Audio Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone Review

Affordable and quality are two words often paired by marketing without a lot of care. The 2020 model from the lower-end of Audio Technica's line is one condenser mic that can honestly lay claim to both.

Priced comfortably around the hundred dollar region, it is a reasonable investment for a great caliber mic. Granted there are many higher-end models which Audio Technica themselves produce but the trickle-down technology that they have included in their entry-level beauty does nudge it in front of the competition.

It has a cardioid pick-up pattern that makes it perfectly suited to capturing your vocals. The polarity is designed to be most sensitive directly in front of it. The magnetic field curves out and around ensuring that nothing behind it is registered. This is why it is the most common microphone type for studio use.

It is very well-manufactured with some great design decisions. The grille has great durability and because it is quite often the part of a microphone that is most susceptible to damage it has been protected. It has a framework that sits on top of the grille which helps keep it safe from accidental knocks, taking the pressure off of the grille itself.

It employs neodymium magnets to create its pick-up patterns. The diaphragm is well-engineered with realistic, well-tuned frequency response. It is sensitive but not overly so, this allows it to withstand high sound pressure levels (up to 144 decibels). So if you like to belt out a huge soulful chorus it can handle the dynamics like a pro. It measures 0.63-inches and does a surprisingly good job, despite its smaller surface area.

The frequency response is a standard 20Hz-20kHz which keeps it adept at dealing with voice. The SPL handling and response also means it could be used to capture instruments should you choose. You can mount it in front of an amp without the fear that a powerful overdrive setting might cause the diaphragm any damage.

It capably responds to spoken word, as well as sung, it is dynamically balanced to pick-up on nuances. With the gain levels suitably adjusted it can deal with a whisper or death metal screams, although you might want a decent pop shield to combat plosive sounds.

Its self-noise is registered well below 20 decibels and if you use a clean up in your DAW you get pretty clear takes, free of background signal hum. It isn't impeccable but the signal to noise ratio is around 74 decibels. When compared directly with similar products, it outperforms the majority of condenser models that are priced in-line with it.

It has a traditional, standard XLR connection with a signal impedance of 100 ohms and comes with a stand mount attachment as regular stands are usually built for directional mics for live use. They also provide a zip-up leather storage pouch which you might want to upgrade to something hardier for long-term use.

Audio Technica At2020

Audio Technica At2020

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Summary

The AT2020, whilst being about as basic as it gets, is a sensible low-cost solution for your vocal recording needs. A welcome addition to any beginner, or low-budget home studio set-up. It has low background noise and can handle high SPL's. Being a condenser it will require phantom powering but most cheap plug and play audio interfaces capably provide this these days anyway.

It is a good value for money option, especially if cash is tight the design details give it a good concept that helps add to its durability without increasing production costs. It wipes the floor with all of the USB microphone models that have crept onto the market in recent years. It has low background self-noise and gives users easy access to recording their vocals with great definition and dynamic response.

It is very well-made and built by a trusted brand with a reputation that precedes them. Audio Technica provides the microphones for many of the large-scale televised sports broadcasts you can think of including the Olympics, the Commonwealth games, the Super Bowl, and the World Cup.

Pros

+ Cardioid polarity pick-up pattern.
+ Lightweight.
+ Strong reinforced grille.
+ Good diaphragm sensitivity.
+ Capably handles high SPL's
+ Low background noise levels.
+ Can be used for direct vocal capture or mounting in-front of a cabinet.
+ Authentic dynamic response which captures the nuances of a recording.
+ Competitively priced.

Cons

- Some background noise but this can be alleviated with a decent compressor, buying quality cables and identifying noise before you record with a gate.

Why We Like It

It is a sensibly priced microphone for a low-budget set-up. It has an airy sound and captures good clean vocal takes. It has a smooth, crisp and well-balanced dynamic response that is suitable for a wide range of genres as well as spoken words. So it is a good podcast option as well. If you want something with a larger diaphragm to try the AT2035, the AT2020 is an affordable mic with unbeatable value.

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