Most computers and mobile devices have built-in microphones now, and they are fine for phone calls and video calls. They fall short when you need a higher-quality audio for podcasting or recording music. There are a variety of microphones on the market, from cheap stalk microphones to studio-quality mics costing hundreds (or thousands) of dollars. The Meteor Mic USB Studio Microphone from Samson promises to be a “professional, large diaphragm, studio condenser USB microphone” at a reasonable price. How does it stack up?
The Meteor Mic has a retro look that harkens back to the 1930s. It folds up into a compact 3.75″ long capsule with an approximately 2″ diameter. Its chrome-plated body and fold-away legs are sleek, shiny, and beautiful. The legs have rubber tips to keep the mic from sliding. When the legs are fully extended, the Meteor stands about 6″ high. It’s small enough to take with you, and at 9.9 ounces it won’t be too heavy a burden.
It comes with a velveteen storage bag, an approximately 6-ft USB-to-miniUSB cable, and a manual and booklets.
The Meteor has a dual-stage grill, as seen in the diagram above, to protect the 1″ diaphragm and to reduce wind noise and p-popping (the explosive sound you can get when saying words with “p” in them).
- Large (25mm) diaphragm condenser for rich audio recording
- Cardioid pickup pattern
- Smooth, flat frequency response of 20Hz – 20kHz
- CD quality, 16-bit, 44.1/48kHz resolution
- Fold-back leg design provides optimal mic positioning
- Durable chrome-plated body
- Plugs directly into any computer with a USB input, no drivers required
- High-quality A/D and D/A converters
- Compatible with most computer-based digital audio workstation software
- Stereo 1/8-inch headphone jack for no latency monitoring
- Headphone volume control with microphone mute switch
- Microphone mute switch for privacy, and to silence noise during playback
- Computer-controlled analog Input Gain
- Power, Peak, and Mute LED indicator
Or you can use the standard 5/8″ thread mount to attach the mic to any microphone stand.
The front of the microphone has a black plastic mute button. The dial surrounding the mute button is the volume adjustment for the headphone output. The LED shows blue when the microphone is powered, amber when muted, and it flashes red to show when the input signal is too loud and is clipping.
The Meteor works with both Windows and Mac computers, and it required no drivers when used with my MacBook Pro. It’s also compatible with most computer-based digital audio workstation software. I have GarageBand on my MBP, so that’s what I used to make some recordings. I simply plugged in the Meteor Mic, started up GarageBand, and I was ready to record. Because of the limited formats supported in WordPress, I saved all these files as MP3 files, at the highest quality available.
The microphone is suitable for recording voice (speech or singing) and various acoustic musical instruments. For voice, you should position the mic so that the center line on the front is pointing to your mouth. You can rotate the center line away from your mouth a bit to minimize p-popping, or you can use a microphone pop filter. The closer the microphone to your mouth, the more the bass response increases, according to the user’s guide.
The microphone is short, and you may find it difficult to use it on a tabletop with just the built-in legs and still be able to have it the recommended 6-24 inches away from your mouth. The legs don’t fold together enough to be used as a handle for the mic, but I still decided I’d use the front leg as a handle for my voice recordings. I don’t have a microphone stand.
I made two speech recordings. I made them sitting in the bedroom of my house, with everything as quiet as I could make it in the room. Because my house is beside a busy, cross-town road (runs within 30 feet behind my house), there was the possibility of traffic noise that I couldn’t control or block. Both recordings were made with GarageBand, using all standard settings. I made one recording using the MBP’s built-in microphone and one with the Meteor mic. When I listened to the recordings, I used my Sony MDR-NC200D headphones. I turned on the noise-cancelling function so I that could block ambient noise while I was listening.
Voice recorded using the MacBook Pro’s built-in microphone: samson-meteor-mic-speaking-mbp-mic
Voice recorded using the Meteor Mic: samson-meteor-mic-speaking-with-meteor
You can hear a definite difference between the two recordings. Both recordings seemed to be clear and static-free, but I felt the Meteor recording was richer and fuller, especially when I was holding the mic about 6″ from my face. The built-in mic recording sounded more like voices sound over the telephone than when you’re talking face-to-face with someone.
I asked my husband, Butch, who is an amateur musician (trained pianist and a guitarist), to also listen to these recordings to see what he could hear. He also used the noise-cancelling headphones for playback. He agreed that both recordings were clear and static-free. He said he could hear some background noise in the recording made with the built-in mic, and my voice sounded flat. With the Meteor mic held six inches from my face, he said the recording sounded like my actual voice, and he said the recording was fuller and had a presence that sounds that of a radio announcer recorded in a studio. When the Meteor was pulled away from my mouth, he said he could hear some background noises, but the Meteor recording still sounded better than the built-in mic.
I asked Butch to play some music for me to record so I could test how well the Meteor mic works for acoustic music. We followed the instructions for placement of the meteor mic, and we set the MacBook Pro in the same position when we recorded with its built-in microphone.
Acoustic guitar recorded using the MacBook Pro’s built-in microphone: samson-meteor-mic-acoustic-guitar-mbp-mic
Acoustic guitar recorded using the Meteor Mic: samson-meteor-mic-acoustic-guitar-meteor
Again, I listened to these files with my Sony headphones with the noise-cancellation turned on. The guitar recorded with the MBP’s built-in microphone sounded too bright and harsh. The guitar recorded with the Meteor Mic sounded more like the way it sounded when I listened as we made the recording. I could still hear the highs, but the bass was fuller and warmer sounding. Butch says in both cases, he could tell he “was playing an acoustic guitar”. But with the Meteor Mic recording, he could tell he “was playing Rachel’s 3/4-sized guitar with the buzzing fret.” With the built-in mic, he said the treble is artifically bright. He says the Meteor Mic doesn’t lose any of the bass, and the recording sounds to his ears just as it sounded as he recorded it.
Butch also tried out the monitoring feature as he recorded the guitar tracks. He used the same Sony headphones plugged into the jack on the back of the Meteor Mic. He said there was no lag or delay in the sound through the headphones.
The Meteor Mic can also be used with an iPad. You have to use Apple’s iPad camera connection kit to connect the mic’s USB cable to the iPad, and I happened to already have a connection kit. I also already had GarageBand for my iPad. I plugged the microphone into the iPad, as shown in the picture above, and I was ready to record. I was talking as I took the photo, and you can see the needled is blurred because it was in motion as the photo was taken (click for a larger view).
I used all the standard settings and made all the same recordings on the iPad that I had made on the MacBook Pro. GarageBand on the iPad has more-limited file format selections for saving, so I saved the recordings as M4a files. These are supported by WordPress, but they may not play for all of you. I’m including only one file recorded on the iPad.
Acoustic guitar recorded on the iPad using the Meteor Mic: samson-meteor-mic-acoustic-guitar-meteor
Butch and I both used the Sony headphones to listen to the files recorded on the iPad, some using the built-in mic and some using the Meteor mic. We both agreed that there’s not a lot of difference in the recordings using the iPad’s built-in mic and the MBP’s built-in mic. The Meteor mic files sounded very similar, regardless of whether they were recorded on the iPad or MBP, and in both cases, they sounded much better than the built-in mic recordings. I remember saying during one of the voice recordings using the Meteor mic that the recording level needle was in the red zone, but we didn’t hear any distortion in any of the recordings.
Just one note about playback: On the MacBook Pro, I could select the output source for monitoring/playback. I could use either the MBP or the Meteor for playback. On the iPad, I couldn’t find a way to change that, and only the headphone jack on the Meteor could be used for playback while the mic was connected to the iPad.
Whether you want to record vocals or acoustic instruments for music, voice for podcasts, or you just want to sound better for Skype or Face Time, you can’t go wrong with the Meteor Mic. At a list price of $150, it’s a high-quality, moderately-priced microphone that will improve any recording or VoIP call you make.