With so much streaming content being put out there daily from sites like Twitch and YouTube, it’s not surprising that plenty of people want to get in on the fun – and, of course, that means the need for better quality audio than what you’d get from the teensy built-in mic in your video camera or webcam.
We’ve seen quite a few streaming microphones turning up recently, all with one thing in common – simplicity and ease of use thanks to all of them being plug-and-play USB designs. You may have seen popular streamers using more elaborate mics, but those require their own mixing console and careful setup to work, and the mics themselves are expensive.
The great thing about USB mics is that everything’s taken care of for you – power for the mic and its amplifier, power for its condenser capsules that do the grunt work capturing the sound and switching between the different pickup patterns to suit what you’re doing.
Roccat, a company that’s specialised in PC gaming accessories for years, is now owned by legendary PC audio company Turtle Beach, who made very high-quality PC sound cards before moving into the headset market. And now they’ve applied their Turtle Beach tech to Roccat’s first streaming microphone. Named the Torch – as much because of its shape as for the LED lights that illuminate it – this is a mic aimed squarely at the PC streaming market, rather than being an all-purpose gaming mic (though if you wanted to use it as one, it’ll serve you well).
The Torch breaks with the design tradition of the competition with its unusual two-piece construction. There’s a fairly solid flat base that contains the controls you’d normally find hidden away somewhere on the back of other mics, like pickup pattern, monitor volume and mic gain. The volume dial also acts as a quick mute button by pressing it in – with the usual clunk sound to tell everyone you’re talking to you’re going silent. But don’t worry – the Torch has a trick up its sleeve to solve that, which we’ll get to later.
Mounted on the base is the mic itself, an almost 1950s-era radio mic shape but with a sleek black finish. Inside the enclosure is a bunch of RGB LEDs, which give instant feedback on mic gain; you can tweak the colours by installing Roccat’s Neon software, but it’s not needed to use the mic. This is 100 per cent plug-and-play – just one catch, though. You’ll need to first connect the mic to the base with the tiny USB-C cable supplied, then connect the base to your PC using the longer USB-A cable in the box.
“Yes, we did whisper into the mic nice and close and can confirm that ASMR fans are probably going to have fun with it.”
The reason for this is so that the mic can be separated from its base and mounted on a boom if needed (when detached from the base it has a standard boom arm thread ready for most popular boom arms). Then, the base can sit on the desk acting as a control panel to keep levels in check or change pickup patterns. Roccat supplies a two-metre USB-C cable in the box for this setup, by the way (and all cables are high-quality braided ones, always great to see).
Popping back to pickup patterns, this mic really only offers two – cardioid, which you’ll want for almost all streaming purposes, and stereo. There is a third option advertised as “whisper mode”, but in fact this is the cardioid pattern with a ton of extra gain applied, so you can speak incredibly quietly and still be heard. Yes, we did whisper into the mic nice and close and can confirm that ASMR fans are probably going to have fun with it.
In terms of sound quality, the Torch is a pretty decent performer, especially at its price point. It does lack the rich bottom end of other (more expensive) mics we’ve tried, and though you can get up nice and close for that “radio sound,” its integrated pop filter lets through a few too many plosives (this isn’t a problem when using the mic at a normal distance.) The stereo pickup pattern is a bit of a weird one, sounding a bit indistinct in terms of positioning – but it’ll be useful for when there’s more than one person speaking. Each pickup pattern changes the LED colours on the mic; green for cardioid, blue for whisper mode and purple for stereo (as well as red for mute). The native sample rate of this one is 24-bit at 48KHz, which is excellent.
One thing that’s really impressive is how much outside noise this mic blocks out. Comparing recordings from several other streaming mics, the Roccat Torch wins easily when it comes to picking up voice and only voice. The noisy PC nearby was no problem for it – the hum of the fans was barely audible, where other mics valiantly picked up unwanted sound ranging from fan noise to desk vibration. Full marks in that department.
And the Torch still has its big party trick up its sleeve – contactless mute. Yep, no more clunk when you mute your mic to cough, answer the phone, talk to the cat or any of the other reasons a mute button is so handy. With the Torch, you simply wave your hand over the top of the mic, and you’re muted. Wave again to un-mute. It’s such a simple idea, and it works brilliantly. You can even adjust the sensitivity of the mute sensor so that you don’t activate it by mistake.
Overall, then, the Roccat Torch is terrific value for money – a quality mic for PC users that knows what it wants to do and does it very well. With its stellar noise isolation, crisp and clear sound quality and the versatility of being used on its control base or on a boom, it’s the perfect entry-level mic for streamers, gamers and even podcasters. And muting with the wave of a hand will never get old!
The Roccat Torch studio-grade USB microphone is available now.