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By Jason Snell

Review: Audio-Technica ATR-2100x microphone

audiotechnica-mics-compare
The new ATR-2100x microphone (right) replaces a Mini-USB connector with USB-C.

For a while now my go-to podcast microphone recommendation has been the Audio-Technica ATR-2100. At around $100 it’s relatively cheap, sounds great, and thanks to its USB port it doesn’t require you to buy a separate USB audio interface. (It’s not just me—Marco Arment also really liked it.)

The ATR-2100 has been discontinued, and replaced with the new Audio-Technica ATR-2100x. After traveling for a week with the ATR-2100, I returned home to discover its successor waiting for me in a box on my desk.

The good news is that, so far as I can tell, the new microphone sounds just as good as the old one did.

One of the most important features of a microphone, especially one that you’re going to use in unforgiving spaces (i.e., noisy or echoey places like where most of us live and work and record podcasts), is the ability to suppress room echo and background noise, and the ATR-2100x does that really well.

Here’s how Marco describes it:

An amazing value for the money: it sounds great for the price, and pretty decent at any price, as long as you speak up very closely to it…. Compared to other inexpensive USB mics aimed at beginners like the Blue Yeti, the ATR2100x picks up far less room echo and background noise, and is much easier to travel with. But you have to speak up closely to it — if you’re using its desk stand, elevate it up to mouth level (with e.g. a stack of books) if possible.

This microphone also has a few other features that make it more flexible than other microphones. The big feature of this new version is that it’s got a USB-C port, rather than the previous model’s Mini-USB. In practice, I don’t think this port swap is especially meaningful—you could use the old microphone with a USB-C-to-Mini-USB cable—but we’re entering a world where USB-C cables will be common and Mini-USB cables rare and weird, so this is better.

Like its predecessor, the ATR-2100x also has a headphone jack, which is vitally important because it gives you immediate feedback of your own voice in your ears while also relaying audio from the device it’s attached to. It’s always better to hear your own voice in your ears as you talk (without any delay) to reinforce good microphone habits like facing toward the microphone when you talk.

Most importantly, both old and new models also include an XLR connector, meaning they’re compatible with external devices such as USB audio interfaces and portable recorders. And both XLR and USB ports can be used simultaneously, which lets me connect to my iPad for use with Skype while also recording my audio directly via an external XLR recorder. Since iOS won’t let me make a Skype call while also record my local audio, that’s a vital bit of flexibility.

The only significant difference is the replacement of Mini USB (left) with USB-C.

Beyond the USB-C port, there aren’t many other changes to the design of this model. The color scheme is different, the mute switch is slightly different (but just as noisy), and the LED that indicates the microphone is connected via USB is now a part of the same housing as the switch, rather than being separate. (Alas, it doesn’t change colors or turn off when the mute switch is on.) The included small, cheap mic stand has been redesigned—it’s still small and cheap, but it’s functional.

Overall, this is an exceedingly small upgrade, but that’s just fine—this microphone was already great. Pair it with a cheap windscreen (a must, because you need to be close to it to be picked up properly) and consider adding a shock mount and a better mic stand to create a low-cost podcast studio. Like I said, I recorded four podcasts on the road with one of these microphones last week. You won’t do better for the price.

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