Both the Sure SM58 and the Audio-Technica At2020 are some of the most famous microphones out there.
The reason for this is that they are extremely affordable while sounding great.
Even though they are completely different beasts, a lot of people seem to want to know which one they should buy, especially considering that they sell for almost the same price.
In this post I will do my best to describe each of them and tell you exactly which one you should get depending on your needs.
So, let’s get started…
Basic differences between the Shure SM58 and the AT2020
The SM58 is a dynamic microphone which means that it can handle really high SPL.
Since it’s a passive mic, it is going to need a lot more gain to achieve the same volume as the AT2020.
It also has an overall darker sound when compared to the AT2020.
The AT2020 is a condenser microphone which means that it is an active mic and needs Phantom Power to work.
The AT2020 is far more sensitive, meaning that the gain required to get a good audio signal isn’t as high as with the SM58, and it sounds brighter.
If this is all you need, great!
If you want a more detailed description as well as which one I’d recommend depending on your specific needs, then keep on reading…
There are probably few better-known brands in the music industry than Audio-Technica.
They make some of the best microphones on the market and the AT2020 is the go-to mic for almost every beginner home recording enthusiast.
Plus, you won’t see a studio that doesn’t have at least a couple of them…
The AT2020 is a cardioid condenser microphone, which means that it is going to need phantom power in order to work properly.
More on this in a bit…
Just like all the Audio-Technica microphones, the AT2020 is extremely well built.
When holding it in my hand it doesn’t feel like a cheap product at all, quite the opposite actually.
However, since it’s a condenser microphone, I wouldn’t recommend dropping it or not worrying too much about it taking a beating…
Condenser microphones are a bit more sensitive than dynamic mics, so keep this in mind.
The AT2020 can be used for a lot of different applications, such as;
Recording music, doing voice-over work, streaming, creating YouTube videos, and more.
Since the Audio-Technica AT2020 has a Cardioid pickup pattern, it will mostly be picking up sound from the front while rejecting sound from the back and the sides.
This is essential because you want to avoid picking up unwanted noises and any of the room’s natural sound, and a cardioid pattern will help with this quite a lot!
It has a frequency response of 20Hz-20kHz which is standard for almost every large diaphragm condenser microphone out there.
Important note: In the beginning I mentioned that in order to record properly, the AT2020 will need a phantom power supply.
The good news is that almost every modern Audio Interface, even the cheapest ones, will be able to supply it.
So, if you don’t already own an Audio Interface and are looking to purchase one, here are a couple articles I wrote which should be very helpful.
- Best Audio Interfaces under $300
- UMC22 Vs UM2 (Cheapest ones)
- Scarlett 2i2 vs UMC204HD (Higher quality and affordable)
- Scarlett 6i6 vs UMC 404HD (A bit more expensive but very cost-efficient)
How does it Perform?
The sound quality is excellent, and I mean excellent, especially considering the price.
The only thing I don’t like that much is that it can sound a bit crispy at times, but that isn’t that much of an issue since you can fix that with just a bit of EQ afterwards.
And this is only if you don’t like the crispiness, since some people actually love it!
The AT2020 would be my top recommendation for anyone who is looking for a super cheap cardioid condenser microphone simply because of the overall sound quality and cost-efficiency.
It records your vocals extremely well, as well as acoustic and classical guitar, which is what I used it for before getting the AT3035 and the AT4040.
There’s a reason why the AT2020 is part of almost every music studio, and that is because when taking cost-effectiveness into account, there are few microphones that can stand up to it.
With an overwhelming number of positive reviews on Amazon, you know that you are getting a quality product.
What comes in the box?
- The Audio-Technica AT2020 Mic
- A storage Pouch
- Microphone Clip
- Great Build quality
- High SPL handling and wide dynamic range provide maximum versatility
- Cardioid polar patter which reduces the overall noise picked up
- 144 dB SPL Handling
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can check the price and reviews of the Audio-Technica AT2020.
The Shure SM58 is the go-to microphone in the recording industry, from live performances to studio recordings, and even home studio recordings.
It’s a cardioid dynamic microphone, which means that it will be a lot less susceptible to feedback.
Even great artists like Elton John use this microphone, which means that it must be extremely good.
And if it’s good enough for Elton John, it’s clearly good enough for the rest of us!
Just like with all Shure Microphones, you can expect an outstanding build quality.
The Shure SM58 is built like an absolute truck…
You could drop it a hundred times, step on it, or do anything you could think of and it will still sound perfect!
The great thing about dynamic microphones is that they can handle extremely high pressure levels.
Another benefit is that since they are a lot less sensitive than a condenser microphone, like the AT2020, they are even less susceptible to picking up unwanted noise.
It comes with a built-in shock mount, which cuts down on the handling noise, as well as a built-in pop filter.
This pop filter will be enough for live performances, but if you truly want to get rid of the plosives, then you should use an extra pop filter.
Of course, this would only apply when you’re recording at home or in a studio…
The Shure SM58 has a mid-boost and bass roll-off to help the vocals better cut through the mix and also to better control the proximity effect.
How does it Perform?
As you can see, the SM58 is mostly aimed towards live performances, but this doesn’t mean that it can’t be used to record in the studio.
Using the right microphone for the singer is essential, and you should always consider trying a lot of them out before recording to see how each of them suits the singer.
A lot of great albums were recorded using a SM58, so don’t be fooled into thinking that to record vocals at home you’re only going to want to use condenser microphones.
The recording quality of the Shure SM58 is absolutely phenomenal…
It does sound a bit dark, at least when compared to the At2020, but this can be fixed with EQ, should you need to.
It’s especially good for loud screaming rock- and metal vocals.
Plus, it’s much more versatile than the AT2020 for the simple fact that it can be used to record in your home studio as well as for live performances, band practice, etc.
What you get in the box:
- Shure SM58 Microphone
- Microphone clip
- Rugged and really durable metal body
- Great feedback rejection
- High sound pressure handling capability
- Shock-mounted capsule provides excellent suppression of handling noise
- Uniform on- and off-axis response (better than the e835 in my opinion)
- Cardioid pick-up pattern provides isolation from other on-stage signals
Here’s a link to Amazon where you can see the price and the reviews of the Shure SM58.
Here are all the differences
Which one should you choose?
To be honest, both are excellent, and I don’t think that you can go wrong purchasing either of them, in fact I would recommend having both.
However, there are some things you should take into consideration if you’re only going to get one.
If you want a microphone that works both for recording at home and for doing live shows, then go with the SM58.
Not only that, but dynamic mics tend to pick up much less of the room’s natural sound…
This means that if you don’t have any sound treatment, the quality of the recording will probably end up being better with the SM58.
The SM58 is also better for recording guitar and bass cabinets.
On the other hand, the AT2020 is much more sensitive, meaning that it will pick up a bit more detail…
It also sounds warmer and brighter, which most people are going to like.
But remember that it will also record a lot more of the room’s natural sound, especially if you don’t have acoustic treatment.
So, if you don’t have any acoustic treatment and you also want to be able to use the same microphone at home and during live shows, then get the Shure SM58.
If you want a warmer sounding and more sensitive microphone, then go with the Audio-Technica AT2020.
Like I mentioned, both of these microphones are excellent, and I would recommend you get them both since the can be used in a lot of different ways.
The great thing about them is that they are super affordable, and you probably won’t need to upgrade until much later.
I hope you found this information useful!
Have a great day!
I've worked in a music studio a couple of years back and now I mostly record at home and try to learn as much as I can about producing music and about the gear that is required to do so.
This is something I really enjoy doing.
The whole point of this Website is to help you and others learn more about how to produce music, especially from home.
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