yeti sounds almost muffled compared to the AT4040.

The AT4040, on the other hand, does a great job of capturing the natural bass frequencies in your voice, which is fantastic for any kind of vocal work. The proximity effect is also great, allowing almost anyone to deliver “radio voice,” even if they’re not naturally inclined to it; this is me, so exploiting proximity effect is huge when I record.

You’ll also notice just how quiet the AT4040 is. The signal to noise ratio is a very good 12dB SPL, shifting the noise floor to get rid of a lot of the white noise that muddies up gain-y recordings. The AT4040 also uses a cardioid pick-up pattern (a heart shape in from of the capsule) and offers exceptional off-axis rejection. Condensers are well know for picking up extra noise in the room due to their sensitivity, but this microphone does a good job of honing in on your voice and blocking out distractions better than just about any other condenser mic we’ve heard.

Unlike the AT2020USB+ and Yeti,  the AT4040 also uses a USB connection, which is not only more sturdy and reliable, but also future-proofs the mic for any studio upgrades you want to do in the future. When you’re working with USB, you can still record good audio but you’re drastically limited in what other components you can use. At some point, you’ll want to consider a mixer - out with USB. External recorder - out with USB. Dual channel recording - out with USB in conventional ways. The fact is, XLR breaks the glass ceiling of USB and allows your gear to be as fluid as the content you’re creating.

The AT4040 is also built like a tank. It comes with a solid metal body and thick grille to protect the capsule. I wouldn’t advise dropping any microphone, but Audio-Technica has really done a great job in build quality. It’s a small touch, but the silver A-T logo looks great, too.

Around the back you’ll find a Low Cut filter and a -10dB pad for recording loud sources. The low pass filter is a nice addition here that rolls of frequencies at 80Hz. This can help cut out some low environmental noise that may be making its way into your recordings (we’re looking at you PC fans). Do bear in mind, however, this isn’t a magic bullet. You’ll still want to do your best to remove extra sound sources when you’re sitting down to stream or record your podcast.  The -10dB pad is a nice feature to have if you’re using the mic for more than just talking, say recording music or mic’ing up some kind of skit where things will get noisy. Versatility is the name of the game here.

Stepping up to a mic of this price also means you can look forward to a few extra goodies in the box. We get a nice soft-touch hardshell carrying case, an AT8449a shock mount ($99 by itself), a 5/8" to 1/4" mic stand adapter, and a nice velour dust sleeve for the mic when not in use. This adds quite a bit of value to the package. Particularly the shock mount, which is leagues better than the sub-$20 mounts available on Amazon. All told, it’s quite a package that makes you feel good about spending so much money.

Final Thoughts

The AT4040 is a fantastic mic. It’s probably the best condenser microphone we’ve ever heard at this price and comes with enough goodies to make spending that bit of extra cash feel worthwhile. More importantly, it’s versatile enough to grow with you, no matter what you’d like to do in this space. This is an investment microphone that you can count on delivering solid results for years to come. If you’re ready to step your game up and buy a mic that won’t need replacing in one, two, five, or even ten years, this is a mic you need to look at. It receives our highest recommendation.

Pros

  • Amazing sound quality - one of, if not the best, in its class
  • Excellent build quality
  • Large diaphragm condenser capsule
  • Low Cut filter and -10dB pad
  • Solid off-axis rejection
  • Great proximity effect
  • Versatile - this mic will grow with you
  • Included shock mount, dust mask, and travel case add value

Cons

  • Expensive in the world of streaming and content creation (but only to a point)
Christopher Coke / Chris has been a fan of MMOs since the mid-1990s when he cut his teeth on MUDs. These days he scours the internet for the latest and greatest multiplayer gaming experiences.