USB Microphone ATR-2100 Field Test Review

atr2100 microphone picture

The Audio-Technica ATR-2100 USB/XLR Mic is available at Amazon and other retail outlets. I recently purchased one for myself and have been testing it with various programs and equipment. Check out the video below to see the results.

The mic has not been as good in some ways as I’d hoped, but in others it has been really great.

I was thrilled to get this mic, then I used it and I hated it. Then I used it some more and I liked it. Now I really like it and think is an awesome bargain, well worth considering. At least I think so. Let me tell you why.

The big draw for me, then and now, is the USB and XLR connection. The XLR does nothing for me as is, but using the XLR to mini-plug cable I can connect to my camera and to my audio recorder. If you’re not familiar with the term XLR, just look at the photo below. It’s the fat plug connector that most professional microphones have been using for years to plug into mixing boards and other equipment you and I have never had.

XLR cable with mini-plug

The ATR-2100 comes with an XLR cable but it does me no good as I have nothing to plug that into. What I purchased was an additional cable, which is XLR on one end with a standard mini-plug on the other. This allows you to use the mic withabout every camera and device there is.

The other add-on i recommend is the foam windscreen cover. For me it’s about the looks but it also helps for better audio too. Without this cover the mic looks a little too goofy, and phallic. Yech. Get one.

This mike is a type called Dynamic cardioid. The short version of this is that it takes in sound from straight ahead and close by. It doesn’t pick up too much sound from the sides or further away. This is where you need to figure out if this is what you need. This is the part I never considered before I ordered it, and why it took some time to learn to work with it.

I had wanted to use this mic on a stand on my desk for voice-overs and short talking head segments. The other intended use was for Skype and Google hangouts. I was glad to see the mic comes with a nice little desk stand. It looks cool in your space, and that’s important to me.

Now the cool looks are a plus, but for my use and tests I find the stand totally worthless. Now I have to buy another accessory, a desk stand. I’m shopping them now and have no recommendation. The problem is that the stand is too short. The mic doesn’t work for me when it’s 6 inches away. It needs to be like 2 inches from my pie hole or it doesn’t work.

This could be a good budget mic for podcasts and screen capture voice-overs.  Want some proof?  This is the mic used by Dave Jackson for his show “School of Podcasting” [.com]

Out in the field this turns out to be a benefit. As you can see in my video test, the background noise is minimal even in a loud environment. If you film in noisy place this will be a good mic choice. Just a little practice and you’ll get the hang of it.

The bottom line is that I’m now very happy with this mic. The sound is very good and the price is very low. I’ll work through the other issues with very little fuss.

As you can tell I’m no audio techno guy. I don’t understand the physics and don’t care to know a lot more than I really need to know.

I hope this may help you out in some way. Watch the video if you haven’t and you’ll get a better idea of what’s what.

Mic Camera & Audio Test – Zi8, Zoom H2, Lavalier & ATR-55, ATR-6550,

mono to stereo plug adapter

People ask me about the mics I use in recording my Ez videos. I have a few, but certainly nothing that’s very expensive.  A professional musician or filmmaker could spend more for one mic than I have for all my camera and audio equipment put together.

Lately I’ve been using my Kodak Zi8 to make video.  The Kodak makes good video and it has an external mic input jack.  Many people use this camera with great results and it was wildly successful primarily because of the mic jack.  The Zi8 has joined in the flip in the no-longer-manufactured department so look for other products to find something similar today.

This piece will not focus on the camera but mic that plugs into it.  The more relevant equipment piece shown here is the audio recorder device, the Zoom H2.  A flip HD video camera with a Zoom recorder is also an excellent combo and will get the same results I’m getting in this test. [ Note, the flip cameras have no external mic jack.]

Now, let’s go outside for a little test.

I own only 3 mics, not including the Zoom H2, which has 4 mics built in. It is amazing as a stand-alone device but becomes even more amazing and versatile when used  with a decent external mic.

Generally, if I’m recording myself or just one person. I will use the lavalier mic.  If I am recording 2 or more speaking people I use the shotgun.  These shotgun mics are usually held by a boom or a stand but as you can see they work great as hand-held mics too.

The Audio-Technica ATR line offers great results at budget prices. They are especially perfect for pocket video cameras. The mini plug fits the Zoom H2, the Kodak Zi8, and most other pocket toys.

I used to use an Audio-Technica lavalier mic, but recently switched to the one here in the video. This is a simple mono lavalier model from Giant Squid Audio Labs. It’s the bomb!

One thing to note here is the mono/stereo plug. My shotgun mic, and many others, are mono with a single black strip on the male plug [see photo]. In order to get audio into 2 channel programs you need to add a mono/stereo adapter. The Stereo plugs have 2 rings on the plug so you can tell what you have. These adapters are widely available at Radio Shack or similar stores. They generally run about $3 to $5. While you’re there I recommend an extension cable of 10 ft or more. Get the highest quality and not the cheapest.

mono to stereo plug adapter

Turn 1 channel into 2 with this adapter

All of the mics I use were purchased new for about fifty dollars or less.  The Zoom H2 is about a hundred. Look for links in the sidebar to shop for current prices.

I use these mics with my camera and with my Zoom.  For ease of editing the straight-into-the-camera method is best.  This is Ez but can be very limiting.

Let’s say you want to record a speaker talking at the front of a room for an hour or more.  The camera [especially the Zi8] could easily run out of battery power. If the mic is wired then the speaker is too restricted. A wireless mic could be good but you just blew the budget!

I use the lav mic and put it into the Zoom H2. I then put the Zoom into the speaker’s pocket and let it go. The device runs on AA batteries and will run for 2-3 hours. The result is very high quality and professional sound.

Turn the audio into an mp3 and the speaker can have a super piece of content. Shoot small pieces of video for short promo pieces. If the entire presentation is needed in video you could place two cameras in the room then edit the 3 pieces together and find great results.

External mics offer your biggest increase in video quality. The real secret is that 70% of good video is the audio. Make your video sound great before you worry about a camera upgrade.

I am ignoring the issue of how to get the audio from the external recorder into the video .I use Sony Vegas Movie Studio for the editing but will have to leave this for another day.

Please and your comments and ask any question below.

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