06/25/2011

Audio-Technica AT4033 : Anonymous 's user review

« It just may be the perfect microphone for you. But then again, it may not. »
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The AT4033 is a brilliant little medium-diaphragm condenser microphone that you REALLY need to try out before you commit to it. I mean it. I like to preface all of my microphone reviews by saying that microphones are subjective, and that at a certain price-point, you are virtually guaranteed quality if you use the microphone properly. That being said, the AT4033 is one of the TRUE examples of this mantra.

The AT4033 touts itself as a very specific microphone. Oddly enough though, you'll see that home and project studios are using this microphone as a workhorse on things like guitar, drums overheads, even kick. The truth is, it's a medium diaphragm condenser. It's better for instruments than LDC's, and while it seems a bit naive to make that sweeping generalization, (I know a few SDCs that are good on vocals.) the AT4033 does in fact prove all of its stereotypes true. That's exactly WHY you need to understand what you're getting into with this microphone.

I don't want to scare you away; it's fantastic on pretty much anything you throw at it. Guitar, overheads, kick, backing vocals, even gang vocals! (Gang vocals with this thing are FANTASTIC, in my humble opinion.) The AT4033 seems to lend a subtle sheen to it, a sparkle, a glimmer.

Unfortunately, you know exactly what I forgot to mention: lead vocals. Isn't the AT4033 supposed to be a vocal microphone? Well, yes, but let me finish. The AT4033 is just about the least forgiving microphone I've come across to date. This doesn't mean it always sounds harsh on everything; on the contrary, this means that when used in a certain way, it blows just about EVERYTHING out of the water, but when used improperly, you're left scratching your head as to why it's not working.

The AT4033 flatters "correct" singing (support from the abdominal muscles, correct vowel formation, all the things that make opera possible, in other words). It also seems to do very well with high, but contained voices. (Think wispy jazz soprano.) That's about it, for me at least. Maybe pairing it with a colored preamp would yield different results, but the transparency of the microphone just grabs imperfections the wrong way. This is because that sheen and glimmer that the AT4033 is so respected for also creates this filmy layer of sound that traps a throaty voice where it comes from, the throat. It's clear that when listening to this microphone, despite its sheen and glimmer on the high-end, there's a weird "swallowy" sound.

If that's what you're going for, fine, but if you're like me, and like the vocal sound to feel as if it's soaring around the cranium, then this isn't the microphone for you unless you have one of the two aforementioned types of voices. It downright lacks in size of sound. Everything's there but the sensation of openness. Other reviews have called the sound "narrow." The only way this microphone can work is if you want the sound, or if you have a singer big enough to balance it out. (But the balance is beautiful if it works.)

OVERALL OPINION

The characteristics take a 10 because with proper application, this microphone can absolutely and easily outclass microphones ten times as expensive. Unfortunately, this microphone doesn't work on everything. (What microphone does?) That's to be expected, obviously, but I have never known another microphone so impressive that can crash and burn so catastrophically.

They go for $400 new, but can be found used for under $200 if you look carefully enough.

I'm getting rid of mine; I record mainly vocals, and with my limited budget, I need to find something that isn't particularly flattering, but will never actually utterly fail. My friends all have very different voices. Oddly enough, my voice is the classical one that could work well with the AT4033, but alas, I am sensitive to the plight of the common singer as well.