The massive popularity of online game streaming and commentary across services such as Twitch calls for a gaming-centric microphone, and there’s a fair amount to like about HyperX’s Quadcast S microphone if you’re a fan of that RGB style, but can it also cut it as a podcasting and work microphone as well?
While I make my primary living writing, over the past decade audio has become more and more of a part of what I do each week, especially since launching a tech podcast seven years ago. I’m far from alone in that, however, and 2020 has seen many Australians shift to working from home and holding lots of virtual Zoom meetings at which they struggle to be heard over the crummy embedded microphones found in most laptops.
That’s where a good external microphone can really pay off, alongside understanding the best way to get good audio out of your microphone.
HyperX has a good rep in the gaming space for its peripherals, and it’s been producing microphones as part of that range for some time now. They recently sent me one of their premium HyperX Quadcast S microphones to test out, and while it’s primarily pitched at the gaming crowd, that’s no reason why it couldn’t feasibly also be part of your work from home kit.
What is it?
The HyperX Quadcast S a USB-connected condenser type microphone with 20Hz-20Khz response rate, 16-bit audio and a choice of four predictable polar patterns to cover everything from solo recordings to interviews.
The hook with the HyperX Quadcast S is that it couldn’t be a more HyperX product, thanks to the inclusion of embedded RGB lighting. If you’re a gamer — or if you just like the feel of a good mechanical keyboard — then you’ve probably got RGB in other peripherals, including your keyboard, mouse, maybe your laptop or desktop, so in that sense and in keeping with its gaming credo, RGB feels like it makes a degree of sense.
It’s really glowy. Not the most detailed sales argument, you might think, but looks do count when it comes to gaming microphones, as we’ve seen in units like the Yeti X World Of Warcraft Edition mic or the tiny little Rode USB Mini mic.
RGB aside, there are a few nice quality of life features in the HyperX Quadcast S that push it above the regular USB microphone crowd. The internal body of the microphone houses a built-in pop filter, which is great if you struggle with your sibilant sounds while recording.
There’s a large and easy to adjust gain dial at the base which makes it pretty simple to adjust your levels on the go, and the top of the mic houses a touch sensitive mute button, making it pretty easy to mute yourself without additional button noise. As an added extra, whatever RGB effects you have in play blink out when you’re muted, making it very easy to work out when you’re on air or speaking into the void.
The included shock mount is pretty good at handling small movements; I’m generally quite careful about that kind of thing when I’m recording but obviously in the middle of a heated game streaming session you do move around a lot more, so it’s a good inclusion given this microphone’s basic pitch.
Actual audio quality is quite decent for a condenser microphone. There’s an inherent problem for condensers in that they tend to pick up just about every sound possible, and I did put the HyperX Quadcast S through a few torture tests with heavily whirring desktops, actual office fans and even my rather happy purring cat nearby, and it did about as well as I’d expect. You’d certainly want to run a few key recording tests to get the optimal gain balance to reduce that level of noise within the microphone itself, although there are third-party apps that can also help with noise reduction and post processing depending on your precise needs.
The RGB lighting is the key pitch for the HyperX Quadcast S specifically, because if you just want that audio feature set, you can already buy the regular HyperX Quadcast for about $60 less. That model still lights up, but just in a single colour to indicate mute status. It’s otherwise the same device at a technical level, so if you’ve already got one, there’s much less of a reason to upgrade unless you’re totally RGB obsessed.
Like every other RGB product ever, you can configure the HyperX Quadcast S to your taste with a wide array of colour and pattern choices. There’s a challenge here if you just want to use it out of the box outside a gaming setting, because swirling RGB patterns aren’t perhaps the best image to present on your work Zoom call, and you may have specific colours in mind
To do this, you’ve got to install HyperX’s Ngenuity software, which is what it uses for control and configuration of all of its peripheral ranges. There I hit my first problem, because my day-to-day machine – and the one I do my audio recording on – is a Mac, and there’s no Mac version of NGenuity at all just yet. Even the Windows version declares itself to be a beta.
With no Mac solution in sight, I switched to my gaming desktop and tried to download Ngenuity through the Microsoft store, because that’s where HyperX points you to on its download page.
However, it just kept crashing out with errors, suggesting I try again later every single time.
I switched to a gaming laptop that I was reviewing… and that finally worked.
The install itself is around 89MB, which feels a little chunky for an RGB app. It’s not just that if you have other HyperX peripherals, but if you don’t that’s all you really can do with Ngenuity. It does at least allow you to save a pattern or colour to the microphone, which meant that I could switch it back to my Mac and use a more restrained red colour to let me know if I was live or not.
The HyperX Quadcast S will be available in Australia from November 9, 2020 for $299.