MXL 770 vs AT2020 (Key Differences & Which Is Best)

Last updated:
Disclosure: We may receive commissions when you click our links and make purchases. Read our full affiliate disclosure here.
  • The MXL 770 and the AT2020 are affordable mics for beginners
  • Both are condensers, ideal for studio recording, broadcasting, and podcasting
  • The MXL 770 is cheaper, but the AT2020 is more flexible

The MXL 770 and Audio-Technica 2020 are great choices for those looking for large-diaphragm condenser mics on a budget.

Both are comparable mics and have many similar features. However, their differences may sway you one way or the other.

In this article, we compare the MXL 770 side-by-side with the industry workhorse AT2020 microphone by Audio Technica.

MXL 770 vs AT2020: Which Is The Better Mic?

MXL 770
$84.95

A high-quality condenser mic, the MXL 770 is a no-nonsense large-diaphragm condenser microphone offering superior recording capabilities for vocals and instruments alike

Why We Love It:
  • Super-versatile
  • Adds warmth and richness
View Price On Guitar Center View Price On Sweetwater
Audio-Technica AT2020
$87.00

The AT2020 gives you classic Audio-Technica sound quality at an incredibly low price! Capture the subtleties and nuances of vocals and acoustic guitars, then take on screaming guitar amplifier cabinets - all with one mic.

Why We Love It:
  • Ideal for home studios
  • Superior transient response
  • Great dynamic range
View Price On Guitar Center View Price on Sweetwater

The MXL is a bit cheaper than the Audio Technica AT2020. So right off the bat, this may be the decisive factor in your choice. If you are severely cash strapped, then the MXL 770 is still an excellent microphone.  

The AT2020 can be used on more sources and provides greater flexibility. Their sound is comparable, much like their features.

However, the AT2020 is a bit more balanced sounding, and the MXL 770 is bright with a solid low-end response. So the mic you choose will largely depend on your situation and needs. 

MXL 770 vs AT2020: Feature by Feature

Commonalities

Both the MXL 770 and AT2020 are great budget starter mics for home studio recording. Conversely, if you’re already experienced at recording but don’t have a wide array of mics to reach for, either of these microphones will be a strong addition to your collection.

For instance, they both feature a cardioid polar pattern, which is excellent for picking up the source in front of the mic and rejecting noise from the sides and back. 

Besides, both mics are condensers, excellent for picking up details and nuances that typical dynamic microphones are not capable of capturing. Both the MXL 770 and the AT2020 will perform well in the studio, especially for the most common uses such as voice and acoustic guitar recording. 

Just like a typical condenser mic, both of these models need 48V Phantom power, supplied by an audio interface, preamp, or mixer. Both mics use XLR connectors and although there is a USB version of the AT2020, we will focus on the XLR version for this article.

(The AT2020 also has a big brother, the AT2035. Check out how they compare in Audio-Technica AT2020 vs AT2035 (Side By Side Comparison).)

Another important consideration with condenser microphones is their self-noise. Both the MXL 770 and the AT 2020 have 20 dB of self-noise, which is relatively low.

This ensures that both mics capture the source accurately without adding unwanted noises or artifacts.

Differences

Although both mics are very similar, they do have differences that can end up being significant depending on your situation.

While both mics will perform well for recording voice and acoustic guitar, some differences may arise when moving beyond that. This is especially true for louder sources, such as a fully cranked guitar amp. 

Maximum SPL

The maximum SPL of the MXL 770 is 137 dB. On the other hand, the AT2020 features a maximum SPL of 144 dB.

A higher max SPL simply means that a mic can handle louder sources. In other words, the AT2020 can take more sound pressure levels before it begins to distort and can handle hotter sources than the MXL 770. 

Besides electric guitar, other sources like bass cabinet, drum, trumpet, etc, will typically do better using a mic with a higher max SPL rating. In other words, the AT2020 is the clear winner for these applications. 

Having said that, it’s unlikely that you will be dealing with sounds this loud, but it’s worth considering all the same.

MXL 770
$84.95

A high-quality condenser mic, the MXL 770 is a no-nonsense large-diaphragm condenser microphone offering superior recording capabilities for vocals and instruments alike

Why We Love It:
  • Super-versatile
  • Adds warmth and richness
View Price On Guitar Center View Price On Sweetwater

Frequency Response

The MXL 770 features a frequency response of 30 Hz to 20 kHz. This is a good range and very close to the AT2020’s range of 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Although it goes up to the same frequency as the MXL 770, it does start a full 10 Hz below which may not sound like much but it could make all the difference if you’re recording real low sub-bass sounds.

Having said that, the MXL 770 also has a more even response in the upper bass frequencies compared to the AT2020 which attenuates this region.

Simply put, the AT2020 gives you a fuller frequency response than the MXL 770, but not by a lot. There are some other differences in the frequency response of each mic that are worth getting into, however.

(Image: recordinghacks.com)

Although the MXL 770 remains relatively flat throughout most of the frequency range, it does have a spike of nearly 10 dB just before 10 kHz. This enhances the high end which results in a bright sound. 

Naturally, this boost of the high end may work very well for singers with darker voices, but not so well for those with bright voices. As a matter of fact, the MXL 770 is known as a bright mic. This is not necessarily a negative aspect, as some do prefer a bright overall sound. 

On the other hand, although the AT2020 also features a boost around 8 kHz, it is not nearly as pronounced as in the MXL 770.

This means the AT2020 is more ‘natural’ sounding, which some will prefer but others may seek out the brighter response of the MXL.

Price

The MXL770 has the AT2020 beat in this aspect, as it is the more affordable choice. 

Although the price difference is relatively small, it may still be the deciding factor for some (particularly if they’re buying multiple mics at once, like for a podcast). For others, the price difference may be negligible, so it then becomes a matter of personal taste. 

At the moment of writing this article, the MXL 770 is about 15 dollars cheaper than the AT2020. 

Sound

In broad terms, the sound that you get from both the MXL 770 and the AT2020 is comparable, and both mics sound extremely good for the price.

However, as mentioned above, the AT2020 a is more neutral sounding mic when compared to the bright-sounding MXL 770.

For recording voice, the best choice is largely a matter of personal taste. Even with the brighter sounding MXL 770, you might still like it more on most voices.

However, chances are you might find it a bit too aggressive when placed in front of a singer with a really bright voice. The strong 10 kHz frequency boost also means the sibilance can become overbearing.

In this area, the AT2020 is more flexible as it will accommodate more types of voices with ease and give you more of a natural sound. 

But again, as far as sound goes, there are so many variables and personal preferences that it is hard to pick a clear winner here. You might even end up buying both microphones if you have the budget for it. Both mics are similar enough to be compared but are also just different enough that owning both is not a waste.

Storing

Condenser mics are sensitive to hits, bumps, knocks, and drops. They have a transducer that is delicate and thus condensers cannot be knocked around nearly as much as dynamic microphones.

In other words, you have to be more careful with how you handle condensers than dynamic mics. This is partly because dynamic mics are road-ready and can take falls, hits, and overall live abuse and still function.

The reality is completely different with condenser mics, as they are fragile and not built for the road – just studio use. 

Essentially, you need to be able to store your condenser mic in a case that ensures its protection. 

The MXL 770 is the clear winner here, as it comes with a hardshell case that really protects it. Contrast that, with a microphone pouch that comes with the AT2020, which does not provide much padding to actually protect the mic. 

MXL 770
$84.95

A high-quality condenser mic, the MXL 770 is a no-nonsense large-diaphragm condenser microphone offering superior recording capabilities for vocals and instruments alike

Why We Love It:
  • Super-versatile
  • Adds warmth and richness
View Price On Guitar Center View Price On Sweetwater

Wrapping Up

Although they are very similar mics, the AT2020 is a slightly better choice than the MXL770. There are two main reasons for this. 

The first one is that the AT2020 has a more natural sound, while the MXL770 is brighter. Although being bright is not necessarily a bad trait, it can be too much depending on the source, producing a biting and shrill sound. 

The second reason is that, because of its higher max SPL rating, the AT2020 can handle hotter sources than the MXL770. This and the more natural sound make the Audio Technica microphone more versatile, and likely more useful. 

Oddly enough, the folks at MXL decided to include a nice protective case for the 770, while Audio Technica went with a mildly padded bad for storing and transport. 

In the end, they are both great options for folks that are starting out and/or those looking for a home studio mic on a budget.

They are also fantastic choices for broadcasting, podcasting, voiceovers, and other spoken word applications.

Audio-Technica AT2020
$87.00

The AT2020 gives you classic Audio-Technica sound quality at an incredibly low price! Capture the subtleties and nuances of vocals and acoustic guitars, then take on screaming guitar amplifier cabinets - all with one mic.

Why We Love It:
  • Ideal for home studios
  • Superior transient response
  • Great dynamic range
View Price On Guitar Center View Price on Sweetwater

AT2020 and MXL 770 FAQ

Does the MXL 770 or AT2020 need phantom power?

Both the MXL 770 and AT2020 need 48V phantom power. 

Is the MXL 770 or AT2020 better for recording vocals?

The AT2020 is better than the MXL 770 for recording vocals as it offers a more natural sound, while the MXL might be too bright in some situations. 

Is the MXL 770 or AT2020 better for recording guitar?

The AT2020 is better than the MXL 770 for recording guitars, especially electric, as it can take on sources that emit more volume thanks to its higher max SPL rating. But if you are not doing any extremely loud recording, the MXL 770 also sounds great on guitars.

Do either mics come with a shock mount?

The MXL 770 comes with a shock mount, while the AT2020 does not. It ships with a standard mount instead.  

How do you power an AT2020?

You can power an AT2020 through the use of 48V Phantom Power, provided in any standard audio interface as well as most preamps and mixers. 

Is the AT2020 good for podcasting?

Yes, the AT2020 is a good choice for podcasting, voiceovers, and other applications where you need to capture the human voice with great clarity. 

Is the AT2020 good for singing?

Yes, the AT2020 is a fantastic mic for singing, especially at this price range. 

Does the Audio Technica AT2020 have a mute button?

No, the Audio Technica AT2020 does not have a mute button. However, its big brother the AT2035 does have a -10 dB switch, just like the MXL770.