If you’re planning on streaming games on Twitch or YouTube – or starting a channel – one of the most important things to buy is a quality microphone. Luckily, the folks at EPOS know their mics very well indeed – and their first standalone one, aimed at streamers, is terrific.
The EPOS name has been showing up on gaming-related stuff for some time now – mostly headsets and external sound cards that have gotten a lot of attention thanks to the brand’s partnership with audio legends Sennheiser. The two companies parted ways last year, EPOS sticking with their gaming products and the less visible audio cleverness they’ve done for a long time (including headsets for air traffic controllers!)
Meanwhile, the market for quality, easy-to-use microphones in the gaming space has grown massively. If you spend any time watching Twitch streams and gaming videos, you’ll have noticed that the ones who do it properly are always using a proper microphone. Headset mics are great for talking to your team or guild when you’re actually playing, but they’re not designed to deliver full-fat sound quality. And when you’re streaming or creating for an audience that’s listening to your audio more closely, you want to make sure your voice sounds clear, rich and good to listen to.
That’s where streaming mics come in. While they’re usable for plenty of other stuff as well – recording podcasts, chatting on Discord and so on – streaming is where the good, the bad and the average get sorted from one another. There have been a few entries into this market so far, but for EPOS it’s a first.
The B20 is an absolutely gorgeous thing to behold. It’s a “black cylinder” design that recalls a popular dynamic microphone used by some streamers – but that’s where the similarities end. Using a dynamic mic means having to set up a mixing desk, manage routing your PC or console audio through it to match it with the mic, and a whole world of other hassles and expenses. The better way to go is with a quality USB mic, and that’s the field EPOS is jumping into here.
Inside its sleek black body is a three-capsule mic layout which allows you to select from four different pickup patterns. Out of the box it’s set up for a single voice, but can be switched easily to deal with picking up two people in conversation, an entire room of sound or straight stereo. The B20 is a “side address” mic – you don’t speak into this one from the pointy end like some mics. The B20 stands upright on its supplied desktop stand (you can also stick it on your own mic stand or arm using the industry-standard screw thread) and you talk into it from the side.
That “front” side has two controls on it – a mute button that instantly shuts off all audio, and a volume control that’s for the headphone output on the mic’s base. That output works as a headphone output for your PC or PS4 – so for gaming, you can plug headphones directly into the mic and hear both the game audio and (if you want) a “side channel” of your own voice, which is adjustable in software.
That software – EPOS Gaming Suite – is terrific, too. It lets you finetune the way your mic sounds and save presets for different uses, which is essential. But it also includes the ability to adjust volume (input and output) without having to use the knobs on the mic itself, a noise cancelling feature that’d be useful in a loud room to make your voice clearer, and a noise gate which gradually silences the mic volume when you’re not talking (great for Zoom calls!)
“This is a microphone that sounds as good as it looks…”
Setting the B20 up is a breeze – you literally just plug the supplied USB cable into your PC or PS4, and all setup is taken care of automatically. That’s a big advantage compared to a conventional mic – this one is literally “plug and play” and can come anywhere with you and be ready to go in seconds without the hassle of extra hardware. It’s a USB-C device, too – something that will make life easier for those using modern laptops in particular.
It works great with the PS4 as well – acting as both microphone and “headset” as far as the console is concerned. We sat it on the table, plugged in some headphones and everything worked perfectly. Getting to use your favourite headphones while playing on PS4 – instead of being tied to one with a mic – is brilliant, and you’ll also be the best-sounding player in the room.
Speaking of which, does the sound quality shape up? Yes, absolutely. This is a microphone that sounds as good as it looks, using 24-bit sampling like other high-end USB mics, meaning more accurate sound and less background noise. Compared to other popular USB microphones, the B20 does much better with the bass tones in your voice – even when speaking at a distance. It definitely sounds warmer than most. We did run into one issue when the mic was sitting on the desk near a broadband router – the Wi-Fi signal caused audible (but very quiet) interference. When we moved it over to the other side of the desk, that went away completely.
What EPOS has delivered with their first streaming microphone is an excellent device backed up by well-designed software – and design-wise it’s just a thing of beauty, its sleek metal body and unconventional desk stand truly looking like something from the future. And that’s brilliant – looks matter, as anyone who watches game streams and videos will know all too well. But sound quality matters much more – and the B20 has that well covered.
The Epos B20 Streaming Microphone is available from June 25. Pre-order now at JB Hi-Fi.