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AT897 Shotgun Works in Field, Studio

The Mic's Light Weight, Longer-Than-Average Length Enable Newsfolk to Capture Clear Sound

The Mic’s Light Weight, Longer-Than-Average Length Enable Newsfolk to Capture Clear Sound

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Freelancers and other small broadcast/production operations need versatility in all of their equipment. So when one piece of equipment can perform multiple functions without a major compromise, owners and managers have to consider that when crafting a capital budget.

Audio-Technica’s AT897 short shotgun microphone works well not just in the field, but also in the studio.

The AT897 is a condenser line and gradient “shotgun” super cardioid microphone, which means the usual mode of employment is to point the unit in the general direction of the sound source. In the field, where many reporters and producers stick handheld mics in the faces of newsmakers, it means those reporters and producers don’t have to stand so close, and can even raise the unit over a crowd with a boom pole.

In my field test, I used it as I would a handheld microphone, gathering sound for a series of reports heard on the CBS Radio Network newscasts over the New Year’s weekend; and in mass interview situations as well as voice work at the 2005 Daytona 500. In my studio test, I used it as an announce mic for the production of the Motor Sports Radio Network programs, “Race-Talk” and “Radio-Road-Test.”
Product CapsuleTHUMBS UP:

Low weight

Battery life (up to 1200 hours on one AA alkaline cell)

Battery and phantom power (11-52 VDC)

Nearly flat response

80 Hz bass roll-off switch


Phantom power requires battery changes

PRICE: $369

CONTACT: Audio-Technica USA in Ohio at (330) 686-2600 or visit

Subjectively, the AT897 seems to have a flat accurate sound, which focuses almost completely on the source to which it is pointed when the bass roll-off switch is not switched on. This means there is little to no proximity effect when the microphone is used at a working distance of 6-18 inches.

If you are recording voice tracks on a laptop or other computer for future use, you can apply a Cool Edit/Adobe Audition or other similar quick filter in an audio editing program to boost bass and mid range and give the track a warm sound upon playback if desired.

In real time, one can use the AT897 as one might use a traditional phantom-powered microphone, whether powered (11-52 volts DC) through a small mixer or microphone processor/preamp.

The bass roll-off switch will help to cut out low-frequency rumble with a 12 dB roll-off per octave at 80 Hz. This also helps when the room in which you might have to record voice tracks isn’t soundproofed as well as you might like. The standing wave reflections you might pick up with other microphones are significantly reduced, thanks to the inherent pickup characteristics of shotgun microphones.

Some reporters might not consider using a shotgun mic as a primary microphone because of their usual length. At 11 inches long, the AT 897is a slight bit longer than most long-barreled handheld interview mics. That extra length will capture clearer sound when held above a crowd or held steady when trying to record natural sound or sound from a PA speaker when there is no mic distribution amplifier (mult box).

If you do not have a boom pole, holding the AT 897 won’t cause your arm to get tired; it weighs 5.1 ounces including the installed AA battery. The AT897 can be battery-powered, which might concern some reporters who do not want to carry another piece of equipment that needs a battery, for fear the battery would go dead at an inopportune time.

A-T specifications suggest a battery life of 1200 hours from a single alkaline AA cell. We used one Ray-O-Vac AA alkaline cell for almost six weeks. In the daily grind of newsgathering, users might not remember to change batteries every 1200 hours. Changing disposable alkaline AA batteries in the AT897 on the first day of every month will solve that problem. If you do get into a situation where the battery is dead and you have a mixer with phantom power, then you won’t miss a thing.

The AT897 also will run on phantom power from 11-52 volts DC without a battery installed. Users will want to keep the unit out of hot news cars or other places where the temperature can get over 110 degrees Fahrenheit, since it has a condenser element.

The AT897 comes with its own adapter (clamp), windscreen protective case and adapter fitting to change a non-standard thread pitch on a mike stand or pole to the 5/8ths/27 standard. A small portable microphone stand can work for long-distance shotgun applications such as pointing the AT897at a sound source and for positioning the unit to maximize voice pickup for voice work, like when you have to knock out a voice track in an office, broom closet or other location without soundproofing.

Using the AT897 does change the way you work in interview situations. No longer do you have to muscle your way through a crowd to get a clean, on-mic sound from a newsmaker; shotgun mode, whether in the hand or on a boom, will work just fine.

You also can hold the mic in your hand, in the same manner you would use for a traditional handheld mic interview. As long as you remember to change the single AA cell once a month, you will have clean uncolored sound from your newsmakers or sound source. You also will find that you might not have to carry as many microphones in your flyaway kit, thanks to the AT897’s versatility.