The AT-2020 offers superb sound quality at an unbeatable price! If you have used this mic before then you probably know that it has an open pickup pattern. This means your actual setup is going to matter a whole lot more in getting the best possible sound and a huge component of this setup is going to be an Audio Interface.
The AT-2020 is offered in both USB+ and XLR configurations. The USB+ is more geared towards live streaming, podcasting, and eBook readers. The XLR version, however, is what you would use in a studio for music production, and even for live performances. The XLR has a much better sound and lets you have a lot more control over the final output.
When choosing an audio interface for AT 2020, you want to look for something that has 48 volts of phantom power to go in between your computer and the mic. For a microphone, the preamps on the interface are crucial. Good preamps allow for reduced noise levels even with a high gain setting. You can turn the volume up and have the mic be loud without any external noise.
Cheap audio interfaces are not going to give you the output you are looking for. This is why we recommend to up your budget a bit and get something that will stand the test of time. You do not have to spend thousands of dollars though, but a really cheap interface is not the way to go if you are looking for something that will sound decent. A better audio interface will have a significant impact. It’s impossible to recommend something in the lower price range because the majority of them have noisy preamps that will not give you good results.
Best Audio Interface for AT-2020 Reviews
Audient iD4 MKII
The Audient ID4 is a USB 3.0 type interface with a 96kHZ sample rate and 24-bit depth. It has a relatively compact design which makes it great for on-the-go uses. It features 2 outputs and 2 inputs: one instrument input on its front side panel, and a mic/line input on the rear side panel. The instrument input is based on JFET transistors while its mic pre is Audient’s standard ASP8024.
On the rear side panel is a pair of balanced ¼’’ monitor outputs, a USB-C socket, and a phantom power switch (48V) which works great with your AT-2020. On the front side panel, you’ll find both a ⅛’’ and a ¼’’ headphone output along with the instrument input. Both of these outputs receive an identical signal and could be used at the same, which is extremely useful.
On the main panel, you’ll find 4 control knobs: A large knob to control your overall volume, 2 preamp gain controls for your inputs, and a balance control knob (for your Inputs or DAW) to monitor your hardware. Additionally, there are several LED indicators that activate if a USB is connected or if phantom power is on. There are also 5 LEDs above the main knob that indicate the dB level, that range from –36 dB to 0 dB.
The iD button is hands down the hottest feature we’ve seen on a budget interface. When you press the iD button, your largest knob (volume encoder) turns into a virtual scroll wheel. This means that you can integrate your scroll wheel within your DAW to control its different features and plugin parameters. This is good for giving you hands-on control as if you’re using physical hardware plus you can get really creative with it.
The iD4 has amazing DACs and ADCs that provide a 120dB dynamic range. While having two headphone outputs is great, the new 600 Ohm headphone amp is what will really impress you.
With regards to sound quality, you should expect almost zero noise with all your inputs and outputs active. You can certainly say that your AT2020 will sound amazing when bus-powered. The unit has great processors as well, we couldn’t even tell if there was any latency. It’s class A console preamps capture audio with a 44.1kHz to 96Khz sample rate and a 24-bit depth. These are the same preamps that Audient uses in its high-end line of products, which is truly remarkable. The sound clarity on them is really impressive. Plus, they produce very minimal noise even if you crank them up to their limits. No random pops, crackles or RF interferences. When we tested this thing, we even detected some faults in our music production setup because of how clear the sound is.
Compared to its precursor (the iD4 Mk I), the audio quality on the Mk II has been improved so that you have an extra 11dB of dynamic range on D/A conversions and 7dB on A/D conversions. You might think that these numbers are insignificant, however, they genuinely make the unit sound better. In addition to the larger headphone output and the better signal-to-noise ratio, the MKII had a significant upgrade to headphone power and DAC THD+N output. This makes the unit much more competitive. The instrument input section had a major upgrade as well! And so did the headphones/line out. The product designers also did a great job restyling it, its new design edges towards a more simplistic and user-friendly product.
The iD4 does have some drawbacks. For one, your headphone audio settings won’t be saved. Everything is digital. So, if you swap between computers or if you reboot your interface, all of your settings will be lost. This means that you’ll have to reset all your settings when that happens, which is a bit frustrating. Additionally, Audient enables you to cycle through its options and features using only a single knob. This might annoy some, but it’s really a matter of preference.
The unit is much more well-built than we expected. It has a hefty feeling to it, even though it doesn’t weigh a lot. The whole chassis is metal, but its knobs are plastic. They don’t “feel” plastic though. The iD4 is class compliant, which means that it doesn’t require any special drivers (at least on Mac). However, if you’re on a Windows operating system, then you can still download a driver to circumvent the issue.
Overall, we were genuinely impressed by the iD4 MK II, especially at its price tag. We can confidently recommend this unit to anyone in the market for an audio interface to complement his AT-2020!
Audient iD4 MKII Benefits
It features phantom power(48V) which is essential for your AT-2020
You can play the same signal simultaneously through its different headphone outputs, which is very useful.
The iD button feature is hands down one of the most remarkable features you’ll find on a budget interface.
The preamp circuit that is used in the iD4 is the exact one used in Audient’s high-end units. It produces a crystal clear output with very minimal noise
It has a very sturdy and hefty build, added points for durability as well.
Audient iD4 MKII Drawbacks
Your audio settings will reset whenever you switch devices or reboot your unit.
There is one single control knob for all your settings, which could be a bit frustrating. But it really is a matter of preference.
MOTU M2 2×2 USB-C Audio Interface
The Motu M2 is a USB audio interface that features 2 inputs and 2 outputs. It offers a maximum sampling rate of 192 kHz and a 24-bit depth. Its 2 input jacks are TRS/XLR combo types. Each of them is equipped with an individual direct monitoring switch and a phantom power(48V) toggle.
The M2’s inputs are located on the left part of the front panel. Each with their respective control buttons to their right. You can monitor each input port separately either manually or in stereo since you capture 2 microphones at once. You can toggle this feature using the MON button. Above this button is the phantom power (48V) toggle which you’ll use to power your AT2020.
On the rightmost part of the front panel, there is an I/O display, a ¼’’ headphone out, and a volume encoder knob. The display is a full-color LCD, which means that you get very detailed metering for your inputs and outputs. On the back panel, you can find 2 unbalanced RCA outputs, 2 balanced TRS outputs, MIDI input/output sockets, a USB 3.0 port, and a power switch.
With regards to performance, the unit’s preamps can provide a lot of amplification while also producing extremely clear audio. The M2 works incredibly well on sensitive mics! It can amplify the signal and still produce extremely clean recordings. This is mainly due to the unit’s remarkably low EIN (Equivalent Input Noise) of -129 dBu. You also have the option to listen to your recordings live if you connect any type of speaker to your interface.
The unit contains a great DAC (Digital to Analog converter). Combine that with the unit’s loopback connectivity feature and you can effortlessly monitor or Livestream your audio with very low latency. The Motu M2 is the best in its class in terms of recording performance. You really won’t notice any latency on this thing, and its DAC does a great job as well!
We did run into some issues with the Motu M2. When we tested the unit, our mics produced several random clicks and pops when we had the buffer set at 256. We have a really powerful PC, so this shouldn’t have been an issue. We had to set the buffer to 512 to get rid of those pops/clicks. However, we did eventually get rid of the issue when we installed the latest driver. Apparently, it’s just a matter of outdated drivers. You honestly just have to install the latest drivers during the setup process, then you are set.
Another thing you might find a bit bothersome is the absence of a direct monitor mix control. You can’t really mix your direct monitor levels within the box volume. You’ll have to modify the master volume or track later on in your DAW. However, this issue was properly rectified in the M4 which does have a monitor mix control.
In comparison with the M2, the M4(its successor) has 2 extra inputs, a monitor mix, and 2 extra line outputs. Those I/Os are also slightly more accurate and produce less noise. However, the M4 is notably more expensive than the M2, and the M4 is tailored toward professional environments while the M2 is built for home studios. Plus, the M2 will work incredibly well with your AT2020!
The Motu M2 is rather sturdy and a bit weighty. It is made out of metal and doesn’t feel cheap at all. The design of the unit is quite appealing as well. Plus, the colored display is, undoubtedly, one of the best features we’ve seen on a budget interface.
The M2 deploys the same technology used in high-end interfaces. We compared the M2 with several other interfaces in the same price range. The results weren’t even close! It’s immediately apparent that the M2 is a totally different animal! This thing has so much power and durability. You can safely assume that the M2 will become an integral part of your home studio setup and a long-lasting one!
MOTU M2 Benefits
It has 2 XLR/TRS combo inputs each with its individual direct monitoring button and phantom power toggle.
You can run 2 different microphone inputs simultaneously through it and monitor each one separately
It has extremely powerful preamps that can produce very clean audio along with a great deal of amplification.
The unit contains a great DAC, plus it has no significant latency.
Very sturdy build. It is enclosed in metal and feels rather hefty. It doesn’t feel cheap at all!
MOTU M2 Drawbacks
The M2 doesn’t feature a Direct Monitor mix knob. So, you have no way of mixing your direct monitor levels within the box volume. However, you can still modify the master volume or track in your DAW.
You might face some issues if you don’t install the latest drivers. However, you only ever need to update the drivers once during the setup, then you’re set.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo
Focusrite’s Scarlett Solo is a basic yet powerful USB audio interface that features 2 inputs and 2 outputs. Its 2 input channels allow for different types of inputs. Channel 1 input is an XLR type input while channel 2 input is a TRS type input. On its front panel, you’ll find a ¼’’ headphone output, a direct monitoring switch, and a large volume encoder. You can use the Direct monitoring feature to monitor your inputs without any noticeable latency. On the rear panel, you’ll find 2 balanced line outputs and a USB-C socket.
Channel 1’s XLR input features an “Air” button and a phantom power(48V) toggle. Phantom power is a must if you want to connect your AT-2020. On the other hand, the Air feature boosts mid-high frequencies and adds special details to them, creating a pleasant effect. It works especially well with vocals. Channel 2’s TRS input can either be used as a HI-Z input or line-level input at the toggle of a button.
Channel 1 is mainly used for vocals, however, you can also connect an amp or an acoustic instrument to it. The unit’s preamp can handle really high input volumes, so your AT-2020 will work just fine. You can also control the gain on your input signal using a small knob that is equipped with an LED Halo. The LED gradually changes colors from green to red as a sign that the audio might distort.
You can plug in any TRS type input in channel 2. This channel also has a gain knob with an LED indicator along with an instrument button. The button is mainly used to handle hot pick-ups and high-output instruments by switching the default line-in to a bass/guitar adapted channel.
The unit sounds absolutely incredible and crisp. We really had zero issues with random pops and clicks when we tested the device. The device also has virtually no latency! and the DAC on this thing provides a very clean audio output! For such a compact and cheap interface, the Scarlett Solo has a fair dynamic range. The dynamic range is 110 dB, 110.5 dB, and 111 dB for the instrument, line, and XLR inputs respectively. We did mention that the XLR is primarily used for vocals, but you can really connect any acoustic instrument because of the AIR feature. It’ll properly handle any aggressive transients.
Compared to its gen 1st and gen 2nd predecessors, the 3rd gen Scarlett Solo has superior preamps and A/D, D/A converters. The 2nd and 3rd gen models also boast a 192kHz sample rate compared to the 1st model’s 92kHz sample rate. There were also some major improvements implemented on the 2nd gen Solo drivers to decrease latency, which progressed to the 3rd gen model. Overall, there weren’t any changes in the numbers of I/Os, but their hardware did undergo a major upgrade.
A lot of 2 channel audio interfaces allow you to only record a single track at a time. This is more common in older models. However, you can record 2 tracks simultaneously on your Solo if your DAW allows it. Yet, the Solo only has 1 preamp. So, your second input channel will be un-preamped because the preamp will be preoccupied with the 1st channel (vocals). This does impose some limitations, plus it explains why the Solo is significantly cheaper than other models. You really can only record mono signals but never stereo. However, you can still convert the mono signal into a stereo one on your DAW.
Also, The Scarlett Solo doesn’t have a power switch. So, you don’t have a way to power off your Solo other than to plug/unplug it. However, the unit never overheats even after prolonged hours, so you might as well keep it plugged in.
We really would only suggest the Solo if you are a singer/guitarist. Otherwise, check out Focusrite’s 2i2 model which is slightly more expensive and bigger, but gives you much more power and features. It’s ideal for music production purposes. The Solo is really light and easy to use, so if you’re only looking for an interface to complement your AT-2020, go Solo!
Overall, the Solo is relatively light and compact compared to other Scarlett models. Yet, it is made of the same durable material as the high-end models. It’s very portable and works reliably. It’s also fairly simple to use. You can easily monitor your inputs using the Direct monitor switch. Just plug in your headphones, adjust your volume, and enjoy the low latency monitoring.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo Benefits
It features Direct monitoring which enables you actively monitor your inputs with virtually no latency.
It features phantom power(48V), which is essential if you want to connect your AT-2020.
It provides a very remarkable dynamic range for a compact and rather inexpensive interface. The Instrument, line, and XLR inputs have a 110 dB, 110.5 dB, and 111 dB dynamic range respectively.
The Pre-Amps, A/D, and D/A converters on the Solo are incredibly powerful.
Focusrite Scarlett Solo Drawbacks
It only has a single preamp. So, if you want to use the second channel for recording, it won’t be preamped. Your preamp will probably be preoccupied with the vocal channel.
You can’t record in stereo, you’ll only ever get mono signals.
It doesn’t feature an ON/OFF switch, but it doesn’t overheat so you might as well keep it plugged in.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I use the AT-2020 without an Audio Interface?
The At-2020 XLR Version requires 48V power to operate. So, you can’t really run one without an audio interface/USB mixer or at least an adapter that can provide 48V. The XLR version is definitely great, especially because of the hands-on mixer controls, but this setup can be an overkill for some.
If you are really hung up on buying an AT-2020 but don’t want to buy an interface, then consider the AT-2020 USB version or the AT-2020 USB plus version (which contains an extra 3.5mm port that allows you to listen to your voice). However, an XLR version connected to a decent interface will produce far more impressive recordings.
Will any Audio Interface work with the AT-2020?
The AT-2020 is a condenser mic which means that it requires phantom power(48V) to operate. That’s why you should make sure that your audio interface has a phantom power feature. Phantom power is usually provided over 3-pin female type XLR microphone input sockets. So, you will probably need an XLR M/F mic cable to connect your AT-2020 to your interface.
Do I need anything other than an Audio Interface to record with an AT-2020?
In addition to an audio interface, you’ll need an XLR M/F cable to connect your mic to your interface. You’ll also need a cable to connect your interface to your PC, most commonly a USB-C cable, but those usually come with the audio interface. You might also need a pop filter to filter extra noise.
Can I use my Audio Interface to record anywhere with the AT-2020?
The AT-2020 is much more sensitive than a normal mic. This means that it’s more prone to pick up background noise from an AC, fans, etc. If you have a sound-isolated room, then you’re good to go. Else, we recommend that you soundproof the environment you want to record in using a prebuilt shield, acoustic foam, etc.