Review Of The EV RE20 Dynamic Microphone

Electro-Voice RE20

This is an incredible mic for anyone doing voice-over work, podcasts, or any kind of broadcasting. It’s famous for broadcast use, found in radio stations around the world. Its sound quality is amazing and its resistance to recording p-pops is a huge time saver if you are recording vocals. The mic is also excellent for kick drum or acoustic guitar recording.

Here is my review of the EV RE20 mic. It is now my go-to vocal mic. So that’s sort of a spoiler about what I think of this fabulous microphone :-).

So I just finished testing out the Electro-Voice RE20 Dynamic Microphone, another fabulous vocal mic that I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for a long time. The other large diaphragm dynamic was the Shure SM7B, which I reviewed last week).

Like the SM7, the EV RE20 is an end-address (you talk into the end and not the side, as with most large diaphragm condensers) dynamic mic found most often in use by radio DJs and other broadcasters. Also like the SM7B, the EV RE20 has a “cardioid” pickup pattern, which means it is most sensitive to what is directly in front of it, while rejecting sound from the rear. If you want to review mic pickup patterns, see my article Directional and Omnidirectional Microphones – What Are They Good For?

Why A Dynamic Mic For Vocals?

[Ken explains – in probably a few more paragraphs than necessary – the answer to the above question. If you don’t care, and would rather just skip to the stuff about how the mic sounded, click here:)]

Yes, typically you’d be told to use a large diaphragm condenser microphone (LDC) for vocal recording. That’s because those mics are super sensitive and can pick up the nuances of a voice really well. Also, compared to your average dynamic microphones like the standard computer mics, headsets and ice-cream cone shaped mics you see on stage for live performances, you can get better vocal quality in a recording at a really decent price.  Entry-level LDCs often cost under 100 bucks.

Ken with the RE20
Ken with the RE20

For studio recording, dynamic mics are normally used only for things like drums or loud electric guitar amps.  Dynamic mics are generally less sensitive than condenser mics. And while there are exceptions of course, vocals are almost never recorded in the studio with dynamic mics. Condenser mics are widely regarded as the mics of choice of the voice recording world.

Dynamic Mics For Recording Vocals?

However, because LDCs are so sensitive, they are infamous for being TOO sensitive to plosive sounds – the little blasts of air that come out of our mouths when we say words with Ps (and sometimes Bs) in them. This results in unpleasant low-frequency/bassy “splats” in the recording. We usually call these “p-pops.”

This makes it basically mandatory to use something called a pop-filter or a pop screen when recording vocals with an LDC mic. These are those round things with fabric (typically) stretched around them – sometimes they’re made of metal – that are placed between the mouth and the microphone.

Pop filters help to prevent p-pops, but they do not eliminate them for most people. Personally, I end up having to edit out every plosive I utter in a vocal recording – even when I DO use a pop filter – which can take a really long time.

Dynamic mics, on the other hand, are often less sensitive. So they can also be better at preventing p-pops from getting onto your vocal recordings. The problem is that most dynamic mis just don’t sound as good when recording in the studio.

But there ARE some dynamic mics that DO sound great on vocals. They just aren’t quite as affordable as a lot of decent LDCs. The kinds of dynamic mics I’m talking about are the ones typically used by radio DJs and other broadcasters. The Electro-Voice RE20 dynamic microphone is the industry standard dynamic vocal mic.

A few other specs include what’s called a “Variable-D” design, which reduces proximity effect. That’s when a mic sounds deeper (lower frequencies) the closer you get your mouth to the mic. Variable-D is a proprietary bit of design foo that limits that.

So How Did The RE20 Sound?

One word – Awesome. I said the Shure SM7B (another broadcast quality dynamic mic) sounded great on my voice. And it does. But the RE20 sounds better. I was pleasantly surprised.

But here is the best part. Even without a pop filter, the p-pop/plosive problem was almost non-existent! That was my one quibble with the SM7B. Though it was not as sensitive to plosives as my Rode NT2-A (an LDC mic), there were still quite a lot of p-pops with the SM7.

But the RE20 really shines in this very specific, but very important matter. In the RE20 audio recording below, there were a couple of p-pops still. I recorded all samples with my mouth 3 inches away from the mic so they could be fairly compared. But when I backed my mouth away just another inch or two, the p-pops were gone.

The lack of p-pops in the RE20 recordings means saving a ton of time when producing any vocal recording, since I won’t have to painstakingly scrub through and edit just about every word with a “P” in it. Given the amount of time I normally spend doing plosive-hunting, this is a real game changer for me!

There are a couple of reasons for the better plosive (p-pop) response. One is the Variable-D design I mentioned above. In addition to that, the mic has a heavy duty internal pop filter.

Listen To The Audio Samples

Whether one mic “sounds better” than another can often be quite subjective. And truth be told, a mic that sounds fabulous on one person’s voice can sound bad on someone else’s voice. And honestly, all three of these mics are very good!

So with that in mind – after listening to my voice in the RE20, and then comparing the audio of the same text recorded with 2 other mics (my usual Rode NT2-A and the Shure SM7B), I felt that my voice sounded better with the RE20.

But for a sanity check, I asked my wife – the lovely and talented Lisa Theriot – to come up and do a “blind” (deaf?) listening test. She ranked them the same way I did: the RE20 sounded best, the SM7B was 2nd place, and the Rode NT2-A was third place.

Have a listen to the samples below. I highly recommend using headphones to hear the subtleties. Also, none of the recordings were edited for p-pops.

First is the Rode NT2-A on “cardioid” setting WITH a pop filter (the sE Electronics meta l pop filter).

The next sample is of the excellent Shure SM7B wearing it’s foam windscreen, but without an extra pop-filter:

And finally we have below the recording made with the RE20. There was no pop filter of any kind used on this recording:

That Was The Good – Was There Any Bad?

My only quibbles are so minor as to be negligible. But I thought I should mention them. First, the RE20 comes with no manual. In the box is only a sheet with features and specs and the standard warranty paperwork. Now you may wonder why anyone would need a manual for a mic.

Well for starters, it would be nice to know about the bass roll off feature. The is a switch at the bottom of the mic that has a horizontal line on one side and a 45-degree angled line on the other. I can GUESS that this is a bass roll-off feature. But what frequency is used to start the roll off?

Eventually I found it mentioned in the extremely fine print under the “Architects’ and Engineers’ Specifications” section. It read: “when the filter switch is in the “on” position, low frequency response shall tilt down 4.5 dB from 400 to 100 Hz.” That information should have been much easier to find.

My other quibble is that the mic came only with a plastic mic stand clip. That isn’t all that uncommon, but compared to the SM7B’s built-in bracket mount that buffers the mic from vibrations in the stand, it was a bit disappointing.

It actually became a problem when, out of habit, I connected the mic to my desk-mounted boom stand. I did a few recordings that seemed to have a bit too much bass in them. Then I realized that without a “shock mount” every vibration on my desk was traveling right up the mic stand and into the mic. My desk had essentially become part of the mic.

So I moved the mic to a standard mic stand that sat on the carpeted floor, and things became MUCH better. Since the RE20 is so often depicted hanging from desk mounted boom stands in radio stations, it’s important to know that you need the 309A suspension shock mount, which you must buy separately, if you plan to mount it this way.

Specs And Other Good-To-Know Stuff

You can view the really detailed specs on the Electro-Voice site. But here are the highlights.

  • It’s a “true cardioid with no coloration at 180-degrees off-axis.” This means that even if you angle the mic partially away from the source, you’ll get the same sound as if you pointed the mic straight at it. This is GREAT news for vocalists, who can reduce any risk of p-pops and even harsh “S” sounds, just by speaking/singing into the mic at a slight angle.
  • The frequency response is 45 – 18,000 Hz.
  • It’s “variable-D.” Yeah, I didn’t know what that meant either. In a nutshell, it means there is no proximity effect, which is amazing for a “cardioid” mic. With most cardioids, the closer your mouth (or whatever audio source) gets to the mic, the “bassier” (more low frequencies) the audio sounds. And since it’s bass that causes p-pops, the lack of proximity effect means you can get your mouth close to the RE20 without the bass frequencies getting hyped.
  • Though the RE20 is described and known as a “broadcast announcer” microphone, it can sound great in other situations as well. The Features sheet mentions that it shines on instruments, specifically acoustic guitar, and as a kick drum mic.

Final Word About The RE20

I want one. Okay, that’s tree words. Whatever:). In fact I am going to buy one for a Spring present. That’s a thing, right?:-P. Seriously, as much voice-over and singing recording as I do, the superior sound combined with the rejection of ambient noise and p-pops make this mic almost a necessity! At least that’s what I’m telling the lovely and talented Lisa Theriot:-). UPDATE: I did that. The RE20 is my daily mic now.

To get your very own Electro-Voice RE20, CLICK HERE.

I won’t tell:).

15 comments on “Review Of The EV RE20 Dynamic Microphone”

  1. I’ve been struggling to get the gain structure correct with my RE20 and SM7B using this chain:

    Mic > Cloudlifter > Mackie Onyx 1620 > Insert into DBX 1066.

    Everytime I start to 0 our the mics watching the Mixer, I start to get a lot of room noise (it just seems like too much than it should and that’s why I use a noise gate/compressor).

    Are there any tips you have for getting these mics gain structured correctly? Thanks!

    1. Michael,

      You’re using an analog mixer, I see. Are you using your setup for recording? I only ask because I usually advise agains using analog mixers for digital recording. But if you use it for broadcast purposes, I might suggest using the compressor as channel insert, rather than having it directly in line between the Cloudlifter and the mixer. You should at least test it without the compressor at all. Then loop the compressor in via the mixer later.

      I don’t use a cloudlifter because though some folks recommend them (since these mics are dynamics), so I am not familiar with them. My interface (Focusrite 2i2 preamp) works just fine by itself. Sure, you do have to crank the gain to about 85%. But that’s more than enough for vocals.

      Hope that helps at least a little.


  2. A very important aspect with this mic is when you engage the base roll-off you are able to get a very intimate sound from very close up…base becomes fuller as you get closer to mic….the manufacturer says proximity effect is minimal, is this not PE that is sounding so beautiful??

    1. Thanks Brian,

      The RE20 has almost no proximity effect (very minimal) due to the “Variable D” tech of the mic. Multiple ports along the side of the mic for different frequencies, which results in a super reduced PE. So though you may experience SOME PE, that is likely not the reason why it sounds so intimate. It’s just the awesomeness of the mic:). Getting super close to the mic will typically result in a more intimate sound even with no PE.

  3. Thank you for the great tutorial on the RE20 and other mics. Love the layout and samples used. Helped me a lot!

  4. I have wondered about the design of the SM7b’s headbasket/foam filter.
    It has an elongated shape like a shorter “boom” mic. I noticed some
    VO artists use boom mics. I have not found a history of the SM7’s design.
    Do you know why it looks so unconventional? Is there an advantage?

    1. Hi Donald. Shotgun mics are typically condenser mics with hyper-directional pickup patterns. The SM7 is not a shotgun but a dynamic mic, similar to handheld stage mics but with a larger diaphragm. The SM7 is an end-address mic like those stage mics and also like shotguns. But it is thicker and a bit shorter, which is probably why you think it looks unconventional. But I don’t think it’s necessarily an advantage. Hope that helps.

  5. it is worth noting that both stevie wonder and bonnie raitt used the re20 on album releases, and there are photos of both paul mccartney (on the “ram” album) and chicago at the caribou ranch studio using re20 mics. these are world class artists that could have used mics ten times the cost of an re20.

    also, it bears noting that the foam inside the re20 tends to deteriorate over time. replacing the foam is a daunting task (i have four re20, and the first one was a bit of a nightmare. factory service can be, well, slow. if you have a basement studio or work area,, keep it as dry as you can.

  6. We did a shoot out and found the RE 20 to be amazing on the snare drum.
    Have had three rebuilt by the factory. One of them I’ve had 40 years.

  7. In your RE20 sample recording I hear a faint hum in the background. Any idea what caused it?

    1. Possibly. Often it is recommended to use something called a CloudLifter with the RE20 because it is a “low-gain” mic. It needs more amplification than typical mics. A CloudLifter boosts the signal before going into the interface I was using (Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 3rd Gen. I don’t remember at what point I did this review, but when I first got it, I didn’t use a CloudLifter, which meant I had to turn up the Scarlett to absolute max. That might have done it. Then after I started using a CloudLifter, there was a period of time where I had a bad mic cable causing some hum. I replaced the cable and the problem went away. I suspect the latter.

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