Audio is easily 50 percent of most video productions. It’s a lot like icing on a wedding cake. When it’s good, it adds an incredible amount of flavor. When it’s bad, it ruins the whole experience. The first step in capturing good audio is finding a quality microphone. And whether you plug it into a sound studio computer, a mixer at a live stage performance or a camera for handheld interviews, the ATR2100-USB helps add that special icing to your project.
The Main Event
The ATR2100 looks deceptively like many other handheld mics. It has a dark gray grille at the top and a non-reflective silver grip with an on/off switch on the side. It could easily fit a standard foam windscreen for windy days or as a pop filter. On the bottom of the unit is where it becomes strikingly different. Instead of a lone XLR connection, this mic sports a Mini-B USB port, a standard three pin XLR male connector and a 1/8-inch headphone jack with a volume control dial.
A 10-foot XLR female to male cable, a near seven-foot USB cord, a mic holder and a small desktop mic stand with folding legs are conveniently included in the box. The mic holder is also compatible with standard mic stand threads. The mic has a rugged metal exterior, fits in the hand quite nicely and weighs just more than half a pound, giving it a professional feel without the certainty of arm fatigue.
What sets this mic stand apart from the competition is its capability for many different connections. Usually, it takes some effort, not to mention some spare cash, to get an XLR mic to work live with any computer. With the ATR2100 the connection is extremely simple via USB. What’s even better is it is completely compatible with Windows XP, Vista and Windows 7 as well as Mac OS X. It’s quite literally plug-and-play. The manual is actually very helpful and has simple and illustrated instructions covering input configuration for each of these operating systems.
When connected to an XLR sound mixer or to an XLR capable camcorder, the mic continues to operate as a dynamic mic. As such, it doesn’t add an extra drain to your batteries or require phantom power to perform. The on/off switch also functions for XLR connections the same as USB ones. On a cautionary note, for video shooters whose cameras lack XLR ports, a little creative adapter work might be in order.
In the studio, the headphones monitoring feature can come in handy. Plug in any 1/8-inch jack headphones and you or your talent can monitor the mic recording without any annoying delay. Use the dial on the bottom of the mic to keep the headphone output volume at just the right level.
So the ATR2100 is quite the versatile mic, but how does it sound? Simply put, it sounds great. The frequency response is good between 50 and 15,000 Hertz, with a slight increase above 2,000 Hertz. This allows for a good pickup of vocals and sounds, deep or high. Unless you need to record sounds at the extreme highs or lows of the human hearing range, this mic should do the job just fine.
The cardioid pattern is tight, leaving most noise from the sides and rear hard pressed to get into your recordings. While there is no substitute for a quiet, controlled recording environment, the directionality of the mic will help you pick up more of the sounds you want and less of those you don’t. As with any unidirectional mic, keeping it pointed at the sound source is still important.
When you plug the unit in via USB, a brilliant blue LED lights up on the handle. It’s so bright, however, that you can literally use it as a small flashlight. Drop any small object on a dark studio floor and you can quite effectively use that blue light to find it. While this doesn’t detract from the mic performance, it’s mildly irritating when pointed toward the eyes.
Also, the included tripod base has plastic threads so it’s not going to withstand a great deal of abuse or mis-threading. However, these two small hiccups aren’t anything a small piece of black camera tape and a little gentle threading can’t help.
Time for Dessert
The ATR2100 brings USB digital output and XLR analog output together in one great mic. If you’re looking for a well-balanced handheld mic, it’s well worth your attention. The price is also very reasonable for the quality and usefulness of the unit. As with any microphone, however, it can only work with what you put into it. Handled and cared for properly, it will help you put that audio icing on any video or podcast and keep you sounding like a pro.
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Frequency Response: 50 – 15,000Hz
Power Requirements: USB Power (5V DC)
Bit Depth: 16 bit
Sample Rate: 44.1kHz / 48kHz
Controls: On/off switch; headphone volume control
Weight: 9.5 oz
Dimensions: 7.2″ long, 2″ maximum body diameter
Output Connector: USB, XLR
Headphone Output Power: 10 mW @ 16 ohms
Headphone Jack: 3.5mm TRS (stereo)
System Requirements: Macintosh: MAC OS X; USB 1.0 or 2.0; 64MB RAM (minimum) Windows: XP/Vista/Windows 7; USB 1.0 or 2.0; 64MB RAM (minimum)
- Good frequency response
- Durable, professional feel
- Versatile connections
- Camcorders without XLR will need adapters
The ATR2100 is a great quality dynamic microphone for both XLR and computer applications.
1221 Commerce Drive
Stow, Ohio 44224
Mike Houghton is a freelance videographer and an independent filmmaker.