Once upon a simpler time, all there was to recording was to put a talented musician in front of a giant horn and a wax cylinder. If the devil came through with his end of the deal, you could press that groove onto a molten wad of licorice and sell enough copies to make it into The National Archives. Almost a century later, what was once a simple energy transfer concept has evolved into an exact science. Coupled with the idea that the internet age has rendered the handing over of your creative output to a trained expert almost obsolete, you have the strange and intimidating dichotomy that is modern home recording. Researching what equipment to best start out on can be a boggy mire to say the least so packages like the Studio Recording Combo from Audio-Technica can be the key to the secret garden of sound reproduction.
Audio-Technica occupies a fairly interesting position in the recording equipment market. They sit comfortably between upper echelon manufacturers whose builds are just that little bit above budget and the low-rent knock off merchants who plague them. Their headphones particularly are popular amongst the electronic music set whose penchant for fidelity is a good gauge of the quality of their units. Their mics compete with heavy hitters like RØDE’s NT range and Shure’s SM7 for accurate and nuanced renderings of either female or male vocals. With this in mind, the combo in question comprises two of their most popular units that happen to be perfectly suited for learning the recording ropes.
The AT2020 is a truly faithful representation of what a cardioid condenser is designed to do. Its range is lengthy enough for the most energetic of singers with a broader than average pick up around the outer edges of the heart shaped field. On the one hand there is a healthy amount of attention in the below 100Hz range which is great for bass and warm electric guitar but it really comes to life in some of the humps up around 10kHz. Male vocals receive a nice amount of presence and sparkle while female vocals and distorted guitars sit right in the sweet spot where some really magical frequencies are ripe for the picking.
The ATHM20x monitoring headphones are by far Audio-Technica’s most popular and visible product. The familiar circular casing houses a powerful yet subtle 40mm neodymium driver that is as close to completely neutral as you’ll ever get without splashing out on complete, active noise cancellation. They are lively when you drive them hard but tidy enough that you can hear ugly sub and low mid frequencies that need taming even at higher volumes. With frequency response between 15Hz and 20kHz, there’s nothing the mic will pick up that the cans won’t send back which is comforting and great for learning what to notch and what to leave.
On the whole the idea of a starter pack is too often synonymous with a lack of quality. Audio-Technica does well to buck this trend with just the right balance of affordability and fully usable equipment. The last thing you want when you’re getting the hang of something as fiddly as recording techniques is to hear in-built obsolescence creeping in and distracting you from the masterwork at hand. The AT Studio Recording Combo is the best way to avoid such a fate.
Hits and Misses
User oriented choices of both mic and headphones
A crispy, realistic mic with lively attention to detail coupled with headphone quality beyond the limits of the price tag