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"Renowned" mic? Really?

Discussion in 'Studio Lounge' started by DonnyThompson, Jun 12, 2016.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I normally don't go out of my way to say anything negative about retailers... If I see something that is priced too high, I figure the best line of defense is to simply not purchase anything from them...

    But this one? This one I couldn't help commenting on - and it's from a supplier that I would normally respect, and who usually carries some pretty cool gear, both used and new; but after seeing this, I'm now beginning to wonder what other gear that they sell is also inflated in price:


    $145? And that's a reduced price in their "clearance" section?

    Sweetwater, Amazon and other outlets regularly sell this mic for anywhere between $129 and $144.

    I won't lie ... I'm not a fan of the AT 2020 in any form; I've had experience with this mic at various home studios and my personal opinion is that it's your basic, run of the mill, budget condenser. The sound leaves much to be desired - although I'd add the caveat that for me, or any other experienced cooker, we're spoiled by nice mics, so we'd hear things that your average home recordist would not.

    Be that as it may, I had to laugh at Vintage King's description of this mic:

    "The new Audio-Technica AT2020 USB offers studio-quality articulation and intelligibility. It plugs right into your computer’s USB port, and functions seamlessly with your favorite recording software. Equipped with a USB digital output, the AT2020 USB is perfect for home studio recording, field recording, podcasting, and voiceover use.

    Based on the renowned AT2020

    The AT2020 USB is based on the design of Audio-Technica’s critically acclaimed AT2020 cardioid condenser microphone. Like the AT2020, it features a low-mass diaphragm, custom-engineered for extended frequency response and superior transient response.

    With low self-noise, the AT2020 USB is perfectly suited for sophisticated digital recording equipment. Audio-Technica’s state-of-the-art design and manufacturing techniques ensure that the microphone complies with the company’s renowned consistency and reliability standards."

    "Critically acclaimed"?
    The "renowned" AT 2020?

    Renowned for what? Frumpy lows, Harsh mids and Brittle Highs?

    I'm a fan of AKG mics... I love several of the 40 Series, the various 414's over the years have become pro studio standards... the C12 is one of the Holy Grails of mics.

    Renowned mics - at least to me - would be Neumann U87's, 89's, 47's, 67's....Telefunken ELAMs, older 414's, Coles, RCA's, Royers...

    But to claim that this $50 condenser mic - which you can even buy at some Sears stores - is "renowned" is, well, laughingly questionable.

    Sorry for the rant. This just hit me wrong today, I guess.
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I get that, Chris... I just find it a bit odd that a company like VK - who has a rep for selling pro gear - would stick with the manufacturer's BS marketing line.
    And, their price is just ridiculous... $149 at clearance? A mic that you can pick up anywhere brand new for the exact same price that they are claiming to be a "clearance" price...

    I dunno. It just hit me wrong this morning, I guess. Sorry for the rant.
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I believe they have to stick with it. Can you imagine how many dealers there are and if they all wrote their own description about something.

    Most dealers know very little about a product. Few actually test the stuff they sell. That's why most dealers are shills and you can't believe most of what they say. The few who do test stuff are gems like dvdhawk.

    Not sure here but dealers also have to stick to the price. It could be that its been dropped by AT and they just haven't updated their website. I suspect if you called them, they would do a lot better price to what is seen online.
  5. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Here is my rant lol. You got me going now too. :LOL:

    I believe 2% of what most dealers tell me. Very few are past the car salesman stage. How can they even know $*^t about engineering when they are always selling the stuff and spending most of their days at gearslutz lol.
    They can't open the boxes without loosing money.

    To add my little rant here.. I doubt there is more than a handful of dealers on the planet who even know squat about hybrid workflows. They listen to the fray and gather what is being said about something from reading forums. They might plug a cable in to see how it connects so they can at least be honest and tell buyers they have used it.

    There most likely isn't more than a small group of us on the planet who mixdown to a second daw as we do here on RO. We are miles ahead of the crowd.
    Another example:
    How do dealers know all this stuff about gear. I can't even hear the truth about a product in a round trip until I can compare it in a A/B/C through a sophisticated monitor controller that is designed for hybrid mixing and summing.
    Sure we can just use the ITB monitoring but it will never teach me what is really going on like an independent controller with transparent switching. Its a big topic that shed light on most of the hype and BS flying around. How are dealers really listening to the gear they sell.

    Ask one question to a dealer about summing and spot the BS right away. They repeat what is written off the product sheet.

    I breeze through gearslutz once in a while to spot posts with sponsored shills. We do not want those guys here.
    If you question them they go into attack mode which gives GS Mods reason to delete your post. If you are a gearslutz shill, a tip for you, to protect the crowd from learning about you, all the shill needs to do is stir up conflict and the Mods will remove the evidence. They come out looking like they do not tolerate attacks but what they really do not want is people to stop advertising there.

    What a disservice.

    All this being said, I loved the Portastudio of the 80's, thought Pro Tools 888/24 sounded amazing in the 90's. If someone told me half of what I talk about today, 10 years ago, I wouldn't believe a word they said either lol.

    But, back to VK. I think Vintage King is very reputable. As is Sweetwater and Full Compass. I'm sure there are more. These companies train their staff and have workshops.

    Maybe @dvdhawk will chime in and give more insight on this.
    DonnyThompson likes this.
  6. Dr_Willie_OBGYN

    Dr_Willie_OBGYN Active Member

    We once compared a Neumann TLM 103 with a $200 Audio Technica mic. Could not tell the difference.
  7. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    Puffery...sheer puffery.

    Take it from someone who was in the sales game for over a decade...some call it spin but its just the same thing...like lipstick on a pig or a turd rolled in glitter, its window dressing at best.

    What are VK doing selling a USB mic?..that would be the first question that comes to my mind.

    Are sales so low in their niche market they specialise in that they are branching out to appeal to the entry-level home enthusiast now?

    One would imagine they are suffering a trickle-down effect as their core market is ever diminishing with studios closing at a rate of 20 to 1 (20 closing to maybe, just maybe, 1 opening) but selling a USB mic, and a budget one at that, and asking more than the going rate for a new one?

    Maybe this mic has a special provenance :rolleyes:...like maybe it came out of the home studio of {insert someone famous' name here} and they are not telling us...:D

    (There...I just put my own spin on it...thats' puffery to say the least...);)
  8. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    This might be true, but let me doubt.
    Many things can screw up a mic shootout. Bad room, mic placement, narrow frequency instrument/vocal, colored preamp and bad monitoring.
    If you want to make the files available, I can tell you if I hear differences... ;)
  9. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I have, on occasion, used a cheaper mic that sounded better for one particular scenario. I once ended up using a 57 on a female vocalist after trying a U89, U87, and a 414, and the 57 sounded best for her - at that time, on her voice and on that song.

    Not that a 57 is a bad sounding mic, in fact it's my go-to for guitar amps and snare drum, but it wouldn't normally be my first choice over a U87 or a 414 for vocals... but in her case in that scenario it sounded best.

    But ...you generally get what you pay for.

    It's my opinion that those who can't hear the differences between quality and budget mics aren't necessarily lacking the listening skills to hear the differences, but more that they are being influenced by bad acoustic surroundings, poor monitors, or are using a pre that sounds only 'meh" regardless of the mic. All of those things are huge contributing factors in our perceptions of quality differences.. and that applies to anyone, really.

    FWIW, having done a week long session with an artist at her studio, and using her AT 2020 with a Focusrite preamp, I can say with full confidence that this mic is far from "renowned" and absolutely worth the $50 it commands ( brand new)... Peaky mids, harsh, glassy hi's, and a frumpy low end, do not a "renowned" microphone make, unless you use that term to describe how bad it is. LOL

    In the end, she caved, and decided to pay for me to bring my mics to her place. We ended up using a U89, and the difference was night and day.


    pcrecord likes this.
  10. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    Not that I've avoided them for any reason, but I've never dealt with VK, so I have no comment there. I deal with Sweetwater every now and then, and they have an excellent sales staff who seem to be very knowledgeable and genuinely helpful. But I can say without hesitation, Full Compass is my favorite vendor to deal with. If I need something I can't get direct from the manufacturer, or through my normal distribution chain, Full Compass is my first choice. Their inventory of small / hard-to-find parts is extremely impressive. Their selection across the A/V and lighting spectrum is amazing and their staff has always been outstanding. They are a perfect example of a mega-retail operation, that still has a level of personalized service, and attention to detail you'd expect from a family-operated / small-town store. I wish more big-box stores would take a page from their book. No pushy salesmen trying to upsell you on every purchase, just nice folks trying to help you get the most for your budget - regardless of whether you're a novice or professional.
    pcrecord likes this.
  11. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    I was doing the ring-around here in Sydney for a price-match on a piece of gear about a month ago...for a piece of hardware not everyone stocks...maybe 6 or so retailers in Sydney stock it at best.

    Now I'm upfront and straight to the point...I tell them what I'm after, who I have spoken to prior by way of their competitors without divulging a price and that if they want my business they had better sharpen their pencil and give me the best price they can afford...otherwise its a wasted exercise on behalf of us both.

    One particular retailer, with a reputation of highway robbery to put it nicely, had the product listed on their website so I thought "what the heck...this should be worth at least a good laugh...."

    To give you a little background, these guys were part of a larger operation that once dominated the music store scene here and were the go-to for guitars, that closed a lot of stores during previous recessions and now there are just two stores left, and this particular one, when you would visit the store, you would be ignored by sales staff after literally lining up to be served.
    This part of the business within a business specialises in audio gear, where the main business still focuses heavily on instruments and the like.
    Their reputation amongst musicians, albeit not a very good one, had preceded them by about 25 years...you literally avoided the place like the plague.

    I called them up and I managed to strike a young guy who I found out later to be the manager, told him the scenario and without giving out his competitors' pricing I told him to sharpen his pencil. He explained he needed to go away and work out his price and call me back. 10 minutes later he calls me back and gives me a price that nearly made me fall over...he was over 10% cheaper than the cheapest price I had already got in the whole of Sydney whilst doing the ring-around of literally everyone who stocks the product.
    That little exercise all up that morning had saved me around 30% of what the product is usually advertised for here.
    I was gobsmacked and glad all of a sudden that even though they had the worst reputation I'd given them the opportunity and called them, even if it was for sh#ts & giggles to start with.

    And the icing on the cake...he even offered to deliver it next day at no cost. He changed every perception I had of the place over the last 25 years.
    This guy is now my go-to guy for anything I want...because of the trust built from that first purchase and because of the level of service he delivered.
    Iv'e purchased a few times from him now, always no nonsense and he always comes to the party on price. I don't buy from the store or the brand...I buy from him.

    As a side note, one of the competitors he beat on price, a store where I regularly shop, where I have spent a lot of money and have good rapport with the store manager, who himself actually told me "we can't really move on our advertised prices on our website" when I called them earlier that day for the same reason.
    When I called the manager back to tell him to can the quote he gave me as I wasn't going with him and going with the other guy, his reply was "I'll price match whatever they have quoted you...." well, too bad mate, you had your opportunity first time around, you bullsh#tted me on how you "can't really move on prices on your website" and now when push comes to shove those prices really can move...and now you want me to give you my money?...give me a break.

    Coming from a store that had 90% of my business already, you didn't just lose that sale...you lost every sale to me in the future. I won't buy from you again, you smug bastard.

    Actually receiving the level of service you would expect when spending more than the average sum of money is refreshing when it actually occurs. Good old fashioned service is hard to find nowdays and many retailers don't really appreciate the customer who spends their money with them which keeps their doors open and the lights on. If the service is really good, pricing becomes secondary.

    If you do it right, like this young guy did, you build customers for life. Now if I need something, I ring him and if he says to me "this is what I can do it for..." I believe him, and don't bother ringing around town for other prices, because he has built that trust with my previous dealings with him.
  12. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    At least in my experience here in the US, the major manufacturers require all of their dealers (and installers) to sign a contract, promising we won't advertise their products for below a certain price, (MAP = Minimum Advertised Price). Dealers are not obligated to sell it for that price, but they will run the risk of losing their dealership if they put that lower / privately negotiated price in print, on their website, in a radio or TV ad, etc. Exceptions being, factory-authorized deals. But ordinarily, if you see someone advertising something at a significantly lower price than other reputable retailers, it's usually a red-flag of gray-market / goods, or something fishy.

    The reason they do this is A) to avoid their product having the appearance of being devalued, and B) to give a little guy buying them 1-2 at a time a chance to compete with the mega-stores buying a thousand of them. The mega-store can buy them cheaper than I can by purchasing in larger quantities, but they also have massive business 'overhead' us little guys don't have to deal with.

    It's always best to deal with a store owner, or manager, that has the power to negotiate with you. As you've found, all it takes is a good rapport with one guy.

    The end of the month is an especially good time to go bargain hunting, (anything from cars to guitars) those big dealerships are trying to make payroll and keep the lights on.
  13. Sean G

    Sean G Well-Known Member

    In my experience it highlighted the mark up that is generally on most products in the category, and how much room to move on price ther is for the retailer whilst still making a fair margin.

    I don't begrudge anyone making a profit, but I think like anything its always a good exercise to shop around the marketplace and find a good deal.

    In the end this young guy will get all my repeat business...he already has on some of the Warm audio stuff, and it won't be the last hardware I buy from him.
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I worked for a local music retailer once who was trying to be an Alesis dealer but was denied because there was already an authorized dealer in town. Our competitor,who was the local authorized dealer, lost the Alesis account because he advertised a "sale" price on Alesis gear ( IIRC, I think it was on the SR16 drum machine specifically); Alesis found out and pulled the franchise, and gave it to us... 1 month before they released the ADAT. :LOL:

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