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A Gamer's Review: Better than Zalman ZM-MIC1 for gaming/ventrilo/skype?
on September 19, 2012
If you are computer gamer looking for quality sound chances are you have tried gaming headsets before. Now for most people if these headsets play sound decently and transmit your voice audibly then that is all they are looking for. However, chances are you are not one of those people if you are looking at a $16 lavaliere mic.
Your obsession with audio quality has probably led you to various audiophile-oriented internet forums (head-fi.org) seeking out information about what headset/headphone + mic setup would be optimal. By and large most forums will point you away from "gamer" oriented headsets, deriding them for their poor return on value on sound quality, instead recommending increasingly audiophile-oriented (read: expensive) headphones that do not come with built-in mics. Thus begins the search for a separate microphone that will allow you to use your headphones without losing the quality/convenience you are used to with a headset.
This is where a product like the Olympus ME-52W may have come to your attention -- the other more common choices for those with headphones are probably: the Zalman ZM-MIC1, the AntLion ModMic, Logitech USB desk mic and a gaming headset.
ZALMAN ZM-MIC1:I passed on the Zalman mainly because I was worried that its omni-directional microphone would pick up the sound from my mechanical keyboard, also the thin wire did not look terribly durable, a concern when I tend to snag my wires on various objects at an alarming rate.
ANTLION MODMIC: For the AntLion ModMic, the price at $40 was prohibitive for a microphone simply intended for talking to my friends on skype or guild on ventrilo. My headphones of choice are only the lowly $30 Superlux HD 681 (which are quite excellent for the price) so I flinched at the thought of paying more than that for a mic.
DESK MIC: With a desk microphone, I liked the idea of avoiding another wire around my neck with a desk mic but I was too concerned with the sound quality of the microphone if I leaned back into my chair and also the sound coming from my aforementioned mechanical keyboard on the same desk.
GAMING HEADSET: The allure of a one device/one line setup is hard to miss. With gaming headsets I have tried: Plantronics Gamecom 367 and the Creative Fatal1ty Gaming Headset. Both of these headphones used some felt material which rubbed against my ears constantly because of their small can size (or conversely, my large ear size) and became uncomfortably warm after playing for awhile because they were closed headphones as well. Their sound quality was about the same as a basic $5-10 dollar set of headphones for songs, perhaps a bit better with positional audio for gaming. The mic quality was actually fairly good, but they definitely not as clear nor as good at ignoring background noise as the Olympus ME-52W. More worrisome about gaming headsets to me is their cheap build quality; I had the Plantronics Gamecom go dead on me in less than a year of use which was surprising because they actually looked fairly durable. The Creative Fatal1ty have held up better in that regard but were just too uncomfortable for me for daily use. I was seriously considering the SteelSeries Siberia V2 for a time but for the price point (~$90) you headphones from audio-oriented companies such as Sennheiser, Audio Technica and Grado that are simply superior in sound.
With these other options carefully examined and explained, I will now enter the part of the review where I actually review the Olympus ME-52W.
SETUP: As far as setup goes, this should have been simple but was not because there was serious interference when I used the wire included with the mic. It was probably not thick/shielded enough so the microphone emitted a very audible hum/buzz no matter what options I chose, although this is understandable and I do not blame Olympus for this because this is a mic for an audio recorder that would presumably not have the interference my computer setup has from other wires. It was also very silent no matter what setting I used and if I dared turn up mic boost the buzzing/hum would overpower my voice. I used a 6' stereo extension cable that did the job and the mic has worked flawless since. One other concerning thing is that this mic is mono and if you playback your sound from the windows sound menu it will only come out of one ear, but skype/ventrilo was smart enough to auto-correct this so my voice plays over both channels. The clip is very handy and clips permanently onto my headset cord which makes it very simple: I just wear my headphones and I am ready to go.
SOUND QUALITY: The clarity of my voice with this mic over skype/ventrilo has increased dramatically. I think it sounds as good as a lapel mic a lecturer might use for a sermon and certainly makes my voice sound more life-like and less like I am in a fish tank than the mics I have used before. My voice is deep and it seems like my old headset would just crush the sound at times so I had to repeat words. Also my breathing doesn't produce the pop/boom anymore like with a headset.
NOISE CANCELLING: The noise cancelling feature is probably where I am the most disappointing with this mic. Perhaps I was expecting too much but the mic does not isolate so much as deadens down the background noise from my keyboard/mouse clicker/5.1 stereo system. People can definitely still hear the background noise but it sounds very far off in the background compared to my voice so it is not a huge issue -- my voice is still crystal clear and it does not pick up noises that are well into the next room. Even though I expected a bit more from a product that claims to be noise cancelling, it is far better than my old boom mic on the Creative and better than my temporary cheapo desk mic which does no sound-isolation at all.
Overall if you were a gamer looking for a good mic to go with a pair of quality headphones instead of a gaming headset and can get over some of the setup woes you may encounter, I would definitely recommend this mic for its audio clarity, convenience and sound isolating properties because it simply outclasses any of the other available options available without moving several price brackets up.
Disclaimer: This is a review of the Olympus ME-52W used as a gamer's VOIP/skype lapel mic for a PC, even though it is not marketed specifically for that purpose. I am but a simple gamer/computer enthusiast that has a propensity to over-analyze any technologically related purchase for the sole purpose of getting the best deal, not an audiophile or audio professional prepared to back my statements regarding sound quality with mounds of empirical data.