Today, we’re going to be taking a look at the Audio Technica AT2020 USB – a mic that may lack the features of some of its competitors but more than makes up for in audio quality. Not to mention it comes in at only $149.00!
The Features of the AT2020 USB
For those of you a bit unfamiliar with Audio Technica’s line of microphones, the company’s collection already includes a cardio-pattern studio condenser known as the At2020 (available at $99.00). And as you can probably already guess, the model we’re looking at today is simply its USB counterpart. Besides its ability to directly connect to a computer, the AT2020 USB also differs from its corresponding studio version with the addition of a desk-based tripod – a great addition for not just home studio recording but for podcasting and voice over for movie projects as well. Still, you can always detach it from its tripod clip if you would rather use a traditional mic stand. The tripod lightly tilts the mic upwards which is useful as this is a side-address design and quality drops considerably if you don't record directly into the microphone at the right angle.
Once connected to a computer, the AT2020 USB dons a blue LED but unlike some of its competitors, this mic is purely an ‘input’ unit with no means for headphone monitoring the output on the mic’s body itself. Instead, you’ll have to go a more traditional route and use an audio interface or your computers headphone port. Not a deal breaker but a slight disappointment seeing as how this feature is becoming more and more common on USB mics. The AT2020 USB also lacks gain control so you’ll have to rely on your computer’s input controls to adjust recording levels.
Seeing as how this is a USB mic, I first tried a little bit of home made spoken-word ‘podcasting’ – without the ‘casting’ part anyway – and was pleasantly surprised with the up-front sound of the recording. It also retained a good amount of depth. Like many other mics, there’s a certain sweet-spot on the AT2020 which enhances the upper mids and lower treble frequencies without any of that unpleasant lift, giving it a nice ‘studio gloss’ feel. And with a frequency response of 20Hz to 16kHz, this mic definitely has more than enough range. Next up were some traditional vocals which came out equally inspiring, making great use of the microphone’s tonal consistency across a wide dynamic range – easily one of the AT2020 USB’s best qualities. I then tried out some acoustic guitar recording and was happy with the amount of body sound in particular.
Since the side-address design of the AT2020 lends itself toward a directional approach, you can place the microphone pretty close when recording larger sounds. While it won’t give you a wide sonic picture, this mic yields a pleasantly low amount of noise and is focused and accurate. When it comes to its intended purpose of providing an easy to use means of high-quality home audio recording for musicians and podcasters alike, the AT2020 USB is a success.
Whaterver features the AT2020 USB may lack, it makes up for in performance and audio quality. It might not have a mute switch or a headphone output for live playback, but it does have a permanently polarized condenser fixed to the back plate which allows for a thinner diaphragm in the front, meaning ultra-responsiveness that can even pick up overtones. All in all, if outstanding audio quality is your main requirement in a USB microphone, the AT2020 fits the bill nicely.