The AT2020USB+ from Audio Technica is a very good plug-and-play microphone, especially for its price. It is a good choice for everyone from aspiring musicians to podcasters. The USB connection means that it is best used in front of, or very near a computer. You don’t need any additional expensive equipment to use this mic and it is very easy to setup.
Since this is a USB microphone you simply plug the USB cable into the mic and then into your computer. There is no need for any fancy mixing equipment or other hardware. Simply plug in and go. My computer (Windows 10) immediately recognized the microphone and installed all the drivers without any input from me. If you run an Apple OS (ie iOS or OS X) then you shouldn’t need any additional driver and it will just work.
Being a class-compliant device, the AT2020 USB Plus needs no additional driver to be used with Apple operating systems (OS X, iOS), and a suitable driver should download automatically for Windows if one isn’t already installed.
The included tripod stand was a pretty big disappointment and I needed to use my own shock mount. It was too weak and flimsy to hold the mic properly and was very unstable. I’m not sure why they included it at all. The thing is frankly just frustrating. If you don’t have a separate shock mount for it, I would suggest getting one as soon as possible.
Like all USB mics the power to run the mic is pulled from the computer’s USB port instead of the traditional XLR connection on a regular mic. This mic uses the larger square USB connection and sits firmly in the input port so there is no worry of accidental disconnection. The included USB cable is 10 foot long, but it feels a little thin and fragile for my taste. Time will tell if the cable holds up or will need to be replaced by a thicker one.
Due to USB mics being connected directly to the computer and not run through a processingmix board, the computer is what is responsible from processing the sound signal. Many times this results in a slight delay between you singing into the mic, and the resulting sound being played from the computers speakers. If the delay is noticable or bothers you, know that the fault is not with the microphone but with the speed of your computer. If your computer is fast enough you might not hear a delay at all, if it is from the stone ages it may be badly out of sync. This does not affect the recording at all, but it can be annoying and frustrating.
Luckily there is a mini-jack headphone socket found on the side of the microphone. This allows you to use headphones as a monitor so that you don’t have to worry about any delay to mess you up. There is a volume control next to the headphone jack that allows you to control the level, and another control next to it that adjusts the balance between the computer’s stereo output and the mics direct signal.
The AT2020USB+ body is metal and seems very rugged and durable. I suspect you could put this mic through a fair amount of abuse and it would keep on ticking.
There is a swivel mount included that can be threaded onto any standard 5/8″ stand, and also has a 3/8″ adapter.
Inside of the metal grill is a blue LED that lets you know when the microphone has power.
Also included is a dust protecting pouch.
Just like with previous AT2020 series mics from Audio Technica, this mic has a cardioid patter, has a medium sized diaphragm (coming it at 16 mm), and is side-address. The capsule’s diaphragm is low-mass and has a frequency response between 20Hz and 16kHz. The max SPL handling is 144dB (1kHz at 1 THD). It has a 16bit depth and a 44.1/48 kHz sample rate.
Because this mic is designed for close mic recording, the signal to noise ratio isn’t anything spectacular. Audio Technica claims it is around 74dB (1kHz at 1Pa). That means that the self-noise EIN is 20dB. Though there aren’t any included filters or pads you should be ok thanks to the mic being able to had fairly high SPLs. If you do wish to add any low-cut EQ, you will have to do it post recording.
After comparing recordings from this mic with ones from other non-USB mics in the same weight class I found the sound pretty comparable. The AT2020 USB+ didn’t sound quite as neutral though. I found the recording a bit warmer in the lower mid vocals, and it sounded very subtly compressed. A lot like what you would hear from a valve mic. The result was a mildly flattering tone. I think most people will find that female vocals will be less harsh with this mic than a lot of the other budget mics in this price range. Male vocals, and even acoustic instruments will also sound completely acceptable.
The sound is very crisp and clean, especially compared to some of its competitors like the Yeti USB. There is a slight, almost insignificant, bulge at 9kHz, but overall the frequency response is very steady. I have yet to see a better curve on any other USB microphone. Most other budget mics like the Yeti USB sound much harsher, especially in the high range, due to the cheaper capsules. The AT2020 has no issues with the high range, and can even be used for cymbals.
As good as this microphone is, keep in mind that it is not a high-end professional stage microphone. If you want to upload some music videos to YouTube or maintain a weekly podcast, then you will be very happy with this mic. If this is your intention than buying a better mic might even be just a waste of money due to the necessary compression and down-sampling that occurs during the YouTube uploading.
If you want to sound like a professional recording artist in a studio, you will need to get a more expensive XLR microphone. The USB interface makes it very easy to get up and running without any other fancy equipment or sound mixing, but this strength is also its weakness. To tease the highly polished sound out of your performance you need to run the audio through a preamp and mixer, have more options in regards to monitoring, and adding more post-processing. There is just a lot more flexibility when using the standard XLR interface.
Here is a great example of the AT2020 USB plus microphone in use. A video of someone using it while playing the ukulele:
If you’re looking for a budget friendly USB microphone then the Audio Technica AT2020USB+ is a great choice. Just make sure you know how you will be using this microphone and have realistic expectations. Doing podcasts and YouTube uploads are where this mic shines. If that is your intended use, then there is no benefit in getting a higher end mic like the Rode NT1.
Keep in mind that the included tripod, while functional, leave a lot to be desired and will probably need to be replaced.
The ease of use and fact that the only other piece of equipment you need is a computer means that this USB microphone is a great choice for a variety of uses. If you want the professional studio sound though, you will need to get an XLR compatible mic and all the other accompanying equipment.