Audio-Technica have always been trailblazers in the studio space, in ways you probably aren’t aware of
With their classic 4033A, the Japanese brand was the first to introduce affordable high quality studio microphones into the home, all the way back in 1991. This was at a time when the going rate for a studio mic was more akin to the price of your car.
The transformerless, sub-$1000 microphone was nothing short of a revelation, providing pristine capture, excellent transient response, and exceptional build quality, while finally putting professional quality peripherals within the reach of every person.
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This same focus on making the professional accessible, appears to have trickled down through all the brand’s studio offerings since, from the highly-coveted 30-series microphones, the AT3060 – a revolutionary tube mic which could run completely from phantom power – to the AE2500E stereo dual dynamic/condenser kick mic, Audio-Technica seem to have a knack for combining progressive design with a price tag that everybody can get behind.
Their latest 20-series range of microphones is absolutely no exception. Consisting of the AT2020, 2040, 2031, 2035, 2041SP, 2050, and the USB version of the 2020, the 20-series is an absolute boon for budding engineers and those looking to add some extra mic flavour to their work without breaking the bank. Ever the completists, AT have even thrown in a creator pack pro consisting of headphones, a 2020USB model, and a boom arm to attach to your desktop.
So, how do these mics stack up?
Take the AT2050 for example, the multi-pattern large diaphragm condenser mic and the flagship of this release. Three switchable patterns offer omni, cardioid, and figure of eight, a roll off switch, pads, and an SPL input of 159dB with the pad? That’s impressive for a mic that’s under $500. 30 years after breaking the $1,000 studio mic barrier, they have now successfully broken the $500 barrier of a large diaphragm multi-pattern condenser microphone.
For those looking for something fixed cardioid, and with a low self noise, look no further than the AT2035.
While it may bear a passing resemblance to the 20-series’ other fixed cardioid offering, the ubiquitous AT2020, the AT2035 is a much more nimble and critical affair.
This little workhorse is perfect for all your critical applications. Think detail-rich instruments like acoustic guitars, strings, woodwinds, ASMR recordings, and anything else requiring lightning fast transient response and very low self noise.
For these kinds of applications, the AT2035 is a perfect first option. At 82dB at 1kHz, its signal-to-noise ratio is on par with many microphones far beyond its pay grade and the bonus extras like the professional quality shock mount and protective faux leather pouch more than add a touch of classiness to proceedings.
Pencil mics are a mainstay for acoustic work, not to mention being standard for overheads and piano recordings. For this kind of application, the 2031 is a no-brainer and a formidable weapon to add to your arsenal. The frequency range is all there (20 – 20kHz), noise level is similar to other offerings, but where the 2031 pulls ahead, in my opinion, is in what I like to call ‘sparkle’. The 2031 (like previous small diaphragm offerings from Audio-Technica) is an absolute masterclass in top end clarity, effortlessly reproducing the crispy high frequencies and adding a sense of liveliness to acoustic guitars, and classical string instruments.The fact that you can grab two for well under $500 is yet another in a long line of lifehacks for budding engineers or anyone requiring a stereo mic setup on a budget.
An interesting new addition to the series is the new AT2040 large diaphragm dynamic mic.
As we all know, the large diaphragm dynamic has long been the chosen mic style of the burgeoning podcast market, and no doubt the AT2040 absolutely excels in this domain, but don’t sleep on its abilities as a music mic either.
With its 600 ohms impedance, this is a low-impedance microphone, meaning it will work seamlessly with any audio interface/preamp featuring an XLR input, or any kind of input for that matter with an additional connector.
There’s an integrated shock mount present within the 2040’s solid chassis which reduces noise travelling through the mic stand, as well as a multi-stage wind screen consisting of a nonwoven filter and foam mesh to tame plosives (think boomy p’s and b’s) from reaching your recording. Granted these precautionary measures are awesome for content creation, but with its high SPL capabilities and ability to flatten and fatten when pushed, the AT2040 is also an obvious choice for grizzled metal and punchy rap vocals, with enough low end reinforcement to toughen up even the most anaemic sounding vocal.
These same high SPL characteristics, combined with the AT2040’s full and robust low end also make it an obvious choice for bass cabinets and toms, or even kick drums, should the situation call for it.
The hypercardioid polar pattern, a design feature no doubt intended to aid in facilitating multi-mic podcasts and situations calling for multiple presenters, has the added bonus of providing a good amount of off-axis rejection, something which no doubt lends itself to drum kits and full band recordings. Combine this with its obvious strengths as a broadcast/podcast mic and you have an extremely versatile and handy addition to any mic closet.
Audio-Technica have long been at the forefront of providing high quality and affordable microphones for decades now, and the 20-series is just the latest iteration of that. From the flagship 2050, all the way to the entry-level 2020, no concessions have been made and no corners have been cut to provide great microphone options to the end user, whatever their chosen application is.