HyperX QuadCast S – Design and Features
Upon your first look at the QuadCast S, you’d be forgiven for assuming it’s a set of RGB lights that just happen to come with a microphone attached. Gaming accessory companies sometimes go overboard on lighting, and HyperX isn’t shy about packing its products with RGB lights. In fact, the QuadCast S actually has not one, but two lighting zones in its modest frame. So how much effort could HyperX really have put into the audio part of this audio product?Quite a bit, actually. The QuadCast S is a modest update to last year’s QuadCast. Both sonically and mechanically, they’re essentially the same microphone, but that’s not a bad thing. Given the older mic’s strong performance, the QuadCast S is not just a pretty face.Visually, the QuadCast S looks smart and modern, standing about 10 inches high (the Blue Yeti, by comparison, is 12 inches) and about 2.2-inch in diameter. The top half of the mic has a distinctive backlit honeycomb – there’s an integrated pop filter in there, illuminated with a pair of RGB lighting zones. The lower half is a solid black cylinder, mounted to the stand via a double-ring shock mount.
Two of the mic’s three controls are within easy reach from the front. Up on top is the mic’s coolest, most distinctive (and sometimes troublesome) feature. It’s a capacitive touch sensor that serves as a mute button. Just the slightest suggestion of a touch is all it takes, and the RGB lighting goes dark to tell you the mic is no longer hot. Tap it again, and the mic (and lighting) returns to normal. More on my concerns about that later.
On the bottom, the entire endcap is a giant smooth-spinning gain control. It has a few progressively enlarging dots to show you which way to turn it, but the dial rotates much further in both directions than the dots suggest. While it’s hard to fault the aesthetics of the design, this gain control is the feature most in need of an upgrade.
Here’s the problem: The gain dial turns as smooth as butter, with less resistance than you’ll encounter on a ski slope in January. I’ve mostly trained myself to give that dial a wide berth these days, but it’s still super easy to nudge the level when moving the mic around. If you’re in the middle of recording and accidentally spin the dial, good luck getting back to the level you had been using. A full half of the dial’s possible travel is completely blank, so it can be a challenge to tell where it was set. It’s almost as if HyperX doesn’t want you to be able to retain or replicate gain settings.
Around back you’ll find a 3.5mm headphone monitor input and USB-C connector for connecting it to your gaming PC (a welcome update from the HyperCast, which used micro-USB), along with a selector for the mic’s four pickup patterns.
The QuadCast S takes its name from the fact that it has four pickup patterns which let you choose how the mic perceives sound in the room. Inside the honeycomb are three 14mm electret condenser microphone capsules, each optimized to accept or reject sound somewhat differently.
The stereo setting captures an actual stereo image of the audio with a bias to the left and right sides of the microphone; the other three patterns record audio in mono. Omnidirectional accepts sound from all directions in the room, while cardioid only records audio in front of the mic and rejects sound in all other directions. Finally, there’s bi-directional, which captures audio in front and behind the mic (handy for an interview).
The whole assembly – mic, shock mount and stand – is machined from metal with no discernable plastic parts, which gives it a study and reassuring feel while staying surprisingly light. The mic weighs 254g on its own, or 610g for the mic and stand together, not including the USB cable. The mic pivots on the base with a thumb screw so you can angle it as needed, and HyperX includes an adapter you can use to mount the mic on a boom if you so desire; it fits both 3/8- and 5/8-inch threads.
The shock mount suspends the mic inside a pair of rigid metal rings via a tightly strung elastic cord. It definitely dampens vibrations, but don’t expect miracles. If you slam into your gaming desk or standing desk while recording, expect the resulting thump to transmit through the stand and mount to the mic. For that reason it’s better to use a boom mount when practical, but I applaud HyperX’s excellent shock mount nonetheless.
HyperX QuadCast S – Software
To take advantage of the mic’s programmable lighting, you need to use HyperX’s Ngenuity desktop app, which recognizes the mic immediately and lets you choose from among five lighting patterns – solid, blinking, cycling, lightning and wave. (If you don’t feel the need to modify the lighting, you don’t need to bother using Ngenuity at all.) The default wave pattern that the mic displays out of the box is pretty, but not my cup of tea, so it took me just a few seconds to switch it to a solid purple.
If you’ve used Ngenuity with other HyperX products, you’ll be right at home here – you can stack lighting effects in layers and let them bleed through by varying their opacity, and each effect has a lot of customization options. You can save one lighting effect to the mic itself so it’ll retain those settings if you take the mic on the road.
The Audio tab shows you what pickup pattern you’ve selected, but you can only make changes from the microphone itself. Nonetheless, this is handy, because you can sanity check your settings from the desktop without disturbing the mic itself.
HyperX QuadCast S – Performance
The QuadCast S is still built around the same internals as the QuadCast, so it captures audio at 48kHz and a bitrate of 16-bit. The frequency response is 20Hz to 20kHz and the mic is sensitive to -36dB. That’s impressive, but is not best in class – the Elgato Wave:3, for example, hits 96kHz at 24 bits.
That said, do you actually need that level of fidelity? The audio field is littered with products chasing specs, and for most applications once you pass a certain bar, it’s largely irrelevant. The QuadCast S covers the full range of human hearing and has a noise floor so low I essentially couldn’t find it. Recording on my own, the mic was remarkably quiet at any gain setting I would reasonably use in the real world, and the QuadCast was never the limiting factor when recording my weekly podcast with my co-host and his janky-by-comparison microphone.
All four pickup patterns delivered excellent results, with clearly differentiated imaging in stereo mode and great sound rejection around the room in cardioid mode. When used properly – for example, recording up close and personal, I found the audio warm and thick, with great midtones in my voice recordings. There’s no question that I can get as good or better audio with this model than my normal workhorse, the Blue Yeti, and the lighting makes it more fun as well. In fact, the top-mounted mute button is easier to get to, since the Blue Yeti’s mute button is blocked by my external pop filter. The QuadCast S and its integrated pop appeared to stop plosives just as well as any cumbersome external filter I’ve used.
In real-world use, though, the QuadCast S has a couple of minor annoyances. First of all, the mic is a little squat. While a tall or top-address mic makes it easy to get up close and personal for single-person cardioid-mode recording, the QuadCast is a side-address mic and is too short on its built-in stand. There are two ways to address this problem: you can mount the mic on a boom and position it right in front of your mouth, or prop the speaker up on a stack of books.
Is that a show-stopper? Not really, especially because the QuadCast tolerates being a little distant from you pretty well. I found that the mic captured good tone from my voice up to about a foot away.
Another issue just takes a little practice and discipline to overcome: It’s easy to introduce a pop into your audio when you mute the mic. To be clear, it’s not the mic’s fault, exactly. You literally don’t even need to make physical contact with the top of the mic to mute it; wave your hand over the mic from a quarter-inch away, and the mic will mute. But in the heat of recording, if you bang your finger on the top of the mic to mute it, you get a pop, so you need to train yourself to be careful when toggling that button.
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