Cardioid Condenser Instrument Microphone with UniMount components

We all know that to get the best, most accurate, sound from any instrument, with the least possibility of feedback, we need the mic to be as close to the source of the sound as possible. This can be a challenge, especially when working with an ever changing line up of instrumentalists. The typical solution is a mic on a boom placed in close proximity to whatever it is you want to bring into the mix. While the results of this approach are usually acceptable, there are times when the player moves off their mark, fading from the mix and leaving a hot mic open to hear all sort of things that are none of its business.

What’s needed is a mic that can be placed up-close on virtually any acoustic instrument. something small, yet capable of producing a crisp and intelligible sound that doesn’t get lost in the mix. If, in the world of audio, there existed a Swiss Army Mic, it would be Audio-Technica’s ATM350a and its rebel band of cool mounting tools.

The ATM350a is a cardioid condenser mic specifically designed for instruments – most all acoustic instruments. Now, I know that we all have our favorite mics for various instrumental applications, and that for one mic to be able to do it all flies against conventional thinking, but what Audio-Technica has done can be a really time saver.

The ATM350a is a small mic, ruggedly built to withstand the hard knocks of live performing. The cardioid pick-up pattern is quite sensitive to sound in front of the element, so the closer it is to the source of the sound you want, the less chance of it hearing the sound you don’t. What makes the 350a a serious problem solver is the various mounting tools that Audio-Technica has designed so that you can put the mic right where you need it, and in the shortest amount of time.

To begin with, there’s a 5″ and 9″ gooseneck for suspension. The gooseneck can then be attached to various mounting components for drums, woodwinds, pianos, percussion strings, brass… you get the idea. To mic the piano at our church, for example, I attached the magnetic mounts right to the sound board, and then installed the 9” goosenecks with the ATM350a mics. Rather than adjust the sound by moving stands around, all that was required was trying different positions on the sound board, and adjusting the goosenecks, to find the “sweet spot.” In addition, the piano top can now be closed during service.

For players, the gooseneck adds another level of creativity. For example, on the alto sax, the mic can be adjusted for a more open sound, by pointing the mic toward the stack, or a fuller sound by positioning it more toward the throat of the bell. The strap-like mount slips easily over the bell of the sax. Soft pads keep it from touching the instrument. The hook-and-loop strap keeps it tightly in place. The mount swivels 360° allowing for a full range of motion.

On the conga drum, I tried several different positions using both the drum mount and magnetic mount until I found the point where it had the best edge. Again, this system allows for a lot of adjustability and experimentation.

One thing to watch, make sure you adjust the gooseneck before clicking the microphone lead into the clips. Those clips take their job very seriously and allow for no play. While the microphone itself is plenty hearty, there’s little to gain, and everything to lose by stretching the cable beyond what’s reasonable.

The 350a microphone comes with an in-line power module with a switchable 80 Hz hi-pass filter to control undesired ambient noise. The microphone is available as individual components, or in pre-packaged kits: ATM350U — 5″ clip-on gooseneck; ATM350UL — 9″ clip-on gooseneck; ATM350W — woodwind mount with 5″ gooseneck; ATM350PL – magnetic piano mount with 9″ gooseneck; or ATM350D – drum mount with 5″ gooseneck. — Robert Lindquist