AEA A440 Phantom-Powered Ribbon Mic
The Rolls Royce of Ribbon Mics
The A440 is the quietest high-performance ribbon microphone ever produced. It combines all of the warmth and beauty of the classic 44 with a signal so hot, you’ll have to experience it to believe it. As with the rest of AEA’s Big Ribbon microphones, it needs very little EQ, takes it nicely when you want it, and is free of resonances in the audible range. The A440 is unlike any other microphone on the market today, and no professional studio should be without one.
A Glance under the Hood
Like its passive cousin, the R44CX, the A440 is based on the RCA 44BX, but is phantom powered and uses a custom-made German transformer. The active electronics are inspired by AEA’s acclaimed TRP JFET preamp technology, providing a consistent sound immune to preamp loading. The A440 uses the same RCA NOS (new-old stock) ribbon element, only 1.8 microns thick, which is hand-cut from material originally manufactured for RCA. It features a museum-quality shell with a durable bronze investment cast yoke. Umber paint and a red medallion on the transformer case, and a bright nickel finish with polished brass accents are the icing on the cake for this piece of beauty.
Because of its exceptionally low noise floor and its classic sound characteristics, the A440 has quickly become a favorite of even the most critical ears. Orchestral sampling experts EastWest Studios now favor their pair of A440s over their vintage RCA 44s due to the advantages in noise performance. Musicians with very high sound-quality demands and the desire for a long-lasting investment for their microphone locker gravitate towards the A440. Legendary guitarists Peter Frampton & Neil Young, or Irish alternative rockers The Script, all share their love for this stunning microphone.
– Phantom-powered Big Ribbon with 18 dB more gain than the R44
– Extraordinary build quality
– Custom German toroidal transformer
– Quietest ribbon microphone ever made
Applications & Audio
Try using the A440 for a warm, clear vocal sound. The smooth character of the A440’s treble response means that it may be extensively shaped and processed without risk of nasty resonance artifacts.
Start by placing the microphone 8 to 24 inches (20-60 cm) directly on axis from the singer. The closer the singer is positioned to the microphone, the stronger the proximity effect. To accenuate the low end of a singer, have the singer move as close to the mic as possible without physically touching it. The ribbon is well protected from damaging plosive blasts, but to avoid noises from wind blasts, we recommend using a pop filter.
If you are recording a musician who sings and plays an instrument at the same time, you can make use of the exceptional rejection offered by the 90º “null” planes of the bidirectional pickup pattern to reduce the pickup of the instrument in the vocal microphone.
You may find that some singers sound best from 2 inches away while others sound best from 2 feet (60 cm) away. Depending on the voice, room, and song, different distances work better than other. The distance of the A440 from the source has a significant effect on the sound of the mic.
Orchestras, Ensembles, and String Instruments
Because the A440 has equal treble and bass response from a distance, it can be placed almost anywhere without sounding thin. Trying positioning the mic further away than you normally would with a condenser.
For ensembles, a good starting point is to place the A440 a few meters away where the musicians have a nice balanced sound. Blumlein configuration positioned at a distance of 4 – 6 meters from a section can capture the sound with a lot depth. Be careful of the strong magnetic pull of two A440s in close proximity to one another.
A440s can also be used with great results to capture an entire orchestra. Try positioning the mic in the same way that you would for sections, but from a much further distance. Two A440s facing outwards at 90 degrees can give you a realistic spacial image that will sound like you are standing in front of the orchestra.
When recording acoustic instruments, a good starting point is to walk around the room while the musician is playing. When you find a spot where you like the sound, try positioning the A440 there.
For solo instruments, try placing the A440 a few feet away (90 – 150cm). This will give a very up-close and personal sound. Set the microphone above or in front of the instrument.
When positioning the A440, try aiming the backside towards a complex wall intersection. This can capture the reverberation of the room in an interesting way.
For bass string instruments that are bowed and plucked, placing the A440 about a foot away will give you a very nice and defined low end. The proximity effect of the A440 can be used to your advantage.
Brass & Woodwinds
The A440’s warm and detailed characteristics make it a great focus mic for brass and woodwinds. Soprano saxophone, trumpet and most high-pitched brass and woodwind instruments are known to have “edgier” or “brilliant” frequency characteristics. The A440’s smooth treble response on the back lobe is great at preserving these frequencies without aggravating the striking tonal qualities.
Depending on the instrument’s dynamic range, we recommend starting by positioning the A440 24-36 inches (60-90 cm) away from the source. For a focused sound, point the microphone on axis towards the bell or preferred tone holes.
If you are concerned about wind blasts, use a pop filter, or position the microphone slightly off axis.
Drums & Percussion
When recording drums, there are many techniques to capturing the sound of the kit. A good starting point is to use a pair of A440s above the kit as a spaced pair. Try positioning them a couple of feet above the drummer’s head with a few feet of space in between the two mics. Make sure to use a stand that can support the weight of an A440. Listen to the combined signals summed to mono to catch potential comb filtering that could be caused by out-of-phase signals. A quick technique that can help avoid phase problems is to keep an equal distance between the two overhead mics and the snare or kick drum.
Another popular technique to record drum overheads is to setup the mics in a Blumlein configuration (coincident pair at 90 degree angle) above the head of the drummer with each mic pointing in a different direction. This will give you a very wide image of the drums that sounds like you are in sitting center stage.
Both of these techniques also work well for recording the sound of the room. The closer that the A440 is positioned to the drummer, the more direct sound and less reverb will be captured by the mics.
Whether as an overhead configuration, or mono drum room, the A440s extended low end and smooth high end gives your drum sound that thickness, warmth and detail without unintended harshness. For mono drum room, start by postioning your A440 at head level 3 meters in front of the kit. Depending on size of the room and kit arrangement, you may want to position the A440 further away if you wish to capture more room ambience.
For more room tone, try pointing the null of the microphone directly at the drums so that the front and back side of the microphone will be positioned perpendicular to the drums. If done correctly, the sound waves of the drums will travel directly past the front and back side of the mic which will phase-cancel the direct sound of the drums, and capture only the indirect sound of the room. This can be very useful when trying to record the natural ambience of the room.