Things are getting ultra-competitive on the budget side of the streamer microphone market. Blue, Razer and HyperX all have some chips on the table here with a small capsule, have light, cheap spins on their higher specification models, and they all sound closer than you’d expect from the more expensive version.
And if we play our cards too, the differences between each manufacturer’s offerings are subtle. This isn’t 2012, and you won’t find any noisy, scratchy devices that have your Discord friends wondering why you’re talking to them from a jet engine, at least not from one of the major players.
Instead, choosing a microphone from the budget market is about your own specific installation scenario. For example, the cheap and stylish Razer Seiren Mini sounds great, but has no buttons or dials, allowing you to work with levels and mutes at the software level. Blue’s Snowball iCE has a choice of polar patterns, but is that what you really need?
If the HyperX SoloCast ($60 at the time of writing) has any unique selling point in terms of such subtlety and specific needs, it’s that it offers a relatively sweet spot in a trade-off between sound, on-mic features, and price. In other words, it’s small and sweet as a nut, but it also has a mute button.
However, if we want to determine whether that’s enough to call it the best gaming mic in the budget category, we’ll have to dig a little deeper.
HyperX SoloCast Specifications
|Frequency range:||20Hz – 20KHz|
|Preview / Bit rate||48 kHz / 16 bits|
|Headphone Amplifier Impedance||N/A|
|Cable length||6.6 feet (2m)|
|Dimensions (LxWxH in feet)||3.1 x 3.1 x 7.1 in (80 x 80 x 180 mm)|
|Weight (microphone only)||0.6 pounds (261 g)|
While other streamer mics can be accused of peacocking (Razer Seiren Emote, looking at you), HyperX takes a very different approach here. If you were charitable, you would call it a mature, professional look. If you were less you’d say it looked a bit ‘Amazon Prime electronics department’. Just a little.
There’s just nothing that grabs your attention and makes the design stand out. And this is clearly not the fault of the industrial design team. HyperX knows how to make products that look and feel great. This is clearly one of the tradeoffs the SoloCast makes to hit the $60 price tag.
Construction materials are dominated by utilitarian matte black plastic, and while aesthetic touches like the glossy finish ring surrounding the mic mute touchpad on the top of the microphone capsule are present, they can’t hold a candle to Razer’s cheaper Seiren Mini and its glorious finish.
However, like all USB streamer microphones, a stand is included with the microphone capsule itself in the box. This one is heavy enough at the base to hold it upright if you hit it in the middle of the stream during a particularly extended hand gesture. And, unlike its contemporaries, the SoloCast offers a variety of angles and positions, including a vertical tilt angle that allows you to point the mic up toward your mouth when using it on a desk. The crib also pivots at a 45-degree angle, offering a total of 180 degrees of rotation, so it’s a much more manoeuvrable model than we’d expect for the money. Unfortunately, our review sample tends to hang down when arranged horizontally and tilted up, but honestly, we’d never calibrate it that way in the first place.
Due to the small size of the stand and the absence of a shock absorber, we would say it is essential to mount it on an arm to get the best sound out of it. The SoloCast’s small size is good news for anyone looking to use it with an inexpensive boom arm. You know, the ones that tend to hang in your face when you overload them with weight. You don’t have that problem with the SoloCast, and with threads for both 3/8-inch and 5/8-inch boom mounts, getting it on a boom is no problem. The SoloCast is 3.1 x 3.1 x 7.1 inches in its stand or 3.1 x 3.1 x 5.1 inches without the stand, making it just slightly larger than the Seiren Mini (2.2 x 3.5 x 6.4 inches in its stand).
Here’s the real surprise: the SoloCast sounds pretty close to its bigger HyperX QuadCast brethren, as does the Seiren Mini, our current budget mic of choice. Once you factor in the loss of quality from the broadcast platform itself, be it Discord, Twitch, YouTube or Soundcloud, it would take a very sharp pair of ears to tell the difference between the mics. Thanks to the hotly contested nature of the streamer kit market, you really don’t need to spend a lot of money on your audio setup to get great microphone sound right now.
However, there are differences, at least on a raw audio level, between all three mics mentioned above. The Seiren Mini’s hypercardioid polar pattern means it’s a bit more finicky about where the recording sweet spot is, producing a thinner sound unless you’re looking at it directly with your mouth a few inches away. Both HyperX models are a bit more forgiving in this regard, but the trade-off here is extra room noise and — that pariah of gaming broadcasts — mechanical keyboard clatter. When using the SoloCast on the included stand, the latter seems to pass through the desk and pick up the mic more clearly than the shock-mounted QuadCast or hypercardioid Seiren Mini.
That said, the SoloCast offers a warmer sound that these naturally subjective ears prefer over the $50 Seiren Mini. Does the $10 SoloCast sound better? If you want a vocal sound that comes across as more neutral and with less harshness for hissing sounds, yes.
For its part, the larger and more expensive QuadCast ($140 at the time of writing) certainly offers more warmth and fuller sound than the SoloCast, while also delivering a more natural-sounding low-end. This could be due to the larger capsule size and wider aperture that the QuadCast has over our review focus.
Features and software
As you’d expect from an entry-level mic, there’s not much to tweak here on a hardware or software level.
Where the SoloCast has a distinct advantage over the Seiren Mini is the addition of a physical mute button on the top of the microphone capsule itself. Rather than a click switch, it’s a touch-sensitive pad that produces far less perceptible noise when you operate it, so hats off to the design team on that front. A single indicator light is on continuously when the sound is not muted, or intermittently when it is muted. That’s another point he scored against his contemporaries as it’s not de rigueur to include such an easy track. Other than the aforementioned two wires for different sized microphone mounts and the adjustable stand, that’s all she wrote on the hardware front.
And luckily the SoloCast does not require any software to function properly. Anyone whose headset, keyboard, and mouse are all made by different manufacturers, each with their own profiling software, knows how difficult it is to install yet another program to adjust some microphone settings. And with the honorable exceptions of Blue and Elgato, which offer some very tight presets for broadcast and recording in their software, these apps don’t tend to add much value. In the case of the SoloCast, you can tweak to your heart’s content by turning the mic into a DAW and applying plugins to the track.
It hasn’t been that long since we swallowed Razer’s little pink pill and called the Seiren Mini the best entry-level choice for streamer mics, but with the arrival of the SoloCast, we’re not so sure. HyperX’s enhanced features (especially a mute button) and warm tone justify spending an extra $10.
Which means if you want to be very specific about how much you spend on a streamer setup, there are really strong choices at both price points now; you don’t lose whether you spend $50 or $60.
That’s where the cult of Razer marketing begins. The Seiren Mini just looks and feels a bit more refined and distinctive – typical Razer. In contrast, the SoloCast looks utilitarian, and you’d be hard pressed to guess which manufacturer made it if the brand logo on the front wasn’t there. These are minor details, but the look of your setup matters when you’re streaming or recording on camera, so they’re not minor details. Decide which one makes your eyes happier and make your choice accordingly.