The Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB is a cardioid dynamic microphone that supports both XLR and USB. It’s a versatile content creation mic designed for live performance, podcasting and voiceover use. Connect it via digital USB to your computer or analog XLR to your sound system, with 3.5mm audio output to headphones for direct monitoring. Available in Singapore at a retail price of S$128.
Unboxing and Operations
The ATR2100x-USB comes with a generous set of accessories, including one USB-C to USB-C cable, one USB-C to USB-A cable, one XLR cable, a mic holder, and foldable table-top mic stand. Most premium mics do not come with XLR cables, so the ATR2100x-USB presents tremendous value.
The mic feels dense and heavy, the matt-finished metal body feels cool to the touch. It looks like a normal professional stage mic with additional USB-C, 3.5mm connectors and volume knob at the bottom – quite a lot of ports within the small space. When the mic is plugged via XLR, it behaves like a normal analog dynamic mic, transmitting signals to the audio console for processing.
Once connected to the USB-C, the mic becomes a digital device with an audio interface to process the mic inputs and transmit audio output at 24-bit and up to 192kHz sampling rate. A blue LED button lights up when connected to USB-C. The power button turns off the microphone circuit but 3.5mm audio is still operational. This is beneficial when you want to listen to the audio playback from the connected USB device without hearing the mic inputs (the ATR2500x-USB did not have the power button). Basically, the ATR2100x-USB can work like an external sound card.
Don’t worry if you break the chrome-coloured head, as it can be unscrewed and replaced.
The ATR2100x-USB has a standard cardioid polar pattern, which means the top part of the mic is the most sensitive, the sides less so, and the back is non-sensitive. It captures the vocal range adequately, with nice crisp sibilance captured at the upper frequency with clean body at the lower frequency, as expected of a dynamic mic. It delivers clean sound recording without too boomy or chesty. I have a unit of the Sennheiser e835, and upon comparison, the e835 captures a little more lower frequencies.
Between the XLR and the USB-C version, there are no distinct differences, but the XLR runs the risk of signal noise coming from the audio equipment. The USB-C connection makes the ATR2100x-USB more versatile, allowing you to record studio-quality vocal using a smartphone or laptop without the need for a separate audio interface.
I do not do much voiceover productions, but I use the ATR2100x-USB for online meeting calls and received good feedback that my voice is clear and it does not pick up background noise as much, including loud renovation drilling noises. The direct voice monitoring over 3.5mm with volume control is also helpful in managing my voice, without which I might be speaking too loud or too soft during conversations.
You might think it’s an overkill to use a dynamic mic for online calls, but after using for weeks, I find that it gives me greater confidence in my speeches and presentations. Putting it on a stand instead of clipping a lavalier mic on my body means greater control over my voice, where I can choose when I want to voice my opinion and not project the accidental grumbles or background chatter with my family by moving away from the mic stand.
Dynamic vs. Condenser Mics
Compared to lavalier and condenser mics, the dynamic mic is less sensitive in picking ambient sound, which works well in an environment without acoustic treatment. Audio pick-up distance needs to be close to the mic.
I’ll be publishing a review article of the ATR2500x-USB cardioid condenser microphone soon, but both microphones behave differently. There is a tendency to think that condenser mics are better, and they are definitely more sensitive. However, it can also work against you if you are using it in an acoustically poor environment as it will pick up background noise a lot more. I find the ATR2100x-USB easier to use for recording voices, while the ATR2500x-USB is better at recording all types of sounds with wider dynamic range but it needs an additional step of post-processing to achieve the quality. Also, note that the ATR2500x-USB does not have XLR connector, so it’s a pure digital mic.
If you need a versatile dynamic microphone that lets you work with both the traditional XLR way and the new-gen digital workflow, then the Audio-Technica ATR2100x-USB is an excellent choice. It looks professional, captures high-quality audio, is so affordable, and you don’t need to spend additional money on cable accessories.
The ATR2100x-USB retails at S$128, available at all good audio retail and online stores. Official product link here.