Top critical review
Good build, difficult setup, important details to keep in mind
July 19, 2019
I've used other Cardioid Condenser mics and figured I'd give the Razer Seiren Elite a try specifically for gaming in Discord, online calls (Zoom, Skype, etc.) in my home office, and narrating some tutorial videos.
TL/DR: while good, there are cheaper mics that work just as well and in some cases better. Knowing how to set things up is important.
If you're not familiar with a condenser mic, you have to get used to the fact that it will pick up every sound in your environment and make adjustments accordingly. That's where Razer says their unique features kick in:
- they have a High Pass Filter built into the mic that you can turn on to get rid of low noises like the rumble of an air conditioner or passing traffic
- their circuitry and pickup ("single dynamic capsule") is aimed at filtering a speaker's voice from background noise
- a D/A voice limiter supposedly stops any sudden harsh sounds from overdriving the mic and blasting other people's ears.
Overall, the sound is pretty good, but it was not an easy path to get it properly set up. I can see how a number of people report that theirs sounds terrible, and a couple of known issues don't help.
1) There is no software related to this model--it's just straight plug and play. There are a lot of programs that will work well with the mic because they've got configurations for it, but otherwise you need to focus your efforts on tuning the dials and your settings to find that 'sweet spot'
2) Some people have their computer accidentally set their mic's sample rate to a terrible number (like "AM Radio" quality). You want to go into Windows and make sure the mic is sampling at 44.1 KHz or 48KHz.
3) You need to understand basics of noise floor, noise filtering, and the differences between the gain and volume on the mic and the gain and volume in your system. The user guide covers almost none of this (I'll add some pointers in the comments).
4) If you have a boom arm, you may need an adapter to fit the bracket to the boom arm. I uploaded an image of my RODE NT-1 setup and the On Stage MA 200 5/8" to 3/8" adapter I used.
The body and stand of the Seiren Elite is sturdy, the packaging is really nice, and the USB cable is generously long. The included documents talk about a splitter cable, but I didn't have one in the package or see it in the PDF. The mic screws onto a bracket such that you can easily move it to where you want it, tighten the bracket, and it stays in place. The grommets securing the mic to the body are plastic though - it would have been better to use rubber for sound/vibration isolating. One of my favorite features on any mic is a headphone jack for real-time monitoring--this is a way for you to hear exactly how the mic is picking up your voice.
Once you can get it set up, the quality is good. I ended up spending an hour on the phone with Razer to walk through the best way to do this, and here's what I've got:
Turn off the High Pass Filter.
Start with the gain knob on the mic. Use headphones in the real-time monitoring jack and as you speak into the mic, listen to how much hiss you hear and try to adjust the dial to the least hiss without giving up your voice coming through. You should be no more than about 8 inches away from the mic.
As you do this, the 'monitor' knob is just how loud your headphones/earbuds in the monitoring jack sound. It has no bearing on the playback volume or anything in your system.
Next, use a basic program like Audacity to do some simple recording. Go into your Windows system settings and adjust the "Gain" (levels) of the mic using the system slider until you have a good balance of "My voice is getting through" and "background noise and hiss is not getting through".
Once you're fairly happy with the sound, turn on the High Pass Filter.
Now you can go back to that gain knob on the mic and try recording with the gain higher or lower to see if the 'sweet spot' sounds better, just make a note of where the dial is before you start....
...because this is a major flaw on the Seiren's design: there's faint black lettering saying VOLUME and GAIN on the body of the mic, but no way to know where the knob is turned to: a simple dot, or bump, or groove would have been extremely useful.
Overall, the Seiren looks cool and has some good build quality to it...but functionally it's no different from the Audio Technica AT2020 USB+ mic (which I'd now recommend) or others in a similar class. The high-pass filter is different, but not $50 extra dollars worth of different. Documentation is minimal, and setting it up to sound good is complicated and not well explained. I was very impressed that their support tech put me on hold for a few minutes, went and grabbed an identical mic, and did the same things alongside me for an hour to help figure out how it works.
I can see why people love the much cheaper models of Seiren, but I wonder if they had to go through as much effort to get it to sound right. If Razer lowered the price on the Seiren Elite it would be a different story, so you may consider one of their cheaper models to get much the same result.