AUDIO-TECHNICA AT2020 MICROPHONE REVIEW
The Audio Technica AT2020 microphone has a big reputation amongst the entry-level microphones. In recognition of how well it performs, it is known as a ‘workhorse’. It has many good features in the price point.
Firstly it works very well as a vocal microphone. It is able to really reproduce all the subtle changes in voice applications. Because of its attention to acoustic detail, it is also perfect for recording acoustic guitars and other acoustic instruments.
As a starter studio mic, its uses are wide-ranging, and as a live vocal or instrument mic, it does the job. But it not only handles the gentler stuff requiring some recording finesse, but it also has a bad boy side. Put it in front of a guitar cabinet to let it get to grips with a heavily overdriven guitar.
The Audio-Technica 2020 is built like a tank. It is a compact size at 9.6 inches long by 2.6 inches and weighs around 0.7 kgs. The cast metal is quite thick and chunky, and a tough wire mesh protects and screens the capsule. A secondary layer of finer mesh helps reduce popping but, as always, you should still use a proper external pop shield when recording vocals.
The AT2020 is a cardioid polar pattern condenser microphone with no switches for pads or filters. The Audio-Technica 2020 has a low-mass’ side-address diaphragm. This will ensure that it rejects any off-axis sound. And the low-mass design of the diaphragm improves the transient response. This is vital for quality recordings is it allows sudden changes in levels to be faithfully reproduced.
The casing contains a 16mm-diameter back-electret capsule, which is slightly smaller than the usual one-inch-diameter capsules adopted by most microphone designs of this type This model offers plenty of bass extension, with a full 20Hz-20kHz bandwidth with only a slight dip centered around 70Hz and a very gentle presence hump between 5kHz and 15kHz.
The open-circuit sensitivity of the mic is 14.1mV/Pa, which is comparable with other studio vocal mics, though the quoted noise figure is just slightly on the high side of average at 20dB. The SPL of the AT2020 is 144dB at 1kHz for 1% THD, means that it can record louder signals with a minimum level of distortion. This equates to a dynamic range of 124dB at 1kHz and maximum SPL. Phantom power is required, and there are no battery options.
Despite its low cost, this mic actually delivers a very mature, believable sound both on vocals and on instruments. As a vocal mic, it displays the kind of lower mid-range warmth that flatters most singers, and combines this with a very subtle presence peak that adds ‘air’ and clarity without erring on the side of sibilance or harshness. Because the mic doesn’t hype the character of the original sound too much, it’s more likely to work well with a wide range of singers.
Although the noise figure isn’t brilliant by today’s standards, noise isn’t an issue when close-miking voices or instruments. I don’t for a moment imagine that Audio-Technica would recommend this mic for recording classical instruments from several meters away, but you might still get away with it if the performance is reasonably loud.
Tested on acoustic guitar, the mic immediately gave a well-balanced sound, and it was very easy to find a sweet spot where the acoustic sound of the guitar resembled the miked sound. There’s plenty of depth and clarity, but without that scratchy honkiness that some mics seem to lean towards. The off-axis characteristics of this mic is quite impressive, with its exceptionally good rear-axis rejection and good rejection of sounds arriving from 90 degrees off axis.
- Clear defined sound.
- Extremely versatile and can be used for just about anything.
- Excellent Transient Response.
- Low Mass Diaphragm.
- Noise Level slightly higher than average
- Only features a cardioid polar pattern.
As a low-cost, general-purpose capacitor microphone, the AT2020 is hard to fault other than on account of its noise level. The well-balanced sound this microphone produced, both on voice and on acoustic guitar is quite remarkable.
The AT2020 is built to the same standard as Audio-Technica’s more up-market microphones. For some applications in turns in better results than microphones costing several times its price.
The Audio-Technica 2020 is quite simply one of the best microphones you can buy at its level and price.