When Mitchell and I went to CES, there were more than a couple companies that managed to convince us (okay, we forced ourselves on them) to spend a lot of time at their booth. One of those companies was Audio Technica. Having a broadcasting background and doing voice-overs on a daily basis, both Mitchell and I were on our game and already fans of AT’s impressive microphone lineup. One of the those microphones that caught our attention was the newly announced ATR2500 USB. You see, Mitchell and I both use the AT2020USB microphone when traveling and on a day-to-day basis. It is truly one of the most reliable and best sounding microphones I have ever used, and, it’s USB. I personally recommend this mic to just about anyone I know – amateur or pro.
Onto the ATR2500 USB. Seemingly a step up from the AT2020, the ATR2500 has one important feature that the 2020 did not – a headphone jack and volume control for no-latency (delay) monitoring. Finally, we can hear ourselves as we record to make sure everything is just right. The question remains, how does the ATR2500 USB stack up to our old faithful AT2020? Continue after the jump for my rather detailed first impressions. (Okay, its pretty much a full blown review!)
The Meat & Potatoes – Audio Quality
Originally when I wrote this review I had written the next section “What’s in the Package” first because that is the first impression; given that my first impression was based on the contents and overall aesthetics, I’ve decided to put that a bit later, after we talk about the core of this product: its audio quality and performance.
Given that this is a comparable product to the AT2020, comparisons are inevitable if I want to get my point across and explain in detail. The ATR2500 USB’s built in headphone jack is definitely a plus–and a plus that will make traveling with the mic that much more pleasant (being able to listen to what you are recording is a necessity unless you’ve just become accustomed to not). But what about the audio quality itself?
It’s good. For a sub $100 product that seamlessly connects to any Mac or PC, you’re getting great bang for your buck. The clear, balanced audio is apparent–just don’t be thrown by what you’re hearing in your headphones. What you are “monitoring” is definitely not the final finished product; when you hit play on your digital editing software, you’ll hear the true recording…and its good. In comparison to the AT2020, you’ll find the sound has more mid-range and more bottom end, which will likely only be an issue if you already have a fairly deep voice; for someone like myself who is more mid-range, the ATR2500 records a very nice and clean representation of my voice, and allows me to move around in the ranges without compromising the quality.
If you’re like me, one of the first things you notice with any microphone or recording environment is the noise. Given that waveforms aren’t forgiving, you’ll instantly notice that this microphone has a tight field of recording, virtually eliminating any room noise or ambient noise that may be around you. Fortunately, I had a construction crew outside my window when I first tested this thing out and in the final recording, you wouldn’t have known it. It really is that good, on par with the AT2020 for sure.
What’s in the Package
First impressions are important when it comes to any gadget–and mine were, well, not the best when it came to the ATR2500. You see, comparing it to the AT2020 may be the biggest obstacle this microphone has to deal with. The microphone itself is made of a high grade metal that feels nice and cool in your hands, and the microphone filter is strong and sturdy, making it a great travel companion. But when you go to click the buttons for volume control, you start feeling where the compromises were made. The buttons are a flimsy plastic that aren’t quite firm in your hands; they’re also shaky and a little noisy–not great when you consider that this is a recording device.
Then came the accessories. The microphone stand and mounting bracket took an obvious quality hit as well. Perhaps AT was looking to cut costs to focus on the audio, but it does not make a great first impression. The stand is made of a very cheap looking and feeling plastic that reminds me of my Son’s Tonka toys (newer Tonka, not older Tonka), the mounting bracket itself is almost as bad, and connecting the two makes you wonder how it will hold together on the road. Thankfully, the accessories and leather case that came with my AT2020 fit the new USB microphone–so at least we can feel like we weren’t too taken advantage of.
The ATR2500 USB is a good travel mic. If I were to nit pick on just a couple of things, it would definately be the quality of the accessories, or there lack of, which unfortunately provide a pretty poor first impression – thankfully, the sound makes up for it. Also, the placement of the blue LED light could have been a little bit more hidden, instead of beaming straight in my eyes; thankfully, when recording you get in nice and tight and avoid seeing double for a while thereafter. It delivers on its no-latency monitoring, but I must reiterate, don’t count on what you hear in your headphones as being the quality of what is being recorded. It simply isn’t–and in this case, that’s a good thing. I find that the monitoring could use a bit more volume, especially for some of my long-time broadcasting friends whose hearing is not as good as it used to be. Audio quality is a great overall, and in the end, that trumps the smaller issues; add in its $99 retail price ($70 online) and the fact that you can monitor directly through the mic, and the ATR2500 becomes a a microphone that’s hard to ignore.