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Dance to the ribbons A

Acclaimed live sound engineer Ben Booker uses Audio Technica’s 4080 and 4081 ribbon mics for various applications on tour with Alphabeat...

box of four beautiful looking Audio Technica ribbon mics arrived just days before I set of on a Danish outdoor touring festival to mix monitors for the Danish pop group, Alphabeat. This turned out to be the perfect place to put them through their paces. The AT4081 is a long, pencil-shape side address mic. It comes with a rubber shock mount and a windshield. The AT4080 is a more traditional looking mic, which is a similar size to AT4050, one of my normal choice’s for overhead duties. It features a cradle shock mount and wind shield. Both mics are finished in silver and look very well made.

DRUM OVERHEADS Alphabeat’s drummer hits the skins really hard, which can cause some microphone problems, whether simply positioning or handling the signal. Both sets of mics sounded great and handled the high SPL. I tried them in various positions, but found the best sound was achieved when the null point of the figure-eight pick up pattern was pointed at the snare with the mics in an upright position. With a little compression, a really nice, full drum sound was achieved. The mics seemed to take the harshness out of the cymbals while retaining the high-end air.


I tested both mics on the guitarist’s amp alongside a Sennheiser supercardioid e906 instrument microphone. He uses a Laney VC30, a very bright amp (think Vox AC30). Both the 4080 and 4081 tamed the guitar very well. The sound was smooth and removed the bite of the amp without losing all the definition. The only minor down side to using a figure-eight mic on guitar is that you hear a lot more stage sound than normal. This is not too much of a problem for mixing on in-ears, but I think I would struggle to put these mics in loud wedge mixes.

24 audioPRO October 2010 CROWD MICS

I tested both pairs of ribbons as crowd mics for use with in-ear monitors. I normally use a pair of pencil condenser mics positioned either side of the stage pointing just over the front row of the crowd.

I put the 4081s out first with the windshields on and was surprised to hear some cracking and banging. I checked the cables, which were fine, then went back to my normal mics, which sounded good. When I returned to the 4081s I realised it was the wind making the banging noises. To be fair, it was really windy. I tried the 4080s but the same noise could be heard with the wind. The next day was a little less windy so I tried again. I’m glad I did, as the sound of the 4081s in the in-ears was great. With very little eq, I had a really balanced sound picking up crowd noise, but, due to the figure-eight pick up pattern, a lot of the stage sound as well, which was a really nice bonus.

I then swapped to the 4080, which also had a very smooth sound. The difference is minor: the 4081’s are slightly brighter and the 4080s have a little more body.


These mics sound great. They would be a great addition to any mic box to give you some different flavours and I would recommend using them as a second mic on guitar to achieve some tonal options. The only small problem is when using them outdoors when it’s windy. I guess on those days you would just have to put them away and miss that sound.

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