During the pandemic, I upgraded my home office, as I’m sure many of you did. To improve the audio quality of my videoconferences, I chose an Audio-Technica AT2020USB+V mic <audio-technica.com>. It never fails to garner positive comments on Zoom calls. Does it really sound that good? Yes — I believe it does. But the reason why it immediately grabs attention is because the limited-edition “V” version has a perfectly polished, reflective silver finish. The mic looks absolutely stunning on video calls. I have mine positioned in its included AT8458a shockmount, hanging prominently from an InnoGear Heavy Duty Suspension Arm Stand <innogear.com>. So much bling! Sound-wise, this mic is, at its heart, an AT2020 [Tape Op #49]. I appreciate how both the USB and non-USB variants of this side-address condenser mic add low-midrange warmth to close-mic’d vocals, while offering a gentle presence peak in the octave of 8–16 kHz, which enhances both the intelligibility and the “air” in vocals. Because the AT2020 relies on a medium-diaphragm, fixed-charge electret capsule, it’s very forgiving of proximity effect, and it doesn’t exhibit any harsh resonances in the 4–8 kHz sibilance range — which ultimately means that the mic will work for a wide range of talking and singing styles. Likewise, for these exact same reasons, the AT2020 is a great choice for acoustic guitar. Importantly, the class-compliant AT2020USB+ includes a built-in headphone amp with an onboard mixer, allowing you to blend the zero-latency output of the mic with a feed from your DAW — which makes real-time monitoring (and overdubbing) possible on Windows, macOS, iOS, iPadOS, and Linux without installing any drivers. Whether you’re needing a mic for video calls or for recording songs on the road or at your desk, sans-interface, the AT2020USB+ is a great choice, especially given its affordable street price of $149 for the mic and tripod stand, or $199 for a bundle with a boom arm and headphones thrown in. The $199 chrome “V” version includes the aforementioned shockmount. The mic and shockmount are smartly designed so that the mic’s headphone and mixer controls line up inside discreet slots of the shockmount’s frame, regardless of which compass point you orient the mic toward. Seriously, the AT2020USB+V is a joy to use, and it looks and sounds fantastic. ••• For recording and streaming sessions that require more than a USB mic, I rely on my Steinberg (Yamaha) UR24C USB interface <steinberg.net>, another desktop upgrade I made this past year. SM already wrote a review of the UR22C [#136], so I won’t expound on the great sound of the UR-C series. Instead, let me highlight two crucial UR-C features that SM didn’t cover. First is seamless integration with Cubase for in-DAW control of low-latency monitoring and onboard DSP effects. In short, if you prefer tape-machine–style punch-ins without having to manage I/O buffer settings, monitor track configurations, or secondary software mixers, then the two main options are (overpriced) Pro Tools Ultimate or a DAW that supports ASIO Direct Monitoring. Cubase plus UR-C is the best affordable choice for this workflow. The second essential feature is a Loopback function that lets you blend zero-latency inputs from your UR-C interface with a mix from your DAW — and then return the blend as standard input channels into your computer. Your favorite videoconferencing, podcasting, or live-streaming software can utilize that blend as its audio feed. Therefore, with Loopback enabled, you can, for example, teach a music class over Zoom, or in my case, run a virtual class on mixing while narrating what I’m doing in my DAW — all without additional software or hardware. It’s as if Steinberg anticipated the pandemic and knew that musicians and recordists could benefit from a turnkey solution for remote performance and real-time streaming.

Tape Op is a bi-monthly magazine devoted to the art of record making.

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