Audio-Technica AT2020 Review: More Than a Budget Mic

Audio Technica really has shaken it up with the AT2020 microphone. This Audio-Technica AT2020 review will show you no more settling for mediocrity in the entry-level market, this is a microphone for dependable performance.

audio-technica at2020 review

I would even call it a ‘workhorse’ in the best possible sense of the term. For a developing studio, this microphone is likely an ideal option yet there is some surprising nuance in the performance. 

Use it for vocals, acoustic guitar, even electric guitar, and drums. The microphone is great at picking up vocal intones so it will also please those wanting to start their own podcast or use it for streaming. At this price, you would expect solid, unspectacular results yet alongside more expensive equipment the AT2020 still shines. 

Audio-Technica AT2020 Review


Great sound quality usually comes with a large price tag and restricting high production values, not the AT2020. Capable of picking up small, subtle changes, this makes for a superbly versatile, high-performing vocal microphone.

It can pick up specific voice intones so you would expect it should work well with acoustic instruments. Of course it does, performing brilliantly from the light strums of an acoustic guitar to a tougher six-string.

Try it on percussion, drums, and electric guitars for a real test yet there is a similar full-sounding that comes from limiting low self-noise. The bass is a little harder to reproduce though you would expect that without variable polar patterns.  

The AT2020 is really useful for starting off and capturing the harshness of a demo recording of just vocals and an acoustic guitar. Then again, it also works well in a starter or developing home studio, specifically for live vocals and doubling up for instruments.

At that price, the AT2020 could even be used as a more than decent studio pair of microphones. That is if you wanted unrivalled consistency between the vocals and instruments, which we really could not argue with. 

For more info on what it takes to get your own home studio started, check out our article on the Essential Home Studio Equipment Every Beginner Needs.

The Design

The AT2020 was built tough for durability. Whether in the confines of a comfortable studio or out on the road in a live setting, the microphone will perform, even after a few knocks.

This is also a relatively compact microphone at 9.6 by 2.6 inches which was reassuringly good to hold I found. Lightweight too at only 12.1 oz which is a relatively comfortable weight. 

All-metal construction makes the AT2020 a solid microphone capable of withstanding some rough treatment. For such an inexpensive model, the cast metal feels positively solid, comfortably thick, and reassuringly chunky.

This is a well-built microphone with a thought-out, professional appearance and a strong wire mesh. The microphone will look like it has found its rightful place amidst more stylish equipment thanks to a delicious paint finish. There is versatility there too with a detachable threaded stand mount that can pivot as well. 

The design is primarily of a cardioid pattern which makes it sound-sensitive to those artistic noises from the front. If you want to test it, you could move back from the microphone and soon realize that you do not have to turn the gain.

As a polar pattern, the cardioid is one of the most common for good reason. I found I could rely on the AT2020 to isolate the sounds I wanted then discount those coming from behind making it great for the studio.

Few microphones come with that reliable performance and sound sensitivity where you know it will capture everything you want. With that in mind, it is probably not ideal to compare the AT2020 with a vintage microphone as there are few characteristics to define it by. This is a solid operator with a performance you can depend upon. 

The sound isolation for the front is really useful, saving time and effort. Little need to edit those noises that have sneaked in when you get back to check the recording. This is a microphone where you hardly need to worry about placement as it can pick up a wide range of sounds from 20Hz to 20kHz.

That makes the AT2020 less likely to distort from high sound pressure such as pounding drums and screeching vocals. A lot of that comes from the large diaphragm for lots of bass extension.  

The Recording

Not only is there a low level of distortion but also a low level of self-noise. For quality, digital recordings, this microphone is of superb value. Use it with some high-quality recording equipment in a state-of-the-art studio and the microphone will stand up well.

The transient response is lightning fast meaning it will catch quick, sudden sounds like the crash of a cymbal or a subtle tambourine shake. This all adds up to a reliably believable sound on playback for both the instruments and vocals. 

For the vocals, you can expect the lower mid-range warmth that most singers crave. Without too much overproduction, you should capture the feel and balance of the original sound. For an honest reproduction, there are fewer microphones in the same price bracket that can rival it.

While the microphone largely refuses to add color to the voice, it won’t take anything away either. There is a very tiny presence peak that you would barely notice though it does add clarity with no added harshness. If you want a microphone for close-miking either instruments or vocals then the AT2020 works very well.

This is not an ideal microphone for the noise figure so a loud band should be fine but not classical instruments at a distance. 

For someone wanting to start their own podcast or start capturing their audio for streaming, this is a great microphone to consider. The placement is sturdy with the mount and it should work well facing you to capture those voice intones.

There will be little need to edit the sound either as few microphones are as reliable for an honest-sounding recording. 

How To Use It

This is a versatile microphone so be tempted to use it in all possible situations. As a studio microphone, it is top-notch for catching vocals. You should be relieved that the microphone works well with computers, especially at restricting that pesky computer noise which is a big win.

On an acoustic guitar, the sound was similarly balanced as it was with the vocals. Clarity and depth were assured without any tinny harshness. 

In a live setting, the microphone will excel in a static position with its stand mount. However, if your lead-singer likes to get handsy with the microphone that may disrupt its performance. Without any background noise, you can really experiment by using some wall panels and bass traps.

As well as being impressive in the studio, this is a great microphone for projects or the home studio. Thinking of starting your own podcast or for streaming? Consider the AT2020. 

The Drawbacks

If anything, the only drawback with the microphone is the lack of a pop filter yet you may not need that anyway. The design means that a lot of unnecessary background sounds and ambient noise are mitigated and the heavy-duty wire mesh is particularly formidable. Great for protection and durability, not so much for pop. 

The Extras

The AT2020 comes with a carrying pouch. Though it looks (and feels) soft and particularly flimsy it is a nice accessory though probably not ideal for the road. There is a metal threaded stand mount and adapter for accurate placement which should prove really useful.

Little else is thrown in so you will need your own stand but this is great for entry-level. No frills but then you would expect that for the price. 

Finding a microphone to start with that will provide reliable performance at a low price cannot be overlooked. Especially one made of metal and not tacky plastic. This is a solid, sturdy well-engineered microphone at 12.1 oz.

At such value, calling this a workhorse seems harsh yet everything considered it really does stand up well. For clear and crisp, professional sounds you would do well to find anything close to this performance for that price.

Final Thoughts

For an all-around condenser microphone, the AT2020 offers great value. There is a well-balanced sound on an acoustic guitar and vocals which should come with a higher price tag.

This microphone is likely aimed at the growing market for the project studio yet stands up amongst more expensive competition. For vocals, you can rely on the AT2020 for depth, keeping high notes high yet retaining a smooth sound. 

For the price, this is a great, bright-sounding microphone with some competitive design details. You will also get durability from a solid design which means it should last in the studio or when taken out for some live performances.

Audio Technica hasn’t provided a shock mount yet you would expect that and the threaded stand mount they have included works well. As you can see from Audio Technica, they have marked competition yet their quality construction excels in the AT2020. 

Check out our articles on The Best Microphones for Home Studio and the Best Microphone for Recording Vocals.