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4TheAudio-Technica AE2500 kick drum mic offers a unique dual design,featuring a dynamic and a condenser element in oneunit.
The AE2500 ($699) is an ingenious “two-mics-in-one”transducer that gives engineers an exciting new option for live andstudio kick drum applications. By including a dynamic and a condenserelement in one housing, Audio-Technica has made it possible to comparethe sound of both microphone types and select one or the other, or toblend the two at the mixing board without any phase cancellationworries.
The AE2500 is a front-address microphone with a large mesh grille.This heavy-duty protective cage is easily unscrewed to reveal twoseparate microphones mounted side by side. The dynamic transducer isone inch across, and the condenser element measures aboutthree-quarters of an inch across.
The condenser circuitry offers a low-cut switch featuring a 12dB-per-octave rolloff at 80 Hz. A standard -10 dB pad switch is alsoprovided, and because the condenser element has a fairly hot output, Ileft this pad engaged for most sessions. The dynamic element offers noswitches and no way to make adjustments.
To provide discrete output from each element, the mic has a 5-pinXLR output. A custom 16-foot cable is supplied; it terminates in twostandard male XLRs clearly marked “Condenser” and“Dynamic.” An isolation mic clamp is also provided.
I first put the AE2500 through its paces on the double-headed kickplayed by Vijay Anderson of the Full Throttle Orchestra. For aconventional jazz sound, the dynamic side of the AE2500 picked up apleasing roundness, sustain, and complexity of tone. The microphone'scardioid pattern seemed very open, giving a very natural representationof the drum. However, a by-product of this openness was reducedoff-axis rejection, and consequently more leakage from the snare andfrom other sources in the room.
The condenser element of the mic offered good transient snap and aconcentrated note around 350 Hz, but less sustain and overall tonalcharacter than the dynamic. The off-axis bleed was less severe relativeto the dynamic track.
In the mix I found the ideal proportion of the two mic elements tobe roughly 65 percent dynamic, 35 percent condenser. Using much more ofthe condenser track tipped the tonal balance too much in the midrangedirection, with a prominent bump around 350 Hz.
Bay Area session drummer Jan Jackson provided the opportunity totest the AE2500 on some rock and funk tracks, with the mic placedinside a single-headed bass drum. On that recording, I found that thedynamic element again yielded a more representative and complex soundwith enhanced low end around 100 Hz. But, as with the previous jazzsession, the pickup pattern of the dynamic mic introduced moreleakage.
Even with the mic inside the drum, positioned about three inchesfrom the head, the dynamic element picked up a lot of midrange-heavysnare drum, toms, and some ambient guitar from amps in the room. Inaddition, a cowbell mounted on the kit came through loud and clear onthe dynamic's channel but was nearly inaudible on the condensertrack.
On Jackson's kick the differences between the two mics were moreapparent than they had been on the aforementioned jazz date. Thecondenser element was noticeably clicky around 4 kHz, which came inhandy for adding high-end definition during mixing. The condenserdelivered less low-end depth (with the Low Cut switch set to the flatposition). But I was able to pull out some powerful low end and punchusing equalization. Once again, when mixing these tracks I used more ofthe dynamic element, with just enough of the condenser to add attackand a thicker low-midrange note around 300 Hz.
Alive and Kicking
For those with a restricted number of tracks or inputs, rememberthat the two elements can be premixed before recording, and either micelement can be used separately to capture a very workable kick drumsound. When taken individually, I preferred the sound of the dynamicelement.
Around the studio the AE2500 also proved useful on a bass amp, and Ienvision it having a lot of potential for acoustic bass recording aswell. Overall, the mic's unique dual-element design allows greatersonic flexibility than a conventional mic does. If you're serious aboutkick drum recording, the AE2500 is definitely a mic you need tohear.