It’s no secret that top live sound and studio engineers regularly use two microphones (almost always a dynamic and a condenser) on sources like kick drums and guitar/bass cabinets. Usually this involves quite a bit of trial and error, finding optimal placement for both microphones and then mitigating the inevitable phase problems. Audio-Technica has recently come up with a better solution, and it is called the AE2500.
Nominally part of the Artist Elite series (which is targeted at the high end sound reinforcement market) the AE2500 combines a high quality electret condenser element with a rugged neodymium magnet enhanced dynamic element housed in a well made enclosure.
Output is provided via a five pin XLR male connector that mates to an included 16.5’ cable terminated with dual gold plated Neutrik connectors. In typical Audio-Technica user-friendly fashion the dual ends of the cable have color coded heat shrink tubing labels on them, clearly delineating the dynamic and condenser outputs.
The condenser side of the microphone is fitted with a 10dB pad, and an 80Hz 12dB per octave switchable low cut filter. Both switches are deeply recessed into the microphones case which will certainly prevent any unintentional changes from taking place, even during the sometimes rough handling that can take place in the live sound world.
Included with a microphone is a standard AT zippered vinyl case, the aforementioned cable, and a very slick rubberized clamping mic clip which is one of the nicest clips I have ever had the good fortune to use!
The AE2500 weighs in at a hefty 13.8 ounces, and is constructed and finished to a very high standard, is manufactured in Japan, and carries a 12 month warranty.
Kick Drum – Considering that kick drum is the AE2500’s raison de etre, it’s no surprise that it sounds great in this application. Using the studio’s 22 inch GMS maple kick drum with Evans EQ 2 heads I placed the AE2500 just inside of the hole in the resonant head. The dynamic side reminded me quite a bit of the venerable AKG D12e in that it sounded like the actual drum, rather than someone bouncing a basketball! The overall sound was tight and controlled while also sounding natural. Bringing up the condenser side yielded quite a bit of extra low-end and a bit more of the sound of the shell of the drum. I agree with Audio-Technica that phase cancellation seems not to be an issue with this microphone, which is quite an accomplishment.
Bass Cabinet – I put the AE2500 in front of a vintage Sunn cabinet which was loaded with a pair of primo JBL 15’s and was really pleased with the resultant sound. Connected up to the excellent (but obscure) solid state DAV Broadhurst Gardens preamp, the dynamic side sounded more than a little bit like another classic microphone (Sennheiser 421) in its smoothness but with a touch more upper midrange presence. The condenser element did not disappoint, once again bringing up the low-end, and adding a nice dollop of transient attack to the mix.
Guitar Cabinet – Though I enjoy the sound of a cranked 4×12 as much (okay, probably more) than the next guy, I’ve recently been getting great results using 1×12 cabinets. I’m finding that a single 12” speaker just seems to be sounding bigger and tougher than four speakers all shouting at once. Your mileage might vary! The AE was a solid performer in this application providing a nice coherent sound that fit well into the mix. My only reservation was that when using both a condenser and a dynamic mic on a guitar cabinet, I usually like to position them in very different places from each other to take advantage of the different sound of a speaker across its cone and surround. Still, for ease of use, you can’t beat the AE2500.
Vocals? – Yes, vocals! Believe it or not, the AE2500 may be the sleeper microphone of the year on vocals. Although it is not the microphone that you will want to reach for every time, it can sound absolutely killer on resonant and raspy singers. The AE2500 would be great for rappers too, as it has a bit of EV RE-20 vibe on the dynamic element, and the ability to dial a little bit of added clarity and “air” with the condenser side.
The Audio-Technica AE2500 is a great achievement, and one of the first really new microphone concepts I have seen in a long time. Although it is billed as a kick drum microphone, it is really a much more versatile performer than the advertising would have you think. For live sound use it’s a huge timesaver, and for in-studio usage it provides a discrete pair of phase coherent sounds that provide options for tracking and mixing.
If you are using it on the road, you should definitely consider buying (or building) a spare cable or two, as they are not a standard off the shelf cable. Other than that, the AE2500 seems bulletproof! Although the AE2500 is not an inexpensive microphone, serious users will be quick to recognize that the high quality and convenience of this microphone make it an excellent value.
Lots of options
Excellent build quality
Non-standard output cable
Expensive (though not overpriced)