TEN YEARS AGO, if someone had told you that gaming peripheral makers would one day move into production of highend gamer-branded microphones, you’d have had a pretty hard time joining the dots. To the older generation here at Maximum PC, it doesn’t seem so long ago that a swingarm mic on a headset was considered a luxurious boon.
But the advent of YouTube and Twitch have changed the face of gaming in many ways. For those who stream themselves playing, it’s essential to offer their audience the clearest audiovisual experience possible. And for those who watch those who stream themselves playing, that high-end equipment is deeply aspirational. So, here we are with a $140 USB microphone on our desk.
And let’s get this out of the way: A very good one it is, too. The spec sheet doesn’t really tell that story, though—there isn’t much to distinguish the QuadCast from its competitors, such as the almighty Blue Yeti or Razer’s Seiren series mics, when it comes to frequency response (an ample 20Hz–20kHz) or sample and bitrate (CD-quality 48kHz/16-bit).
Indeed, since we aren’t generally as well trained at spotting great mic attributes in the gaming community as a great graphics card, the suspicion might be that perhaps “gaming” mics are simply cheaply produced and low-quality studio mics, but that’s not the case. The QuadCast really is suited to gaming.
That’s because of the little details. First is that it’s supplied with a shock mount, which keeps the microphone itself from picking up every little knock and scratch from your desk. It might sound like a minor point, but if you’ve ever imposed the red light of terror on yourself and streamed live, you know how much of a difference it makes. There’s also a mic stand adapter included, so you can set the QuadCast up on a boom arm above yourself or to one side.
The controls are also perfectly suited for gaming. We particularly enjoy the touch-sensitive mute control positioned at the top of the mic. Just a tap and it’s muted or back on, without any of the clicks or pops that often creep in when a mechanical switch operates the mute function. And if you were in any doubt, there’s a red light that lets you know whether the microphone’s on or not. Controlling the gain is also simple enough to achieve mid-stream via a dial at the bottom of the mic. Again, it’s free of pops and crackles.
It’s also nice to have the option of a few different polar patterns, although you’ll generally want to stick to the narrower cardioid pattern for solo streaming, to avoid picking up background noise. The stereo option is handy for podcasting with one other person, and the omnidirectional pattern can handle groups of more than two, although background noise does naturally increase as a result. In cardioid configuration in particular, the recording and broadcasting sound quality is really exceptional, easily on a par with similarly priced studio mics at recreating vocals. Sibilant sounds are captured brilliantly, and the high end is noticeably detailed— it’s lacking the warmth of pricier studio mics, but you’d expect that from a sub- $200 USB mic aimed at gamers.
And thus our only real reservation with the QuadCast isn’t specific to the product at all, but gaming microphones as a “prosumer” prospect. Investing in an XLR audio interface and a studio mic yields better results and more options for home recording, and although the QuadCast makes the best case yet for choosing an option tailor-made for gaming, with its easy controls, from a consumer standpoint, it’s still less desirable than a pro audio solution. Still, HyperX’s mic is a galaxy away from the swingarm mics on gaming headsets. For the vast majority of users, that’ll be enough to warrant a place for that shock mount on their desks.
Frequency Response 20Hz–20kHz
Cable Length 3 metres
Polar Patterns Stereo, omnidirectional, cardioid, bidirectional
Element Electret condenser
Power Consumption 5V 125mA Plus
: Sturdy shock mount; crystal clear; looks the part for streamers. Minus
: It’s not an XLR studio mic.