Audio-Technica AT-4040 Microphone

What’s in the box?

The 4040 is a side-address externally polarized (true) condenser microphone that operates in a cardioid only pattern. Micro-switches on the lower edge of the microphone body engage a low frequency cut (80 Hz, 12 dB per octave) and a 10dB pad. The microphone itself is finished in a matte black and weighs in at just under 13 oz. The 4040 is the first “40” series microphone to have its internal circuitry surface-mounted rather than conventionally through-hole construction.

Visually the 4040 might seem familiar, rightly so, as the body and grille are the same as the venerable AT 4033 microphone. According to Mike Edwards at Audio-Technica, the decision to utilize the 4033 packaging was made for sonic and economic reasons. AT’s testing revealed that the 4033 packaging was both sonically transparent, as well as resistant to noise (physical and rf) and shock. Utilizing pre-existing castings allowed Audio-Technica to develop and deliver a better microphone for less cost. While the exterior may be the same, everything else about the microphone is different than the 4033.

The 4040 features an aged, vapor-deposited gold diaphragm that is two microns thick. It features a transformerless circuit design that is claimed to eliminate low-frequency distortion while providing improved high-speed transient response. The stated frequency response is 20 Hz – 20 kHz, with a dynamic range of 133 dB (1kHz at max. SPL), signal to noise ratio of 82 dB (1 kHz at 1 Pa), self-noise of 12 dB SPL, and a max input level of 145 dB SPL (155 dB SPL with the pad engaged).

According to the manufacturer, self-noise is a respectable 12dB, and I have no reason to doubt this figure. Audio Technica includes the AT8449 shockmount with the microphone, along with a foam lined plastic case, and a really nice embroidered velvet dust cover (which will now be shipped with all 40 series mics. The only thing missing is an included pop screen. The overall fit and finish would be entirely acceptable on a microphone three times the cost of the 4040.

The 4040 is manufactured in Japan, and like all 40-series microphones it is individually tested and at Audio Technica’s Stow, OH headquarters before offered for sale in the US.

Testing 1-2-3:

I checked out the 4040 (actually a pair of them) on a variety of sources. All testing was carried out using the following equipment for monitoring and recording: Neotek IIIc console, Urei 809 and Fostex NF-1 monitors, DAV Electronics Broadhurst Gardens (solid state) microphone preamp, MCI/Sony JH-24 multitrack and Studer A 80 RC master recorder.

Male Vocal – The 4040 did very nicely at capturing a loud (but kind of strident) male rock vocalist. Utilizing the onboard preamps of my console I placed the 4040 in a variety of positions near the singer to find the sweet spot. I achieved my best results placing the microphone slightly above the mouth of the singer, four inches away. Since he wasn’t a “spitter” I felt that I could get away without a pop screen. I found that the 4040 was quite a bit less prone to popping than the older 4033 model was, those of you that have one (or have worked with one) probably know what I mean. The overall sound was similar to the 4033 in that it had a nice sense of immediacy, but it was cleaner and warmer at the same time.

Female Vocal – Using pretty much the same set up as the above (except for moving the mic back to approximately six inches away) I recorded my wife Victoria (a classically trained soprano) singing some traditional Celtic folk songs. We were both pleased with the attendant sound, which combined a nice sense of “air” along with a good mix of head and chest voice. While you will not mistake the 4040 for a dialed in Neumann U47, the sound was more than respectable. The frequency response graph that accompanies the 4040 shows a rise in frequency right around the 6K area, and that was consistent with what I heard. On Victoria, whose voice is very smooth and balanced, it served to accentuate the high frequency components, a not undesirable effect. On the other hand, a female singer inclined to brightness or harshness might be better served by a darker microphone.

Kick Drum – I will freely admit that I love shoving random mics into and around kick drums to see how they hold up. Perhaps I have been lucky, but ironically the only microphone that I have ever toasted in this manner was a beyer dynamic M88, which is a fairly common mic to be employed for kick duties, especially in live sound circles.

Currently the studio’s 22” GMS maple kick drum is set up with an Evans EQ 2 batter head, and a cutaway resonant head (which is basically just keeping the drum’s hardware from rattling). This is a great setup for the 70’s sounding project that is in progress. Utilizing the excellent DAV preamp, I replaced the AKG d12e that was in use with one of the 4040’s. Placed about 1 inch into the drum I got a good solid fundamental note with terrific attack.

I think that AT may be on to something when it comes to their claim of “superior correlation of high-speed transients” as the 4040 seemed quite a bit faster than any mic that I have heard near its price. Although leakage was certainly present, I found that it sounded good combined with the other mics on the kit. I suppose that if leakage were to be an issue a packing blanket or two could be employed to keep things a bit cleaner. Incidentally, I did not find it necessary to engage the pad to prevent clipping of the mics internal electronics.

Tambourine – Normally I like to use a small diaphragm condenser microphone on tambourines (and triangles/shakers/etc.) and while the 4040 sounded good (keeping up with the transients) in this application, I still prefer the sound of a small-diaphragm mic, as I find that they tend to be more focused and tighter. If, however, one were looking for more “room” in the sound, the 4040 wouldn’t be a bad choice in this application.

Drum Overheads – Once again using the DAV preamp, I mic’d the studio’s GMS kit from up above the kit, four or five feet in front of the bass drum in OTRF configuration. I was really surprised when I listened to the playback from the two 4040’s. With the exception of the very lowest note of the kick drum (really the sub-harmonics) the sound of the drums was balanced almost perfectly with great impact on the kick, snare, and toms and a complete lack of the high frequency nastiness/harshness that low-dollar condensers are prone to. With a bit of mild compression I had a sound that was ready to go, not requiring any corrective eq. With the addition of a kick drum microphone to “fill in” with a bit of extra low end I had the kit sounding great with just three microphones.

Room Mic – Using the above set up, I pulled the mics back into the room, this time about 18 feet from the drum kit. I was pleased with the results, but it was there that one can tell the difference between a good $499 (MSRP) microphone, and a great multi-thousand dollar microphone. My ears perceive the difference as being improvements in the three-dimensionality of the sound. While the 4040’s sounded really good, I have had microphones (admittedly ranging from 3 to 10 times the cost of the 4040) provide a more real sonic picture of the kit in the room. I should emphasize thought that the 4040’s were more than acceptable, and better than some more expensive microphones that I have heard.

Guitar amp usage – Some people refuse to put anything other than a Shure 57 against the grille of a guitar amp. I beg to differ. I think that a good condenser microphone can get much closer to the actual sound of an amp than a 57. Not that a 57 is bad, it’s not, but neither is it the be-all end-all of guitar amp microphones. Be that as it may, the 4040 did a great job mic’ing a Paul Reed Smith CE-24 played through a vintage Silvertone 1484 amp. The Silvertone is a small tube combo that has a single 12” speaker loaded in a semi open cabinet. Positioned right at the grille, in about the midway point of the speaker (between the cone and surround) I got a nice sounding throaty growl. A quick switch to a 57 yielded a sound that was lifeless by comparison. Just for fun I set up the second 4040 two inches away from the open part of the cabinet. After a little bit of micro-moving the microphone around, I had a great, ballsy sounding combination going.

Acoustic Guitar – I used the pair of 4040 in OTRF, X-Y coincident, and neck/sound hole placement arrangements to good effect to mic my Jean Larivee Jumbo cutaway acoustic. The Larivee is a very loud guitar, that seems to embody the “smile” eq curve that you always see people set up on their graphic eq’s. In other words it is very bright, and has lots of bass, but is a little bit recessed in the midrange. Or for you guitar players, it is the exact opposite of a good Martin guitar! I found the 4040’s to sound their best utilized in X-Y arrangement, yielding a super solid center image combined a good picture of the room’s acoustics. I achieved my best results having the microphones about 4.5 feet from the guitar raised up to about 4 feet off of the floor and aimed towards the top bout of the guitar.


The Audio-Technica 4040 represents an excellent value in today’s crowded microphone marketplace. It sounds good on a variety of sources, includes an effective shockmount, and can handle high SPL’s without fear of damage. The pair of 4040’s that I received were neither a specially matched pair, nor did they have consecutive serial numbers (not that that is a guarantee of anything). I found them to be extremely close sonically, when positioned in coincident X-Y configuration, I achieved a very high null by flipping the phase of one of the mics.

Like its predecessor the A-T 4033, the new 4040 redefines what to expect from an affordable microphone in both build quality and sonics. While there are certainly other sonic flavors that are available from other competing designs, I believe one would be hard pressed to find a better-balanced performer than the 4040. For an MSRP of $499, it may well be unbeatable.

Product Summary

Audio Technica AT 4040

Microphone (large diaphragm condenser)

MSRP $499.95

EM Meter –

Features – 4

Sound Quality – 4

Fit and Finish – 4

Value – 4

Pros – Great sound, excellent value, includes a nice shockmount

Cons – Pop filter is necessary for close vocals

Manufacturer –

Audio Technica


AT 4040 Specifications

Element Externally polarized condenser

Polar Pattern Cardioid

Frequency Response 20-20000 Hz

Low Frequency Roll-off 80 Hz, 12 dB per octave

Open Circuit Sensitivity -32dB

Impedance 100 ohms

Maximum input level 145 dB SPL, 155 dB SPL with Pad engaged

Self noise 12 dB

Dynamic Range 133 dB

Signal to noise ratio 82 dB

Phantom Power requirements 48V DC, 4.2 mA typical

Switches low frequency roll off, 10 dB pad

Weight 12.7 ounces

Dimensions 6.69” long, 2.10” maximum diameter

Output connector Integral 3-pin XLR male

Supplied Accessories AT8449 shock mount, hard case, dust cover