A good gaming headset may be all you need to communicate with friends in games or make the occasional video call without having to worry about your computer’s audio bouncing back into the microphone. However, if you want to go into more serious production, such as streaming or podcasting, a dedicated microphone is a good investment.
1. Samson G-Pro USB mic
If you’re a streamer or a podcaster, you’re doing something wrong if you don’t prioritize audio quality. If you’re trying to build an audience, you’ll need to step up your game, and a good microphone is one of the most important places to start.
The built-in mic on your laptop or the one on your headset are fine for gaming or making video calls, but if you’re trying to build an audience, you’ll need to step up your game, and a good microphone is one of the most important places to start.
Samson has a long history in the microphone business, and its G-Track Pro mic is a $150 USB microphone meant for anyone wishing to drastically improve the quality of their podcast or streaming audio. The Samson G-Pro USB mic is well-made and has a beautiful solid metal base. Except for the front knobs, the entire mic is made of metal.
The threaded washer that secures the mic to the base is also made of metal. It appears to be capable of withstanding or even assisting in the infliction of rock-star-level damage.
The G-Track Pro is a professional grade USB microphone with different capture patterns for recording audio in a range of contexts, similar to the Razer Seiren and Blue Yeti for audio recording. While the Seiren and Yeti each have four patterns, the G-Track Pro only has three, yet they still cover the most common jobs. Cardioid, omnidirectional, and bidirectional are the three patterns.
If you’re merely talking into the mic, like when streaming or podcasting, cardioid is the way to go. If you’re having a round table discussion or recording live music, omnidirectional is best, whereas bidirectional is best for capturing a one-on-one interaction. Moving the three-position switch on the mic to the desired pattern is all it takes to switch between the three. The Seiren and Yeti both offer a Stereo mode, which is typically used to record live music, something the G-Track Pro lacks.
You don’t need to make any adjustments in software or in the Windows audio settings because all of the options you need are there on the mic itself. On the mic, there are three switches that adjust the following: regulating pattern, mono or 2-track recording, and monitoring off and on.
The Mono setting records only what the mic picks up, while the 2-track setting records the mic as well as any audio equipment connected to the mic’s 6.3mm jack on the back. This essentially means there’s a built-in 2-channel mixer, which is awesome for the price.
Monitoring allows you to listen to the mic input through headphones with no lag, which is something that just a few microphones provide. It’s critical to be able to monitor the sound of your own voice if you’re composing music, and it makes a tremendous difference in any recording situation, even if you’re just speaking. Without the ability to monitor the sound of their own voice, no professional would consider recording.
The monitoring option is my favorite of all the features. Other microphones require you to enable monitoring in software, or they are either always on or always off. It’s unusual to have the ability to toggle it on and off built right into the mic. All of the switches are mechanical, however they have a cheap feel to them.
For such small switches, there’s a lot of room for error. The mono and 2-track switches, as well as the monitor switch, aren’t as awful as the three-position pattern switch, which makes it far too easy to feel the cardioid setting in the middle.
On the mic’s face are three knobs, with a mute button above them. The mute button is a toggle switch that turns muting on or off with a short press. When the mic is muted, a green LED becomes yellow, giving you a visual cue. The knobs below it control the volume of the mic, instrument, and headphones.
Unlike the switches, the knobs have a terrific feel to them, with an excellent level of resistance and smooth operation. With the exception of the “instrument” knob, they’re very easy.
The instrument knob adjusts the input level for whatever you plug into the mic, which is a nice function for a mic at this price point. A 3.5mm jack for headphones and a 6.3mm jack for whatever you want are on the back of the mic. With only one piece of gear, you could plug a guitar into the back of the mic, control the levels on the front of the mic, and record your demo or whatever else you want.
That’s a terrific feature for anyone who wants to record themselves singing along while playing an instrument. It’s not as beneficial for streamers and podcasters, but if you have an additional mic with a compatible plug lying around, you could improve your sound quality and chuck another mic into the mix without having to buy a mixer. The bonus function is awesome, and it has no bearing on the price.
The G-Track Pro is slightly more expensive than the Blue Yeti but less expensive than the Razer Seiren in terms of price. The Samson Pro-G is the most cost-effective of the three.
It has one fewer capture pattern than the Yeti and Seiren, but it feels considerably more durable than both. If you decide to expand your podcasting to include guests or record your own music, the ability to add a second input and control its levels eliminates the requirement for a 2-channel mixing board.
The audio quality is as good as you’d expect from a studio microphone. It records sound in 24-bit/96kHz, which is the same as the Razer Seiren and better than the Blue Yeti’s 16-bit. However, it is quite difficult for the ordinary person to distinguish the difference between 24-bit and 16-bit recordings.
You’d essentially need to be an audio engineer with a keen sense of sound nuance. Overall, it’s excellent and provides better recording quality than most people will ever require.
2. Blue Snowball Microphone
Blue is a well-known brand in the microphone industry, and for good reason. Each mic is well-made and excellent at capturing accurate, natural sound. Its offers vary from entry-level to professional.
The Snowball is the company’s entry-level USB microphone, priced at $70, and designed for people who are just starting started with streaming, podcasting, or recording voice-over for video.
The amount of capture patterns and the fact that it comes with a desktop mount are the key differences between the Snowball and a more expensive microphone. The Snowball iCE is a less expensive variant that lacks the capture patterns of the normal Snowball but is otherwise equivalent.
The Snowball is a rather basic microphone with three sound capture patterns to choose from (one less than its more expensive brother, the Yeti). The Snowball may be set to cardioid, omni, or cardioid with -10db pad with a simple three-position slider on the back.
Cardioid microphones are better for speaking straight into the mic, thus they’re ideal for podcasts, Twitch streams, and voice-overs. Omni records sounds from all directions, such as roundtable conversations or a multi-instrument live music performance.
The Cardioid with -10db pad has a lower sensitivity and lessens or eliminates level peaks, making it ideal for too loud circumstances where you want to record the best sound possible. This pattern will keep your voice from sounding like a clipped mess if you prefer to yell your way through streams.
Even though it’s totally spherical, the base has threading to take a normal microphone attachment. The Snowball comes with its own desktop mic stand, which is surprisingly well-made and adjustable in height.
To keep it stable on any firm, flat surface, three robust legs fold out from the base. Snowball-specific shock mounts are now available, allowing you to indulge your inner audiophile.
The Snowball’s threaded part pivots slightly, allowing you to adjust it forward or backward. However, it does not have a smooth feel to it, and as I moved it back and forth, it felt like the threaded piece’s metal was grinding against the plastic. I’m not sure it’ll hold up to frequent use without drooping and wearing down.
Another feature of the Snowball that I disliked is the USB Mini-B connector. For some reason, the Razer Seiren and Blue Yeti both require the USB Mini-B style connector, and it appears that these microphones are the only ones that support it for now.
I’m not a fan because it’s unlikely that you’ll have any spare USB Type-B connectors on hand, making finding a replacement for your Snowball’s cord nearly as easy as it would be with a more recent cable standard.
The mic is plastic, with a Blue logo on the front and a three-position switch for mic patterns on the back. There are various color options available, ranging from simple white to neon green. The Snowball is significantly heavier than I had anticipated, but in a good manner. It has a strong feel to it, and the plastic appears to be of good quality.
The Snowball, like the Yeti, is quite simple to set. All you have to do now is plug it in and wait for the drivers to install. It even configures itself as the primary recording device in Windows settings, so you don’t have to mess with the sound settings. Then it’s merely a matter of switching on your software and pressing the start button (or record).
3. AU-AO4T Microphone kit
The need for great audio is greater than ever before, thanks to the rise of streaming. A brief tour of the market offers a bewildering variety of possibilities, but the microphone on your ordinary gaming headset won’t cut it. With the AU-A04T Desktop Studio Kit, Maono promises to make things easier.
It comes with everything you’ll need to get started, including a high-res USB condenser mic, stand, travel case, and more, and costs only $64.99. Maono appears to be providing a lot for the price, but is there a catch? I was impressed by how much they included for the price when we looked at our first Maono product, a similar kit with a boom arm instead of a desk stand.
The same may be said with this kit. It includes everything you’ll need to get started delivering high-quality audio to your stream or podcast at a low price.
The AU-AO4T kit comes in an aluminum hard case with two layers of firm foam cutouts to keep the microphone and accessories safe. It reminds me of a Pelican case, although it’s much lighter and not quite as lightweight. It will, however, allow you to travel with your goods while still protecting it from a good fall.
Just make sure you don’t hurl it down a flight of steps. The mic comes with an adjustable desk stand, as well as a shock mount, foam windscreen, gooseneck pop filter, and USB connection.
The microphone is plain and unadorned, yet it is built to last thanks to its all-metal construction. The capsule is covered by a braided metal grill, and the mic feels robust in the palm despite its lightweight weight.
However, at this price point, you must make certain compromises. The AU-A04T records in a single cardioid pattern and leaves gain control to Windows Sound settings, unlike a mic like the Blue Yeti, which features knobs for picking your recording pattern and setting the microphone’s volume.
In general, this isn’t a significant deal, but it does mean a little more trial and error when it comes to setting up your recording levels. Because of the single recording pattern, the microphone can only be spoken into from one direction, therefore interviews across the table are out. Please remember to tip your waitresses.
One thing I appreciate about the microphone is that it connects to a computer using a USB Type-B connector, which is the same as most printers. Type-B is nice and thick, with a proven track record of dependability, which is good for a kit that is clearly designed for travel.
The stand impressed me as well. When I initially saw it, I assumed I’d have to bend over to get close to the mic. Instead, it can be extended another six inches by releasing a knob, allowing it to be positioned just in front of your mouth for the finest possible capture.
It stands taller than the already-large Blue Yeti when entirely collapsed, and when fully extended, it may even be utilized while standing at your desk. The stand’s only flaw is that it might use additional padding on the bottom to avoid scratching your desk.
The other accessories were also really beneficial. You can choose between a foam windscreen and a pop filter that can be adjusted. It’s nice to have the alternative, and both work well to block plosives.
The sound is little muffled by the foam windscreen, so I went with the pop filter. It was simple to attach and adjust, and although though it’s primarily plastic, it held in place well, which isn’t always the case with entry-level accessories.
The shock mount was the only thing that disappointed me. It appears to be the same one as the one included with the AU-A04 kit, and it transmits exactly as much vibration to the mic. To put it another way, every vibration. All of these sounds make their way into the mic, whether it’s taps on the desk, sliding a glass to take a mid-match drink, or simply typing on your gaming keyboard, which leads me to believe the shock mount is more for show than utility.
Even so, you’re getting a lot of accessories and an aluminum carrying case for less than $70, which is a great deal. The $139 HyperX Quadcast offers with only a shock mount and a basic tilt stand. The Razer Seiren Elite, which costs $199, features a comparable stand but only includes the foam windscreen.
This microphone appears to be the same as the one included with the Maono Studio Microphone Kit. Because there are no marks on the mic other than the logo, it’s difficult to determine, but considering the model numbers of each kit, it’s plausible. This is a good thing, because the microphone I tested in the original post provided excellent value for money. To be sure, I re-tested everything in this version to see how it would perform.
A single condenser capsule creates a cardioid polar pattern in the AU-A04T. This means that the microphone will try to pick up sounds from in front of it while rejecting noise from behind and to the sides. Cardioid is also the most popular pattern among streamers and content creators because it is the de facto standard for recording spoken words. Itmeans also a side-address microphone, so instead of talking into the top like some dynamic broadcast mics, you’ll speak into the side.
The mic has a recording rate of 24-bit/192kHz, which is rather amazing. When you compare this to the 16-bit/48kHz on the well-loved Audio-Technica AT2020USB+, which costs more than twice as much, you can see why the $65 price tag, which includes accessories, is so shocking.
Even experienced audiophiles might struggle to tell the difference between 24-bit/192kHz and 16-bit/48kHz in spoken word recordings, thus this is more of a “on paper” benefit unless you’ll also be recording music.
It was also difficult to set that level. There’s no way to hear yourself in real time and adjust on the fly without a headphone jack to check your levels from the microphone. In Audacity, I had to perform multiple test recordings until I was comfortable with my levels.
To avoid going too loud or too quiet when recording, I had to be careful to maintain the same distance from the mic. In truth, I didn’t think this was a major deal because it’s something you can learn and adapt to quickly, but it does open the possibility of not discovering your audio has gone bad until after the stream has been recorded.
I was impressed by how similar the recording quality is to that of the HyperX Quadcast. The bass response is significantly reduced, but the clarity is still good.
The AU-A04T also has a powerful proximity effect that makes your voice sound full and rich. I put it up against my Sennheiser GSP-600 gaming headset and my HyperX Cloud Alpha gaming headset, both of which are noted for their high quality, and the AU-A04T is a clear winner in every category.
It was clearly no match for my ModMic 5, and it remained so when I put it up against it. The Maono AU-A04T offers with everything you’ll need to get started streaming or podcasting right away.
The microphone lacks high-end functionality such as zero-latency monitoring, but it captures great audio for the price. This kit is an amazing deal for beginning content creators if you’re prepared to put in the time to master its eccentricities.
4. HyperX QuadCast S (HyperX QuadCast S)
You know the value of a good standalone microphone if you’re a streamer or podcaster. When broadcasting to fans, a gaming headset mic is great for gaming but lacks the quality and functions you need. Small portable microphones, massive antique types that appear like they belong in an Art Deco recording studio, and high-tech multi-capsule beasts are all good solo possibilities.
Last year, HyperX’s initial streaming mic, the QuadCast, received positive feedback, and the QuadCast S has been improved. Is it good enough to be your go-to streaming and recording mic, or will it trip over its own RGB lighting?
You could be forgiven for thinking the QuadCast S is merely a set of RGB lights with a microphone connected when you first see it. Gaming accessory makers sometimes go wild with lighting, and HyperX isn’t afraid to do so with their goods. In fact, the QuadCast S’s small frame houses not one, but two lighting zones. So, how much time and effort did HyperX devote to the audio component of this audio product?
Actually, quite a bit. The QuadCast S is a minor upgrade over the QuadCast from last year. They’re virtually the same microphone in terms of sound and mechanics, but that’s not a bad thing. The QuadCast S isn’t simply a nice face, given the older mic’s excellent performance.
The QuadCast S is stylish and sophisticated in appearance, standing about 10 inches tall (the Blue Yeti is 12 inches) and measuring around 2.2 inches in diameter. The backlit honeycomb on the top half of the mic has an inbuilt pop filter that is lighted by a pair of RGB lighting zones. The lower half is a solid black cylinder with a double-ring shock mount attached to the stand.
Two of the microphone’s three controls are easily accessible from the front. The mic’s coolest, most distinctive (and occasionally bothersome) feature is located on top. It’s a mute button made of a capacitive touch sensor. It only takes the tiniest hint of a touch for the RGB lighting to turn black, signaling that the mic is no longer hot.
When you tap it again, the mic (as well as the lighting) returns to normal. Later, I’ll talk about my reservations regarding that. The entire endcap on the bottom is a massive smooth-spinning gain control. It features a few gradually larger dots to indicate which way to turn it, but the dial revolves far further in both directions than the dots suggest. While it’s difficult to criticize the design’s looks, this gain control is the most in need of an improvement.
The issue is that the gain dial moves as smoothly as butter, with less resistance than you’d find on a January ski slope. Although I’ve generally learned myself to avoid that dial these days, it’s still quite easy to nudge the level when moving the mic around. You’ll have a good time getting back to the level you were using if you mistakenly spin the dial while recording.
Because half of the dial’s possible travel is blank, determining where it was set can be difficult. It’s as though HyperX doesn’t want you to be able to save or duplicate gain settings.
A 3.5mm headphone monitor input and USB-C connector for connecting it to your gaming PC (a welcome upgrade from the HyperCast’s micro-USB connector), as well as a selector for the mic’s four pickup patterns, can be found on the back. The QuadCast S takes its name from the fact that it features four different pickup patterns, allowing you to customize how the mic interprets sound in the room.
Three 14mm electret condenser microphone capsules are housed inside the honeycomb, each tuned to accept or reject sound in a distinct way. The stereo pattern records audio in stereo, with a bias to the left and right sides of the microphone; the other three patterns record audio in mono.
Cardioid exclusively records audio in front of the mic and rejects sound from all other directions, whereas omnidirectional accepts sound from all directions in the room. Finally, there’s bi-directional, which records audio from both the front and back of the mic (handy for an interview).
The entire system — mic, shock mount, and stand – is made entirely of metal, with no discernible plastic components, giving it a sophisticated and reassuring feel while remaining surprisingly light. The mic alone weights 254 grams, or 610 grams when the mic and stand are combined, without including the USB cord.
The mic pivots on the base using a thumb screw, allowing you to tilt it as needed, and HyperX supplies an adaptor that fits both 3/8- and 5/8-inch threads, allowing you to mount the mic on a boom if desired. A tightly strung elastic line suspends the mic inside a pair of robust metal rings in the shock mount.
It does attenuate vibrations to some extent, but don’t expect miracles. Expect the resulting thump to travel through the stand and mount to the mic if you bang against your gaming desk or standing desk while recording. As a result, it’s preferable to utilize a boom mount when possible, although I still admire HyperX’s great shock mount.
The QuadCast S uses the same internals as the QuadCast, therefore audio is captured at 48kHz with a 16-bit bitrate. The mic has a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz and a sensitivity of -36dB. That’s amazing, but it’s not the greatest in class; the Elgato Wave:3, for example, can record at 96kHz and 24 bits.
Do you, however, require that level of fidelity? The audio industry is filled with goods chasing specs, but for most purposes, it’s basically meaningless once you’ve passed a certain threshold.
The QuadCast S covers the whole range of human hearing and has such a low noise floor that I couldn’t even find it. When recording on my own, the mic was surprisingly quiet at any gain setting I’d use in the real world, and the QuadCast was never a limiting factor when recording my weekly podcast with my co-host and his janky-by-comparison microphone.
With clearly distinct image in stereo mode and great sound rejection throughout the room in cardioid mode, all four pickup patterns gave excellent performance. I found the audio warm and thick, with great midtones in my voice recordings, when used properly — for example, recording up close and intimate.
Without a doubt, I can get as good as or better audio with this model than I can with my usual workhorse, the Blue Yeti, and the lighting adds to the enjoyment. In fact, because the mute button on the Blue Yeti is blocked by my external pop filter, the top-mounted mute button is simpler to reach. The QuadCast S with its built-in pop filter seemed to block plosives just as well as any clumsy external filter I’d tried.
5. Seiren Elite Razer Microphone
Razer produces everything from gaming mice to high-performance computers, and each of its products has a consistent product and a strong reputation for quality. In this regard, Razer’s midrange Seiren Elite microphone is on par with the rest of the company’s offerings, at least in terms of quality.
It looks professional, is well-made, and will blend in with your other Razer hardware on your desk. If Razer is recognized for anything, it’s for its RGB Chroma lighting system, which is both good and bad. The Seiren, however, lacks configurable lighting schemes on everything from its keyboards to its computers. On the front, it just features a small LCD screen and a green mute button (which becomes red when activated).
At a glance, the LCD displays volume and pattern information. On the front, you may adjust the volume for both the mic and the pass-through headset, with a little indicator indicating which is being altered. When it’s recording, there’s also an icon that shows you the pattern you’re using.
A knob on the front controls the volume of the headset, while a knob on the back controls the mic gain. It’s a tiny bit because most people confuse volume and gain. It wouldn’t be practical to control both with the same knob, however it would be preferable if the mic gain and headphone volume dials were both on the front of the device. Because the pattern selector and gain knobs are often hidden from view, making gain adjustments on the fly can be difficult.
The Razer Seiren includes four selectable recording patterns, similar to competitor Blue’s Yeti mic: cardioid for straight-on voice recording, stereo for capturing vocals, omnidirectional for music or room recording, and bidirectional for conversational usage like interviews.
A 3.5mm headphone jack, a button for turning the logo illumination on or off, a threaded base that accommodates a conventional mic stand mount, and a USB Mini-A connection are all found on the bottom of the Seiren. Mini-A is more prevalent than USB Type-B, which is used on mics like as the Yeti Snowball, but it’s still a rare cable.
Gather your previous PS3 controller cables, or make every effort not to lose the provided cable, as there’s a good possibility you won’t have another from another device if you lose it.
The Seiren comes with a sturdy metal mic stand, which holds the mic in place using thumb screws. Razer sells shock mounts and other stands as add-ons, but the stock model is excellent for desktop use. However, I didn’t care for the additional hardware required for the stock stand.
There are two spacers that put between the mic and the stand, and they feel like they’ll be the first items to go missing once you take the mic on the road, given how unremarkable and little they are. The Razer Seiren is simple to set up, although it does necessitate the use of Razer’s Synapse software.
The Blue Yeti mic has a number of advantages, one of which is the lack of proprietary software. If you have more than one piece of Razer hardware, Razer’s solution is useful since it centralizes everything and allows you to make adjustments to all of them at once. However, if you’re only using the mic, Synapse seems superfluous, especially because changing lighting patterns on Chroma-enabled hardware is half the fun of Synapse.
Bit and sample rates can be adjusted using the Synapse software. The sample speeds are 44.1, 48, 96, and 192 kHz, and the bit rate can be set to 16 or 24 bits. These settings give the Seiren a lot of great-capture freedom, with greater bit and sample rates allowing for more accurate and editable files.
As every podcaster will tell you, improving quality comes at the cost of far larger files. You don’t need to set it to anything higher than 44.1 kHz at 24 bits unless you’re recording music or professional voice work. Higher sample rates have greater sample sizes, which will exceed any gains your listeners may see, potentially causing your stream to buffer.
The recording quality of the Seiren is good, but not outstanding. It captures crisp sound well, and having lag-free pass-through headphone monitoring is quite convenient. When I wasn’t using the mic, I had to fiddle with some of the sound settings in Windows because Windows wanted to use the Seiren as the default speaker output.
It becomes perplexing. It performs admirably during streaming, picking up sound at a far greater quality than a conventional headset mic can. The sound of a specialized USB microphone like the Seiren is also beneficial to podcasts. The genuine, conversational sound is lost with less costly microphones. Recording with the Seiren is nearly like being there, and the sound is substantially better than a cheaper headset mic even through Discord or Skype.
The sound of a specialized USB microphone like the Seiren is also beneficial to podcasts. If you’re a true audiophile, Razer (like Blue with the Yeti) offers a more pricey “Pro” version with XLR compatibility. That means you can plug into a professional mixing board with industry-standard XLR cables for the best sound quality. Just make sure your mixing board has DC phantom power of 48 volts.