Photo of AT2020USB+ Cardioid Condenser USB Microphone and cable

The traditional method of getting audio into an editor: setting up a microphone and recording to a camera or digital audio recorder, then capturing the recording to the computer, is a tried-and-true method that works every time. Sometimes though it's more convenient and time efficient to record right into the edit. If you're doing voice-over work, podcasting, laying vocals over a music track or any number of other tasks requiring audio only, then a USB mic such as the Audio-Technica AT2020USB+ may be the right solution for you. 

Stuff It Comes With

The AT2020USB+ is pretty straightforward and comes complete with a pivot mount, tripod desk stand, 10-foot USB cable and zippered pouch. A downloadable PDF of the instruction manual may be found online. 

Stuff About It

The build quality appears to be excellent. The mic capsule element is fully enclosed in a sturdy wire mesh which is, in turn, protected by a rigid metal framework. Assembly is easy; simply thread the pivot mount onto the desk stand and spread the rubber tipped tripod legs apart to provide a sturdy base. Slide the mic's threaded base into the threaded collar on the pivot mount and tighten the collar while holding the microphone in the desired position. A thumbscrew on the pivot mount may be loosened and retightened to adjust the angle. Plug one end of the USB cable into the mic's base and the other into your computer.

Position the mic so its front is facing the audio source. The back is also where you will find the headphone jack. Beneath the label on the front you will find two dials.

Mix Control
Mix Control
One is labeled monitor, and can be dialed left for MIC and right for COM. This is the mix control, used to monitor existing audio on your computer while recording new material. Dialing towards COM adds more of the existing audio to the headphone mix, while dialing towards MIC favors new audio. If you can't hear yourself through the headphones, the dial is probably set all the way to COM.
Headphone monitor volume dial
The other dial on the front is the headphone level control and should not be confused with any recording levels. The mic volume is adjustable through your computer's sound preferences settings or your recording software.

Sometimes it's more convenient and time efficient to record right into the edit.

Computer setup is fairly simple. When you plug the USB cable into both the mic and the computer, a blue LED lights up on the mic to show that it has power. The computer automatically recognizes the device and installs the appropriate driver. Next, you will likely need to go to your Sound settings through System Preferences (Mac) or Control Panel (Windows) and select the AT2020USB+ as the default audio device. A detailed description of the process is laid out in the downloadable instruction manual. 

Stuff It Does

We attached the mic to a PC with Windows 8 and opened up Adobe Premiere Pro to lay down a voiceover track. If you don't already have an audio recording program here is a quote from the AT2020USB+ instruction manual, "Many recording software programs are available online. Audacity is widely used free software for recording and editing sounds. It is available online at audacity.sourceforge.net."

In Premiere Pro's audio hardware settings we made sure the AT2020USB+ was set as both the input and output device (microphone and headphones). In Premiere Pro's Audio Mixer, click the down arrow beneath the track label and select Write. Enable the track for recording by clicking the mic icon. Another drop down list appears directly above this icon, check it to be sure the correct microphone is selected. Next, click mute (speaker icon) to the left of the enable button. We failed to mute the track at first and experienced severe echo during recording.

To record, place the playhead at the desired location on the timeline and click the red record button at the lower left corner of the Audio Mixer panel. Click the Play button, or press the spacebar, to start and stop recording. Be sure to un-mute the track during playback or you'll wonder why you're not hearing anything. Re-select Write from the drop down list when preparing to record again because it automatically changes settings each time you stop recording.

Hiss from this mic is virtually non-existent. Its cardioid pickup pattern captures sound most prominently from directly in front with very good off-axis rejection, particularly from the rear. Zero latency headphone monitoring is a great feature. With headphones plugged directly into the mic you can monitor previously recorded material while recording new audio with no lag or echo whatsoever. CD/DVD quality recording (16 bit, 44.1/48kHz sampling) assures crisp, bright, accurate sound reproduction. Overall we were quite impressed with the quality of this microphone.

Those with a need for direct-to-editor audio recording will be very happy with this mic. While there are cheaper USB mics available, the quality of the AT2020USB+ cardioid condenser mic is unquestionable and, after all, it's an Audio-Technica.

Audio-Technica U.S., Inc.
www.audio-technica.com
$279 

Tech Specs

Element: Fixed-charge back plate, permanently polarized condenser
Polar Pattern: Cardioid
Frequency Response: 20-20,000Hz
Power: USB Power (5V DC)
Bit Depth: 16-bit
Sample Rate: 44.1/48kHz
Volume Control: Mix control; headphone volume control
Output Connector: USB-type
Headphone Output Power: 130mW
Headphone Jack: 1/8” (3.5mm) TRS, stereo
Accessories Furnished: Pivoting stand mount for 5/8"-27 threaded stands; 5/8"-27 to 3/8"-16 threaded adapter; soft protective pouch; tripod desk stand; 10' (3.1m) USB cable
System Requirements: USB 1.0 or 2.0; 64MB RAM minimum; Macintosh: MAC OS X; Windows: XP/Vista/Windows 7
Dimensions (Lx[diameter]): 6.4" x 2.0" (16.3cm x 5.1cm)
Weight: 13.6 oz (385.6g)

Strengths

  • Captures excellent audio
  • Great build quality
  • Zero latency monitoring
  • No/low hiss
  • Ease of setup and use

Weaknesses

  • Pricier than many other USB mics

Contributing Editor Mark Holder is a video producer and trainer.

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