real headphones have been rather limited for choice when it comes to microphones. There are certainly plenty of standalone microphones out there, but ones worth buying are few and far between. These few models range in price from €10 to €100, depending on your budget and purpose.For some time now, gamers with a curious predilection for
AntLion Audio’s ModMic sits just a shade below the halfway point, priced around €35 or £30 shipped from eXtine’s hometown of Portland, Oregon. At this price, the main alternative would be the Giant Squid Audio Labs Mono mic which ostensibly uses Panasonic’s WM-61A capsule electret. However, this was found to perform beneath its capabilities without additional power, something that neither the 5V of a standard 3.5mm nor a USB soundcard were able to supply. How will the ModMic stack up?
Unlike the GSA Mono, the AA ModMic seemingly uses a much more sensitive capsule. The WM-61A/GSA Mono is rated for -35 dB sensitivity, whereas the AA ModMic is considerably higher at -26 dB. For those of you unfamiliar with the logarithmic decibel unit, this 9 dB difference results in …
10^(((-26) / 10) – ((-35) / 10)) = 7.94328235
Nearly 8 times greater apparent sound field strength. With a result like this, it seems probable that any of the quietness issues found in the GSA Mono would not be present in the ModMic.
To highlight the care with which this product was designed, we shall first examine the packaging. Unlike many other electronics products, the ModMic’s packaging is simple, useful, and efficient. In brief, the packaging is a small, printed, firm cardboard tube. The microphone and accessories are sealed in by the squashed ends of the tube. Instructions for use are printed on the outside, and in my case a cheerful message was scribbled on by AA bossman Jimmy C. This is undoubtedly one of the most pleasant packages I’ve come across. Not only is it painless to open, but it is waste free and either recyclable or reusable as a travel case. This thoughtful design bodes well for the microphone itself.
Unlike the other mics alluded to in the introduction, the ModMic is not of the clip-to-your-cable style. Instead, AntLion Audio have devised a clever system using a magnetic attachment clasp which adheres the mic to the side of your headphones, as well as allowing it to rotate upwards when not in use. This NeoClasp is a small plastic mound containing a neodymium magnet on one side, and 3M adhesive on the other. It is simply stuck to a freshly-wiped surface, and left to cure for a few hours before use. AA have helpfully included an alcoholic swab to aid in this process.
The ModMic is held to this clasp quite firmly, yet is easily removed from the mount with a little bit of twisting and levering. The purpose of this easy on / off arrangement is to allow you to conveniently remove the microphone when you want to leave your PC and perhaps bring your headphones with you, or if you want to share the microphone with others. Further to this, there is an extra NeoClasp provided if you feel like having an extra mounting / storage point on your desk, or simply have two pairs of headphones you’d like to use the microphone with.
Moving onto the design of the microphone itself, we can see where its name comes from. While it appears to be a standard headset-style boom microphone at first glance, the ModMic is actually made of a highly flexible and pose-able tubing, allowing for very precise positioning of the end so as to give maximum comfort and performance. For the meticulous among you, this flexibility does come with a small downside – once shaped or bent, it is near impossible to restore the ModMic to perfect smoothness as some kinks and ridges will always persist from the previous pose.
Performance and Measurements
A direct comparison was done – albeit with a very rudimentary testbed – between the ModMic and the GSA Mono. Comparing the samples, the ModMic captures much more of the high frequencies, whereas the GSA Mono sounds boom-ier and more muffled. This victory for the ModMic (left) likely owes some credit to the design and not solely the increased sensitivity. As can be seen in the photographs below, the ModMic’s boom-style design allows for much better positioning.
In general use, the ModMic performed quite capably. After some experimenting with the gain level in my soundcard’s control panel, the microphone gave decent clarity as was to be expected.
One potential hazard of the ModMic is the magnet within its attachment point. Magnets around headphones are something of a concern as their field can interact with the moving coil of a headphone driver. However, AA’s Jimmy asserts that none of their customers had raised any complaints about this issue in their year-plus of operation.
Nevertheless, another simple test was done to check for any obvious effects from this magnet. A logarithmic swept sine-tone was played through a pair of headphones with and without this magnet attached, which was then recorded back using a rather nice GRAS 43AG ear-and-cheek simulator.
As you can see in the two recordings above, there does not appear to be anything to worry about, with no obvious deviations evident between the two.
The ModMic is a very clever product. It is relatively inexpensive, and incorporates multiple ingenious design features to ingratiate itself with gamers and VOIPers alike. Of course, these features would matter little were it not for a solid auditory performance, but thankfully this time we have a mic that is up to the challenge.
The ModMic can be purchased from AntLion Audio’s website.
Sparkle Excello Invite cup in the up-coming weeks, we’re hoping to feature this as a prize in our usual casting competitions – stuff such as first kill, first über drop – you get the picture! Details will of course be disclosed on the night – and when I get Trell to come up with the competitions details!Because atmo is a baddy and doesn’t know how to give away stuff he’s been given for free, we at VanillaTV thought we’d do it for him (and because he asked us to as well!). With the