Audio-Technica is a company whose name brings to mind style and quality, having produced reliable, professional audio equipment since its birth in 1962. Headphones and microphones are two mainstays of the Audio-Technica line, with a massive range of top-tier professional audio equipment and budget bedroom gear behind them. To me, the AE5400 condenser is another product destined for greatness. Admittedly, the AE5400 visually and sonically reminds me of a Shure Beta 57, seemingly the blue-embroidered successor of the SM57, but with the AE5400’s additional dials to sculpt a usable, true-to-source sound. Don’t be fooled though: the AE5400 is a directional condenser with a few little additions to get a better sound at the source before any post-processing.
The Audio-Technica AE5400 is a weighty and robust microphone shaped somewhere between a Shure SM57 and SM58. The tapered handle of the AE5400 features a little -10dB pad switch and a high pass filter at 80Hz (at 12dB per octave for those playing at home), perfect for the kinds of sources it would typically be used for. The mic can withstand sound pressure levels of 147dB, so it can take pretty much any signal you’d want to record, while also boasting a frequency response of 20Hz - 20kHz. Inbuilt anti-shock technology keeps the capsule and everything else inside quiet and steady, even with a loud signal, and a signal-to-noise ratio of 80dB keeps things clear. The included frequency response graph shows a little bump at about 10kHz with a dip either side, and a gradual roll-off after 10kHz.
Features aside, the mic really shines when recording a drum or vocal. Under a snare, the AE5400 captures enough of the body of the wood without swallowing the brittle, snappy sound of the snare itself. The sound captured is more sculpted and clinical when compared to a Beta 57, as it feels richer and more true to the sound source, and the HPF comes in handy for this kind of source. Similar results were achieved on a hi-hat, capturing the dynamics and delivering a treated, clean sound. On a vocal, the voice sounds present and forward without being overbearing. The cardioid pattern is very directional, and very little (if any) room sound can be heard. The voice becomes particularly forward when the filter is engaged, and I received similar results when recording an acoustic guitar.
The guitar was present and forward, albeit a little dry. I’d expect similar results in a live setting, and the pad and filter could be especially helpful; however, leave a microphone with changeable settings with a live band at your own risk, or permanently fix the dials. Regardless, the mic is very directional, present and clear, delivering a rich sound that is transparent and true of the source.
The AE5400 hits any expectations out of the park. In appearance, it’s another live vocal mic, but in action it’s a feature-filled, easy-to-use condenser with a myriad of functions. It’s a somewhat dry mic, but for drums or acoustic instruments this can be preferable, whereas for a vocal it would function well live, but might not be the first choice for studio recording depending on your source. Like all of Audio-Technica’s products, the AE5400 is robust, practical and classy. Their products are really built with the professional in mind, regardless of their target market.
Hits and Misses
-10dB pad for louder sources