Audio-Technica ATM350a systems include a compact instrument microphone with a range of proprietary UniMount components that facilitate mounting to almost anything. The mic measures just 1.5 inches long and .5 inch wide, with the attached cable that’s a little over 13 feet long terminated with the locking 4-pin connector that A-T regularly uses with many of its wireless systems.
A remote power supply unit is included that has a locking 4-pin connector on one end and a standard XLR on the other, allowing the ATM350a to work as a hard-wired mic. The power supply offers a recessed roll-off switch at 80 Hz to help control undesired ambient noise.
The mic, which has a cardioid pattern with reduced side and rear pickup, utilizes a fixed-charge back plate, permanently polarized condenser element. Stated frequency response is 40 Hz to 20 kHz and sensitivity is -49 dB. With a whopping maximum SPL rating of 159 dB, it should be able handle very loud instruments with ease.
The UniMount components are handy, slick and very easy to use. First, the mic is placed in either the supplied 5-inch or 9-inch gooseneck with foam windscreen, with the other end of the gooseneck simply inserted into one of the many mounting base options available to users. These include a magnetic piano mount base, drum clamp, universal clip-on, and woodwind/acoustic bass strap mount. There’s also a wireless universal clip-on system. The goosenecks include rubber cable tenders to help route the cable and keep it from getting in the way.
Out of the box I was impressed with how well thought-out the mounting options are. The goosenecks are stiff and will hold their positions but can easily be adjusted. The bottom of the goosenecks are 8-sided and fit into matching hole in the base, so there are a variety of mounting positions. A small hand tightened set screw locks the gooseneck in place so there’s no movement once the mic is positioned.
The magnetic piano mount base has non-marring felt on the bottom so it won’t scratch surfaces, while the universal spring mount has thick rubber jaws so it won’t scratch as well. The spring mount includes a hand-operated locking screw to tighten and lock the clamp into position. The drum clamp slips over a tuning lug on any drum, and includes an lug extender to retain tuning ability.
One of the most unique mounts is the strap system. It consists of a small rubber base with a Velcro strap that can wrap around a woodwind instrument such as a flute or around the tail end of upright bass strings, below the bridge. A standard metal gooseneck base mount is attached to the rubber piece for optimum fitting.
I took the mic to my bench and plugged it in, giving it it phantom power. The mic sounded great with a voice. The first test with an instrument came via a snare drum, with the short gooseneck employed with the drum clamp. It sounded great while mounting easily, clamping over the rim but still allowing tuning via the lug extension. I also liked the option of the power supply’s 80 Hz roll-off switch in this application.
Next up were some rack and floor toms from my inventory. Again, very nice sound, and with the choice of the 5- or 9-inch goosenecks, no problem with positioning. The clamp worked with every brand of drum that I tried it on, and I don’t see why it would not work with every drum on the planet that uses a rim and lugs for tuning.
Sound & Movement
It was time to take the ATM350a package out to some gigs. First up was working with a Klezmer band at a large wedding. (For the unfamiliar, Klezmer is traditional music tracing its roots to Ashkenazi Jews of Eastern Europe.)
Clarinet is a big part of this style of music, so I showed the non-marring strap to the clarinetist in the band and asked if he’d use the mic. He gladly agreed, so we placed the strap well past the keys down the instrument, and then used the 5-inch gooseneck to position the mic at the bell. Normally I prefer to mike clarinets from the side, as sound comes from both the open keys and the bell, but the ATM350a sounded excellent on just the bell end.
In addition, the clarinet player was quite happy to not be tied to a stand mic, instead able to move his instrument around and even dance. He, as well as the band, were impressed with the sonic quality, and again, he really loved the freedom of movement it granted. In fact, I was going to swap the mic over to the drummer but the clarinet player would have none of it!
Another benefit was consistency due to the mic remaining at the same distance from the instrument. I had no problems in the mix, unlike working with clarinet players who move around a stand-mounted mic, which in turn means that I have to ride that fader all night.
Next up was a corporate show with a pianist playing for the cocktail hour in the lobby. His instrument, provided by the hosting hotel, was a beautiful baby grand. With only one ATM350a on hand, I decided to use it for the mid-highs, joined by another condenser for the lows.
Using the magnetic mount and 9-inch gooseneck, I placed the mic about one-third of the way in from the high end, positioned about 6 inches away from the dampers. It resulted in a very natural sound through the PA.
In addition, this package proved much easier to deploy than setting up a boom stand and a full-size condenser model. A pair of ATM350 mics on a piano will capture the instrument extremely well while also being simple to set up. Also, the compact size and lack of external stands mean that the piano lid can be closed if need be.
Audio-Technica ATM350a systems are highly recommended for virtually any instrument miking application. The sonic quality is top-notch while the choice of mounting bases and gooseneck lengths means there’s plenty of flexibility, something that often comes in handy in the ever-changing world of live sound. Also note that the mic, power supply and various mount packages ship with a large padded zippered case.
U.S. MSRP: Ranges from $199 to $349 depending on mount options. In addition, mounts are available separately at prices ranging from $30 to $89. Find out more about the systems and various options here.