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Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Review

Audio-Technica AT2020 Cardioid Condenser Review

by 2016/03/03


Product Name

Audio-Technica AT2020


• Clear sound reproduction
• Good value for money
• Solid construction
• Fairly flat response


• No shock mount
• Somewhat high self-noise

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If you want a simple, no-frills design with a warm and reasonably flat reproduction, you will like the AT2020. It's not everyone's cup of tea but it produces good results for the price.

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The Audio-Technica AT2020 is a versatile and affordable cardioid condenser microphone. It has the appearance of a large diaphragm condenser but its 16mm back-electret capsule means it is actually a medium diaphragm microphone. The AT2020 has a very simple design and feature set. There’s no pads or filters and it ships only with a pouch and a pivoting, threaded stand mount. Most users will probably want to pick up a shock mount to replace the included stand mount. The mic has a long-running production history and continues to appeal to budget-conscious buyers to this day. The success of the AT2020 inspired Audio-Technica to release the pricier AT2035 and AT2050 models. The AT2035 adds a low cut, pad and the AT2050 features multiple pick-up patterns, among other additions. See our review of the AT2035 here.

Audio-Technica AT2020 offers fairly flat response

Audio-Technica AT2020 review

The mounted AT2020 XLR.

The side-address condenser has a broad 20Hz-20kHz frequency response, which puts it on par with an average large diaphragm condenser. The mic has a fairly flat response, although it does have a dip in the low end at around 70Hz and a slight presence peak between 5kHz and 15kHz. The mic has a full, warm sound that provides presence without harshness. This makes it suitable for both male and female vocals, as well as acoustic instruments. The proximity effect is minimal for the microphone. It’s a nice choice if you are concerned about your vocalist sounding boomy. The mic doesn’t have any particular issues with sibilance either. The mic is often picked up to record acoustic guitars and it performs well on the task. The price means the mic appeals to those who want to get a stereo pair on a budget. It can be used as overheads for a drum recording in this format.

High SPL rating for AT2020

Audio-Technica AT2020 AT2035

The AT2020 (left) and the AT2035 (right).

The Audio-Technica AT2020 has a maximum SPL rating of 144 dB, which means it should easily handle most sources. If SPL is a particular area of concern, you may wish to look elsewhere in the Audio-Technica line. The AT2035 has a higher SPL rating of 148dB and also has a pad which can be engaged for another 10dB. The AT2020 has a dynamic range of 124 dB, 1 kHz at Max SPL. It has a signal to noise ratio of 74 dB, 1 kHz at 1 Pa and a self-noise of 20 dB SPL. This is somewhat on the high side. It’s still suitable for acoustic instruments but if low self-noise is a particular concern for your intended applications, this is not the mic for you.

Audio-Technica AT2020 side

A side view of the AT2020.

The dimensions of the mic are 6.38″ (162.0 mm) length, 2.05″ (52.0 mm) diameter and the weight is 12.1 oz (345 g). It’s therefore compact and not overly heavy. It has a solid cast metal construction and a sturdy wire mesh over the capsule. 48V phantom power is required for the standard version of the AT2020, and the output connector is XLR. There are two USB versions of the mic: The AT2020USB+ and the AT2020USBi, which cost $149.00 and $199.00 respectively. The higher price listings for these versions brings the mic out of bargain territory. Saving the cash on an audio interface will balance the scales overall though.

Alternative features available in USB versions

Audio-Technica AT2020 cradle

The AT2020 mount.

Both USB versions have very similar overall specifications to the original microphone. The AT2020USB+ features a USB output and an inbuilt headphone jack with a volume control and a mix control. It provides sample resolutions up to 16-bit, 44.1/48kHz. It ships with a small tripod desk stand, pivoting stand mount, USB cable and storage pouch. The limited bit rate and included extras show it’s targeted at buyers interested in podcasting, voice work and field recording.

The AT2020USBi has both USB and Lighting outputs. It ships with a tripod desk stand and USB with Lightning cables. With the higher price tag comes 24-bit/96kHz A/D conversion and an integrated gain control.

AT2020USBi with Lightning Connector

AT2020USBi with Lightning Connector and USB

Entry-level mic hits the mark

The Audio-Technica AT2020 is the company’s entry-level condenser and it’s a popular choice for home studios worldwide. It’s very affordable and provides quality sound for the price. It’s suited for a range of applications including vocals, voice work and acoustic instruments. If you want a simple, no-frills design with a warm and reasonably flat reproduction, you will like the AT2020. It does have somewhat high self-noise and the sound of the mic won’t please everyone. But for the price, Audio-Technica have produced a very respectable product.

United States: Amazon, Newegg, Musicansfriend, Bhphotovideo

International: Ebay, Thomann, Guitarcenter

Great all around microphone for the price.

For an entry-level, and entry-priced cardioid microphone, this has been a go-to staple of mine for the last couple years.

Now of course there are better mics out there, but for $100 bucks this is a great mic. You don't have to spend mega bucks to get a great sound.

The vocals sound clean and clear. I also use it for acoustic guitars and have used it successfully for miking guitar amps.

  • ELEMENT Fixed-charge back plate, permanently polarized condenser
  • POLAR PATTERN Cardioid
  • OPEN CIRCUIT SENSITIVITY –37 dB (14.1 mV) re 1V at 1 Pa
  • IMPEDANCE 100 ohms
  • MAXIMUM INPUT SOUND LEVEL 144 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1% T.H.D.
  • NOISE 20 dB SPL
  • DYNAMIC RANGE (typical) 124 dB, 1 kHz at Max SPL
  • SIGNAL-TO-NOISE RATIO 74 dB, 1 kHz at 1 Pa
  • WEIGHT 12.1 oz (345 g)
  • DIMENSIONS 6.38" (162.0 mm) long, 2.05" (52.0 mm) maximum body diameter
  • OUTPUT CONNECTOR Integral 3-pin XLRM-type
  • ACCESSORIES FURNISHED Stand mount for 5/8"-27 threaded stands; 5/8"-27 to 3/8"-16 threaded adapter; soft protective pouch

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About The Author
Stephen Charlton
Stephen Charlton is a musician and journalist based in Melbourne, Australia.

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Sound Quality
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