Audio-Technica AT2050 I am always ready to listen to any new microphone models from the folks at Audio-Technica. The company has always stood for high quality and the willingness to be affordable when many of their competitors were not. Since their 1962 launch in Tokyo, Japan, A-T has been, and continues to be, an innovator and leader in the world of microphone and wireless audio system design.
The AT2050 is a dual capsule, large-diaphragm condenser microphone that offers three switchable polar patterns: omni, cardioid, and figure-of-eight. The AT2050's features include a switchable 80 Hz high-pass filter and 10 dB pad; it can handle high SPL, too (149 dB, 159 dB with pad). Capsules are "gold-vaporized and aged," according to A-T promotional material, and the AT2050 is built with surfacemount electronics. The package includes a shock mount and a padded vinyl pouch.
I have had a lot of experience with the Audio-Technica AT4050 microphone over the years, so for this evaluation, I immediately reached for one along with the ever-trustworthy Neumann U 87 to compare them with the A-T AT2050. I used Otari Concept One console preamps for this evaluation; those amps are what I have used for the majority of my time with the 4050 over the years (most notably with King Diamond and Mercyful Fate). This gave me a good, familiar point of reference.
I expected that the AT2050 would be similar to the 4050, but it is, in fact, quite a different animal. With just a simple vocal test using identical gain on all three pres, the AT2050 as compared to the 4050 is about 5 to 7 dB lower in gain; this helped me get just a bit more granularity from the pre-amp with the AT2050. Also, the AT2050 has quite a bit tighter cardioid pattern; a vocalist can be closer to the AT2050 than what might be considered normal without proximity effect going crazy on you. As compared to the Neumann, the AT2050 was an apple; the U 87 was an orange, as you might expect.
I quickly found another desirable quality of the AT2050 when putting it in an overhead position on a drum kit. This mic can definitely take a punch. Even without the -10 dB pad engaged, it can handle around 150 dB before it starts to break. The high-pass filter was also effective on the overheads as well. At this point I tried opening the pattern to the omni setting; in came a lot of pleasant space and room. There also seems to be quite a bit more "midrange punch" present in the AT2050 compared to the 4050 and U 87, which I found to be helpful when putting the mic on a guitar cabinet. Those punchy qualities really helped me not need to reach for a midrange EQ boost in that upper-mid 3 kHz area.
I also liked how the mic responded when switched to figure-of-eight. Both diaphragms seemed to respond similarly on a Washburn twelve-string guitar, a gift from the late, great "Dimebag" Darrell Abbott. The one thing that didn't agree with me was the AT2050's transient response; it was a little sluggish when it came to placing it directly on a ride cymbal or a floor tom.
Finally, I abundantly thank the people at A-T for the new shock mount (the AT8458) included with the AT2050. It is a heck of a lot more user friendly than the original AT4050 mount (the now-discontinued AT8441).
Overall, the AT2050 is a good quality, low-cost microphone built for a variety of tasks in the home studio, professional studio, or live settings. It's a perfect mic for the home recording enthusiast on a budget, or the professional looking for a mic with a bit more midrange punch with flavor. It is a good multi-tasker that won't break the bank.
Acknowledgement: Special thanks to Gary Long at Nomad Recording in Carrolton, Texas for providing me with the tracking facility for this review.
Sterling Winfield is a Texas-based producer/engineer/mixer with gold and platinum credits for artists such as Pantera, Damageplan, and HELLYEAH.