Do you really need more options in the category USB microphones for PC, Mac and PS4 for about SEK 2,000? Obvious! How does the old EPOS candidate compare to the competition?
EPIC was until last year in close symbiosis with classical Sennheiser and launched together with the German sound giant a lot of products, especially gaming headphones, under the name EPOS Sennheiser. Nowadays it says EPIC on their own legs and B20 is the company’s first product in the segment USB microphones for streaming and games.
The price tag is set at SEK 1990, ie quite the same amount you have to pay for the bestseller Yeti X from Logitech-owned Blue Microphones and popular QuadCast S from HyperX. In the price range just below there is a whole lot USBmicrophones from both the said manufacturers and RED, Elgato and Audio Technica to mention a few. In short, a fairly built-in price segment where many microphones also perform really well for their price. Even those that are slightly cheaper than B20.
Premium design called duga
In terms of design, EPIC not saved on gunpowder with B20 and personally i really like the pretty serious design saved from flashing lights and chrome details. Apart from buttons and controls, it is aluminum that applies to the microphone itself, while the stand is made of slightly heavier metal to be able to stand firmly on the table. In short, an overall positive feeling from the outside.
To control the sound is B20 equipped with three controls and a button. The button is used to activate the mute function. Something that is shaped with a faint red line above the button when the microphone is muted. The mute button divides the front of the microphone with a control to adjust the volume of what is connected to the 3.5 mm socket on the underside of the microphone. On the underside there is also one USB-Connector used for connection.
The back houses two controls, one of which allows the user to choose between four types of sound recording.
Something we will take a closer look at soon. The second slider adjusts the recording level (gain). A rather interesting detail here is that neither the volume nor gain controls have been assigned any markings too high / low and that they are allowed to spin forever. There is thus no physical stop to the two controls, even if the volumes of course stay at a minimum and maximum level. This is, as we shall soon see, something that makes it a little unnecessarily difficult to maintain exact settings for the sound levels once you have found them.
Settings and software
After pairing the microphone with the included – and large – USB the 2.9 meter cable is installed B20 which should be completely automatic and appear immediately in Windows sound settings. If you do not want to mecca with several programs and only use the ones you are used to, here you can drive on and only use the microphone as it is.
However, the microphone does support EPIC software, EPOS Gaming Suite, which can be used to make various settings for, among other things, noise reduction, noise gate as well as create audio profiles with different equalizersettings depending on the type of sound to be recorded. The settings that exist work well, but the software leaves little to be desired in terms of both speed and layout.
Something that, on the other hand, does not work at all. So really not at all, is to use EPOS Gaming Suite without also doing B20 to the primary speaker source for the computer (yes, you read that right). For some inexplicable reason, the software even refuses to be felt at the microphone if not B20 is selected not only as a standard microphone but also as standard speakers in the computer. In this case, the sound is sent out via the 3.5-mm socket on the bottom of B20. Something that is certainly flexible if you only drive a pair of standard 3.5-mm headphones. If, on the other hand, you want to use one, for example USB-headset or Bluetooth headphones along with EPOS B20 and adjust settings in the microphone software, this can not be done at the same time.
Instead, you are left to make the settings you want in EPOS Gaming Suite and then switch back to their normal headphones in the sound settings. The settings made in the software are thankfully saved in the microphone and thus work even if another speaker source is selected. But to adjust the settings again, you need to switch back to EPOS B20 as a speaker source. A very strange behavior.
Different types of sound recording
B20 has, as previously mentioned, four different types of recording modes. Cardioid is usually the most common variant when it comes to sitting at the microphone and “just talking”. Here the sound is recorded in front of the microphone and the background sound is muted. Stereo mode creates, as it sounds, a more nuanced stereo image of the sound being recorded.
The last two recording modes aim to involve several people around the microphone. Bidirectionalmode (bidirectional) picks up the sound in front of and behind the microphone. Which makes sense to use for conversations with two people facing each other (eg in a podcast). Omnidirectionalmode (omnidirectional) instead lets the sound recording flow freely and picks up the sound around the entire microphone.
All sound modes work well and create clear and delimited differences depending on which of them is used. On the other hand, the sound levels for the omnidirectional recording are somewhat swaying compared to other modes. However, this is not a big problem and overall, as I said, all shooting modes give a good result.
It should also be mentioned that the microphone via the stand is quite good at picking up sound that has propagated in the desk, e.g. from keyboard. Which of course comes from the fact that there is no type of shock-reducing suspension.
The sound from EPOS B20
The sound directly from the box, without using EPIC software, is good after all. Personally, I think the microphone is somewhat sensitive to ambient sound and also creates a bit of background noise for the same reason. Something that can, however, be reduced quite properly by adjusting gainlevel in the program you use to record and on the microphone itself. The above also applies to many other microphones in the same price range. A minus is without a doubt the fact that gainThe slider, as I said, both lacks markings and is allowed to spin freely. Something that makes it unnecessarily tricky to know where the level actually is without having to take a look at the software.
The sound is otherwise crisp and clear even if it lacks a little warmth. However, this can be improved somewhat via EQmode. Although the sound recording ability of course decreases the further away from the microphone you are, it further feels like you need to sit quite close B20 to get the best possible sound. It works without major problems to have the microphone a few meters away, but the best quality is with the face relatively close to the microphone.
Something B20 however, doing really well is softening the volume peaks to create a more even sound image. Furthermore, I think the noise reduction features in EPIC software actually does its job well. Admittedly, the setting comes with a certain type of sound impact (a little more in the robot direction). However, it is still not extremely noticeable compared to the fairly proper level of background noise the setting eliminates.
Compared to similar competitors, perhaps above all Yeti X, on the other hand, the sound is off EPOS B20 not out significantly. Rather, it is a bit less detailed, although it is by no means bad. If you go down in price and compare with, for example, popular QuadCast from HyperX there is definitely an audible sound difference here. Especially in terms of volume levels there B20 undoubtedly picks up more sound and even with a crispier result. The only question is whether the increase in quality is really worth another thousand kronor from the reasonably priced one QuadCast, or for that matter original Yetimicrophone from Blue Microphones which also costs around a thousand kroner.
For full transparency: The microphone tested in this text was obtained from EPOS. However, all opinions in the text are my own and the text is in no way sponsored or paid for by EPOS or any related party.