Pros: Short, light, excellent frequency response, strong output levels (very sensitive)
Cons: Phantom power only
I'm not a professional audio technician, nor am I an audiophile. I do however trust my ears, and use what I think sounds good. The Audio Technica AT4073a is one of those products that I feel compelled to write about because of how well it performs. This microphone is a steller performer, and worthy of being used for broadcast audio applications.
The AT4073a is a short barreled XLR microphone that only works with phantom power. There is no battery capsule available, so when purchasing make sure that your devices are able to power this microphone.
The AT4073a is line+gradient mic, designed to pick up distant audio sources. This is also a very hot microphone, rated at -23db at 70.8 mV re 1V. What this means is that this mic is very sensitive. Take for example the Audio Technica AT897. That microphone's open circuitry sensitivity rating is only 10 mV re 1V. You're going to need a more powerful preamp for the AT897 to get the same signal level output of the AT4073a.
The frequency response of this microphone is also very good - being rated at 30-20,000 Hz. I was able to compare the audio output of this microphone against the Sennheiser ME66 in a professional audio booth, and the difference is like night and day. While the Sennheiser does a superb job reproducing the higher range of frequencies, the bass response is mediocre compared to the AT4073a. The AT4073a on the other hand handles low frequency along with high frequency audio very very well, giving off a well rounded and fairly flat frequency response, making this mic very good for ENG and field work.
Impedance is listed at 100 ohms, and the signal to noise ratio is listed at a very respectable 80 dB. The microphone also features a low frequency roll-off switch, and is rated at 150 Hz at 12 db/octave. Typical dynamic range of the AT4073a is 112 dB, 1 kHz at max SPL.
The AT4073a features a 3-pin XLRM connector, and weighs a slight 4 oz (114g), making this a very light microphone. The length is also a short 9.13", making this unit very suitable for on-camera work. I currently have this mic mounted on my Sony HVR-Z1U, and it is a very compact package.
Finally, the microphone comes in a nice Audio Technica hard box with foam inserts. A microphone stand clamp is also included, along with a foam windscreen. The windscreen does a fairly decent job minimizing wind noise, but you'd be better off suited with a furry wind muff. Just make sure the muff doesn't show up in your field of view if using this mic on camera.
I can only give you my experience with this microphone as used on-camera with a Sony HVR-Z1U. I did however test other microphones along side this one, such as the Sennheiser ME66 and the Audio Technica AT897. My findings will therefore be based upon the comparison data with the other two microphones. Remember as well, that sound quality is typically subjective. What might sound good to me, may sound terrible to you or someone else. If you're going to spend this much on a microphone, it's always a good idea to try them before you buy.
Having mounted the Sony HVR-Z1U to a tripod, I proceeded to lay the three microphones in front of me. The XLR cable used is a balanced Audio-Technica 1.5ft. The Sony was set to manual audio control. Channel 1 was patched into channel 2, basically meaning that audio is recording on both channels. This is a mono microphone, and would normally only record to one channel on the Z1U unless otherwise set. Channel 1 and 2 audio levels were both set to 5, which is the mid setting. All other audio options such as wind dampening, noise reduction, and limiter were turned off. Sony MDR-7506 professional headphones round out the equipment test. The MDR's are a very flat response headphone, and are excellent for audio monitoring.
In front of the mic, standing approximately 6 feet away, I had my wife read back a paragraph of text. I checked the level with a Radio Shack decibel meter, and her speech registered at -18 dB. In other words, she wasn't yelling or whispering, but average conversation you would expect from a sane person.
The first microphone up was the Sennheiser ME66. The ME66 provided a strong signal to the Z1U, registering around -15 to -20 dB on average. The quality of the audio was decent, although shallow sounding. High frequency reproduction was good, but as stated before, low frequency left something to be desired.
The second mic up was the Audio Technica AT897. This microphone registered a very low output signal on the Z1U's VU meter. I was only getting around -33 to -28 dB. I had to crank up the preamp levels on the Z1U to 9 in order to get close to the ME66. Boosting the audio gain to +6 dB on the camera helped as well, but now the audio was noisy. The output of the AT897 was certainly disappointing in terms of signal strength. Frequency response on the other hand was good; even better than the ME66 in terms of low frequency response.
Finally, the AT4073a was plugged in and the camera's audio settings set back to what they were at the beginning of the test. First of all, the output signal level was very very strong. Far better than the AT897 and even hotter than the ME66. My wife speaking 6 feet away was registering around -10 to -6 dB, and at times causing the audio to clip. I had to turn down the preamp levels to 4 to minimize audio distortion from clipping. Also, as heard through the MDR's, the frequency response was top-notch. It handled low, mid, and high end frequencies superbly with minimal distortion or noise. All in all, a very strong performance from the AT4073a.
Now don't get me wrong. This test probably isn't very fair to begin with, as these three mic's are in totally different classes and price ranges. The cheapest mic is the AT897, and can be bought new for around $250. The Sennheiser ME66 is around $400, and the AT4073a is closer to $600. My point with this testing though is to give you and myself a better idea of how the more affordable shotgun microphones compare against each other. I'm also a firm believer in the addage, "you get what you pay for", and this is certainly true with the Audio Technica AT4073a. If audio is important to you, and you need a shotgun mic that is short and compact, then the AT4073a is definitely a winner.