I just had the opportunity to sit down with Audio-Technica's AT2010 condenser mic and compare it with some other microphones in the same price range (and some that sell for more). Here is what I found. By the way, one of the cool things about the AT2010 is that it is an offshoot of the famous AT2020 studio condenser mic. In fact, A-T used the same element found in the 2020 and worked their magic to put it into a rugged handheld mic body. Now you can have studio-quality sound, in a handheld version that will hold up to rigorous stage use.
The mics I tested were the AT2010, the Shure SM58, Shure Beta58A, the Audio-Technica Artist Elite AE4100 (dynamic), the Audio-Technica Artist Elite AE3300 (Condenser), and an old A-T Pro5 that I have used for years and know as a reference.
I listened to the mics in a situation that I am familiar with; that is singing while playing my guitar through a small sound system which I am used to hearing. I had the mics on a boom stand for the first part of the test and plugged them into the TC-Helicon VOICETONE HarmonyG voice processor as a way to set the gain and supply phantom power to the condenser mics. My first test was to turn off all effects on the HarmonyG so there was no processing on the mics. Then I sang the same portion of a song into each mic. I was careful to adjust the gain of each one so their perceived output level was the same.
I started with the familiar SM58 and got that patented sound that is fairly flat with a little hi-mid bump to let the vocal cut through a bit. Then I tried the Beta58A which was a little hotter (more sensitive), more punchy and had a brighter edge on it than the 58. Then I tried the AT2010. All of a sudden, the sound opened up and there was more range (I could especially notice a warm low end that didn't seem to be there with the first two mics. Also I could hear it more distinctly when I changed the dynamics in my voice. My softer vocals had more detail and I could hear more of a difference when I went from soft to loud. I also noticed that the 2010 had a little more sensitivity to P-Popping (especially catching the very low frequencies of the "P" sounds). I am used to working very close to the mic (almost touching and sometimes touching it) when I sing. I did notice that the effect lessened some if I backed away a few inches. I think using the bass roll-off that many mixers have would be a wise thing to use with the 2010 for those who have more of a problem with plosives. A small spit screen or wind screen may also help.
Next I tried the AE3300 condenser. This mic was the best of the bunch with an even more smooth response that seemed to follow my voice very naturally without any build up in any part of my range. This mic sells for $249.99 and would be a good choice if you are looking to spend more on a mic as an investment in your vocal instrument. Next was the dynamic AE4100 which had a little more openness than the SM58 but seemed a little too lifeless after listening to the condensers. I finished with my familiar Pro5 (boy was I wanting the 2010 after hearing how wimpy my old dynamic sounded).
I ran through the mics a few more times each - trying them dry, then adding a touch of reverb and voice harmony (like I sometimes do in a live setting). The dynamics of some of the music I play can change very rapidly, or I may sing a set of songs that go from very soft and intimate to quite loud and energetic. I kept coming back to the open and clear sound of the condensers and how well they handled dynamic change. I really liked the AE3300 the best, but I kept in mind that the 2010 sells for only $99, which is the same price as the SM58 and several other popular dynamic mics.
I also listened to the mics through a pair of studio headphones (semi-sealing). The Beta58A was punchy, but a little brittle sounding for my taste with my voice. I could hear the detail even more in both of the condensers with the headphones. The warm extended bass response with the AT-2010 was even more evident. The last test I tried was to see what the handling noise of each mic was when they were set to the same perceived volume level. I was surprised that the AT-2010 was as quite, or quieter than all the dynamic mics. Only the AE3300 was quieter; and that was when I flipped on its bass roll-off switch.
Over all, the AT-2010 performed very nicely, especially for its low price. The mic is built quite solidly, but is not heavy and feels comfortable to hold. If you are looking for an affordable mic that will highlight your expressiveness and the nuances of your voice, the AT-2010 would be a great choice for you. Also, the 2010 would be a nice mic for female voices, giving them a nice warmth without losing any clarity or sounding brittle.
John Ubben is a worship leader, guitar player/singer and an audio veteran for more than 28 years.