REVIEW – Everyone has a story to tell. Whether that’s your profession (vocalist, podcaster, or content producer) or your hobby (storyteller, singer/songwriter or gamer), you need a clear, strong voice to give to the world. Price tag does not always mean better, and the Samson Q9U tries to straddle the border between professional-grade sound and budget pricing. Where does it land on that spectrum? Read on to find out…
What is it?
The Samson Q9U is a cardioid mic that aims to provide professional sound while coming in at a budget-friendly price. For those who don’t know, a cardioid mic is a “polar pattern” that is designed to pick up sound coming directly at the pickup and filter out sound coming in at off angles. This is the kind of mic favored by singers, podcasters, and anyone who is looking to capture a single performance – or, at any rate, a single performance that will be mixed with others while retaining the fidelity of the individual performer.
What’s in the box?
- The Samson Q9U mic on a non-removable yoke mount
- A foam wind screen
- A USB-A to USB-C cable
- A USB-C to USB-C cable
- Assorted paperwork
Design and Features
The Q9U is a sleek, good looking mic that sports both a USB interface (to plug directly into your computer – no external drivers needed) and an XLR port (eXternal Line Return, a standard used by audio devices like mixers). This type of dual interface is difficult to find.
Side view of the mic. The top end is pointed towards the audio source – you. Near the bottom of the mic there is a mute button – press once to mute and press a second time to go live.
The rear of the mic. At the top, you can see the midrange switch. When in the mid position this provides a boost to midrange audio, which is great for vocal applications like spoken word or singing.
In the middle, there is a male XLR connector. Note that this mic does not come with an XLR cable. I don’t know if that was a deliberate choice by Samson (many of the professional users of a mic like this will have differing needs and preferences on the type of XLR cable), but either way, if you plan on connecting this mic with a mixer or other sound processor via XLR, you will need to get an appropriate cable.
On the left side of the XLR connector is the 1/8 inch headphone monitor port. You can plug in your favorite headphones, earbuds, etc. to get zero-latency monitoring of the sound the mic picks up. Zero-latency is very important – if there is the slightest lag in sound, it can destroy the rhythm of a performance. And on the right side of the XLR connector is the USB-C port. Plug the cable in here, connect to your computer and you are ready on that interface.
Finally, on the bottom of the mic is a low-cut switch. When the switch is in the left position then the sound is as the mic hears it. If that sound is “muddy” – meaning it favors the low or bass end of the spectrum – then flipping the switch to the right side to cut the low end and brighten the sound up.
As I mentioned before, the Q9U comes permanently mounted to a stirrup with a standard screw mount on the bottom. It does not come with any sort of stand, and by itself, the stirrup mount will not support the mic freestanding. In short, you will absolutely need some sort of stand or boom arm to support the mic. Thankfully, I already had both a generic boom plus a Samson MD2 desktop stand, so I was ready to use the mic.
This is the MD2 stand with a pop screen attached to catch those pesky hard B’s and P’s. In the documentation, Samson says that you can use the wind screen to do this as well, but I prefer this type of screen. In the end, it is a matter of preference.
One last thing about the stirrup. Since it is not removable, there is no way to get a shock mount on this mic. A shock mount is the cable cage that suspends a mic in such a way that minor bumps to the mount do not translate to loud thumps in your recording. The Q9U has an internal air-pneumatic shock mount, though, which does exactly the same thing. If you’ve been around mics for a while then you might feel a little awkward without a shock mount, but the system the Q9U uses is up to the task.
Does it work?
Yes. Yes, it does.
The sound the Q9U produces is probably the clearest and sharpest (in the best way) sound of any sub-$500 mic I have ever worked with. Sound sample below. Both the USB interface (plugged directly into my Surface Book 3) and the XLR interface (plugged into my Rode Rodecaster mixer) produced top-quality sound. I used the mic exclusively for 3 weeks on every type of project – Zoom/Teams calls, recording training videos, and even DJ’ing my 11th wedding anniversary party (a mix of music and videos with me providing voiceovers). No matter the use, literally everyone commented on how clear my voice was, how they could not hear any sound outside of my voice (even when the dogs were barking on the other side of my desk) and how much better my training videos had become. Content was the same, but the audio improvement was enough to garner more attention to that content and give the impression of a more professional production quality.
If I had one complaint about the Samson Q9U microphone it would not be about the mic itself. Personally, I think that Samson is marketing this to both a professional user as well as the casual hobbyist. It is the second one I think that needs some help. Perhaps bundling the mic with a stand or boom would help the novice become productive with the mic right away. I want to make it clear, though – in no way does Samson do any sort of deceptive marketing about what is in the box. But relying on someone new to this world to know the additional things to buy to get up and running – especially as it relates to the actual use of the product you are selling – is an important way to reach out to new content creators and a fantastic way to build brand loyalty.
What I like
- Choice – either USB for recording on the road or XLR when in my home studio
- Design – the mic looks as impressive as it sounds
- Quality – the audio this mic delivers rivals that of units that cost twice as much
What I’d change
- Create a beginner’s bundle with a mic stand and headphones
The response I have received since I started using the Samson Q9U microphone has been outstanding. I am not a professional broadcaster and I certainly did not play one on TV. Moving to this mic, though, takes even my meager talents to a new level. Your mileage may vary, but if you want to start off on the right foot – or if you want to upgrade your existing setup – then the versatility and quality of the Q9U should help move this mic to the top of your shortlist.