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Audio-Technica AT2020 review

In this review, I’ll be taking a look at Audio-Technica’s AT2020 medium-diaphragm condenser microphone. As far as budget options are concerned, this is one of the better choices you can make. So without further ado, let’s get into it.

Audio-Technica AT2020 condenser microphone review
Image: Higher Hz

Final verdict on the AT2020 4.0

For all things considered, the AT2020 is a fantastic budget condenser. While there are better microphones in the world, at just under $100, the AT2020 delivers a performance well beyond its price.

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Why you should trust me

I’ve worked with a diverse spectrum of gear over my decade spent in the field of audio production and engineering, both in the studio environments and on live productions.

Brandon Schock, author and contributor at Higher Hz

Working with names such as Shure, AKG, Neumann, and Sennheiser, among many others, has lent me nuanced insights into the practical application of audio equipment, and what value it provides users ranging from novice to seasoned professionals.

Contents

Use these jump links to navigate to the desired section of the review.

Polar pattern and frequency response 4.0

The AT2020 features a fixed cardioid pattern, with no switches or filters available. It has a 20 Hz – 20 kHz bandwidth, and has a surprisingly rich sound. It has a narrow dip around 70 Hz and a slight presence boost in the high end in the 5-15 kHz range.

Audio-Technica AT2020 polar pattern and frequency response
Image: Higher Hz

The AT2020 has a max SPL of 144 dB, so it’s well capable of handling louder sound sources such as drums and brass, with minimum distortion.

Vocals 4.5

The AT2020 is a fantastic choice for vocalists. While it may not cut through the mix as well as brighter microphones, like the MXL 990, it provides depth and a silky high end that can be quite favorable for many singers.

Audio-Technica AT2020 tested with microphone stand
Image: Higher Hz

Theoretically, this microphone could be used in live applications due to its high SPL level, although it wouldn’t be my first choice. It isn’t meant to be handheld, and although the mesh protecting the capsule is rather heavy, a pop filter is still more or less necessary.

So can it be used live? Technically, yes, but there are far more practical options.

Acoustic guitars 3.5

Placement is key here. After spending some time finding the best positioning for the AT2020, you can get some very usable acoustic guitar sounds out of this mic.

Guitar amps 4.2

The Audio-Technica AT2020’s depth and warm mid-range presence can make it quite useful for recording electric guitars.

Some time should be allotted to finding proper positioning, but once you find your placement, this microphone does a great job.

Bass amps 2.8

This wouldn’t be my first choice to record bass guitar, or anything that has prominent frequencies under 100 Hz. However, it can perhaps be used to add another layer of character in conjunction with a more suitable microphone.

Drums 4.0

With proper gain staging and mic placement, the AT2020 can hold its own surprisingly well when recording drums. Its high max SPL level of 144 dB can make it a great choice as an overhead, tom mic, over hi-hats, etc.

I might refrain from placing it inside of a kick drum, considering its roll-off around 20 Hz, but for $100, the AT2020 is respectably versatile.

Build quality 4.2

Weighing in at about 12 oz, the Audio-Technica AT2020 is a fairly sturdy mic. It’s chunky, and a heavy wire mesh protects the capsule inside.

Compared to other microphones

The AT2020 is still one of the best cheap condenser mics available. But before you settle on the AT2020, here are a few suggestions of other microphones that might be a good alternative to consider.

AT2020 vs AT2035

The AT2035 is the big brother of the AT2020. It has a slightly higher max SPL, but just about the same frequency response and character, albeit with a few additions. It features a 80 Hz roll-off switch as well as a 10 dB pad.

If it’s worth it to you, the AT2035 could be a great option if you have the money, but they perform roughly the same.

AT2020 vs Blue Yeti

The Blue Yeti is a microphone that isn’t particularly good at anything. Paired with being strictly a USB microphone, latency will always be an inevitable issue. I choose the AT2020.

AT2020 vs Hyperx Quadcast

The AT2020 is objectively the better-sounding microphone. Far more detailed, and a wider polar pattern make it the better option for serious musicians. The Quadcast is directly towards Twitch streamers or Discord users, although the AT2020 can probably do a better job of this anyway.

Who is the Audio-Technica AT2020 best suited for?

The AT2020 is best suited for any novice bedroom producers looking for a decent condenser microphone on a tight budget.

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