A-T BP40 — Big New On-Air Sound

Audio-Technica BP40
Audio-Technica BP40 With Optional Shockmount ($99)

I never imagined I could fall in love with a microphone.

In the 50 years since I scored my first gig in commercial radio, I’ve shared a myriad of studios, stages, booths and desktops with many great mics, but nothing quite like Audio-Technica’s recent release from Japan: the BP40 large-diaphragm broadcast mic.

This big-barrel front-address dynamic is beautifully built for broadcast, with a deep multistage windscreen, sleek and black and matte, and so down-to-business, with a pure, uncolored, condenser-like sound.

RICH
It was my true “Wow!” moment at the NAB Show in Las Vegas — those first words, so rich and round, as I worked A-T’s demo unit, top of the main hall, early on opening day.

I remember thinking “Who is this guy?” as the headset purred, full-bodied, just like a great red wine.

To their credit, A-T had done a meticulous job setting up their BP40 showcase stand, running it flat through an Allen & Heath mixer; the levels were perfect, all I had to do was press the button and talk. No smoke and mirrors here.

By the time I got hold of an early-release unit, with the buzz and excitement of the floor already almost four months old, I sat and looked at the open box for way too long, a little trepidation in the air.

I’ve always gone with my gut: There’s only one chance to make a first impression; but could it still be that good?

I run a minimalist plant, a postage stamp-size space, right in the heart of midtown San Francisco. As yet another ambulance wailed by below, I plugged the XLR cable into my trusty ART Tube MP mic preamp — and I’ve never looked back.

In that moment, the BP40 became my go-to mic of choice. And as I slipped my adman hat on, the headline was a no-brainer: Be bold. Sound as great as you are.

I set it up immediately, right beside me on the desktop, only a head-turn away; to pump out a vanilla demo, experiment with a crazy accent, or “sell sand to Arabs” with corporate aplomb.

Above a sea of hidden cables and components alongside my main monitor, the BP40 performs cleanly, with not a hint of interference.

A-T calls it the “humbucking coil,” a phrase that always elicits a grin from a client, but more importantly it delivers consistently clear, rich and natural sound on every job I throw at it.

Measuring in at just over 6-1/2 inches long, an internal windscreen dissipates plosives, even for all of us close talkers. With a broad deep-set wrap-around diaphragm, well over 2 inches across, it provides ample front end for well-focused delivery. No surprises with things that go pop in the night.

Under the hood, the capsule is placed deep within the rugged, ribbed barrel, for commanding vocal presence and consistent response, even at a distance.

Audio-Technica BP40 capsule
Multistage windscreen and deep capsule placement set the BP40 apart.

But leaving the best til last, it’s the hypercardioid polar pattern, with exceptional off-axis rejection that makes the BP40 a winner in my book.

I noticed it immediately during my daily trial demos back at the big Vegas show, my 22nd consecutive NAB, almost a firewall of focus, isolating my voice from the surrounding clutter and babble; I christened it the “cone of silence” as I easily found its sweet spot.

This feature alone creates a phantom vocal booth wherever I am, in whatever nook or cranny, and truly makes the A-T BP40 dynamic “acoustically agnostic.” Big, bold full-frontal sound almost anywhere. Rich and round, without any syrup.

I like to use a 6-inch dual-mesh pop filter; it defines a distance in the work zone and helps maintain the sweet spot. This is a one-on-one microphone; getting comfortable together is the first move.

While the BP40 won’t make an up-talker any less annoying or a flat boring drone any more exciting, or improve an over-written script, it will give honest, rich neutral sound, straight out of the box.

And there’s nothing lightweight here. Weighing in at 22 ounces, the all-metal BP40 feels as solid and dependable as you are, built to take the punches and last a lifetime.

Although I prefer the low form-factor of the supplied mounting clamp that melds seamlessly with the robust body, the proprietary, optional shockmount is lightweight and rugged in fully-integrated, matched, non-marking hard plastic.

Installation is damage-free and simplicity itself, with a single snap-to-secure. The combo unit will enhance the professional look of any studio. It really does complement an already great-looking mic and, of course, is essential for live, one-take production.

But in the end it’s all about the sound, and in the new world of international story-telling, in a sea of talks and blogs and podcasts, ESL, fractured idiom and accent, squeezing the old traditions of broadcast announcing, the Audio-Technica BP40 is truly dynamic.

Purity with a punch. Standing out above the proliferating prattle of the new soundscape. And for the many Barry White sound-alikes dotting the mish-mash of media voices, the 100 Hz roll-off will tame a heavy bass line that can so easily overwhelm any presentation.

CROONING
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I’m a willful Audio-Technica junkie, around 25 years in the making. After a diplomatic career with the United Nations in the 1980s, I left New York City for San Diego just as the nonlinear video editing industry was emerging.

The hot mic around the traps was the Audio-Technica ATM25, for that “late-night FM sound,” and it was this now twice-discontinued A-T Japan kick-drum mic that helped me reinvent my radio voice and pioneer affordable corporate video sales tools in the early ’90s.

Two of these compact hypercardioid ATM25 dynamics, heavy, rugged and indestructible, have served my voice needs unfailingly, for more than two decades; and if ever there was an evolutionary path to the BP40, put them side-by-side and they certainly do pair up like peas in a pod.

But it’s the multistage windscreen and the deep capsule placement that sets the BP40 apart, way apart, at the head of the pack to my ears; natural depth, rich and rounded, in the 300 to 3000 Hz range that the human brain finds so attractive. It’s where crooners pitch their love songs.

PRODUCT CAPSULE

Audio-Technica BP40
Large-Diaphragm Dynamic
Broadcast Microphone

Thumbs Up
+ Great sound
+ Internal windscreen
+ Solid build

Thumbs Down
– Had to return it

MSRP: $489; Street: $349

For information, contact Audio-Technica U.S. in Ohio at (330) 686-2600 or visit www.audio-technica.com.

“Just don’t ever call it a kick-drum mic,” was the wry line at NAB.

Of course, the big barrel “end-fire” dynamic is hardly new; the fundamental science inside that front-end is well-documented.

As radio audiences fragmented, the classic communal side-address ribbons found in every main studio, were replaced by rugged individual personal dynamics; big players like Shure, Sennheiser and Electro-Voice, amongst others, took over studios around the world.

The RE20 became ubiquitous, a benchmark in talk radio everywhere. To my mind, the BP40 is an important new contender in this prestigious market. Backed by A-T Japan’s vast experience and quality control, “many years in development” was the word at the big show.

No, I haven’t done a side-by-side shoot-out, but I do know this mic has a bold edge. And while the “Wow!” moment has passed, the rich sound remains, on every job I toss at it. “Be bold” is no idle punch line.

I knew I’d found a mic I loved to talk to, right from the get-go. Read the specs, if you want, but most of all, take it for a talk; getting comfortable together is the first move.

I tested the BP40 at a range of volumes, across a variety of listening devices, from dollar-store earbuds, Beats Studio Over-ear, main cabin airline plastic disposables, my best A-T and Sennheiser studio cans and buds. And my final benchmark, on every audio job, JBL Pro mini bookshelf monitor speakers, always running low behind me.

The BP40 came through with flying colors, with great presence at low volume, even as it remained, ironically, uncolored.

Within the normal range of my voice, the BP40 is completely flat; all the color and inflection is completely mine, or not! Be as flat as you want, if you like.

The bottom line: Sit down at a comfortable distance and present: the BP40 will never let you down. Move in close for a dreamy waltz or a torrid tango: you’ll find a sweet spot to pair your delivery into the perfect partnership, using position, pitch and projection, like subtle presets on a processor; without the processing.

If I had to settle for one microphone, I’d choose this good-looker in a heartbeat. Get to know it and make it your own. I bet you’ll like what you hear, however subjective our own judgment of all things audio.

Michael T. Synnott is a radio and voiceover veteran living in the Bay Area.

 

 



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