Aloha friend and Welcome!!
Before we get into the AT2020 vs. MXL 990 vs. MXL 770, grab a snack, sit back, and relax because…
You’ve come to the right place!!
What I will bring you in this review
Of each microphone:
- Sound Test (AT2020 only)
- Video Review
- Who this mic benefits?
- What you will need?
- Similarities & Differences
- Final Word
Now without further ado, let’s get rolling!
Audio Technica AT2020 (XLR version)
Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay! | Official Review: Here!
In The Box
Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Microphone (Black)
Stand Mount for 5/8″-27 Threaded Stands
5/8″-27 to 3/8″-16 Threaded Adapter
Limited 2-Year Manufacturer Warranty
- Microphone Type: Condenser
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Diaphragm Size: 0.63″ (16mm)
- Frequency Response: 20Hz-20kHz
- Max SPL: 144 dB. What is SPL?
- Output Impedance: 100 Ohms
- Signal-to-noise ratio: 20dB
- Color: Black
- Connector: XLR. What is XLR?
- Weight: 0.76 lbs.
- Included Accessories: Stand Mount, Microphone Pouch
- Manufacturer Part Number: AT2020
A good majority of the 1-star reviews that the AT2020 received on amazon were from people who had no idea what they were getting into prior to purchase.
This could explain the discrepancy in ratings from amazon compared to the other sites.
Guys, this isn’t a USB mic. It’s an XLR condenser mic that will only run off of 48v phantom power.
Know what you are buying before you buy it!
The AT2020 does really well with husky, deep male voices.
It’s well-built and durable and comes with a nice carrying pouch giving it added portability.
For the most part, it boasts a flat, neutral response. It also greatly benefits from some EQ’ing.
Adding a bit of EQ and compression can really make this mic sound amazing.
Know that above all, it is still an entry-level mic but proves to be extremely versatile.
You can record just about anything with it, and do it well! More on that a little later.
Check out my mega-awesome sound test!!
with Pop-Filter under a blanket:
with Pop-Filter, under a blanket, farther away:
- Bold and crisp sound. Better with darker sources than brighter ones.
- Extremely Versatile & can handle a wide variety of studio, as well as general applications.
- Very sensitive; picks up a lot.
- Very well-built and durable. Will last you a long time. Built like a tank.
- Great for small home studios and beginning musicians.
- Gives a nice flat response that can be EQ’d very easily.
- The storage bag is a bit flimsy and doesn’t have any padding. Some disagree, for example, the guy in the video below.
- Doesn’t come with XLR cables or a shock mount.
Check out the video review!
Subscribe to PVS’ channel!
Who this mic benefits?
I’ve seen this thing used for nearly everything:
- Acoustic instruments
- electric guitar
- spoken word
- twitch shooter commentary
- conference calls
What you will need?
Before you buy this mic or any mic that is XLR, you will need the following:
- 48v Phantom power via your audio interface, or some sort of mixer.
Here are a couple of options I recommend:
Focusrite Scarlett 2i2.
I owned the first-generation model in the past but had to sell it because it wasn’t compatible with Windows 10.
Don’t let that deter you from purchasing a 3rd generation unit.
These interfaces are a fantastic value and provide great bang for your buck. I don’t regret a single moment.
With over 41,000 ratings on amazon and a super high star mark, it’s a pretty easy purchase.
Universal Audio Volt 2.
This is the unit I currently have and I also highly recommend it.
It actually has 7dB more gain than the 2i2 (55 vs. 48) so you’ll have an easier time with some dynamic mics that need more juice (like an SM57 for example), but you also won’t be turning up the gain as much with a condenser.
You’ll also need:
I’ve had a plethora of stands over the years including a Boom Stand, A Desktop stand, and a Scissor Arm.
I highly recommend the Scissor arm as it’s so much more convenient and won’t annoy the crap out of you.
I’ve had this one since August of 2021 and love it.
Desktop stands are much too bulky and heavy, and they’re hard to get in a good spot.
Boom Stands are okay, but if your mic is heavy get ready to pull your hair out when it drifts around everywhere.
Boom stands are notorious for this issue so I’d say definitely make sure you invest in a super heavy-duty one if you’re to go this route.
The AT2020 is a good starter investment because it comes from a reputable brand with a long line of great mics.
It’s also a great workhorse mic that excels with many different applications.
It’s well built and durable, and most of the complaints came from people who didn’t know USB from XLR.
Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check B&H! | Check eBay!
In The Box
MXL 990 Large-Diaphragm Cardioid Condenser Microphone (Champagne)
Mic Stand Adapter
Limited 1-Year Manufacturer Warranty
Registration Extension: 1-Year (US Only)
- Microphone Type: Small diaphragm condenser. Large diaphragm vs. small diaphragm.
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Diaphragm Size: 0.67″ (17.1mm)
- Frequency Response: 30Hz-20kHz
- Max SPL: 130 dB
- Output Impedance: 200 Ohms
- Signal-to-noise ratio: 80dB
- Color: Beige/Black
- Connector: XLR
- Weight: 1.2 lbs.
- Included Accessories: Shock-mount.
So I’ve read through every single amazon review and can give you a nice clear concise summary of what this bad boy is all about.
It’s a condenser microphone and seems to be at its best in voice-over-type situations.
One of the defining characteristics of the 990 is that it has a warm, bassy undertone.
Some call it “muddy”, but personally I really enjoy that type of sound. It’s got a radio quality to it.
It has also been known to do extremely well in live situations (choir, etc.) as well as a simple starter home recording studio.
If you take away one thing from this review, it should be this: As an entry-level mic, this is amazing.
If you’ve been stuck using your computer speakers, the 990 will sound like music to your ears. However, as you grow and develop your equipment and sound, its flaws and shortcomings will be made apparent.
One other important thing to keep in mind is that it won’t necessarily sound as good without some EQ.
This was very common among-st reviewers who needed it for vocals and applies in most recording situations.
As a condenser, it is very sensitive and picks up a lot of sounds. Some common techniques I came across, are pretty standard:
- EQ (equalization)
- A Noise Gate (to block out extraneous sounds, ambient noise, etc.)
- A properly treated room. This can mean using blankets, acoustic studio foam, or anything that will deaden the sound and block out noise. Check out my article on Acoustic Sound Treatment for some tips on setting up your space!
All that said, this baby will serve as your go-to mic in a bind, and makes a more than serviceable backup if you’re a bit more advanced.
If you’re just starting out, you will definitely want to consider it!
- Perfect for beginners. Entry-level heaven.
- Good for vocals.
- Well made and durable.
- Rich tone, and a nice bassy undertone. Gives your vocals a pleasant warm quality. Can enhance your voice.
- Clear and crisp sound, pristine.
- Longevity. The mic will last you a good while before you decide to upgrade.
- Picks up a lot of nuances, and subtle sounds in your voice.
- Smooth radio sound, great for speech. People loved the fact that it makes you sound like you’re on NPR or something.
- Nice durable case with foam padding. A professional-looking piece.
- Muddy. A lot of people used this term in their review. I counted 10 (at the time of this review). Depends on your taste and opinion I think.
- Shock-mount. Some liked it, others did not. The outer ring on it may wear out.
- One guy had an issue with the cable and said it needed to be wiggled at times to keep it working. If you have this problem, just send it back and the new cable will be fine.
- Not as good for instruments or amps. Some said otherwise, but the low end starts at 30 Hz. It’s better to start off with 20 Hz for instruments.
- Doesn’t record loud very well. If this is the case, you may consider standing a bit farther away and lowering the gain on your interface/mixer. There are solutions to most of the 990’s problems. You just may have to experiment a bit.
Credit to Trevor!
Who this mic benefits?
I’ve seen it endorsed for all of the following, but keep in mind that it’s at its best in a voice-over-type environment. Some examples:
- Live streaming/YouTube
- Video math lessons
- google hangouts calls
- Internet radio hosting/radio broadcasting
- Vocals. I found that you most likely will want to EQ it for vocals. For just speech, it does fine without.
- Hip-hop vocals
- Acoustic Guitar
That said, the majority of people liked it for voice-over, with vocals coming in second, and instruments third.
It will also do quite nicely in a live setting.
What you will need?
This is a cardioid condenser mic (What is a cardioid capsule?), so you will need the following:
48v Phantom power
The same audio interface options mentioned above (2i2/Volt 2) apply here as well.
These will run from your mic into the interface or mixer.
Your interface basically converts the analog signal into digital, so your computer (and ultimately you) can make sense of the numbers.
Luckily for you, the 990 comes with one!
These basically protect the diaphragm inside of your mic from getting contaminated by your spit and other germs.
It also cuts down on the plosives, or consonants in your speech that make the Esses, and P’s sound harsh.
Investing in a good one is wise.
I had the Samson PS01 since 2007 but the one linked earlier gets better reviews.
A sequencing program.
Can’t use a mic without a program to record the vocals with!
I use both Reaper and Audacity.
Audacity is free and Reaper allows you to use it 60 times (not to be confused with days) before they require a one-time $60 payment.
I’d say it’s worth the investment and then some.
It’s also really nice of them to give a trial period NOT based on days but rather, on times used.
This means that a “use” only occurs when you open and close the program.
In addition to that,
it’s one of the most powerful programs out there and super fun to use and learn with.
The MXL 990 is the perfect starter microphone if you desire to get your feet wet with audio interfaces and more professional setups.
- Related: What does an audio interface do?
It’s at its best in a voice-over-type environment and will give your voice a nice warmth and full body.
It also does well with vocals and some recording applications, but it’s at its best from a strictly speech standpoint.
Similarities & Differences
- Both benefit from some EQ.
- Both are cardioid condenser mics that require 48v phantom power.
- The MXL 990 is considered a small-diaphragm condenser, while the AT2020 is a large diaphragm. Large diaphragm vs. small diaphragm.
- SPL. The 990 has a lower SPL (130), vs. 144 for the AT2020. What is SPL?
If we’re talking about actual sound differences, the mics are pretty similar but the AT2020 is a bit more uneven in its response.
It has a bit of a mid-bass cut around 100Hz while the MXL 990 is flatter and definitely more “predictable” if you will.
It also places a bit of extra emphasis on the air regions around approximately 5kHz – 9kHz.
This ensures your vocals and instruments will automatically get a sparkle boost without you having to EQ as much in post-processing.
Price: Check Amazon! | Check Sweetwater! | Check eBay!
In The Box
MXL 770 Multipurpose Cardioid Condenser Microphone (Black)
Rugged Carrying Case
Limited 1-Year Manufacturer Warranty
Type: Condenser pressure gradient mic with large 22 mm. diaphragm
Frequency Range: 30Hz-20kHz
Polar Pattern: Cardioid. What is a cardioid capsule?
Impedance: 200 Ohms
S/N Ratio: 80dB (Ref. 1Pa A-weighted)
Equivalent Noise Level: 18dB (A-weighted IEC 268-4)
Maximum SPL for 0.5% THD: 134dB
High Pass Filter: 6dB/octave, 150HZ
Attenuator Switch: 0/-10dB
Power Requirements: Phantom Power 48V +/-4V
Size: 60mm x 154mm
Metal Finish: Black/Gold
The 770 is pretty similar to the 990 but it has a more pronounced bump in the treble to the tune of around 9dB.
The 990’s boost by contrast is only around 4 and comes across a bit more natural while still giving you that sparkle and air.
If I had to choose, I would go with the MXL990 even though I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the AT2020.
The 990 is a more reliable workhorse mic and you’re not going to be fiddling with EQ nearly as much as you will with an AT2020.
Its frequency response is better, flatter, and has just the right amount of emphasis placed on the areas that need it most.
To me, the 990 is a slam dunk purchase for those just starting out and I plan on investing in one for my own projects very soon.
Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this article on the AT2020 vs. MXL 990 vs. MXL 770.
Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please let me know down below or Contact me!!
Are you convinced the 990 is the way to go? What do you think about the Yeti? I would love to hear from you.
Until next time…
All the best and God bless,
Be sure to check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!
Great site. Valuable and Accurate information. Gary Card C.E.T.
Thanks man! Not sure if this was a duplicate comment but I very much appreciate you stopping by 🙂
I thought the Small Diameter Condensor could handle more SPL (Large diaphragm vs. small diaphragm ) but you write:
The MXL 990 is considered a small diaphragm condenser, while the AT2020 is a large diaphragm. The AT2020 can handle a higher SPL (Sound pressure level), which explains why it is more versatile in many different applications. The 990 by contrast has a lower SPL, and does much better as strictly a voice-over mic. Is this in Error?
Yeah that was a typo. I meant to say the 990 as the small diaphragm can handle higher SPL. Honest mistake. Thank you so much for pointing that out! I will fix it immediately.
Kalau anda yang memilih, anda suka yang mana ?
Hai lelaki! Saya pasti akan menggunakan AT2020. Mikrofon hebat !!
According to specs, AT2020 has a 144 dB SPL, and 990 has a 130 dB SPL.
Thanks for that! Made a typo at the end there but had the specs right in the beginning lol.
Both have diaphragms smaller than 1″, so they are both small diaphragm condensers (990 is just 1 millimeter larger)
I looked this up out of curiosity and Sweetwater says Medium but it probably doesn’t matter all that much https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/AT2020–audio-technica-at2020-cardioid-condenser-microphone