So let’s say you’ve got an acoustic guitar but no studio. Or maybe you want to get into voice-over work.
But you’re missing something vital: a MICROPHONE!
You’ve shopped around, and it’s clear: you need a cardioid condenser mic. But which ones? Search no further; I’ve narrowed it down to just TWO great microphones!
Let’s get into this: Audio-Technica AT2020 vs. Rode NT1!
I’ll open with the Rode NT1 (and its confusingly-named brother, the Rode NT1A.)
Rode NT1 Overview
So you remember that quiet, mysterious kid in class? You never knew if he was listening or not, but it felt like he was, right?
That’s EXACTLY what the NT1 is like!
It’s an ALMOST silent cardioid condenser microphone. You get no self-noise in its recordings, but it’ll pick up every sound you throw at it!
All these good qualities make this a grandmaster among condenser microphones. That’s not even mentioning its flat frequency response!
The version pictured above is based extremely loosely on the Rode NT1A, but it’s been ELEVATED to an (almost complete) home studio.
Max SPL: 132 dB
This mic’s got a self-noise level of 4dBA. That’s even QUIETER than a whisper!
The phantom power humming within this microphone will keep it running WITHOUT any additional noise, so that’s one less thing to fix recording music.
Remember that “flat frequency response“ I mentioned up top? This mic will pick it up nice and pure, no matter your register!
This also makes it excellent for receiving acoustic instruments extremely clearly. With this bad boy, you can strum or drum pretty hard, and it can take it like a champ!
Rode’s also very big on after-sales service, so they offer a TEN-YEAR warranty on this mic as long as you pick it up from one of their registered sellers.
Your mic might not even last that long, but Rode will make sure it gets darn close!
- Comes bundled with an excellent metal pop filter, a rock-solid shock mount, AND a dust cover!
- Great for music production and acoustic instruments (Think of an Unplugged concert)
- Picks up the sound that you want it to and reduces what you don’t
- Australian-engineered and a ten-year warranty
- More of a Neutral response curve, so NO weird audio ticks in your recording.
- Flat frequency response (Pure sound, almost no interference pickup!)
- Great for recording vocals
- Somehow doesn’t come with a mic stand.
- The XLR (That stands for eXternal Line Return) cable it comes with is pretty bad. Beginners should be interested in getting a separate one.
- Price is on the high end, especially for beginners
- Sound can get too bright (High-end voices turn sharp)
- Extremely easy to confuse with the Rode NT1A
Audio-Technica AT2020 Overview
If the previous mic was the quiet kid, this one is everyone’s friend! Great listener for serious conversations, but just as comfortable taking the stage!
The AT2020 is known for its no-frills quality, even among other Audio-Technica microphones!
The Audio-Technica AT2020 is an absolute godsend for beginners when recording. Its self-noise might put you off after seeing the NT1, but you don’t have to worry!
20dBA is still way too low to mess with your recordings. Your sound is SAFE with this microphone!
This little mic’s frequency curve isn’t as supremely flat as the Rode’s, but it’s solid nonetheless.
Unless you plan on picking up the sound of silence, you won’t have problems with this Audio-Technica mic.
The AT2020 only comes in a subdued black finish, but that suits me just fine. It perfectly matches what you’ll need it for: a canvas for our vocal silk!
- Your voice over work will be cleaner through this mic
- Also good for those low-end, “dark” sounds like rap vocals.
- Incredible build quality
- Comes with a stand mount and storage bag (to keep your mic free from hand grease!)
- Reasonable price for an entry-level mic
- Cuts out lower frequencies, so you can safely ignore that weird rumbling sound in the background!
- Harsh on high-end voices (Don’t expect clear falsettos from this)
- NOT a USB mic (Check out the USB version here)
- No XLR cables, shock mount or pop filter, included here! (Or a stand for that mount, either)
AT2020 VS Rode NT1: Side-by-Side Comparison
Now that I’ve taken a look at both mics individually let’s see how their compare side by side, factor by factor.
I will look at build quality, sound quality, and pricing.
Build and Design (Winner: Rode NT1)
Is there any difference in their weights? You don’t want to be lugging too much in and out of the studio.
No worries there because both of these microphones are pretty lightweight. The Audio-Technica AT2020 weighs 0.76lbs (or 344.7g, for Metric readers.)
Meanwhile, Rode’s NT1 is 0.97lbs or 440g. Your back’s safe with these microphones!
These mics are fairly tank-like in their build quality, but please don’t drop your microphones to test them. You’ll risk damaging their sensitive internals!
You might wonder why I’m not discussing the cables. That’s because they’re NOT a concern!
These microphones (at least by themselves) will look almost completely clean on your desk.
That’s thanks to their convenient three-pin XLR cables, which are a MUST-HAVE in professional audio recording equipment!
Sound Quality (Winner: Audio-Technica AT2020)
So which one of these mics produces a better sound? The jury’s out on this one.
Some people say the Audio-Technica AT2020’s too tough on higher voices, and others say the Rode NT1 records poor raw sound.
Raw sound shouldn’t be much of an issue, though. You’ll still be cleaning up the mix with any microphone. Yes, even cardioid mics!
Refer to their Max SPL above or “Sound Pressure Level.”
These two microphones have a high SPL, so they can handle sound up to a pretty EXTREME level before the recording gets too fuzzy.
Just try not to SCREAM into these two microphones; they’re very sensitive!
Pricing (Winner: Audio-Technica AT2020)
Yeah, I know. Talking about price pumps, the brakes on any search.
But let’s be practical here. Your home recording studio needs to get off the ground SOMEHOW.
When you put the Audio-Technica AT2020 vs. the Rode NT1, the AT2020 WINS on price!
But the Rode NT1’s kit? Mighty attractive too! Don’t discount the convenience of a bundle.
Just remember that the AT2020 does NOT come with an XLR cable, so you’ll need one to get that phantom power running through it.
My tip? Take what you’ve saved on the AT2020, and use it to get a microphone stand and XLR cables!
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have any more burning questions about these two mics, you can refer to the following section for some answers.
How is the NT1 Different from the NT1A?
I mentioned earlier that the Rode NT1 has a very similar-sounding relative, the NT1A. What’s so different between them, anyway?
The biggest physical difference is in their weight. The Rode NT1A is roughly 25% lighter than its cousin (326g vs. 440g).
Noise-wise, the stakes are higher. The Rode NT1A LACKS the flat response curve of the NT1.
The NT1A registered to me as being less balanced in general, rejecting extremely low frequencies (<100Hz).
It was also too bright at higher frequencies (12-15KHz).
On the other hand, the Rode NT1A is much better when picking up loud applications with a Max SPL of 137dB!
It’s a bit of a balancing act with the NT1A, but I prefer the Rode NT1 for its consistency across its range.
How Do I Choose a Microphone for Voice Over?
Attention, all Morgan Freemans-to-be!
Microphone niches all have a little difference among them. But for voice-over, you’ll want a cardioid condenser microphone.
It’s a mouthful, but that basically means “a mic with a cardioid pickup pattern.”
Think of it like this: Your mic can pick up sound from all over. But you don’t want to hear EVERYTHING going on around you!
A cardioid pattern mic means the pickup is “one directional” only. So plug in that XLR cable, get that microphone and pop filter adjusted, and start emoting!
If you’re going to be moving around a lot during recording, you should also look into getting a shock mount.
These tough frames are INDISPENSABLE to ensure the mic doesn’t pick up any bad vibrations, like from you whacking the mic arm.
Where Can I Get Phantom Power From?
Simply put, phantom power comes from an XLR cable. That’s the odd three-pin one that you’ve probably seen before.
It lets your (hopefully condenser) microphone receive power while powering itself, like a power loop!
Think of XLR and phantom power as the part of the baseline you’ll need as a musical artist. Trust me; you’ll need both of them.
NOTE: Both of these mics need between 12 to 48V to work. Don’t fry your mics!
How Do Condenser Microphones Work?
A condenser mic is specially designed to reduce ambient noise to better pick up studio vocals.
When you listen to the mix, the quality of your vocals WON’T be completely muffled under any errant noise.
This is great if you live near noisy places or have a noisy household!
Condenser microphones also have incredibly sensitive diaphragms to help detect noise.
A microphone’s diaphragm helps audiophiles turn their vocal recordings into electric signals, so your mixing tools can read them.
Super useful, right?
Condenser mics are better for softer vocals, but their cardioid pickups can also handle a strong guitar.
Don’t forget that ALL condensers require phantom power. Batteries are not included nor accepted!
Keep in mind that MOST condenser microphones are cardioid patterns anyway, but it never hurts to check! (I’ve already checked both mics here. No worries.)
What Else Will I Need?
Studio monitors, for starters.
These are HIGHLY RECOMMENDED over regular stereo speakers because you want to be sure that your microphone has a very accurate representation.
Your bog-standard speakers often boost sounds coming out of them. Think like the BOOM of an explosion in an action movie.
When recording music or anything, you don’t want your highs to be too high, and vice-versa.
When your spit starts flying during an intense session, your studio will thank you for getting a pop filter:
- This flimsy-looking (but shockingly sturdy) tool is there to tame harsher syllables. Think of a sharp “S,” “Ch,” or “Z.”
- You’ll also want a shock mount if you’re a very active performer. Don’t risk messing up a perfect take because you punched the mic in excitement! (One of my options has you covered!)
Next, you’ll need an audio interface and a preamp. Stay with me now!
The audio interface is the missing link that lets your microphone “talk” to your computer. Finally, a pre-amp beefs up weak signals before getting to an amplifier.
Remember that some audio interfaces come loaded with pre-amps already so that you could get a two-in-one!
Final Verdict: Which Mic Is Better?
When it comes to the battle between the AT2020 and Rode NT1, the AT2020 wins!
Sure, it’s a little far from a complete home studio. But its price, durability, and sensitivity are TOP NOTCH!
Just make sure you use what you’ve saved on this dynamo for the rest of the gear you’ll need!
That’s a wrap on the AT2020 vs. Rode NT1 battle!
Whichever microphone you decide to pick, it’ll definitely improve your home studio!
This will differ depending on what you really need, but I think the AT2020 is the BEST microphone out of these two.
Of course, make sure to compare your needs to the pointers below.
You’re definitely an amazing start on your vocal journey with whichever microphone you pick!
Get The Audio-Technica AT2020 If:
- Your vocals are on the low end
- You need to get into vocal recording in a pinch
- You want a NO-FUSS (but still high quality) cardioid microphone
- You plan to use your microphone for rap
- You’ve got silky-smooth tones
- If you’re a human bass with a knack for narration, then the AT2020 is for you!
Get The Rode NT1 If:
- Acoustic guitars are your weapon of choice
- You need a microphone for recording vocals
- You want to take the music industry by storm
- You need a quality kit with a jaw-droppingly long warranty
- You plan to test the limits of its frequency response curve
- You wanted the Rode NT1A, but misclicked (It happens)
November 22, 2022 – minor formatting edits