I’ve had the chance to review several Audio-Technica microphones, from the entry-level 20 series to the more well-rounded 40 series. In this review, I take a closer look at one of the mid-tier choices in the 40 series. The impressive AT4040.
The Audio-Technica AT4040 stands out as a well-priced option in the mid-tier space with some impressive performance for a microphone at this price range. But it also isn’t without some quirks that you should be aware of.
This price point is relatively competitive with some stellar options, so is there room for the AT404? Indeed, there is if you’re looking for a neutral-sounding microphone with a decent application base for an array of studio tasks. Let’s take a closer look.
As always, let’s kick off the review with the most critical element of any microphone review. Does it sound any good? The answer is a firm yes, with a few caveats that might sway you to or away from this microphone.
The highlight here is the excellent neutrality that the AT4040 displays. This is not an overhyped microphone, and if authenticity in your recordings is a priority, the AT4040 ticks that box with ease.
A flexible microphone that can tackle multiple studio recording tasks.
But it is worth highlighting that this can be a double-edged sword. In some ways, some of the more forgiving microphones might be a better choice for some vocalists and recording situations, especially if you want greater warmth than the more restrained and accurate approach that the AT4040 offers.
For vocal applications, the Audio-Technica AT4040 performs well for both male and female vocal acts and voiceover work. Some artists emphasize authenticity, so I could see myself reaching for this microphone in a heartbeat for those situations.
The frequency response curve highlights the relatively flat and linear response. Still, there is a sharp uptick at around 6kHz and a somewhat fragmented response beyond that. It’s not an uncommon sight for condenser microphones, but it’s far more apparent here than some other microphones I’ve reviewed.
“Highly accurate response for precise recordings.”
The result is a lot of shimmer in the top end, and for some vocalists with high range, possibly too much inconsistency. It’s bright-ish and certainly adds some sparkle while retaining a decent level of accuracy in this range, but I’ve seen smoother performance from other choices.
As with many microphones, you’ll need to think about your specific use case to determine if this irregular top-end will prove problematic for your recording sessions.
While the performance on vocals is quite good, the Audio-Technica AT4040 is also impressive for other recording situations. I especially liked how it handles guitars, thanks to the high level of precision.
This precision extends to recording drums, and with a high SPL rating, you’ll have no trouble capturing loud kick drums. However, positioning is critical. The cardioid polar pattern is excellent for capturing clean recordings, but there is a little seepage on the edges, which can muddy the waters a bit. But once you find the sweet spot, the results are very impressive.
For a microphone at this price point, the AT4040 is quite versatile, but if you need additional polar patterns, you’ll need to look at other options. Be prepared to up your budget if you want to stay within the 40 series, but the entry-level AT2050 is a candidate if you don’t want to spend more money.
Everything considered I’m happy with what the AT4040 offers, and it sits in a comfortable spot in the Audio-Technica microphone lineup. The performance lives up to its price point, and while it isn’t the most refined microphone, it’s also miles ahead of some other options at this level.
Alright, let’s knock off some specifications details. The Audio-Technica AT4040 offers a standard frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz. As mentioned, the response is tight and controlled for much of the range except for that bumpy top-end.
The AT4040 is also ready to take on the challenges of high SPL content with a Max SPL of 145dB. If you require even more reach, there is a 10dB pad available that helps push this up to 155dB. For the vast majority of recording situations in a studio setting, this will be ample.
The AT4040 features high SPL handling.
Self-noise is also respectably low at just 12dB. You can find microphones with even lower self-noise if you desire immaculate low-volume recordings. Still, once again, for most studio applications, the AT4040 will be up to the task of delivering you highly workable and clean recordings.
Rounding out the features is a switchable 80Hz hi-pass filter, which you can activate via the recessed switch on the back of the AT4040. This is also where you’ll find the switch for the 10dB Pad. As with all professional microphones, you’ll need access to +48V phantom power.
If you’ve explored Audio-Technica microphones in the past, you’ll already know what to expect here. The AT4040 retains the legacy of sophisticated design from a technical and aesthetic perspective.
On the appearance front, it’s an attractive microphone that will easily blend into any professional environment. The all-black finish might seem like a safe choice, but I’ve always appreciated a more restrained color pallet when it comes to microphones.
Modern and attractive styling.
The prominent grille and cylindrical shape combine well with the iconic Audio-Technica logo. The refined design also spreads to the included shock mount, carry case, and dust cover. As always, Audio-Technica nails the execution. Modern, professional, and easy on the eyes.
On the technical side, the AT4040 features a transformerless design, which helps eliminate low-frequency distortion. The large diaphragm true condenser design features external polarization, and the symmetrical housing keeps unwanted internal reflections at bay.
I think it is fair to say that I don’t need to go to great lengths as to the technical prowess that Audio-Technica possesses. This company has consistently delivered exceptional products for decades, which is on full display with the AT4040.
The Audio-Technica AT4040 has all the hallmarks of a high-quality microphone, and to be honest, it is unsurprising considering the excellent reputation Audio-Technica has for both technical and industrial elements when it comes to its line of microphones.
The AT4040 features a 0.8″ (20.4mm) with a precision-machined, nickel-plated brass, acoustic element baffle. Supporting this is the state of the state-of-the-art surface-mounted electronics that need to meet Audio-Technica’s high quality control standards.
Top-notch components inside and out.
The quality extends to the smooth black finish and the included shock mount. Nothing feels or is cheap when it comes to the AT4040, and it goes a long way to validating the price tag behind this mid-tier offering.
I like to buy gear that will stand the test of time, and that is especially the case when it comes to microphones. I want to progressively fill my locker with a range of durable and versatile microphones that will serve me for years, and the AT4040 comfortably earns its spot in my mic cabinet.
Regarding size, the Audio-Technica AT4040 doesn’t stray far from the dimensions of other Audio-Technica microphones and, indeed, many other condenser microphones. It’s reasonably long and about as wide as you would expect for a large diaphragm microphone.
Fairly standard dimensions for a large diaphragm microphone.
The AT4040 also offers a reasonable level of heft. At 0.79 lbs. (360 grams), it doesn’t feel cheap and is certainly not lightweight. But equally, considering this microphone is best suited for shock mounting, the slightly heavier weight is inconsequential.
I’ll be the first to admit that moving from entry-level budget-focused options to more expensive gear can be a daunting step. You’ll likely be relatively happy with your current gear and might struggle to justify the increased cost. But rest assured, there is a noticeable bump in quality by moving up that is worth it.
But that is also relative to your wants and needs. If you are a casual enthusiast, you could get away with a cheaper option. But if you are starting to get more serious about your recordings, the AT4040 is a solid investment.
High-quality accessories add to the value offering.
The Audio-Technica AT4040 also comes with an excellent selection of accessories. The shock mount is top-notch, and the carry case with dense foam adds to the value proposition. The added dust cove is the cherry on top of a value-packed offering.
High-quality components, a fantastic microphone with solid performance, and a price tag that hits a sweet spot between budget and pro-level gear.
Much like many Audio-Technica microphones, the AT4040 is a popular choice with multiple positive reviews that highlight the excellent recording capability. Plentiful 4 to 5-star reviews from a diverse range of people. Industry experts also look favorably on this mid-tier microphone.
Pros & Cons of Neutral Mics
The Audio-Technica is a neutral-sounding or flat-response microphone, but that doesn’t mean it will be the right choice for everyone. Below, I quickly cover some of the major pros and cons you must consider before buying a neutral-sounding microphone.
- Accuracy: A neutral microphone reproduces sound with minimal coloration or distortion, providing a faithful representation of the source. This is ideal for capturing audio in a precise and accurate manner.
- Versatility: The neutral sound signature makes it suitable for various applications, from recording vocals and instruments to podcasting and broadcasting. It can handle different sound sources without adding unwanted tonal characteristics.
- Mixing and post-production flexibility: Since a neutral microphone captures sound without emphasizing specific frequencies, it allows for greater control during mixing and post-production. It provides a clean and uncolored starting point, enabling you to shape the sound according to your preferences.
Neutral microphones are perfect for capturing the true essence of a vocalist.
- Lack of character: Some people may find the neutral sound of these microphones to be too plain or lacking in character. You may prefer a microphone with specific tonal characteristics that can add warmth or color to the audio.
- Requires good technique: Due to the accurate and uncolored nature of the microphone, it can be unforgiving to poor mic technique or recording environment. It may pick up unwanted background noise or flaws in the performance more easily.
- Less suited for certain genres: While neutrality is advantageous for many applications, certain music genres or artistic preferences may benefit from microphones with more pronounced tonal qualities that enhance specific instruments or vocal styles.
I mentioned it at the start of this review, but it bears repeating. This price point is highly competitive, with multiple enticing options available. Below, I take a quick peek at some alternatives worth considering.
Aston Microphones Origin Review
British-based Aston Microphones is relatively new to the microphone scene, but in a short time, they have established themselves as a force in the industry. The unique and impressive Origin is among its best offerings.
- Outstanding vocal and instrument recording capability.
- Super rugged construction, including shock resistance.
- The top end is quite bright but thankfully not harsh or shrill.
Aston Microphones Origin
sE Electronics sE2200 Review
If you want added flexibility, the sE Electronics sE2200 is worth adding to your shortlist. Extensive features and outstanding build quality ensure longevity.
- A high degree of clarity and precision.
- Includes two pads and two low-cut filters.
- Much like the AT4040, it only features one polar pattern.
sE Electronics sE2200
MXL 770X Review
So far, I’ve touched on other cardioid pattern microphones, but if you need access to more patterns, the MXL 770X is worth exploring. It is an attractive and capable microphone at a great price.
- Access to Cardioid, Figure 8, and Omnidirectional polar patterns.
- Comes with a shock mount with a pop filter and a 20 ft. XLR cable.
- The Max SPL is lower at 140dB with the pad.
Should You Buy?
I’ll cut straight to the chase. The AT4040 is another fantastic microphone from a manufacturer that continues to impress. Audio-Technica knows its stuff, and the AT4040 is a perfect example.
Excellent recording capability across vocals, voiceover, instruments, and drums ensures that it will be a versatile addition to any microphone locker. When you combine that with premium build quality and top-notch accessories, there is little to fault.
While the top-end is slightly strange, at no point did it interfere with my ability to capture clean and effective recordings. If you need a dependable cardioid large diaphragm microphone, the Audio-Technica AT4040 is an excellent choice.