Thanks to ease of use and the ability to use high-quality condenser mic capsules via USB’s constant supply of power, plug-and-play USB microphones have become hugely popular for everything from podcasting and YouTube creation right through to recording instruments and vocals on a budget. It’s a world dominated by familiar brands like Blue, Rode and Audio-Technica – so can a lesser-known name like Thronmax hold its own with the big players?
When you first come across the product box for this new contender in the increasingly-competitive world of USB microphones, you’d be forgiven for thinking you were looking at box from the health and fitness section of the store that someone left in the wrong place. “THRONMAX MDRILL ONE PRO,” it shouts, before adding “WITH VERTIGAIN TECHNOLOGY,” accompanied by a photo of a menacing-looking cylinder.
But fear not, because this is not some kind of fitness cylinder for weight training or workouts – it is indeed a USB microphone, the latest effort from European-owned Chinese brand Thronmax, which has a lot to prove right out of the gate.
“…this is one seriously stylish microphone…”
The first thing you notice about the MDRILL One Pro is its design; this is one seriously stylish microphone, borrowing the side-mount desk stand design that Blue’s known for, but giving it sleek Euro curves rather than Blue’s retro-chic look. This carries over to the microphone itself, which sticks with the cylinder shape but throws in neat design flourishes like a sculpted underside that sports a ring of LED mood lighting (there’s a dedicated button to pick your colour or turn it off). That might sound like an indulgence – and really, it is – but with a soft blue glow emanating from the bottom of the cylinder and vibrant blue and green LED indicators and digital level controls, this sits on just the right side of future-cool. The non-Pro version of the MDRILL One scored a 2020 Red Dot product design award for both its physical design and sound quality, by the way.
Of course, none of that matters if the one job the MDRILL One Pro has to do – being a microphone – isn’t up to scratch. There’s a lot of competition in the field and especially at this price point, so it’s no small challenge.
This new Pro version comes with the native ability to output at 24-bit 96KHz, which is rare enough to be worth advertising on the front of the box. Now, almost nobody is going to actually need to output at that level of quality – and the frequency response of the mic capsules is limited to 20 KHz at the top end – but it’s a nice feature to have if you’re recording audio on a digital audio workstation for a high-res project. Windows 10 identifies the high-res support automatically, though it defaults to a more sensible 24 bit 48 KHz. For what it’s worth, we tested the MDRILL One Pro at both 48 and 96 KHz and found the lower sample rate to sound just as good. However, that’s with the human speaking voice; if you were recording musical instruments or even a vocalist, switching to the 96KHz option will let you squeeze every last bit of detail out of what this mic can deliver.
And oh, it delivers! Comparing speech recordings directly with the immensely popular Blue Yeti, the MDRILL One Pro sounded very noticeably richer and warmer than Blue’s venerable trendsetter. The MDRILL’s claimed frequency response is the same, but it seems far better at capturing the bass notes in the voice, even when speaking into it from a regular desk distance. Get up close and personal with it, though, and it sounds even better – full-bodied and detailed, where the Yeti sounds more “clean and digital.” Thronmax’s advertised “Vertigain Technology” comes into play here – it’s billed as a “sound-enhancing acoustic chamber” and whatever it’s doing, it seems to be working brilliantly.
There are four selectable pickup patterns – cardioid (most people will want this), stereo, bi-directional (for interviews) and omnidirectional. They all do what it says on the tin, with the stereo separation in that mode being better than most. A stereo headphone jack is on the bottom of the cylinder, which lets you listen to a mix of system audio and the mic itself (how much of yourself you hear is controllable by a dial on the back with an LED lighting bar on the front to show level). If you’re doing Zoom, Skype or Teams calls, plug straight into the mic and you’re good to go.
The MDRILL One Pro is not without some minor issues – the supplied desk stand is better at isolating from vibration than many, but it does still pick up some low-frequency noise (however, there’s a standard 5/8” mic stand thread on the bottom so it can be mounted to your stand or boom of choice, including Thronmax’s own very neat Zoom Boom). And, like the EPOS B20, we found this one is also susceptible to picking up digital interference from nearby devices, something the Yeti is well shielded against. Unlike the EPOS, though, this noise was barely audible, and only happens if you use the mic right next to something like a wi-fi router. We’d say it’s so rare and minor of a problem as to be insignificant for most users, though we’d like to see better shielding on these mics regardless.
There’s no companion software for the MDRILL One Pro – it’s plug and play on Windows, MacOS, Linux and PS4, and communicates its capabilities directly to the operating system so that you can choose recording quality easily. It ships without a pop filter or wind screen – nothing unusual about that, but the supplied instructions strongly recommend using one if you’re recording singers at close range, as moisture of any kind is not great for condenser mics. For a bit of extra coin there is a “kit” that includes a pop filter and travel case.
“…it really does sound that good.”
In the box there’s just the mic on its attached stand, another box containing quick-start instructions and a truly superb-quality braided USB-C to USB-A cable… and a “do not disturb” sign to hang outside the door of the room you’re recording or broadcasting in!
So how does the MDRILL One Pro shape up against the competition? Well, from our time with it so far, the answer is “superbly.” If there was a task at hand that required the best-sounding voice recording of the batch of USB mics we have here, our choice would be this one – it really does sound that good, especially with the source right next to the mic, and its ability to output high-resolution streams is also a plus for versatility.
MDRILL One Pro is a little bit cheaper than the Yeti that arguably started the whole desktop mic revolution, which makes it terrific. If you’re shopping for a plug-and-play mic with great sound, excellent build quality and stylish design, this is one to put on the shortlist.