Pros: good speech intelligibility, flexible, turns any headphone into a headset, build quality, good case, easy to position, also works off-axis (omni-direc
Cons: somewhat coloured sound (mid-centric), cable below the mute-switch a bit stiff, no strain relief on the mute switch
Before I start with my review, I want to thank GTDevice LLC for providing me with a sample of the AntLion ModMic 4.0 (omnidirectional version with mute switch) in exchange for my honest opinion. The MSRP of this version is $49.95 (http://www.modmic.com/collections/frontpage/products/modmic-4-0-omni-directional).
In gamer circles, the ModMics from the American brand AntLion are well known and no secret exotic devices anymore and have got a wide fan base.
I certainly don’t fall into the category of the typical gamer anymore and don’t have much time for video games either, though I like to sit back in my chair some evenings when I find time to, turn the television on and spend one or two hours on a PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 videogame. On the computer, I don’t really play considerable video games anymore since a long time, though I sometimes start a game for the old time’s sake.
I am neither much interested in the current console generation nor more recent video games and I have reduced my games stock to a small amount of one game on the Xbox, two on the PlayStation and a couple of rather old digitalised ones on the PC.
The game I probably spend the most time with is BurnOut Paradise on the PS3, an action car racing game of a well-known series, and the first one that allows open world driving with up to eight players online per host room. I’ve always loved using the chat feature in BurnOut Paradise from time to time and met many interesting people from all over the world. Admittedly, due to the game’s age, the number of people online constantly decreases, though there are still some people online, albeit clearly less than some years ago.
Before I divagate even more, let me say in short that I used the ModMic mainly on my PS3 with BurnOut Paradise, on the PC with Counter Strike (probably the classical example for voice chat in video games) as well as Skype and Audacity.
Response: 30 Hz-17.5 kHz ± 3 dB
Sensitivity: -26 ± 3 dB
SNR: 58+ dB
Impedance: 2.2 K-ohms
Max current at 2.0V: 500 µA
Max input SPL: 110 dB
Advantages of the ModMic:
The slogan “Keep your Headphones, add a ModMic” which is located on the brown paper wrapper the ModMic and its case arrive in is probably really the best fitting description of what the ModMic experience is all about: if you are about to buy a headset with integrated microphone, you will have a choice of many different models in different price categories. Some of them may be even good, but others are just overpriced sound mud. But there is one thing they all probably fail: it is possible that they don’t match your personal preferences regarding sound signature, design and construction type (on-ear, over-ear, open-back, closed-back) – and I haven’t seen any >$1k or planar magnetic headsets yet (well, that wouldn’t even make much sense at all from a market economy perspective).
The ModMic offers you the ability to transform your preferred headphones (be it open-back, closed-back or whatever construction type) into a fully functional headset without much effort and allows you to remove the mic in no time – okay, the latter is also offered by few “real” headsets, but then again, there is the problem that the sound may not fit to your preference.
As almost any headphone can be turned into a headset with the ModMic, one gains a much wider range of possible models and due to the two included magnetic base clasps (more can be purchased separately), you can even use it with multiple headphones.
“Which Version of the ModMic is the right for me?”:
Besides the version with mute switch, there is also a cheaper one without it available. Who doesn’t need it and/or wants to save a few bucks could choose that particular model, but keep in mind that having a mute switch can be handy at times when you don’t want your “virtual” dialogue partners to hear your conversation with people in the same room but don’t want to unplug the microphone.
Then, there is the bigger decision, as AntLion offers a version with omnidirectional microphone characteristic as well as another which is unidirectional – both retail for the same price and both have got their advantages as well as disadvantages:
Microphones with a unidirectional characteristic pick up sound oriented from only one direction; you can imagine them as a torch which beams to only one direction and leaves the sides and back unilluminated. Unidirectional microphones are said to be more detailed and they pick up less ambient noise, but they also need to be placed carefully on-axis and are more prone to popping sounds.
Microphones with an omnidirectional characteristic however pick up sound from all directions (more or less) – you can imagine them as being a light sphere which illuminates the whole area around it. They offer the benefit of an easier positioning, but bring the disadvantage that they also pick up ambient noise like keyboard clattering or fan noise.
What you prefer is up to your personal tastes, but for me, I can say that I prefer omnidirectional microphones for headsets because of their easier positioning ability (off-axis positioning without much alteration of the sound is possible) and because I find some picked up ambient noise as being natural.
For the first time in ModMic’s history, the fourth generation comes in a nice protective case with the AntLion lettering being stamped into its outside.
Besides the actual microphone with already pre-installed foam pop filter, five cable clips, two magnetic base clasps, one spare adhesive 3M pad, an alcohol cleaning wipe and a pictured manual arrive in the nice black case with rubber bands.
Aesthetics, Build Quality:
The microphone with its cable is reasonably sized and rather small in profile, wherefore it is rather unobtrusive, which I quite like.
The cable is 3.3 meters long and 2.5 mm thick and has got a gold-plated 3-pin 3.5 mm connector with strain relief on one end as well as a Velcro tie above for better cable management.
About at the height of my shoulder is the mute switch which has got a good size and is easy to operate, but unfortunately lacks a strain relief. Talking about the cable: below the mute switch, it is a bit stiff, but to my surprise very flexible above it.
The transition from the cable to the extremely flexible boom arm has got a strain relief with the clasp following right after, which is very clever, as it is screwed to the boom and therefore allows length and side adjustment. The adhesive clasp plates with their counterpart hold the microphone in place magnetically and are firm enough to make the microphone stay on securely yet are weak enough to remove the ModMic from the clasp easily. The teeth on the clasp and the counterpart prevent the microphone from unintended rotation.
The boom arm is very flexible and easy to adjust and position; the microphone itself has got nine holes on its front and back and (in my opinion) doesn’t look very fancy, but is visually well covered by the pop screen.
The actual installation process is rather simple: after you have found a 0.5 cm measuring spot on your headphone where the microphone could be installed, you should first test-install it by holding the ModMic there, wherefore you could check whether orientation and size are good for a secure fit and reasonable length. If position and distance are good, you can clean the spot from dirt and skin oil, remove the protective screen to release the adhesive film on the base plate and press the microphone against that spot for 30 seconds after you have checked that angle and position are fine, so that the microphone is at the height of your mouth but besides the air stream.
Once that is done, you can adjust the boom arm if necessary.
With the help of the five included cable clips, you can then attach the ModMic’s cable to your headphone’s cable, though the clips may have a too small diameter for some headphones, but even then they could be united by using some Velcro or cable ties.
Who wants to could now repeat the same procedure with another headphone, as two base clasps are included.
Just as already written above, I used the ModMic on my computer (Counter Strike, Skype, Audacity) with my on-board soundcard for the microphone input (which is pretty good and has got a perfectly linear frequency response, wherefore I also use it for measuring audio gear) and with my PlayStation 3 (BurnOut Paradise), wherefore I connected the ModMic with a cheap USB soundcard.
For recording tests with Audacity, all microphone enhancements and DSPs were disabled.
With Pop Filter: The microphone is tuned to be a bit more mid-centric, with moderately rolling off lows and highs. Recorded and transmitted voices are on the warmer side and there is some lack of brilliance in the treble – although that isn’t really true, as this “lack” appears due to the present mids (it is not that much, but audible). Sound in general is more on the softer side, but plopping and hissing artefacts in one’s voice are effectively filtered out.
Without Pop Filter: With removed pop screen, clarity is better and treble gains a tad more energy, though voices are still on the darker side. Voices gain some more details, but plopping and hissing sounds caused by my air stream are more present, though they are still very little, wherefore using the ModMic without the filter is still possible without any real restrictions or drawbacks.
Generally, caused by the omnidirectional microphone recording characteristic, the microphone is very easy to position and shows good results without much voice alteration even when the boom arm with the microphone is placed clearly off-axis – just as I expected it to be, which is very nice.
The signal to noise ratio of 58 dB (the higher the value, the better) is only rather mediocre and settled below studio and voice microphones.
Using voice chat, noise is not much obtrusive (as long as the microphone input itself has got a very low noise floor) and not disturbing, though it is present, yet pretty quiet. Recording and playing back voices, it is more present and noticeable, but can be filtered out in the software with ease.
The ModMic’s speech intelligibility is very decent for the price and a headset microphone, with vibrant voices and a good amount of details and clarity. Here is really nothing I could criticise and the microphone surpasses many cheap and mid-priced headsets. Just as written above, voices remain very constant even when the microphone is placed off-axis.
AntLion’s ModMic is a convincing product and an awesome alternative to pre-configured headsets, as it allows you to turn your own favourite headphones into fully functional headsets without much effort and the microphone can be easily removed because it is magnetically attached, wherefore your headphones can then be used as headphones again, also when you go outside (who really wants to go on the streets with a microphone headset?!).
Conveniently, the ModMic 4.0 (for the first time in the series) arrives in a nice carrying case which protects it when it is not in use or when you are travelling.
Speech intelligibility is sublime, although the microphone is more mid-centric and therefore deviates a bit from perfectly natural sound. The omnidirectional version is in addition very uncritical regarding positioning and can even be placed off-axis without many restrictions.
Regarding material quality, there is not much to blame, though the cable below the mute switch (which unfortunately lacks any strain relief) could be more flexible.
Overall, the ModMic is a very convincing product and gets a good rating of 85% from me.