Welcome to the Mark in Russia Podcast Network, episode # 057, and I’m your host, Mark.
You can listen to all of my podcasts at www.markinrussia.com
Regardless of what my topic is, on a weekly basis, the heart of the matter is that I enjoy podcasting and it’s my hobby. So, in addition to the different episodes I post, I also spend a lot of time reading about and communicating with other podcasters sharing and learning. Podcasters are a very diverse lot and cover the whole range of human endeavors and interests with their shows, but one thing that we all seem to have in common is a love and fascination with the equipment we use.
I’m fortunate to have a kind and understanding wife who, although she may not understand why, does not mind the fact that I now have 7 different microphones. To me the reasons for having 7 are understandable and obvious, but I suspect to your average normal person, the number may seem excessive.
Well, today I’d like to talk about one of these microphones.
I’ll be talking about the Audio Technica ATR 2100 USB/XLR Microphone. It is my opinion, based upon a lot of mistakes and experimentation, that for a starting podcaster, this may absolutely be the best choice, and not only for a starting podcaster.
When I was researching this mic, because it was only introduced less than a year ago, there was not a lot written about it and I was actually unable to find even one demo of the sound. I was in the market for two of these, to use as guest mics and felt a bit worried buying them without hearing them. I’m in Russia, although I pretty much order everything in the States and have it delivered to my US address, I only manage to get there once a year if I’m lucky. So by the time I’ve arrived and start to unpack my new toys, the return period has long passed. Just a parenthetical note; what is it with all of these “unboxing” videos on You Tube, I mean, is there really such a demand by people to see someone else opening a box and explaining what is inside of the box? You really don’t learn a thing and frankly, the video shows, in my opinion, a lack of ideas and talent on the part of the person making the “unboxing” video. I was actually pretty amazed at the shallowness of Audio Technica when I saw that the only video they, the manufacturer, posted on the internet on this new mic of theirs was an “unboxing” video on You Tube.
Well, I’ll use a bit more imagination than Audio Technica and hopefully give you some useful info.
The ATR 2100 is a dynamic mic with a cartioid mic pattern. For those of you that are new at this, this type of pattern mainly picks up what is in front of the microphone, while rejecting most noise from the sides and back. The fact that it is a dynamic microphone also means that it rejects most noise from the sides and back of the microphone. Now why are these big advantages? Well, most podcasters are not working from perfectly treated sound studios, but very often from a room in their home, sometimes even from hotel rooms, when they are on the road and wish to publish an episode.
The other type of mic, which is not dynamic is a condenser mic. While a condenser mic can sound really nice, it is also very sensitive and will pick up every little sound. This quality does not bode well for many podcasters. When I was using a condenser mic I even had to remove the battery operated clock from the wall on the far end of the room I use as my makeshift studio. Although when you are in the same room as the clock you don’t hear anything, the condenser mic heard it very well and recorded the tick tick tick also very well. That in addition to every breath I would take and every lip smacking noise. Even when I learned a lot of good mic techniques and also breathing techniques, I still had to remove some of this during post. The clock just had to come down from the wall each time I recorded and sit under a pillow. The ATR 2100 dynamic mic, or for that matter almost any dynamic mic, will help to greatly reduce these problems.
The ATR 2100 mic has a great advantage of being both USB and XLR. XLR mics typically always need a mixer, or as a minimum an XLR to USB converter. These are extra expenses that most starting podcasters don’t want to invest in, until the bug really bites them.
Many new podcasters will buy a USB only mic for starters and then as they grow and increase their equipment, move up to other mics. I speak from experience, having progressed through 3 different USB only mics. The ATR 2100 in addition to being an excellent mic, is also quite cheap in terms of microphones. I paid $46 each for both of mine on Amazon. For $46 this mic came with a tabletop microphone stand, a microphone clip, a USB cord and also an XLR cord. For all of this at $46 most people would not be expecting much, but this mic outperforms other mics costing 3 times as much. I kid you not.
Here on the bottom we can see the various connections. First we can see the XLR connector which mates up with a standard XLR cord using a male XLR connector. Next we have a USB connection in order to just plug this mic directly into your computer, without a mixer. Here we have a headphone connecter, 1/8” (3.5 mm) with a volume knob next to it. This is so you can monitor it in realtime with zero latency.
In order for you to hear just how this mic sounds out of the box, I’m going to link to the raw uncompressed .wav files so that you can hear and judge for yourself. I’ll link to files using; the mic direct to my computer using the USB capabilities, files using the XLR mode through a mixer and also kind of a bonus, I’ll also link to a file with the ATR 2100 connected directly to my Zoom H2 recorder, for this I’ll use a special XLR male to 1/8” headphone cable I had ordered. This allows you to use this great mic as a reporter’s mic in the field when you don’t want to have a lot of surrounding noise. Actually the new Zoom H2N will allow you to use this mic and also record the ambient sounds using the H2 onboard microphones.
The microphone has an on/off switch and also a nice blue light goes on when the microphone is receiving power either via USB or through a mixer. Because it is a dynamic mic, it does not require any phantom power when using it as an XLR mic. Frankly, the on/off switch on this mic is not really needed. If you turn it on or off while live, it is quite apparent and the switch is loud.
So far I’ve just been using this mic with a foam windscreen, a rather standard size that fits most all of these round ball type mics such as the Shure SM58. It seems to work fine and relieves me of the hassle of a separate pop filter.
One of my ATR 2100 mics has a mic flag that I had made up with my podcast logo on it. This just makes it seem more professional during an interview as a handheld mic and also when using the tablestand while doing video.
In my opinion, if you want people to take you seriously as an interviewer, having a mic flag on your mic with your logo on it lends a real look of professionalism. People will take you more seriously. To buy a mic flag can be a bit of an eye opening experience for the struggling podcaster. If you are buying one or two only, you can expect to pay anywhere from $40 to $65 each. But, if you are an interviewer or use video, it is worth the money. The length of the mic is not as long as some interview mics, but my flag still fits and leaves enough room for my hand to hold the mic.
I already spoke about how I purchased a cable to connect my ATR 2100 to my Zoom H2 portable recorder in order to conduct field interviews. I mentioned that the cable is a male XLR connector at one end and a 1/8” stereo headphone jack at the other. Actually, it is a stereo ¼” headphone connecter to which I added a ¼ “ to 1/8 “ stereo headphone adapter.
I plug this into the “Internal Mic. In” connecter on the side of the H2press the record button once to look at my levels, then set my gain to 118. For this mic this setting seems to work best. The H2 and H2n can only use dynamic external mics or battery powered condenser mics. The H2 series do not have XLR connectors or phantom power. The H4 and H4n do have these features.
In my show notes at this point I’ll embed a player with the .wav file using the ATR mic with the Zoom.
The ATR 2100 is not my “Go To” mic in all circumstances; my actual podcasting mic is now the Shure SM7B, but this is now my field mic and also the mic that I’ll use when doing offsite podcasts. It is no slouch and should not be thought of as a beginner’s microphone. In one sense it is a good beginner’s mic in the respect that if you buy this mic you will save a lot of money, not only on the initial purchase, but also on the savings of not buying additional mics as you become more successful and grow.
My first microphone was a Blue Snowball, which has a large almost cult like following of Apple disciples because it is sold in the Apple stores. I quickly replaced this with an AKG USB microphone and later by an MXL 009 USB. There are other microphones which are both USB and XLR, but very few which are dynamic mics. One which will undoubtedly be thrown into the argument is the Blue Yeti Pro USB/XLR condenser microphone. This is not a bad sounding mic, but it shares the same fault in terms of podcasting that all condenser mics share; the habit of picking up all unwanted noises in the area. Additionally, at $250 it is almost as much as a couple of professional dynamic mics; the Shure SM7B and the Heil PR40, both of these, in my opinion, are head and shoulders over the Yeti. Additionally, the Yeti is huge and heavy.
Well, I digress here and get back to the subject at hand.
The ATR 2100 is a great sounding dynamic microphone which will give a new podcaster without even a mixer, great sound and excellent unwanted noise cancellation for less than $50. This microphone will also grow with you if you decide to upgrade with a mixer, do interviews with a portable recorder, or just wish to keep your podcasting equipment as portable as possible.
Earlier in the episode I mentioned that I had not been able to find any sound samples about this mic when I was trying to decide whether or not to buy it. That has now changed and I actually found several sound samples while I was researching for my episode. I do hope that my samples and insights will help you in making a decision either for or against this mic and that is my reason for doing today’s episode.
Remember though, in order to have your podcast sound great it is also critical to practice good microphone techniques. For the ATR 2100 I use a foam cover over the ball and keep back about 4 to 6 inches from the mic, but not more. This is a dynamic mic and as with most dynamic mics, they want you to be closer for the best sound and noise cancellation. Adjust your gain accordingly.
Well, thanks for listening through to the end of this episode and I hope that you’ll listen to my next one. Until that time, this is Mark in Russia signing off and saying, GoodBye!