[UPDATE] The ATR2100-USB microphone is now discontinued. If you love the ATR2100-USB, don’t worry – there is a replacement. The updated version is the ATR2100x-USB.
This article is still relevant as the new microphone is almost the same as the original. The key differences are the ATR2100x-USB has a USB-C connection instead of a mini-USB port and the power toggle switch is updated.
Is the ATR2100 the new Podcasting Standard Microphone?
“The Audio-Technica ATR2100 is quickly becoming the most popular podcast microphone”
And for good reason. The ATR2100 has everything that a podcaster needs.
Not all new podcasters start their show with a large podcast equipment budget. In fact, most are hobbyists and many don’t want to spend much to get started. Depending on how seriously they take their new hobby they may not want to invest money in a good podcast studio.
Other hobbies like scuba diving, skiing or golf do require an investment in gear. And podcasting is no different. Just like other hobbies, there is quite a wide range of what you can spend.
Even podcasters launching their podcast as a marketing channel for their business may want to start small and build out their podcast studio as they go.
With the average podcast lasting less than seven episodes, it is a good idea to make sure podcasting is for you before investing too much cash.
This is where the ATR2100-USB comes in…
6 reasons why the Audio-Technica ATR2100-USB microphone is the best starter microphone for podcasting.
- It is a USB Microphone
- It is an XLR Microphone
- It has a built-in headphone jack
- It is a dynamic microphone
- High-quality audio
- Relatively low price
All 6 of these attributes are great features to look for in a microphone and the ATR 2100-USB has all these features which makes it easy to recommend to beginner and experienced podcasters alike.
Why choose a USB Microphone?
A USB Microphone can be plugged directly into the computer without the need of a mixer or an audio interface. You can record your voice directly into the Audio Software of your choice. A new podcaster with a low starting budget may choose free audio software such as Audacity (PC or MAC) or Garage Band (MAC Only). More experienced podcasters may choose Reaper, Audition or Pro Tools.
You won’t need to invest in any other gear if you start podcasting with the ATR2100-USB.
Even if you do have a mixing board and other equipment like a digital recorder, you may be interested in buying the ATR 2100-USB. It is a good idea to have a USB microphone because you may need to record while away from your studio. Or when you are editing your show on the road you may need to add segments or sponsor messages and having a USB microphone comes in handy for these tasks.
A USB Microphone is also good for Webinars, Google Hangouts, Skype Calls, Blabs and other online audio/video live streaming applications. If you own a USB microphone you will have much better voice quality then your built-in computer or webcam microphone while participating in these platforms.
The iRig Pre Adapter allows you to use your XLR Mic with your smartphone or tablet. Sometimes the only computer you have with you is your Smart Phone or tablet and apps like Blab, Boss Jock Studio, and Auphonic allow you to stream (or record) straight into your iPhone. With a good XLR microphone and the iRig, you will have good quality audio in your mobile podcast recordings.
An XLR microphone is a microphone that can be plugged into a mixing board or a digital recorder with XLR input.
You may be wondering, What does XLR stand for? I never gave it any thought until I listened to an episode of the Podcast Engineering Show where they went into the explanation of what it means. If you search online you will see that there are a variety of theories but there is one that stands out as being the most accurate.
The ITT-Cannon corporation created the cable and the “X” came from the original Cannon X connector. Later they added a latch to the Cannon X and called it the XL cable. And then they added a rubber ring called it the XLR cable.
Here is a link to a brief history of the XLR cable if you are interested in more on the origin story of the XLR cable.
The ATR2100-USB microphone has both USB and XLR inputs
This means that you have the flexibility to use the microphone in different ways. You can plug it into your mixer or digital recorder while in your podcasting studio. You can plug it into your laptop’s USB port while on the road. Or you can use an adapter like the iRig to use the microphone with your smartphone.
If you are starting your podcast on a budget you can launch your show with the ATR 2100-USB and then expand your studio over time. Because the microphone also has an XLR input you will not have to buy another microphone. This microphone can grow with you as you expand your podcasting studio.
A built-in headphone jack allows you to monitor your recording straight from the microphone. There is a volume control dial so you can adjust the volume to suit your preference and environment.
While you are recording your podcast it is important to monitor your audio. Monitoring ensures good mic technique because you will hear yourself trail off if you turn away from the microphone. But you will also detect the background noise and other issues as you record. It is much better to record a clean audio file upfront than to try and fix it later in post-production.
Why choose a Dynamic Mic?
There are a few different types of microphones but the two that are relevant to podcasting are Condensor Microphones and Dynamic Microphones.
A Condensor microphone is more sensitive and captures more dynamic range in your voice. But because it is more sensitive it also captures all the background sounds like a computer hum, a fan or the dog barking outside. You can treat your recording studio with sound dampers and diffusers or use a hardware or software limiter/gate to help with the background noise issue. But for most of us, it is easier to use a Dynamic Microphone which still sounds good but isn’t as sensitive and doesn’t pick up all the sounds in the room.
You do have to be right up close to a dynamic mic though. Depending on the microphone, 2 to 3 inches is the sweet spot where you will sound good.
The ATR 2100-USB microphone produces good quality audio. In fact, it has a comparable audio quality as much more expensive microphones like the Heil PR40. You don’t need to spend hundreds of dollars to get a great sounding microphone. The ATR sounds as good as you will ever need for a podcast. Of course, people have their own preferences and different people sound better on different microphones. If you stick with podcasting you will eventually find out which mic resonates with your voice the best but as a starter mic, you can’t beat the ATR2100.
We haven’t even got to the best part yet… the price!
As I’m writing this the ATR2100 is $79.00 in the US Amazon Store. It does go on sale periodically and I’ve seen it sell for $59 recently. Even at the regular price, it is a great deal!.
I have both the ATR 2100-USB and the Heil PR40 and I do like the sound of the Heil better. But it definitely isn’t five times better… at best it is 20% better. But the PR40 is five times the price!
Some people are not able to discern the difference between these two mics. It kind of makes the Heil PR40 and other more expensive microphones seem like vanity mics. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy the Heil PR40 if you really want it (and can afford it). Podcasting is like any other activity and there is a range of equipment you can buy. Some people who ski buy basic equipment that gets the job done and others buy the top of the line gear. Work within your budget and do what is right for you and your show.
The ATR2100-USB is a great microphone for beginners and advanced podcasters. It is a microphone that you can keep using as you expand your podcast studio.