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Audio Technica AT2020 Review & Setup

by Stuart Charles Black
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Greetings mate and Welcome aboard. Stuart Charles here, HomeStudioBasics.com helping YOU make sound decisions leading to a beautiful audio experience that will make you fall in love with music (NOT gear), all over again, so…

In this upcoming review of the AT2020 microphone, our discussion will primarily focus on its key features, performance, and suitability for various applications.

The review aims to provide a comprehensive analysis of the microphone’s sound quality, durability, design, and any standout functionalities.

Following the review, detailed instructions on setting up the AT2020 will be provided, covering essential steps such as connecting the microphone to compatible devices, adjusting settings for optimal performance, and troubleshooting common setup issues.

This sequential approach aims to offer readers a holistic understanding of the AT2020, combining a thorough evaluation with practical guidance for a seamless setup experience.

By the end of this article, you will know definitively whether or not the AT2020 is worth a purchase, and if it’s not, I’ll guide you in the direction of something that is.

Deal? Cool.

Let’s dive in!

Audio Technica AT2020 (XLR version)

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Audio Technica AT2020 Review

Specifications

Introduction

The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a widely acclaimed entry-level condenser microphone known for its exceptional audio performance and versatility.

Designed for professional and home studio use, this cardioid microphone boasts a wide frequency response and a high SPL handling capability, enabling it to capture clear and detailed sound across various recording scenarios.

Build Quality

The build quality of the AT2020 is notable for its durability and attention to detail.

Encased in a sturdy metal chassis, the microphone exudes a sense of reliability and resilience, capable of withstanding the rigors of regular studio use.

Its robust construction ensures longevity, making it a dependable choice for professionals and enthusiasts alike.

It features a sleek and simple design, with carefully crafted components that contribute to its solid build.

Additionally, its grille and body are well-constructed to protect the sensitive internal components while allowing for optimal sound capture.

Features

The AT2020 excels in its ability to reject background noise, making it a reliable choice for capturing clear audio in less-than-ideal environments.

Despite residing in close proximity to a bustling and noisy highway, I find that the microphone demonstrates remarkable proficiency in isolating the intended sound source – without acoustic sound treatment of any kind.

The AT2020’s cardioid polar pattern plays a pivotal role in this feat, as it primarily captures sound from the front while effectively minimizing pickup from the sides and rear.

This characteristic enables the microphone to focus on the desired audio, such as your voice, while significantly attenuating ambient noise, including traffic from nearby highways.

Its adeptness at isolating the primary sound source ensures that recordings remain largely unaffected by external disturbances, highlighting the microphone’s impressive capability to maintain clarity and minimize unwanted background noise.

Sound

Given its high-ish self-noise of 20dBA and moderate sensitivity of 14.1mW/Pa), the AT2020 is best suited for loud sources.

In other words, you’ll mostly be using this as a vocal mic of some sort – whether that be for rapping, spoken word, podcasting, etc.

As far as frequency response, the AT2020 presents a predominantly neutral sound profile with a slight recession in the bass frequencies, notably from around 20Hz to 100Hz.

This characteristic subtly attenuates the lower end, offering a controlled representation of audio without overwhelming bass emphasis.

The microphone’s overall frequency response leans towards crispness and clarity, allowing for precise audio capture across a wide range of frequencies.

Additionally, users often appreciate a touch of radio broadcast warmth embedded in the AT2020’s sound signature.

This touch of warmth introduces a pleasing tonal quality that many find suitable and complementary to various recording needs, adding a subtle richness to vocal and instrumental recordings while maintaining a generally neutral and accurate portrayal of sound.

Video Review + Mic Shootout

Comparing the C01, AT2020, and Blue Yeti! Don’t forget to like, comment, and subscribe to my growing channel. Any support is much appreciated! 🙂

Stu’s Sound Test with Pop-Filter:

with Pop-Filter under a blanket:

with Pop-Filter, under a blanket, farther away:

Here’s a rap I recorded with the AT2020 that I use on my YouTube videos:

Who benefits?

I’ve seen this thing used for nearly everything, but bold indicates what I personally utilized the AT2020 for.

  • Acoustic instruments
  • Overheads
  • Amps
  • Brass
  • Vocals
  • Rap vocals
  • Electric guitar
  • Drums
  • Banjo
  • Violin
  • Pod-casting/voice-over/tutorials
  • Spoken word
  • Singing
  • YouTube
  • Twitch shooter commentary
  • Narration
  • Skype
  • Conference calls

What you will need?

This mic requires:

  • 48v phantom power via your audio interface, mixer, or preamp. I would just go with an interface like the Universal Audio Volt 2.
  • XLR cable(s).
  • A Mic stand. I used to own a Pro-Line boom stand, and though it was Rock-solid and heavy like Thanksgiving at Grandma’s, I decided to ultimately sell it and instead invest in a Scissor Arm – which is much more convenient and streamlined.
  • A shock-mount. Optional, but helps out in minimizing the vibration that travels from the mic stand to the diaphragm.

Thoughts from Stu’s notepad

  • The AT2020 doesn’t have any onboard features like a dB pad or low-cut filter, etc. It’s bare-bones Jones baby!
  • A majority of the negative reviews (specifically the 1-star) failed to recognize that this mic is NOT a plug-and-play USB. It’s an XLR condenser microphone that requires 48v phantom power. The difference between a USB microphone and an XLR microphone. Please keep this in mind before purchasing!
  • Does well with darker sources, as well as deep, husky male voices.

Closing Thoughts

While the Audio-Technica AT2020 stands as a commendable choice for a microphone within its price range, the MXL 990 emerges as a compelling alternative offering superior value for several reasons.

The MXL 990’s more neutral and consistent tonality surpasses the AT2020, delivering a predictably balanced sound profile across frequencies.

Its overall clarity and crispness, coupled with a lack of jaggedness in the treble range, contribute to a more refined and detailed audio reproduction with plenty of air and presence in the upper regions.

While the AT2020 isn’t deficient per se, the 990 outshines it in terms of tonal quality and overall performance.

As someone who previously owned the AT2020 and made the switch to the MXL 990, the decision to opt for the 990 proved to be a substantial upgrade without looking back.

The 990’s superior tonality, clarity, and predictability make it the preferred choice for those seeking exceptional value and performance within this price bracket.

Learn More:

 

Whether you bought my recommendation or went with the AT2020, the following process is essentially the same for most entry-level condenser microphones.

How To Set Up The Audio Technica AT2020?

This guide assumes you are brand new to XLR mic setups.

Step 1

Buy an Audio Interface or Mixer

I recommend the Universal Audio Volt 2, a fantastic overall product with excellent preamps and some nifty add-ons.

For the XLR version, you will need some sort of Audio Interface, Mixer, etc. to connect to.

Why?

Because the AT2020/MXL 990 requires 48V phantom power. This essentially boosts the microphone to line level so you’re able to hear what’s going on.

For that, we’ll need an Audio Interface.

Think of the Interface as the intermediary between you and your recordings.

The Interface acts as the ADC (or Analog to Digital Converter).

As soon as you press record and start singing into the mic, your interface processes the information and converts it into a language that it can understand.

This is called binary language and manifests in the form of 1s and 0s.

The interface can also be referred to as a DAC (or Digital to Analog converter).

The same applies as above, only the situation is reversed. A DAC converts digital information into analog so YOU can hear it through your speakers, headphones, etc.


Step 2

Plug the interface into your PC via USB

Universal Audio Volt 2 Review

Make sure that the interface you choose is compatible with your PC/OS. The Volt 2 is compatible with most.


Step 3

Use an XLR cable from the microphone into the front of the Interface.

Universal Audio’s Volt 2 is an excellent entry level interface.

We’re almost ready to go.

Just plug in an XLR cable from the interface to the mic and turn on phantom power.

It will either be a switch or a button.

Universal Audio Volt 2 Review


Step 4

Fire up Audacity and use the drop-down to find your source.

You can also use a program like FL Studio to record vocals.

If you’re using Audacity, just go to Audio Setup > Recording Device > and select Volt 2 (or whatever interface you’re using)

Now just press record and start talking!

Gain

Another thing to keep in mind is gain.

With the AT2020 and Volt 2, you won’t need that much. Just play around until you find the right level.

I’ve used anywhere from 75 – 95% at any given time. It really just depends, and I’m not talking about Grandpa diapers.

The most important thing is to avoid clipping at all costs.

The Volt 2 has 2 LEDs above the volume pot for easy identification.

What Is Clipping In Audio?

Start talking into the mic and observe the light. Does it turn green and stay green with some occasional flashes of yellow?

You’re good to go.

If there are any flashes of red, it means you’re clipping, and you’ll obviously want to lower the gain knob until you find the sweet spot.


Step 5

Connect your interface to studio monitors

If you plan on listening to your mixes on studio monitors, you’ll need a set of balanced TRS to XLR cables (make sure to get 2, one for each monitor).

The TRS ends plug into the back of the Volt 2, and the XLR ends plug into each monitor.

Most monitors now have both TRS and XLR options, but always make sure before purchase!

I previously owned the JBL LSR305s and now I have a set of Yamaha HS7s.

The only thing left to do is plug both monitors into wall power and make sure your audio output settings are on “Volt 2” (or whatever interface you’re using).

The cool thing about the Volt 2 is that you can simultaneously monitor on headphones or monitors.

Just turn the volume down on the big knob, plug the headphones in, and turn the volume up on the smaller knob.

Universal Audio Volt 2 Review

Now you should be good to go!

When recording, always play around with the distance from the mic, gain on the interface, as well as how loud or soft you’re speaking/singing.

All of these things can have a monumental effect on the sound and what the mic itself prefers – due to its unique design, etc.

Well, that’s about it for today my friend! I hope you’ve enjoyed this Audio Technica AT2020 Setup & Review, and came away with some valuable insight.

Questions? Comments? Requests? Did I miss the mark on something? Please contact me!!

If you love what I do here and want to support the blog and channel in a more personal way, check me out on Patreon and discover all the value I have to offer you.

How did I do? Are you less confused about what you need to get set up? I would love to hear from you. Until next time…

All the best and God bless,

 

 

-Stu

[Xtr@Ba$eHitZ]

Be sure to check out my Reviews and Resources page for more helpful and informative articles!

Audio Technica AT2020

4.9

Sound

4.8/5

Build

5.0/5

Ease of Use

5.0/5

Pros

  • Crisp, even sound
  • Durable
  • Versatile
  • Rejects background noise

Cons

  • Storage bag flimsy, no padding

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2 comments

Chryssa December 29, 2023 - 9:47 pm

I just set up my AT2020 and the sound is very tinny, whether I record into iMovie or QuickTime. Playback sounds tinny on every device I’ve tested. It’s like the mic isn’t picking up any mid or bass tones. My voice sounds so much richer recording straight into Voice Memos on my iPhone 11. What am I missing? I feel like there must be a switch or setting somewhere, but the mic didn’t come with any instructions and I haven’t been able to figure it out.

Reply
Stuart Charles Black January 2, 2024 - 9:44 pm

Chryssa,

Thank you for the comment! I assume you’re using the USB version? You honestly may have just gotten a lemon. It happens. But let me know what you’re working with.

-Stu

Reply

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