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Electro-Voice RE20 review: A true workhorse

In this review, I’ll be looking at the Electro-Voice RE20 dynamic microphone.

Debuting in 1969, the RE20 initially became a favorite amongst radio broadcasters due to its clarity and immunity to proximity effect. Since then, it slowly became known as one of the most useful microphones a studio engineer could own.

Electro-Voice RE20 microphone closeup
Close-up look at the RE20 microphone | Image: Electro-Voice

Final verdict on the Electro-Voice RE20 5.0

For what it is, there are very few microphones that compare to the RE20. Its versatility in the studio and clarity of performance make it one of the most practical dynamic microphones that money can buy.

No, it won’t be ideal for every application, but for a dynamic microphone it is worth its weight in gold.

What I like

  • Versatile.
  • Honest and flat frequency response.
  • Quite affordable.

What I don’t like

  • Nothing, for what it is.
See current price at: SweetwaterAmazon

Why you should trust me

Brandon Schock, writer at Higher Hz

I’ve worked with a wide range of microphones over my decade in the field of audio production and engineering, both in studio environments and on live productions.

Working with names such as Shure, AKG, Neumann, and Electro-Voice, among many others, has lent me nuanced insights into the practical application of microphones and other equipment and what value they provide users ranging from novice to seasoned professionals.


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

Polar pattern and frequency response

The Electro-Voice RE20 is a dynamic microphone with a cardioid polar pattern and a frequency response of 45 Hz – 18 kHz.

Its frequency response is fairly flat and neutral, and boasts a reliably smooth and in-your-face performance. While not necessarily ruler-flat, its performance is consistent from its highs all the way down to its cutoff at 45 Hz.

What’s more, is the Variable-D technology used in the RE20’s design, which makes it virtually unphased by proximity effect and coloration issues when positioned off-axis.

This helped it become a favorite amongst radio broadcasters, as you can get up-close and personal (lips on the grille) and still record with a great deal of clarity.

Vocals 5.0

The Electro-Voice RE20 is an absolutely incredible microphone when it comes to recording vocalists.

Its immunity to proximity effect, as well as its remarkably flat frequency response, make it a great microphone for nearly any singer, especially for vocalists who don’t have the best mic technique.

Electro-Voice RE20 used for capturing female vocals
Capturing female vocals with RE20 | Image: Electro-Voice

What’s more, is that the microphone takes EQ like nobody’s business. It might not give you the immediate studio magic that a condenser microphone might have, but the results will absolutely be usable and honest.

As far as the live performance is concerned, the RE20 has great off-axis rejection as well as virtually no proximity effect, meaning that you can get great takes from live settings with minimal bleed and coloration.

Acoustic guitars 2.5

There are far better options for recording acoustics than the RE20, although it could feasibly work in a pinch.

Transients are a vital part of a steel-string guitar’s sound, and require a fairly fast response out of a microphone in order to capture them accurately. In general, dynamic microphones have a slower response which doesn’t bode well for strummed acoustics.

The RE20 won’t necessarily sound terrible, but it will soften and round the overall sound which isn’t ideal.

Best to go with a condenser or a ribbon microphone, which will bring more sensitivity to the performance, as well as clearer transients.

Guitar amps 4.0

While this might not be my first choice when it comes to recording electrics, it can work particularly well if you’re trying to gain some weight and bottom-end chunk out of distorted power chords or rhythm guitar parts.

The Electro-Voice RE20 also has a high-pass filter that can really help cut out any unnecessary frequencies in your guitar’s bottom end.

Bass amps 5.0

The RE20 cuts off at around 45 Hz, where a low E string on a bass guitar sits around 41 Hz. The difference is negligible, however, and the slight roll-off is incredibly beneficial when it comes to getting a bass to sit in a mix.

RE20 microphone used in recording bass amp
RE20 used on bass cabinet | Image: Joseph Patrick Moore

The microphone also has a great mid-range performance as well, which can really help a bass cut through the noise.

Its immunity to proximity effect also means you can push it right into the mesh of your bass cabinet and not have to worry about losing any clarity in your performance.

Drums 5.0

This RE20 is a great microphone for recording drums, particularly when it comes to recording the kick drum.

For most cases, the main objective when recording a kick is to capture both the full weight of the low-end thump, as well as the snap of the batter head. The RE20 excels in both camps, due to its extremely flat and level-headed response.

Electro-Voice RE20 mic used on a bass drum
RE20 used on a kick drum | Image: Electro-Voice

Also, the fact that it doesn’t get bogged down by proximity effect means that the performance will be detailed and honest rather than muddy and unusable.

Build quality 5.0

Not only is the RE20 a great workhorse in the recording studio, it can also double as a hammer in case you need to put up some shelves or acoustic treatment in your studio.

Joking aside, the RE20 is a bit of a behemoth. It is one of the heavier microphones you can have on deck, and will most likely require a bougie mic stand which will be strong enough to keep it from slowly falling out of position.

The all-metal construction should also diffuse any anxieties about potentially breaking it from any accidental drops.

Compared to other microphones

Here are a few alternatives to consider in comparison to the Electro-Voice RE20.

Electro-Voice RE20 vs Shure SM7B

The RE20 has no proximity effect while the SM7B does, which will make the SM7B sound a bit warmer as opposed to the clarity of the RE20. The RE20’s output runs a lot hotter, so it will require less gain out of your preamp.

The RE20 also has a slight boost around 8 kHz, whereas the SM7B has a dip, which may make the RE20 sound a bit more sibilant on certain vocalists. The RE20 also has better off-axis rejection and is the more versatile microphone out of these two.

So, if you want a clean, versatile workhorse, get the RE20. If you just want to record some warm vocals, the SM7B is probably your better option.

Electro-Voice RE20 vs Shure SM57

The SM57 is an equally worthwhile investment when it comes to dynamic microphones. However, the RE20 still outperforms it in terms of versatility.

That being said, the SM57 is so inexpensive that you should aim to have both in your arsenal.

Electro-Voice RE20 vs Sennheiser MD 421-II

The Sennheiser MD 421-II is the flipside comparison from the SM7B, as the RE20 is much warmer than the Sennheiser.

Again the RE20 is a bit more versatile than the MD 421-II, as it works equally well on kick drums, bass, guitar cabinets, and vocals. The MD 421-II is better with guitar amps and toms.

Who is the Electro-Voice RE20 best suited for?

The RE20 is a great choice for any professional looking for a solid studio workhorse. Its versatility, clarity, and durability make it one of the most useful microphones that anybody could have.

See current price at: SweetwaterAmazon

Recent updates

  • April 29, 2024: I’ve updated the text for clarity and made some minor improvements to the structure. I’ve also added quick jump links for easier navigation.
  • March 22, 2023: I published the original microphone review based on my experience using it in various applications.