Posts with «microphones» label

JBL brings new microphones to CES 2024, including a wireless clip-on model

JBL is best known for speakers, earbuds and headphones, but the company has recently pivoted to microphones to meet the needs of modern content creators. It all started with the Quantum Stream line of condenser microphones, and the company has brought a trio of updated mics in the series to CES 2024 in Las Vegas.

The Quantum Stream Talk, as the name suggests, is primarily for podcasters and streamers. The condenser boasts a super cardioid pickup pattern so it only captures what’s directly in front of it, which will be your mouth. This drastically reduces background noise, as that’s the bane of any podcaster. The shock-absorbing base assists with noise reduction. The mic costs $50 and releases in March.


The Quantum Stream Wireless microphone kicks it up a notch. This wireless condenser is actually wearable, via a clip-on design. The mic is intended for on-the-go recording, as it boasts an omnidirectional pickup pattern that captures audio from every direction. This captures ambient noise, of course, but that could be the point when making field recordings and the like. There’s an included algorithm to reduce unwanted environmental noise and the mic ships with a handy case. The Quantum Stream costs $100 and also launches in March.

Finally, the flagship microphone is called the Quantum Stream Studio. This is a professional-grade condenser that shines as a podcasting microphone, but should also be great for music-making, voice-over work and related tasks. The interior boasts three condenser capsules and captures audio in 192 kHz/24 bits, which is a broadcast quality sampling rate. There are four pickup patterns to choose from, depending on your needs, and an integrated compressor to handle sudden bursts of noise. The Stream Studio is available this March for $150.

All of these microphones integrate with JBL’s updated app, which is typically used to adjust headphone parameters. The upgraded app now offers microphone controls, so you can dial in the perfect sound directly from your phone instead of having to mess with buttons and knobs. These microphones are all available to demo at CES, if you happen to be in Las Vegas.

We're reporting live from CES 2024 in Las Vegas from January 6-12. Keep up with all the latest news from the show here.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Universal Audio's SC-1 condenser microphone comes with new modeling software

Mic modeling has come a long way in just a few years, and modern software plugins, to these ears, get quite close to the real deal. Universal Audio has been at the forefront of this technology for a while and now the company’s released a new condenser microphone that integrates with its equally new Hemisphere mic modeling plugin.

The SC-1 is a large diaphragm condenser microphone, operating as part of the company’s Standard Series that also includes the pre-existing SD-1 and SP-1. The SC-1 launches alongside the Hemisphere plugin that gives users digital access to a full range of classic mics from big-time companies like Neumann, Telefunken, AKG, Sony and others. The plugin uses a similar technology to the company’s Sphere line of modeling microphones, but with a drastic reduction in cost, as the SC-1 costs $500 and Sphere microphones range from $800 to $1,400.

The Hemisphere plugin lets you instantly audition different microphones to suit the take, tweak proximity, adjust filters and more. All of these adjustments can be done before recording or afterward, just like with the Sphere line. One benefit the SC-1 boasts over the Sphere line is that it requires just a single XLR input, while Sphere microphones require two to properly capture that stereo field.

The Hemisphere modeling plugin also extends to those other Standard Series mics, like the SP-1 pencil microphone and the SD-1 dynamic microphone. As for the SC-1 itself, it’s a standard no-frills large-diaphragm condenser with an extended dynamic range and a frequency response from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. There’s also an emphasis on low self-noise output, which makes it easier to transform via the numerous modeling options.

Universal Audio’s SC-1 is available for preorder right now and ships later in the fall. The microphone includes the Hemisphere modeling plugin, so your wallet won’t have to double dip. Additionally, the plugin is a free upgrade for existing SD-1 and SP-1 owners.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Shure hid a preamp inside its latest SM7dB microphone

Even if you’ve never heard of Shure’s SM7B, you’ve almost certainly heard the SM7B. From live radio to podcasting and streaming, the sleek, black microphone can be found hanging in front of mouths, delivering its trademark broadcast sound. Today, Shure is unveiling the latest edition — the SM7dB — to celebrate the microphone’s 50th anniversary. It also happens to solve one of the mic’s biggest pain points (the clue is in its name). The $499 Shure SM7dB comes with a built-in preamp that adds either 18- or 28dB of much-needed gain. 

The SM7B famously needs a lot of amplification which can lead to quiet audio or an undesirable “hiss” on inferior preamps. To solve this, people often purchase an in-line preamp such as a FetHead or a CloudLifter — which is an additional $100 or so on top of the $399 SM7B.

The SM7dB eliminates the need for additional hardware and also promises a “clean” boost in volume. What’s more, it does this without adding any significant size or a change in form factor. To be clear, the new microphone is a shade longer than its un-amplified counterpart. And there’s a minor cosmetic change from the sleek, stealthy matte black to a slightly shinier paintjob. There’s also a glossy “Shure” logo now on the microphone body which makes the whole thing look a bit less cool if you ask me but you might not be so sensitive to such things.

The addition of a preamp brings with it some other practical changes. The classic SM7B has two switches on its rear: a high pass filter and a mid-frequency boost. The SM7dB still has those, but there are two more switches — one for bypassing the preamp and the other for toggling between the amount of gain (the aforementioned 18- and 28-dB boosts).

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

When “bypass” is activated, the SM7dB acts as a regular dynamic microphone and won’t need phantom power. Once you activate that preamp though, you’ll need to supply 48v to drive the preamp. The vast majority of audio interfaces with an XLR input will also supply phantom power, so there’s no issue here but if you're used to working with dynamic microphones and the mild convenience of not having to think about phantom power, just know there's a slight workflow change here.

One of the main benefits of a dynamic microphone is its noise rejection —- they're much more forgiving on background noise or the sound of passing traffic, for example. Thankfully, the built-in preamp here doesn't change that as the microphone still works as a dynamic should (unlike condensor microphones that need phantom power to work and are much more sensitive). 

With the full 28dB of gain applied, I initially thought there was some audible noise when recording silence, but it quickly became clear that with all that extra gain and my audio interface set to record at full volume it was simply just too loud and was picking up more ambient noise — it would have been far too loud if I had started speaking into it. Once the levels were adjusted accordingly, the noise floor disappeared. 

Perhaps unsurprisingly, without any preamp turned on, the new SM7dB sounds near identical to its legacy sibling. I tested both via a Rodecaster Duo which has ample gain to drive these microphones on its own. However, when I tested both of the SM7dB’s preamp settings (while lowering the gain on the Rodecaster accordingly) the output remained just as clear and noise free with no obvious change in character — which is exactly what Shure was going for.


The obvious downside is that, the SM7dB costs about $100 more than the regular SM7B. That’s a decent amount more, especially if you don’t really need the preamp but are maybe hoping to future-proof your setup, or just upgrade to the newest model. On the other hand, if you were going to buy an SM7B knowing you’d also need a separate preamp then the new model costs about the same as buying both separately. 

Given the sheer popularity of the SM7B, the new edition should be well received. Not least because of the obvious advantage of it being louder, but for a more practical, if slightly superficial reason, too. That being that the design of the SM7B puts the XLR port facing either directly up or down on most boom arms or mic stands (rather than perpendicular) which certain inline preamps can look a little, well, ridiculous sticking out of the top of bottom. With the SM7dB, then, you can possibly eliminate one more visual distraction from your streams. Whatever your motivation for considering the new microphone, it's available starting today.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Can 'modeling' microphones deliver on their copycat promise?

The humble microphone. For many, it’s little more than a tool for a Zoom call. For streamers and podcasters it’s a utilitarian bit of kit. But for some — singers, musicians and other recording artists — it’s an instrument as characteristic and expressive as any guitar or piano. The microphone is often the biggest investment these performers ever make. If you want a different “timbre” to your recordings, then, you could just buy a lot of microphones. Alternatively, you might consider a “modeling” mic - one specifically designed to imitate the character of famous (and usually expensive) models.

For those not wanting to spend “small condo” levels of money on a well-stocked mic locker, something like the $1,000 Sphere LX from Universal Audio offers a tantalizing prospect. It’s one of the aforementioned modeling mics, and it claims to mimic 20 of the most sought after microphones of all time.

The Sphere LX itself is a condenser microphone, but thanks to its dual-capsule setup (most mics only have one) it’s able to do some pretty funky stuff. Not only can it pretend to be a dynamic or ribbon mic - both of which use different technology to a condenser - it can imitate environmental factors such as distance from the mic and/or different recording spaces. You can even blend two different virtual microphones at the same time for added versatility. It all sounds very clever on paper, but does it actually sound, well… good?

Universal Audio

Before we get to that, it’s worth understanding the setup required. As the Sphere LX has two capsules (the “sensor” part) it outputs in stereo unlike most vocal microphones that record in mono. This means it ships with a specific XLR splitter cable that requires two ports on your audio interface. So, if your setup currently only has one, you’d need to find a new one with multiple inputs (Shameless plug: I wrote an audio interface buyer's guide that you can read right here).

There are some important steps to take before you can start experimenting with your new virtual microphones. First, if possible, you’ll want to “bind” the two input channels on your interface so that they operate as one. This locks their gain levels so you don’t need to worry about the physical volume controls being different (which could impact the effectiveness of the modeling).

It’s also important to remove any processing your interface might apply. For example, Universal Audio’s own Volt 276 interface has hardware compression and EQ which you don’t want applied here. Other interfaces also can apply light processing or compression by default, so you will definitely want to check your interface’s settings. Sometimes such processing requires turning off via software - so watch out for that, too.

With the hardware set, you’ll want to open the Sphere’s companion software. It’s a VST plugin and therefore runs within other software — Ableton Live, Logic Pro or even Garageband will do. Drop the plugin onto the same audio channel assigned to the Sphere LX’s output and you’re set to record. Actually, you can even record first and then add the software later, as the emulation can be applied to any recorded audio (but only recordings from the Sphere will “match” the emulated mic).

Universal Audio

In the most simple use case, you would record your vocal with the Sphere LX and then choose the microphone you want it to sound like in the software. Then all you need to do is export the audio and you’re done. You can even go back, change the emulation to another microphone and export it a second time, but why stop there?

One of the key benefits of the dual-capsule system in the Sphere LX over, say, something like Slate’s M1 VMS system, is that it allows for things like changing the direction you were addressing the “mic” after the fact. If you recorded into the Sphere head on, but wanted a slightly off-axis sound (useful for taming high frequencies from a guitar for example), you can do that in the software after the fact. You can even change the polar pattern - the shape/area around the capsule in which sound is received.

While this feels a bit like witchcraft — changing the physical qualities of a microphone after something has been recorded — it serves both practical and aesthetic purposes. On the practical side, you can theoretically record once and “try out” different microphones, mic placements and polar patterns. This not only saves time with the vocalist or musician, you won’t need to keep moving gear around, perfect if you have a smaller space.

In practice, unless you have all of these classic microphones for comparison, it’s obviously hard to know how close the Sphere LX comes to the originals. I happen to have three of the microphones that are modeled by the system - Sennheiser’s MD421, Neumann’s TLM103 and Shure’s SM7B - although I use them primarily for spoken word, podcasting and streaming.

On simple tests with voice recordings, the Sphere LX comes really close for all three. There are definitely differences, but given that two units of the same mic can develop variations from each other over time, the LX likely falls within those differential boundaries. This is further reinforced by listening back to the raw audio captured by the Sphere which is very, very far from what it sounds like with emulation applied.

I was particularly interested in how well the Sphere LX would emulate the SM7B and the Sennheiser MD421, as these are both dynamic microphones. Condenser microphones work very differently, so the idea that one could imitate the other was interesting. Condenser mics are generally favored in vocal studios as they capture more detail, but dynamic mics are better for those with less than ideal recording conditions. Being able to flip between the two with one mic would be both convenient and impressive.

The MD421 in particular has a unique character for a dynamic microphone with a surprisingly detailed, lively sound. With a straight voice test, the Sphere LX doesn’t quite capture those trademark “sparkle” frequencies, but it definitely does a good job on generally sounding like the Sennheiser — and it’s distinct from its imitation of the SM7B (also a dynamic mic), but with more emphasis on the lower frequencies.

While the comparison shows a decent facsimile of the Sennheiser’s sound, it’s worth noting that both the MD421 and the SM7B have a physical highpass filters built in that can be adjusted through different settings of bass roll off. This isn’t something that’s replicated in the Sphere’s companion app, so if you wanted any sound other than their default, you would need to apply some post processing.

There are some other challenges, too. In almost every other recording situation, once the track is laid down, the take is set in stone. You can manipulate it after the fact, of course, but the take itself is immovable. With the Sphere LX, and similar systems, you can reimagine the recording the moment the singer’s lips stop moving. Flicking through each virtual mic and the related setting until you find the one you like the most. This could obviously be a good thing, but option paralysis is the death of many a good audio project.

The appeal of these systems could also depend on your budget and whether you feel confident that they will remain supported by the manufacturer. This is particularly prudent for professionals. “I find with anything like that you're into ‘what's it going to be worth in the next, you know, five years?’ Or when they decide to make the mic redundant, which I’ve found on products that involve anything software.” Chris Denman, CEO of Skyrocket Audio and professional sound engineer told Engadget. The redundancy isn’t a huge risk, unlike many app-dependent gadgets, as VSTs can live outside of an app store, but something to consider.

IK Multimedia

If you’re curious about microphone modeling but don’t want to jump right into a hardware system, there are software products that claim to do a similar thing without the $1,000 outlay. Something like IK Multimedia’s “Mic Room” plugin, for example, offers a similar roster of mics for well under $100. To get the best results, your current mic will need to be one the app has a reference for, so there’s possibly an additional spend, and the results aren’t as accurate or as configurable as the Sphere LX, but it’s an easy way to experiment before committing to something like Universal Audio’s solution.

All in all, whether mic modeling is right for you will come down to personal preference, economics and the projects you need it for. For casual users looking for a do-it-all mic, it’s perhaps a little complex and costly. However, for singers looking for a streamlined, versatile setup, it almost feels like a no brainer. There will be plenty of use cases that fall between and either way, it’s a really interesting concept that will likely only continue to become more accessible.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

The best audio interfaces in 2023

Whether you make music, podcast, stream or simply enjoy listening to any of these things, a good audio interface is going to make all the difference. Your laptop or PC’s built-in sound will be just fine for most pedestrian tasks, but for creators it’s likely going to fall short of what you need.

The good news is there’s a wealth of options tailored to a variety of specific needs and use cases. The less-good news is that it can be a bit overwhelming trying to decide which one is the best for you. Which is why we’ve cooked up this guide, in which we highlight the best options whether you simply want to record a guitar, or go live to an audience of thousands (or to at least sound good while you work on that number).

And don’t worry about being overwhelmed with jargon, we’ll focus on the task in hand over the kHz and decibels so that you know which is best for the results you want without feeling like you’ve just come out of a math class.

Best for those on a budget

Audio interfaces aren’t just for creators. Maybe you work from home and want to be able to use a high-quality XLR microphone for work calls. Or perhaps you prefer to have physical controls for your headphones and mic? Or maybe you just appreciate the superior audio from a dedicated device to the one that came with your PC. If so, you likely don’t need to spend too much money - here are three options that won’t break the bank.

M-Audio M-Track Solo

It’s certainly not the prettiest device on this list, but what the M-Track Solo ($49) lacks in aesthetics, it more than makes up for in functionality for the price. If you’re just looking for something to plug a microphone or guitar into - or both at the same time - the M-Track Solo is hard to beat.

For would-be podcasters, there’s also the M-Track Duo ($70) which adds a second XLR microphone connection so you can invite guests over and record them on their own channel making editing a lot easier - and you won’t need to get intimate with them as you share a microphone. There’s not a lot in terms of frills here, like MIDI or effects, but for the price it’s a solid choice.

Presonos AudioBox iOne

Unlike other PC components, like graphics cards, digital sound has natural limits meaning that older devices can still be relevant today - and often at a better price. Presonos’ AudioBox iOne ($70) is one such example. It’s primarily intended for creators that work with music software, but it’s a great all-around audio interface with all the essential connectivity for a now-reduced price.

As a bonus, the AudioBox iOne works well with iPads, too - not a guarantee at this price point. Though some might find the headphone amplification on the low side, in case that’s a feature important to you.

Focusrite Scarlett Solo

There’s a reason why Focusrite’s Scarlett series of interfaces appear on so many recommendation lists - including two spots on this one: They offer a great balance of performance, reliability and price. At around $130, the Solo is not the absolute cheapest you can find, but it will get you started in streaming, podcasting and beyond just fine. In fact, if you just want a port for an XLR mic, improved headphone amplification and easy connections for speakers, the Solo could be the only interface you ever need that won’t feel underpowered or even as your needs evolve.

Best for streamers

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

Perhaps not surprisingly, the streaming category is one of the busiest when it comes to audio interfaces. That’s partly because most Twitchers and YouTubers have several different audio feeds to manage. As such, products in this category come with a software component that lets you pipe your microphone, your group chat and your game audio to different places. Thankfully, this isn’t as confusing as it sounds - not with one of the following devices at least.

Roland Bridge Cast

Roland might be best known for its musical equipment, but the company does a sideline in streaming gear and the Bridge Cast ($299) is one of the strongest in this category. There are four hardware volume dials so you can adjust the mix of your mic, chat and game etc. in real time, and you can even control separate “submixes” for you and your audience in real time.

On top of the mix controls, there are some voice effects, microphone EQ and dedicated mute buttons for everything - these can also be used to trigger samples, too. With the option to pipe in phone audio via an aux port, Roland has made a strong case for the Bridge Cast as the streamer’s interface of choice.

TC Helicon GoXLR Mini

The original GoXLR was one of the first audio interfaces that really focused on what streamers wanted. The Mini was released a year later and was a hit in its own right, and remains popular today, long after its initial release. The physical faders give you tactile control over each part of your stream and the connectivity includes a 3.5mm microphone port next to the headphone port - perfect for gaming headsets that use a splitter.

Additional touches include a !@#$?* button to spare your audience when you get a bit spicy with your language and an optical port so your game console audio sounds pristine. Of course, there’s RGB lighting on the faders which is almost as important as the connectivity, right?

Elgato Wave XLR

If you don’t have the budget or, let’s face it, the desk space for a full-sized mixer to control your streams, Elgato’s Wave XLR is the minimalist’s choice. Not only is it discreet, it manages to eke out a lot of functionality from just one clickable knob and a capacitive mute button.

Despite the simplicity, the Wave XLR still delivers crisp, clear audio. Where it really comes into its own, though, is its modular integration with other Elgato products. When used in concert with the Stream Deck and the Wave Link app, for example, the experience opens up to include the ability to run audio plugins and create custom shortcuts to control the audio on your stream.

Beacn Mix Create

If you already have an audio interface you’re happy with but want the convenience of a mixer for your streams then the Mix Create by Beacn is exactly that. The lightweight USB mixer comes with a screen, but the brains of the operation is the software that creates separate audio feeds for your mic, game, browser and so on.

For streamers, it means hands on controls and the flexibility of a submix (i.e. the mix you hear and the mix listeners here can be different). Not only is this an elegant solution for those who already have a hardware interface, it means you can enjoy dedicated volume controls for things like YouTube and Spotify when you’re not going live.

Best for musicians

Whether you pluck strings or drop DJ-bombs, you’re going to want something that provides you all the right ports while delivering rich, bit-perfect sound. Unlike streamers that will want to be able to work with audio from a variety of digital sources, musicians also want to record (and listen to) physical instruments in real time - so all of our selections have a focus on clean sound with good connectivity.

Focusrite Scarlett 2i2

Focusrite’s second showing on this list is a little red box that, once you’re aware of it, you’ll start seeing everywhere from live streams to YouTube guitar tutorials. The popularity of the Scarlett 2i2 is for more than its dashing red looks. The preamps - the part that turns your voice or instruments into usable sound – are widely regarded as some of the cleanest at this price range.

With two combi-ports (there’s no MIDI here) the connectivity is fairly standard, but singers and voice actors in particular will appreciate the “Air” feature that gently adds a sense of space to vocals - a trademark of Focusrite products.

Universal Audio Volt 276

When Engadget’s Managing Editor, Terrence O’Brien, reviewed the Volt 2/76 from Universal Audio he described it as “bringing something special to the table.” It’s a reference to the built-in compressor that emulates the company’s classic 1176 Limiting Amplifier hardware. All you need to know is it’s another tool to make your instrument or vocals sit better in the mix.

In a world awash with generic audio interfaces, genuinely useful features like this are what makes the Volt series stand out. Alongside the compressor, the Volt 276 has a pair of 5-pin MIDI ports and a button for “vintage” mode. The latter emulates the company’s popular Audio 610 preamp which, according to Universal Audio, was used by Van Halen and Ray Charles. Not bad company to be keeping! At $299, it’s a little on the spendier side, but it's a comprehensive choice for anyone who works with instruments, vocals and outboard MIDI gear.


If you need more connectivity than the standard 2 or 4 inputs, MOTU’s M6 has you covered. As the name suggests, there are inputs for up to six instruments - four of which can be microphones - and a pair of 5-pin MIDI ports for synthesizers. The M6 can even output CV signals to control even older music gear. The M6 also has dedicated buttons on each input channel for phantom power (for condenser microphones) and real-time headphone monitoring. If all that flexibility wasn’t enough, a small display for volume levels means you have a quick visual reference to make sure you keep your precious recordings out of the red.

Best for Podcasters

Whether you’re operating from a sound-treated studio or recording under a duvet in the back office, most podcasters have a few needs in common. First and foremost is the option to connect more than one high quality microphone. Second would be the ability to record remote guests easily whether they are using Zoom or calling in on a phone - which requires something called “mix minus” and isn’t a standard feature on most interfaces.

Lastly, many shows will want to be able to play music or audio from other sources in real time. All of the picks in this section exceed those basic requirements, which one is best for you will be determined by budget or specific needs.

Focusrite Vocaster Two

From the same company as the acclaimed Scarlett series, the Vocaster Two takes all the audio knowledge from its sister series and packages it into a more podcast-friendly format. Not only are there dual XLR mic inputs, there are two headphone ports, each with their own volume control so you and a live guest can podcast together in the same room.

Thanks to both a 3.5mm and Bluetooth inputs you have multiple options for including “call in guests”. There’s even a 3.5mm output for those who want to make a video-version of their podcast for YouTube - simply plug the Vocaster right into your camera for perfect audio as you record it. What’s more, the “auto gain” and “enhance” features will make sure you and your local guest will sound tippity top without having to apply any external effects.

Rodecaster Pro II

If you see yourself taking your podcasting to the next level, then the Rodecaster Pro II from Rode is hard to ignore. With four XLR combi ports, it’s perfect for multi-guest in-person shows, especially as it has physical faders for each channel along with easily accessible mute and solo buttons.

The Rodecasater Pro II also includes both a 3.5mm/aux port and Bluetooth for plugging in a phone plus dual USB ports that make it easy to feed in audio, like a Zoom call, from a PC or a tablet. Each microphone port has a wealth of effects available to enhance the audio, and the eight rubber pads let you fire off sound effects and intro/outro music at will. The pads can also trigger automated actions like musical fade-ins. In short, the Rodecaster II is quite a powerhouse, but obviously a fair amount more expensive than most interfaces on this list.

Best for music listening

What we call an audio interface today, we might well have once called a “sound card.” While today’s interfaces also serve up a host of connectivity options, the thing we need them for the most is often just good old fashioned listening to music. While everything on this list will reproduce music to a high standard, Hi-Fi heads might prefer something that will let them interface with more exotic audio formats, audio gear and high-end headphones.

Fiio K7

With phono, coaxial, optical and USB inputs, the K7 from Fiio is able to handle music and audio from almost any high fidelity source. Most traditional audio interfaces support playback of up to 48 kHz, the K7 can handle files all the way up to 384 kHz at 32-bit - perfect for the demanding audiophile.

On the front you’ll find both a 1/4" jack and a 4.4mm balanced headphone port along with a big ol’ volume dial.While its Hi-Fi aesthetic might not be the most razzle-dazzle, it does have an RGB LED around the dial to give it a pop of color (it also changes color depending on the “quality” of your audio source).

Fiio Q7

Don’t let the unusual design fool you, the Q7 from Fiio is an absolute audio powerhouse. It has the same digital inputs as the K7 but supports files with up to twice the maximum sampling rate (for those who absolutely must have 768kHz/32bit support).

More practically the Q7 can decode Tidal’s top-tier MQA files and there’s Bluetooth for connecting to your phone along with a built-in battery, too making this a portable high-end audio experience that won’t drain your laptop. Naturally, for the music listener that wants it all, there are jacks for every size of headphone, including 2.5mm and 4.4mm balanced sets.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Teenage Engineering enters the microphone space with the gorgeous CM-15

Boutique music gadget manufacturer Teenage Engineering is back with a new product and it’s a whole lot more interesting than a $1,600 desk. The CM-15 is a legitimate portable condenser microphone built for studio use and remote setups. The company describes it as the world’s “first all-in-1 mic offering” as it features multiple connection and power options.

You can power this thing via traditional phantom power by plugging it into any suitable mixer or audio interface. There is also a built-in battery that gets ten hours of use per charge. Don’t have access to any of that? Just plug it into any USB-C port to get some juice. That’s pretty convenient. As for connections, there is a 3.5mm line output, a mini XLR and the aforementioned USB-C port. The microphone includes a built-in preamp, so you can go straight into a computer, phone or another Teenage Engineering device like the similarly impressive (and expensive) OP-1 Field.

Just like the recently-released TX-6 mixer, the CM-15 is tiny but still manages to find room for some audio wizardry. It contains a true 1-inch large-diaphragm capsule, which is a rarity in portable recording gear. The microphone also features ESS Sabre analog-to-digital conversion, which TE says helps the mic “preserve high-fidelity sound and capture exceptional detail in any recording situation.”

There’s a gain switch on the back to match the audio source, and the 3.5mm line out can plug right into a video camera for synced audio/visual content. The machined metal build looks durable and adds to the overall aesthetic appeal of the microphone. It ships with various adapters for universal compatibility with mic stands and features a built-in tilting mechanism for precise placement. There's a mini-tripod available for the mic, but it costs an extra $100.

Now onto the price. This is a Teenage Engineering product through-and-through, so get ready to fork over $1,200 to bring this little beast home. For a complete TE setup that includes the CM-15, a TX-6 mixer and an OP-1 Field synthesizer, that cost skyrockets to $4,400. The microphone starts shipping in June.

This article originally appeared on Engadget at

Rode claims its new podcast-friendly NT1 offers 'unclippable' audio

When a microphone has been around for 30 years, it must be doing something right. The Rode NT1 is arguably the company's flagship studio mic and origin story for the brand's name. The mic was originally called the Rodent1, shortened to Rode NT1 and the rest is history. Today, the company is unveiling the fifth iteration and it comes with two key updates that should interest podcasters and vocalists alike. Those would be 32-bit float recording and the addition of USB connectivity.

The inclusion of USB might feel like something that should have been there all along, but typically "pro" studio microphones are XLR only, with USB being the reserve of desktop microphones. Times are changing though and more folks are seeking a classic microphone but without the need to use an audio interface. Now, with the NT1 you have both. The USB connection is tucked away right at the base of the existing XLR port. It's a clever solution, but you will need a USB cable with fairly slim connections else it won't fit.

With the new USB connectivity comes the option for tailoring the sound of the mic. Usually that part is offloaded to an interface or mixer, but now there's an onboard DSP that allows you do apply things like a noise gate or compressor to the mic directly (via Rode's Central or Connect apps). Not to mention this makes the microphone much more portable as you won't need to bring a separate, often clunky interface along with you.


Easily the biggest benefit of the MK5 (and that built-in DSP) is the introduction of 32-bit float recording. In a nutshell, 32-bit allows for an exponentially larger dynamic range than 16- and 24-bit (which is what most systems use). This means you can forget about clipping (when audio is too loud and distorts) as there's enough headroom for almost any sound that would be possible. Or, put another way, you can effectively forget about setting levels safe in the knowledge you can adjust them in post without any audio loss.

What this means for podcasters and vocalists is less time worrying about levels at the point of recording, knowing you can set things as you want in post. Of course, good levels at the point of recording is always adviseable if possible, but it at least means any sudden sounds won't ruin your take. It's also currently very rare to find 32-bit float on a microphone like this - typically you'd have to buy a pro-level audio recorder if you wanted this feature.

At $259 the NT1 sits in an interesting spot. Shure's MV7 also offers XLR and USB connectivity and retails for $250 without 32-bit float (it's also a dynamic mic which will be either a benefit or a disadvantage depending on your needs). Sennheiser's fantastic MK 4 condensor typically runs for around $300 and doesn't offer USB connectivity. Similarly, if you're using something like a Blue Yeti and looking for an upgrade, the NT1 makes a compelling option.

The NT1 goes up for pre-order today. 

The best podcasting gear for beginners

Starting a podcast is easy. Making one that actually sounds good is another story entirely. We can't help much with the bigger problems facing would-be podcasters — finding a good topic and getting people to listen — but we can point you to the best gear to get started. With a few smart purchases, you too can sound like a podcast pro.

Get a decent microphone

You need a good microphone. There's no arguing with this. It doesn't matter if you're starting your own show or planning to guest on someone else's podcast. A great microphone will elevate your voice to help you get the sort of depth and richness you hear on the radio and popular shows like Radiolab. While you could record with your phone or your PC's webcam mic in a pinch, nobody wants to hear that every week.

We strongly suggest starting with a solid USB microphone. They can connect easily to any computer (or even phones and tablets with a dongle), and they'll offer a huge leap in sound quality. Previously, we’ve recommended the Blue Yeti as the ideal beginner mic. It’s easy to use and sounds great for the price. But it’s also a condenser microphone, which means it’s not great for the noisy environments most newfound podcasters are recording in. So this year, we’re suggesting you jump straight to an inexpensive dynamic microphone like the Audio Technica ATR-2100X.

Buy Blue Yeti at Amazon - $130Buy Audio Technica ATR-2100X at Amazon - $99

Dynamic microphones do a better job of isolating your voice and cutting out background noise — the only downside is that you need to speak close to it like a radio host. The ATR 2100X also has USB-C and XLR connections, which means you can easily bring it over to a more professional audio interface down the line, or drag it along to a friend’s studio.

There are cheaper USB microphones out there like Blue's Snowball ($80) and AmazonBasics' Mini Condenser ($45), but you’ll pay for going cheap with noisier recordings. If you're serious about podcasting, it's worth spending a bit more up front: There's a good chance you'll end up chucking a cheaper mic once you hear the difference.

Buy Blue Snowball at Amazon - $80Buy AmazonBasics Mini Condenser at Amazon - $45

Pro tip: RTFM

You should actually read the instructions and make sure you know what every dial and button does. Most importantly, make sure you're speaking in the right direction! With most microphones, including the Blue Yeti, you want to aim at the side with the brand label. Some models, like the ATR2100X and other dynamic mics, need to be addressed from the top. Yes, I know this all sounds basic, but I've encountered dozens of people who end up aiming for the wrong part of their mics when they're getting started.

It's also worth picking up a few accessories to make your recordings sound great. Get a pop filter or foam cover to avoid plosives (that annoying titutal pop when you make "p" sounds). If you're going to be recording regularly, it's worth investing in a tabletop arm to hold your mic in an optimal position (and also avoid the extra noise you get from desktop stands).

You could, of course, start exploring more-expensive microphone options, but I'd suggest holding off on those until you're more committed to the podcasting life. The next big level up from USB options is the world of XLR microphones, the same interface used for professional audio gear. You'll also need a USB audio interface, like the Tascam US-2x2 or FocusRite Scarlett 2i2 ($170), to connect those mics to your computer. At that point, you can start looking at higher-end options like the Rode Procaster ($224). It sounds noticeably richer than the Yeti, and since it's a dynamic microphone, it's also better at cutting out unwanted noise.

Here's some advice: You can save quite a bit by buying all this equipment used or refurbished. I saved $100 on the excellent Shure PG42 USB microphone years ago by going through eBay.

Buy FocusRite Scarlett 2i2 at Amazon - $170Buy Rode Procaster at Amazon - $224

Choose your audio-editing weapons

Now that you have the hardware, you need some software to put your show together. There's no avoiding this part: You need to learn the basics of audio editing. Luckily, there's Audacity, a free, open-source audio editor that works across every computing platform. Its UI is ugly and a bit archaic, but it's also pretty powerful once you get a handle on it. I've edited all of my shows with Audacity, and aside from a few annoying crashes and quirks, it suits my needs well.

If you're looking for something more robust or you grow tired of Audacity, the free version of AVID's Pro Tools is worth a look, and there's Reaper by Winamp creator Justin Frankel. They're both full-fledged digital audio workstations (DAW), and Reaper also has the bonus of working with plenty of tools and plug-ins. At the high end of the spectrum, there's Adobe Audition, but at $21 per month, or $240 for the year, it's not worth considering until podcasting has become your life.

Get good headphones

Headphones are the best way to monitor your recordings — that is, to hear yourself as you're recording — as well as to make sure they sound great once completed. You'll definitely want something better than the earbuds that came with your phones. We recommend starting with something like Sony's MDR-7506 ($98), a pair of over-the-ear headphones that have been studio mainstays for decades. They offer a neutral sound and a light fit, exactly what you'll need for hours of editing. If you've already picked up a pair of great headphones, those will work fine. (Be sure to turn off any noise-canceling features, though, as they can color what you're hearing while monitoring recordings.)

We're not going to go down the rabbit hole of recommending large speakers like you'd find in a real studio. They're not worth it for podcast editing, and most people will be listening to your show with headphones anyway. Of course, if you make something that sounds great on headphones, it'll probably be fine on speakers.

Buy Sony MDR-7506 at Amazon - $98

Prep your recording altar

You can't just set up your fancy new microphone anywhere! You'll want to find a room that's as quiet as possible, or even a small closet. If both of those options are out, carve out some space in the corner or along a wall of a larger room. Wherever you set up, you'll need to treat your space a bit with some foam wedges or other sound-absorbing objects. You can always go the simple route: Drape a curtain or blanket over your desk to create an isolated sound-dampened spot.

Learn how to record with friends

So now you're all set to record a podcast on your own. But how do you bring in a co-host or guest? That's where things get a bit complicated. You could chat with a friend over Skype and record their audio using something like Total Recorder on Windows or Soundflower on Mac. You'll want to make sure the other person is also aiming for the best audio quality with a high-quality mic. In a pinch, you can have a guest record a voice memo on their phone (but be sure to follow NPR's phone-recording guidelines).

To simplify remote group recordings, you could consider web-based services like Zencastr and Cast, which automatically capture high-quality local audio. They’ll get you better quality than a Skype recording, since you’re not dealing with compressed audio from your guests. These services let you quickly edit and process recordings online as well. While they may sound like podcasting heaven, there are issues to watch out for. Network interruptions could easily render a session useless, and they’re demanding on systems with minimal RAM. If you go this route, be sure to have backup recordings.

For the most control, your co-host can record their side of the conversation on their end and send it to you afterward. This obviously introduces additional layers of complexity, like making sure your audio stays synchronized throughout the whole recording. It's also tougher to edit, since you're juggling multiple files on a timeline instead of one. But honestly, the quality bump is worth it. If you're looking to hone your audio-editing skills, there are online tutorials like this Udemy course or YouTube instructional videos.

Recording with another person physically near you is a bit tougher. Some mics like the Blue Yeti have modes for shared recording. Otherwise, you'll need to get a USB audio interface to plug multiple XLR mics into your computer. If you're going that route, you'll have to be extra careful about avoiding crossover recordings on those mics. If you're looking to record interviews on the go, nab a digital audio recorder like the Zoom H1n ($120) and a few mics like Rode's Lavalier Go ($79). Since it won't sound nearly as good as a home setup, I wouldn't recommend this as your main recording method (unless you invest in a powerful recorder with support for pro-grade XLR mics).

Buy Zoom H1n at Amazon - $120Buy Rode Lavalier Go at Amazon - $79

Choose a podcasting service

Once you've locked in an episode or two, it's time to start exploring podcast hosts. These will host your files, give you a feed you can subscribe to in any podcast app and usually help you list your show on iTunes, Spotify and other services. Most important, you can get some detailed analytics from hosts, and if you get popular enough, they can also help you nab some sponsorships. You can get started for free with Acast, $5 per month with Libsyn, or $10 per month with Audioboom.

Photos: avdyachenko (Mic setup); Olly Curtis/Future Publishing via Getty Images (AKG headphones); Getty Images (podcast interview)

Universal Audio is getting into premium microphones

Universal Audio, which has long been known for its premium audio interfaces and plugins, is moving into a new market as it has revealed its first microphones. As with the company's other gear, expect to pay a pretty penny to get your hands on these.

Universal Audio

The SD-1 Dynamic is on the lower end of the initial lineup. Universal Audio says it's a broadcast-style mic geared toward capturing speech, vocals and instruments. It includes a "cardioid polar pattern and selectable low cut and articulation boost switches." It seems to be Universal Audio's attempt to cut into the market share of Shure's SM7B, a favorite among podcasters. You can pick up the SD-1 Dynamic starting today for $379.

Like the SD-1 Dynamic, the SP-1 Condenser has Apollo interface presets designed to help users attain professional-sounding audio quickly. The SP-1 comprises a pair of pencil microphones that Universal Audio designed to record drums, acoustic instruments and live performances. 

Universal Audio

The company says the SP-1 is designed to block out background noise and off-axis audio. The SP-1 Condenser will be available this summer and cost $499.

At the higher end of the scale is the Sphere L22 Modeling microphone. Universal Audio says that, when paired with the UAD Sphere L22 plugin, the device will be able to replicate 34 classic ribbon, condenser and dynamic mics. 

Universal Audio

It's a "large-diaphragm modeling condenser that pairs a dual-capsule design for stereo or blended mono recording with award-winning mic modeling technology," according to the company. With the ability to mimic many other "sought-after" microphones, it's not too surprising that the Sphere L22 Modeling microphone doesn't come cheap. It's available now for $1,499.

Looking further ahead, Universal Audio plans to release a series of tube and solid-state condenser microphones. The very pretty Bock Series mics are designed by David Bock and should arrive this fall.

Universal Audio

These products aren't really designed for creators who are just starting out (unless they plan to splurge on a high-end setup out of the gate). However, these mics should at least give experienced podcasters, streamers and musicians who want to improve the sound quality of their output more options to consider.

Tesla is selling a microphone for in-car karaoke, but only in China

Tesla is selling a new accessory: a microphone for in-car karaoke. The TeslaMic is only available in China for the time being. The company introduced it amid the rollout of a Chinese New Year software update, which adds a karaoke platform called Leishi KTV to infotainment systems.

The microphone automatically pairs with the infotainment system, according to Tesla. The TeslaMic comes in a pack of two, so it could come in handy if you ever feel like parking somewhere with a date and belting out some duets. The pack costs around $188 but the Tesla store page is failing to load for many would-be crooners.

A Weibo post (which has been mirrored onto YouTube) shows the TeslaMic and karaoke system in action. As Elektrek notes, by adopting the Leishi KTV interface and catalog, Tesla is building on a "Caraoke" feature it introduced in 2019, which had a more limited selection of tracks.

It remains to be seen whether Tesla will sell the TeslaMic outside of China, though maybe you'll be able to buy it with Dogecoin if it ever comes to the US. In the meantime, there's an official Carpool Karaoke microphone that you can connect to your car's audio system (though you'll need to provide your own backing tracks and a display with lyrics).