Spotlight: ModMic 5

antlionmodmic_spotlight

Depending on how you view the world, things need to change or adapt to survive. The most obvious contender is the chameleon which changes colours to help it blend into the environment. The mimic octopus can change to make itself appear like various other species in its watery habitat and lastly there is the Antlion which can change an ordinary pair of headphones into a very nicely updated headset with the simple addition of the ModMic 5. This particular Indie Spotlight has done its part and temporarily adapted, dropping the Indie Software lens and flashing the limelight on Gamer Hardware instead. The regular Indie Spotlight will be back soon so those looking forward to that won’t have to wait much longer. In the meantime, we think this is one change you are going to want to hear about!

I don’t know about you, but when I don’t need my microphone, I prefer to not have it stuck in my face. Often, I will turn it or bend it so that it isn’t showing in the corner of my eye. Unfortunately, too much manipulation often weakens the connection of the microphone. It may either cause the microphone to become too loose and floppy, requiring a lot of tape and elastic bands to hold it in place, or even worse, cause the breaking/loosening of the connection of the internal wires. This would be a disaster either way as it would likely result in the microphone working only intermittently or failing entirely. Another issue I have is the fact that some of the headsets I have bought have had pretty lousy audio quality for the headphone part, at least in comparison to a nice pair of audiophile quality headphones. I’m not really a fan of desktop microphones as they tend to pick up a lot of room noise. This leads me to have to always have two pairs of headphones, one for listening to music, movies or single-player games with, and a second headset for playing online games, voice chatting, streaming or participating in synchronous distance education courses. Thankfully, having to switch between two pairs of headphones might now be a thing of the past.

A friend of ours contacted me a while back about something called the ModMic 5, something I admittedly had never heard of before despite the fact the “5” in the name heavily implies it isn’t the first one ever (which it isn’t). Basically, it is only a boom microphone without headphones attached to it. The reason for that is quite simple, you stick the ModMic 5 onto your favourite pair of headphones and voila you have a really nice headset. You are probably thinking, “So what? All you did was turn a pair of headphones into a headset” and what you are thinking is mostly correct. The extremely nice and advantageous thing about attaching the microphone is the fact that if I don’t wish to have the microphone attached anymore, I can just pull it off again and put it back in its case until the next time I have the need to use it. This means you don’t have to have the arm annoyingly stuck in your face all the time, nor do you have to worry about the microphone being damaged from too much flexing or twisting it out of the way. Do you have folding headphones for travel and a good quality pair of headphones at home? Well if you are so inclined, you could use the same ModMic 5 for both pairs as the microphone is magnetically held onto a baseplate rather than glued directly on to the headphones. It’s a rather nifty bit of technology on the surface. It also doesn’t look too shabby either. It’s actually quite sleek and attractive as microphones go. When attached to the headphones it looks like it was always supposed to be there.

Let’s talk about the design a bit before getting into the details. All it really is, as described, is the boom microphone one would typically find attached to a headset. It’s black and the boom is about six inches long. It would have been useful if there had been some way to extend or shorten the boom a little. This would have made it more convenient than flexing the microphone based on the needs of possibly multiple users of the headset. Perhaps that is something for them to consider for the next generation. Due to the strong magnet and general interlocking tooth design of the baseplate and the detachable boom microphone, you can turn the microphone out of the way or back in place simply by pulling the microphone off the baseplate, rotating it until it is in a suitable position and letting it snap back into place with the magnet. It helps keep the fine wires inside from being repeatedly flexed and stretched, so that alone should help it last longer. ModMic 5’s overall construction looks rather durable. I wouldn’t try flexing the boom too much due past experiences with other booms, but this one has some give to it so you can bend it into position to get it aligned just right for your facial features.

Besides just the small baseplate and the adjustable boom microphone itself, the ModMic 5 actually has a few extra tricks up its proverbial sleeve. The first and foremost is that you don’t have to decide between an Omnidirectional or Unidirectional microphone, the ModMic 5 has a switch that lets you toggle between those two types easily. For those that are unware, Omnidirectional picks up everything around the microphone with equal clarity, and Unidirectional only records the sounds coming from one direction clearly and tends to help cut down on the various other unwanted noises in the room through its noise canceling feature. The working features of the microphone were very impressive. In testing the ModMic 5 a person standing a few feet away from me was very clearly picked up by the microphone in Omnidirectional mode. It was much softer in Unidirectional mode allowing the actual speaker to still come across clearly with the other person becoming basically a quiet background noise.

Another detail about the ModMic 5 that makes it interesting and worthwhile is the fact it is very modular. It comes with two different lengths of cable and a mute toggle switch. These are separate from the actual ModMic 5 allowing you to adjust your setup to whatever you would prefer. Do you want to have a short cable without a mute? Just use the short cable then! Need the mute switch but don’t need a really long cable? In that case, just add the mute switch to the line! You can pretty much configure it how you want. All of this fits in a handy and sturdy little storage case that comes with the ModMic 5 so you will always know where your bits are (assuming you put them back when done with them!). If you are planning on leaving the microphone setup for a while, there is another thing you can do as well. It comes with a really nice light-weight cable management system. Basically, a braided cable case that fits over top of the ModMic 5’s wire and the headphones own wire to make one nifty and clean looking cable. It comes with ten cable clips to help keep the cables together as well. These may be used even if you don’t use the cable cover. ModMic 5 even comes with an extra baseplate and an extra bit of double sided tape in case you mess up your initial placement. You don’t have to worry too much though as double sided tape isn’t hard to come by. You could pry the baseplate off at any time and re-tape it with your own tape down the road.

Let’s talk about the sound quality. We have all been there, we buy a new cool looking gamer headset with all the flashy graphics and/or lights on them just to find out we sound like a badly functioning robot due to the tinny sounding quality of the microphone. It’s hard to tell how good the microphone will sound until you actually plug it in and give it a try. I admit I was a little skeptical of the ModMic 5 because at first glance it looked about the same as the one on my current headset that I don’t particularly like. The sound quality of ModMic 5 is actually far better than I expected. It still has the random low-level background hum/hiss that I always tend to hear when recording myself but it is far less noticeable than with some of my other microphones. As mentioned earlier, the Omnidirectional microphone worked really well to capture the voices of multiple people in the room as well as the music playing from the speakers. In Omnidirectional mode, it is capable of capturing a much broader range of frequencies than the Unidirectional microphone. If I was streaming, this mode would work very well for that purpose. Switching it Unidirectional would be best if you are in a room with other people talking or are trying to annotate slides for a presentation and want minimal background noise. Between Omnidirectional and Unidirectional, I preferred the sound of the Omnidirectional so I think I would leave it in that mode by default and just switch to Unidriectional when I needed to. It’s really nice to have that option with just a simple flick of the switch.

The mute switch module is large and quick to find and grasp, assuming you have it installed. This means that if someone comes to you and starts talking you can very quickly and easily flip off the microphone so you are not broadcasting your discussion out to the world. The fact that it is even optional is a bonus. If you are using a press-to-talk option in your game, the mute button isn’t needed so you could just remove it to cut down on the tiny bit of weight it adds to your cord. With the shielded cord coming in two pieces, one being one meter and the other being two meter, it allows you to select whatever length of cable you want up to 3 meters in length. If you wish to use it with a phone or are like me and have a wheeled chair that loves to eat cables (I have no idea how many cables I have destroyed with my chair over the years), being able to shorten the cable can be really handy. By default, it has the standard 3.5mm jack on it used by most computers. Adaptors are available that let you use it with other devices. I particularly like the USB adaptor as it allows me plug in the unit and have it automatically switch off my other headphones and/or speakers. This is very handy in order to have the best possible sound quality without the embarrassment of accidently broadcasting what you are listening to while trying to be clandestine with headphones.

I’d provide you with sound samples so you could hear what the recording sounds like, however I realized you wouldn’t be able to tell my vocal clarity since you have likely never heard me speak before, what with these Spotlights being entirely text based. You will have to be satisfied with the knowledge that I have a really sophisticated, deep, suave and charming sounding voice and just trust me when I say I am actually much happier with how I sound on this ModMic 5 than I do on any of my other microphones.

So, should you consider a ModMic 5? There are plenty of cheap headsets or microphones around. If you don’t care about the sound quality you are broadcasting or that a lot of them break after just a few uses, then most likely those would do fine for you. If you are trying to be or are a professional streamer, competitive gamer where your words being clear count, or want to make a good impression on annotated presentations, then you really should consider getting a good quality microphone in general. You can buy headsets with a built-in microphone, but I have found those to be a bit hit and miss. You can hope the speaker quality and microphone quality in them are both good but usually one element is decent and the other isn’t. If you are the kind of person who prefers the convenience of a headset over a free-standing microphone and enjoy having good clear sound, then the ModMic 5 added to your favourite headphones is definitely a great way to go and is something to consider.

Microphone Capsule Specs:

  • Pattern: Uni-directionalSensitivity: -38 ± 3 dBResponse: 100 Hz–10 kHzSNR: >50+ dB

    Impedance: 2.2 KΩ

    Operating Voltage: 1 to 10V

    Max current at 2.0V: 500 µA

    Max input SPL: 110 dB

  • Pattern: Omni-directionalSensitivity: -26 ± 3 dBResponse: 30 Hz–17.5 kHz

    SNR: 58+ dB

    Impedance: 2.2 KΩ

    Operating Voltage: 1 to 10V

    Max current at 2.0V: 500 µA

    Max input SPL: 110 dB

What do you get if you buy it?

  • One ModMic 5 modular microphone set
  • Mute switch
  • 1m and 2m cables, each with 3.5mm jack
  • Durable carrying case
  • Two base clasps, one top clasp with cap
  • One foam pop filter
  • One 2m cable wrap and 10 cable clips
  • Extra adhesive pads
  • Instruction manual