Chances are you’ve come across the name Audio-Technica if you’re at all familiar with audio equipment. The brand has been making some of the best headphones for decades. This latest USB microphone, the AT2020USB-X, builds on the foundations laid by the previous entries in the AT2020 models to deliver on the promise of one of the best microphones for streaming and one of the best USB microphones around.
If you want to get involved in game streaming, then the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X provides an excellent high-quality starting point for online creation. You’re not getting the full range of XLR dynamics here, but for its size and price, there’s little to fault with this punchy little performer.
Price and Availability
The Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X was released in August and is currently available for $149 / £116 / AU$209 in the US, the UK, and Australia, respectively. As a point of comparison, that’s roughly $20 / £20 / AU$30, more expensive than what you can currently find a Blue Yeti for. It’s not terribly expensive as far as enthusiast-level streaming microphones go, but it doesn’t undercut some of the more established names either.
Design and Features
There’s nothing extraordinary about the design of the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X upon first inspection. While it’s pleasing to the eye, with its all-metal construction and black color scheme, things are kept simple and straightforward in its visual language until you plug it in. Once powered up, you’ll notice the bright blue LED from behind the grill, indicating that the microphone is on and ready for audio delivery.
On the front of the controls is a touch-sensitive panel which mutes the mic completely silently, which means that broadcasts and recordings won’t suffer from any interference. The blue light shifts to a dark red, an obvious indicator that no sound will be transmitted. As audio shorthand does, it’s a great touch that helps separate the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X from its contemporaries. It’s powered by USB-C but connects to your computer, laptop, or console through a more standardized USB-A.
On the technical side of things, there’s a 24-Bit/96 kHz sampling rate and 20-20,000 Hz frequency response, which aligns with many modern USB microphones as opposed to the older 16-Bit/48 kHz, which were common a few years ago. The dedicated 3.5mm audio jack and volume scroll specifically dedicated to microphone monitoring when broadcasting is nice to have. However, there’s no on-board gain control, as you’ll find on the Rode X XDM-100. It’s unlikely to be a massive hindrance, but something that deserves mentioning all the same.
Using the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X as my daily microphone for work has been well-above average. Whether I was taking part in video conferencing meetings with my colleagues or conducting interviews, the sonic reproduction of this model has been genuinely surprising. At first, the lack of a gain dial left me feeling at an impasse, but I quickly became accustomed to this by testing how far I needed to be away from the pickup itself.
Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X can pick up my voice with a level of clarity that I’ve not seen from USB-A microphones in this price range. It sounds significantly better fresh out of the box than the tried-and-true Blue Yeti and Blue Snowball that I’ve had knocking around my house for years. Things are noticeably stripped-back with the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X as there are no options for different pickup patterns for capturing a single voice instead of several, as you’ll find with Blue’s offerings. That means this is made for side-address, is all about putting you front and center, and does a faithful job of making you sound the part, too.
The small footprint of the stand and the compact size of the microphone’s body is something that I can really appreciate as someone who frequently flexes between office and remote working. The Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X is small enough to fit comfortably in my bag and is built sturdy to the point where I’m not worrying about it during commutes. If you have a cramped gaming or office desk, then you won’t have to worry about the stand taking up that much room. Just be warned that it could sit slightly lower than where your mouth may align. It’s nothing that had a significant impact on me, as the Cardioid condenser has a decent range to it, but it’s something to bear in mind.
Should you buy the Audio-Technica AT2020USB-X microphone?
Buy it if…
You’re after a compact but capable USB microphone for streaming
While it may be no-frills in design and approach, the AT2020USB-X does everything it sets out to do with a powerful condenser pickup making for high-quality, distinctive audio playback.
You have limited space in your setup
The AT2020USB-X won’t take up much room at all with its considered footprint and small build size. This means it’s perfect as a replacement for the otherwise unwieldy boom arm stands and thicker USB microphones on the market.
Don’t buy it if…
You want to record in noisier environments
The lack of a gain dial and the sensitive nature of the AT2020USB-X means that it will not be the best at battling through a room that’s got some ambience to it. You’re better off finding a microphone with some passive noise reduction, such as the Rode X XDM-100.