Updated on Apr 08, 2021
The JLab Audio Talk USB Microphone is one of the most popular and newest USB Desktop high-performing microphones. Built with three condensers, this microphone prioritizes studio quality at the ease of plug and go. Similar to its close competitors, this microphone comes jam-packed with features and is extremely versatile.
The JLab Audio Talk, just like other popular USB Microphones, comes in a few different versions. We have the base model, the GO, and the Pro. For all intents and purposes, we're going to be discussing the base model. However, we wanted to start by noting the price range these fall in.
The JLab Audio Talk GO is usually found for only $49, while the base model falls in at $99 and $149 for the Pro. This makes the series one of the more affordable USB Microphone sets we've ever reviewed. Now we're going to get into the details and see how this supposedly "studio quality" microphone compares to its price.
We've already pointed this out, but at $99, this microphone comes in at a lower price than some of its close competitors. For a microphone that boasts having 3 "studio-quality condensers", with the simplicity of being a plug-and-play USB Microphone, this price range doesn't sound too bad. But it really comes down to whether the quality is upheld or not.
From a first impression, I've been really impressed by this microphone. I am always a little wary of both USB Mics and $99 Condensers, but the speech recorded was definitely of great quality. The lack of any required drivers was also a surprise and really makes this a plug-and-play microphone.
From a design standpoint, I really enjoy the sleek modern look of it. The small capsule suspended above the tiny desktop legs emphasizes the condenser aspect of this microphone, making it feel like we're using high-end equipment right at our computer. The sheer number of features on top of this is something every budget condenser must-have.
One thing we already anticipate with budget condenser microphones is tricky sensitivity. This desktop mic allows you to adjust the gain controls to fit your every need. Some people like to sit close, some a few feet away, and the tests we ran did not take us long to properly adjust the settings for every distance.
On top of that, it comes with a mute button, which is another "nice-to-have" that I'm a sucker for. Because this makes such great streaming & gaming mic, it's particularly helpful to be able to mute as needed. Beyond that, it makes a great video conference microphone, and so the feature is handy there.
Now, how does it hold from a technical standpoint? Two big factors we look for in USB Microphones are the sample rate and bit depth. This is probably where I was most blown away by this microphone.
Most budget condensers at this price range have a 48kHz sample rate and 16 bit-depths. Bit depth is responsible for the resolution of our audio, and 16 is definitely the lower standard. The JLab Audio Talk, however, comes in with a 96kHz Sample Rate & 24 bit-depths.
This level of resolution was nothing short of a surprise to me, and one of the major highlights of this affordable condenser USB microphone.
The JLab Audio Talk is undoubtedly versatile, a key feature with USB Microphones. The primary use that we would recommend for this is definitely to be used as a gaming mic. However, it has the capability to be used as a video conference microphone, voice-overs, streaming, or as a microphone for YouTube, and honestly, even vocal recording. If your primary objective is to use it in a musical capacity, however, you may want to skip ahead to the alternatives, as this is definitely more for speech application than anything else.
So, why is this microphone so versatile? Just like its competitors, it comes with 4 directional pattern modes. These offer the functionality to effectively mute audio from coming in different sides of the microphone capsule.
In most cases, you'll probably use the cardioid pattern, which is perfect for any speech-based application when you're alone. From our experiments, we found that both Cardioid and Stereo can be useful if you're with a friend or two.
The Omni pattern would be best for group calls, streams, etc. We've watched some YouTube videos where a group of friends is gathered around the coffee table, and something like this would be great for that. You could even use it for an acapella group.
The Bi-Directional pattern is definitely very specific to when there's one person on each end. Whether for interviews or duets.
This is definitely a feature-heavy microphone that has a lot of awesome applications. Overall, we would say it's best to be used as a gaming mic, streaming mic, or anything else along those lines. It will pass for a music microphone, but at this price, there are definitely better options.
Honestly, for a $99 microphone, there's not a lot to critique that's not normal for the price range. Of course, it's not as great as a $250+ condenser, and it certainly has a bias for speech use, but this was all expected and so I won't really call it downsides. One of these factors is background noise, which is particularly crappy when used for musical recordings.
The first thing I didn't like about this microphone was that the gain didn't stay when you unplug. I would have to reset it to my preferred setting, so for people who want to "set it and forget it", well, prepare to be annoyed.
The second thing I noticed was the Omni pattern didn't have the rich level of depth you get from studio condensers, and came across a little flat. That's not really a setting that I use, but if it is for you, then keep that in consideration.
Best Used For
This microphone, while great for its price, may not be for everyone. For a higher budget, you'll definitely be able to find something similar but a lot better. For those looking to record music, there are definitely better microphones in this price range. And if this is a little out of your budget, we can help with that too.
So, if you require a microphone for musical purposes, we have two options. The question we have to ask is, are you just recording vocals, or will you be recording an instrument, like the guitar?
For both vocals and guitar, you'll need a condenser, and we recommend the AKG P120 High-Performance General Purpose Recording Microphone, which comes in around a similar price, has the capabilities to record acoustic guitars, vocals, and even perform both in gigs. We have a whole review on it here.
However, because it's a budget condenser, the audio quality is not 100% what it could be, and if you don't have a quiet space, you may pick up a lot more noise than you're looking for. So we recommend people who are just recording vocals consider using a dynamic vocal microphone instead. For a similar price, you'll get the versatility to use it as a recording and performing microphone. We highly recommend the Shure SM58 Dynamic Handheld Vocal Microphone, which is one of the most popular, long-standing microphones and for good reason. We've written a review on it here.
If instead, you're looking for a higher-end USB Microphone, checkout the JLab Audio Talk Pro, which has all the features we love about the base model, but with a lot more of the studio-quality we're looking for. If you can stretch to the $200 - $250 range, the biggest competitor, The Blue Yeti X, is an amazing USB Gaming Microphone, but it comes at a cost.
Lastly, for those looking for a cheaper alternative, we have the JLab Audio Talk GO, which has a similar quality to this microphone for half the price. Compared to other gaming mics in its range, this one is a star.
Overall, the JLab Audio Talk series is one of the hottest, newest, and top-performing USB Microphones on the market. While still too fresh to find a ton of reviews on, from our own impressions, it's going to become one of the top USB Microphones of the modern age.
Being the (Musician) Nerds that we are, we're always on the hunt for a good gaming mic, and JLab Audio brought us that today. Judging by the price range, they're clearly coming in hot to try and steal the thrown for best USB Microphone series, and we'll be keeping our eye on them to see what happens. Overall, very impressed, and very excited to see how they continue to improve on them.
Posted on Sep 21, 2020
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