STUDIO TEST FINAL REPORT: AUDIO-TECHNICA AT2020USBi Mic & ATH-M40x Headphones

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We Had A Producer Put the AUDIO-TECHNICA AT2020USBi Mic & ATH-M40x Headphones Through Their Paces. Here’s What He Found.

[Editor’s Note: Back in August we put out a call for readers to win a cool recording bundle from our friends at Audio-Technica, consisting of the AT2020USBi Mic & ATH-M40x Headphones. We wanted someone to put these bad boys through their paces and report back on their findings. Below are the thoughts of one of the winners, Torbin Harding, after using the gear for a few months in his studio. We’ll also be publishing the write-ups of our other winners, exclusively at performermag.com]

I have been happily using Audio-Technica products for 20 years. I have captured many great recordings with my AT822 stereo microphone and AT headphones are my first choice in the recording studio. When Performer Magazine gave me the opportunity to test the AT2020USBi cardioid condenser USB microphone and ATH-M40x professional monitor headphones, I was thrilled beyond belief. I jumped at the chance, began posting on Twitter, Instagram and my website. The AT2020USBi microphone provides convenience, excellent sound quality, and is a great value. The ATH-M40x headphones sound amazing and are essential to your studio.

The Audio-Technica ATH-M40x headphones are comfortable and balanced on my head, they stay on my ears and do not slide down. I love the sound and feel of these headphones. They have terrific sound quality, true reproduction of the music and great bass response. The closed back style and snug fit keeps bleed-through to a minimum when tracking (a bonus for home recorders).

Audio-Technica provides two cables with the headset, one straight and one coiled. I prefer the coiled cable while recording guitar and bass. Our Lo-z Records house drummer prefers recording with the straight cord he wears behind his back. The ATH-M40x headphones allow for the ear cups to fold out so I can listen to a song with one ear when practicing guitar. The headphones fold up nicely into a protective pouch for protection. I simply love these ATH-M40x headphones. They sound great and are not equalized, so you hear the song as it was truly recorded.

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The AT2020USBi mic is easy to setup. Assemble the tripod and mount. Screw the microphone into the mount. Plug one end of the connector cable into the bottom of the microphone and plug the other side into the lighting connector on your iPhone, and you are ready to record. A blue light on the front of the microphone indicates power. The AT2020USBi replaces the iPhone’s  built-in microphone automatically. I used the AT2020USBi with iTalk and MultiTrack DAW and was very pleased with the results. This microphone is a dream to use with iPhone and can turn any iOS device into an on-the-go studio for capturing riffs, song ideas and more while you’re on tour.

Connecting the AT2020USBi with my MacBook and using Digital Performer as my DAW was a little more complicated. I assembled the microphone exactly as above, except using a USB cable to connect to the MacBook. Open the DAW setup menu and select AT2020USBi as the sound input and the built-in output for sound output. In order to decrease latency (late return of the recorded audio) while recording, go to setup menu, then configure hardware driver. Lower the buffer size for tracking to decrease latency. Regarding buffer size, lower values for tracking and higher values for mixing yield best results.

The AT2020USBi microphone has a built-in preamp with a volume dial on the front of the mic. You increase gain by dialing to the right and decrease by dialing to the left. The AT2020USBi also has a built in analog to digital converter. You do not need an interface. The audio is converted up to 96K sampling rate and 24-bit depth. I recorded nylon string acoustic guitar, bongos, and voice at 96k and 24-bit on my iPhone and my MacBook. The bongos sound natural, not harsh. The AT2020USBi produces a pleasing representation of the low notes on the bongo and a nice clear slap of the higher pitched bongo. The guitars sound great, with a full body to the chords of the rhythm track and great clarity to the high notes of the lead guitar. My voice sounds full and clear. This microphone has a mellow rounded sound. This is a great condenser microphone, period. I am very pleased with its sound and performance.

The AT2020USBi microphone and ATH-M40x headphones are an awesome, affordable, easy-to-set-up recording bundle. High quality recording, built in microphone preamp, high-resolution analog to digital converter and very enjoyable listening on the go. This recording bundle is perfect for studio and field recording, voice over work for YouTube videos and even podcasts.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Torbin Harding is a graduate of Berklee College of Music, B.A. in Music Synthesis Production 1995, and founded Lo-Z Records in 1997. He currently works in both the analog tape and digital recording mediums. For more info visit www.Lo-ZRecords.com.

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