AT 3032 omni mic compared with Neumann TLM 103
Here is a piano and voice test done with the Audio Technica 3032 omnidirectional microphone. The reference mic is the Neumann TLM 103. The excerpts are the same take recorded at the same time, but the Neumann is recording on to the Portadisc and the 3032 is recording on to an Edirol R4. The TLM 103 and AT3032 mics were side by side -- ie the left and right mics of each make were placed as close together as possible and the same distance from the singer or piano. It should be remembered when listening that these two mics have quite different pickup patterns. For my money (at about £100-£125 each) the 3032 turns in impressive results. The mp3s have been sampled at 160 kb/s.
The piece is Debussy’s Chevaux de bois. The singer is Corinne Orde and the pianist is Jonathan Cohen. The recording setup is shown on the Intro page. Recorded 27 Feb 2006.
Neumann TLM103 600 kb
AT3032 600 kb
. . . and here's an AB test. The TLM 103 goes first, ending at 6.2 seconds. The 3032 follows with no break.
TLM103-AT3032_AB 250 kb
Another AB test, this time from the beginning of the long excerpts. Here the difference can be heard more easily -- the omni picks up more ambient reflections (you can "hear the room"). It has the odd effect of making the singer sound as if she's standing further back from the microphone. In fact the mics are exactly the same distance from her. As in the first AB file, TLM 103 goes first, then AT 3032. Length for each mic sample just over 6 seconds.
TLM103-AT3032_AB2 250 kb
There are many more TLM 103 samples on Corinne’s cd site (appears in new tab/window). She’s done some reverb filtering, so they sound a bit different from those here, which are all as recorded.
Overall conclusion: a pair of 3032s (or cardioid 3031s) would make an excellent setup for someone starting on ambient or nature recording, or someone who'd like to upgrade from a cheaper mic. The sound quality is very good indeed, but the really outstanding feature is the extrememly low self-noise of 8 dB(A) (see here or here). They should be compared with the other omni pair I have: the Rode NT55 (see side panel). The cardioid 3031s would give better noise exclusion from the rear, but cardioids are usually more susceptible to handling and wind noise and overall you may find you prefer the recordings made by omnidirectional mics. In the field cardioid mics give the odd sensation of shutting down much of your field of hearing (it's a bit like wearing blinkers) and omnis record more faithfully what you actually hear with your ears -- which is simply sound from all around. Not only that but omni is the natural state of a mic. To make a mic more directional it has to be tampered with (I don't know how!), and that can degrade its fidelity.
Another site that'll be of interest to those looking for suggestions on how to use these mics in the field is Curt Olson's Track Seventeen Productions. On the Mic Rigs page he shows a simple wooden rig, based on the binaural principle, which he says gives "fantastic" results, and on the Soundscapes page there are samples.
Curt says that he currently favours this approach over coincident stereo setups because it captures important time-arrival differences. (He's referring to the tiny differences in the time the same sound reaches each ear and which give our ear-brain system one of the ways it builds up a stereo sound picture). He goes on to say: "I also favor it over simple spaced omnis or any ORTF/NOS-type approaches because these small-ish barriers seem to stabilize the stereo image and minimize unpleasant mic interactions that often accompany more traditional spaced arrays."
Two samples made with AT 3032s in a Curt Olson rig
Paul Jacobson has posted two looong samples on his mactrix.com.au website. Try the Mount Samaria Dawn Chorus (9.5 Mb mp3) first -- it's the fifth item down. If that doesn't convince you that these mics are worth trying, nothing will! The mp3 plays for eight and three-quarter minutes. But note that if you want to get this kind of result you'll have to build yourself the simple type of rig advocated by Curt Olson in the entry above.
I see more and more reports by people using these very reasonably priced mics for nature recording and finding themselves very pleased with the results. Here in the UK they sell for around £125 each (incl VAT), though I found a new pair at £99 each, and in the US they're a lot less -- of course! Remember though they're mics that need phantom power and use XLR connectors, so have to be used with recording equipment with XLR sockets. (Wikipedia on XLR connectors)
Also try the Røde NT55 (omni) samples on this site as they're directly comparable mics. I don't yet have comparative samples recorded at the same time with these mics (3032 vs NT55). One day.
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