Have you ever bought a cheap USB microphone thinking that you’d suddenly get better quality audio from it? Yeah, I did that for three years. I went from cheap USB microphones to quite expensive wireless USB headphones with microphone. I’m no audiophile, but I can appreciate great-sounding audio. I joined LockerGnome back in April of last year; it’s been a year now, but the novelty hasn’t really worn off.
When I started off I had, and still use, a Corsair Vengence 1500 headset. It cost me around £100 and got the job done, however it did — and still does — have an annoying habit of giving me an annoying hum on the microphone. So I’ve been offered an RMA (return merchandise authorization) for this one from Corsair at no charge — bar shipping and handling. Corsair’s customer service has been stellar.
Enter the AT2020
After the second unit from Corsair started giving me the same hum, I decided that I needed a microphone that wasn’t going to constantly annoy me. I should point out that, by this point, I was a few months out of hospital and I needed a shiny new microphone to do my long-forgotten blogcast. I had asked around the LockerGnome office and the general consensus was the Audio Technica Cardioid Condenser AT2020 or the Samson CO1U. I had used a Blue Snowball before, but it had an unfortunate accident where it fell less than a foot onto a carpeted floor and then refused to work. (Yes, yes. I am a clumsy beggar.)
The Audio Technica AT2020 is a great and powerful microphone. I love it to pieces, but there is one word of warning: be careful when attaching the microphone to its special fitting. This special fitting allows the microphone to be screwed into a normal microphone stand and it’s beautiful, but it is so easy to crossthread the attachment to the microphone itself! Yes, that happened to me.
When working properly, the attachment allows the microphone to be rotated 360 degrees around the attachment point. It is truly ingenious, in my opinion, and those of you who have worked on motorbikes will know the fitting to be almost like a “banjo” coupling that allows oil to get to vital parts of the engine, no matter the position of the coupling.
I contacted Audio Technica, UK and was told that I’d have to pay an extra £50 to RMA the microphone back. That would be a fair price if it weren’t such a common fault; so many people have managed to crossthread this fitting on forums that there are entire sections about how to fix this issue!
There are a few ways to deal with the problem of crossthreading the attachment — one of which is not allowing the microphone to move freely. My method is, I kid you not, the end of a dart barrel in some olive oil in a shot glass (pictured). The sharp point allows me to get the oil where it is needed and that then allows the microphone to move freely within its attachment. However, that was a final attempt before I actually paid the £50 and sent it to Audio Technica for a fix. It has saved me £50, but the usual warnings of “Doing this may void your warranty,” “Don’t try this at home,” and “I’m a professional, get me out of here” all hold true.
You Don’t Like the AT2020?
Actually, the complete opposite is the case — despite the crossthreading issue, which I can take on the chin as being my fault. The audio quality of the AT2020 is phenomenal, in my opinion. I got a cheap microphone stand, the type from a standup comedy club; it sits in one of the pre-cut cable tidy holes in my desk. It’s not completely professional, but I’ve never claimed to be anything more than myself and I have never called myself a professional (apart from above to make a very childish joke).
The AT2020 is a very capable microphone and is also very durable. It has lasted me, at time of writing, nearly six months. For me, if anything can last that long in my “care,” then it’s a good device. Are you as clumsy as I am? Do you like the AT2020? Is there another microphone — like the CO1U — that I should try? Please share your thoughts in the comments below!