I recently added a new dynamic microphone to my studio — the ATR2100 from Audio-Technica. I stayed in the Audio-Technica family because dollar for dollar, their microphones very hard to beat quality wise, at least in their market space. I’ve been very happy with the elearning narration I’ve recorded with their AT2020 USB condenser mic, and more importantly, so have my clients. But I thought it would be a good idea to pick up a dynamic mic for capturing different aspects to my voice (and also for noodling around with recording music). In general, a condenser microphone will reproduce the human voice more accurately — especially the high end. But you can get some nice, full warmth out of the lower end of a voice with a dynamic mic. Broadcast dynamic mics are often used in radio station studios.
Breaking in a new microphone can be fun, because who doesn’t like opening a new toy and testing it out? But usually when I test out audio equipment for the first time, I revert to “Check one two. Check one two. OK, now this is me from a little farther away. Check. Check one two. Sibilance…sibilance…”
I decided to write a script to read for testing out my microphone this time. I thought, “Let’s have some fun. How about a fake radio ad? And while I’m at it, let’s do a parody of one that already exists. And, why not — let’s try an accent I haven’t recorded before (Scottish). And once I’ve done this ill-advised thing, I should probably post my result online.”
I might write a post detailing my steps in writing and practicing the script sometime soon, because it was a good exercise in stretching my niche. But for this space, I’m more concerned with recording my first blush thoughts on the ATR2100 and the test I gave it.
The ATR2100 has an XLR component as well as a USB option. Out of the box, the mic doesn’t come with a windscreen, but I knew this going in, so I ordered one to go with the microphone. It does have a 1/8″ headphones jack, which I wish were the case with the AT2020 USB condenser microphone that I’ve grown to love. The stand is both lighter and sturdier with the ATR2100, and I felt like I was able to get the mic at an angle I wanted easily enough.
I went with the quick and dirty option, and performed my test with the USB connection. Partly, I wanted to know how Audio-Technica’s USB dynamic and condenser options compared. If you’re interested in the difference between the ATR2100’s XLR and USB capabilities, I suggest taking a look at this test conducted by Matthew McGlynn of Recording Hacks.
I tried the read from a few distances, at a few different reading volume levels, at a few different input levels, and at a few different angles. I was interested in hearing where and how sound dropped off compared to the condenser microphone, and what was most helpful to reducing plosives.
[About the script: as I mentioned before, I decided to write a parody of an ad campaign I’ve been hearing a lot on the radio and seeing on TV. These ads seem to be something of a gentle parody, themselves, although I’m not really sure if that’s the intention. I had trouble trying to figure out how to handle the accent: should I be as genuine as I could be or should I exaggerate? I ended up doing something in between. Either way, my internal lawyer decided it best to leave the brand name out of the commercial. If you’ve heard the ads before, you get the reference. By the time I’d recorded a version I could live with even for public mic testing purposes, I was questioning the wisdom of the whole thing, because too many takes started to make for weak and drifting accents.]
Besides trading high-end accuracy for low-end warmth, I immediately noticed after a few different takes that I was also trading room noise for plosives in going from a condenser to a dynamic mic. I ended up needing a pop filter in addition to the windscreen, and even then, the occasional blasty “P,” “T,” and even “K” and “F” sound necessitated some angle or proximity adjustment of the microphone. In the end, I was able to get rid of the last of the pesky plosives by rolling off the lowest frequency sounds in post-production. On the other hand, I was pleasantly pleased to realize that I didn’t need to run the wave file through a noise reduction filter in post-production, as mouth noises, breaths, and room hum were almost non-existent. By contrast, it would be unthinkable to not apply a noise reduction filter to anything I record with the AT2020, or any other condenser mic I’ve used.
Here’s the final result.
So far, having only really tested the USB interface, I’m pretty impressed. Audio-Technica once again has shown that you really can get a quality demo-level microphone for just a little money — this one cost me $60. I’ve only had a chance to play with the XLR interface briefly (not enough to warrant a review) but I’m looking forward to it. I did notice some pinching off of the upper range of my voice, but I am pleased with the lower-range warmth. I would warn you about the plosives, but again, with some playing around with angle, proximity, pop filters, and EQ, you can work with it. For sixty bucks, I’m very pleased.