To B20, or not to B20? That is the question
Test Time: 14hrs - PC
Price: $329rrp (AUD)
Connectivity: Wired USB C - USB A.
Two words: Aesthetically and Immaculate. In multiple words, REALLY aesthetically immaculate. I currently run a Blue Yeti, and as much as it has served me well and I have nothing bad to say about its purpose built recording performance, the EPOS is a smoother looking piece of kit compared to the big black snow cone and feels more refined than HyperX's not so subtle red or RGB honeycombed Quadcast.
Much like its output based sibling the GTW270, the materials are premium and it's built with finesse. Its a cylinder style (175mm tall ex-stand, 58mm diameter), clean two-tone matte black case and mesh grille, accented with subtle gloss touches. Buttons and dials are well sized and respond well. This just oozes 'Professional'.
The desktop stand is again a nice anti-fingerprint matte black with a circular base which is where the hard mounted pivot point rod screws into. The end of this rod sports a 3/8" thread (remember this for later) for where you'd screw in your boom arm in if your operating a floating mic setup. The mic itself is side address, so as much as it LOOKS like you can talk into the top (as it's still meshed), there is no pickup there, so as much as it looks like you can 'point' it at you, it won't be effective.
EPOS are also currently operating in the 21st Century and have a very generous 2.9m USB-C to USB-A cable included. So no awkward fussing on the mic end to get the cable in, and plenty of length to play with positioning. They also have the 3.5mm headphone monitoring port running right alongside the USB-C port on the bottom of the chassis.
So far so good right? And rightfully so. There's not exactly a lot to hate on here. The only design flaw here, well, no, not even a flaw, maybe more a regional oversight, is the mounting thread on the mic (told you to remember, right?).
The very European-centric EPOS have gone with the EU standard in the 3/8" thread, and unfortunately for us who use the letters A, S and U in our nations short form names (that being Australia and U.S.A.), this is an uncommon mounting system. Having unboxed my $329 microphone and finding it unable to be mounted to my pre-existing boom arm was mildly disappointing and could be rectified by EPOS including an adapter for our markets specifically. An added small expense per box yes, but I would say a majority of the market who are dropping $300 on a streaming mic, are most likely going to have a decent desk setup including mic arm, and NOT having to chase down a $2 part post purchase would make for a far more complete unboxing experience.
Housed inside that beautiful black cage, EPOS have incorporated the three condenser capsule system, as is common with the the Blue Yeti and the HyperX Quadcast, providing for a hot switchable 4 pattern pickup choice. Those being:
- Cardioid being the most common for streamers.
- Stereo for musical performance and positioning effects.
- Bi-Directional for one on one interviews.
- Omni Directional for round table meetings or group content.
These are all quickly accessible on hardware via a "Pattern" dial on the back of the mic. Above that is the "Gain" and spinning around the mic 180 degrees you'll find the "Volume" knob and "Mute" button. The mute button is tactile and responsive with an indicator LED (Red is mute, White is Live). The pattern selector also let you know where its at. However, the "Gain" has an issue. Its a smooth roller dial, but with no markings and an 'infinity' scroll in either direction. Meaning, you have know idea what is true minimum and maximum without referring to possibly an on screen readout via software, or hard rolling one way, and slowly test driving your way back the other direction. This isn't a deal breaker, but I find it IS unfortunate for the input 'Gain' aspect as it would make things easier if adjusting on the fly say mid-stream without having to refer back to external software, your stream readouts or asking your audience what levels they are sitting at. Same goes for the volume knob, but that's more manageable as it is in reference to your headset monitoring, so its only relevant if you're using that function, and if you are, you'll hear what you're adjusting straight away.
EPOS Gaming Suite software again giving me a few issues. Experience may vary dependent on different PC's, but it's not detecting my B20 without me setting it as the 'Default OUTPUT' device in windows, which makes no sense for one, it's an input device, and two it means I'm removing my GTW270's from being detected in EPOS's own software. So I'm unsure if this is an ongoing issue with my PC or the development of the software for now. I'm reading similar issues online, but as per my promise in the GTW270 review, I'll still give EPOS til Christmas to iron out the bugs. You're welcome... again. ;)
In the short time I had once I figured out the above issue, you have control of frequency levels and noise gate here. Allowing you to fine tune some pickup settings, such as Voice Enhancer, as well as background noise isolation. Seems easy enough to use. They just need to work out why the software won't detect it via default input device.
Smooth, as I'd expect from a company with such a solid footing in the audio industry. Its clean, sharp and accurate. The big question here is, how does it hold up against the competition. When you've got the Blue Yeti and HyperX Quadcast premium entry points starting at $100 cheaper in the market? I've been using the Yeti for over 2 years and it's been good to me. Its a solid mic with good output and when it comes to the dollarbucks, its selling on average around $190AUD (and its big brother the Yeti X at $298AUD) against EPOS's $329.
The B20s 24bit processing definitely puts it a nose ahead of the standard Blue Yeti, but the Yeti X matches that, but then includes LED level read outs for gain and volume. Does that instantly rule the B20 out of the game? Hell no! The B20 is still one of the classiest professional pieces of streaming kit I've seen and it definitely sets itself up with the big boys audio quality wise, it's just that it IS their only microphone product, the "highest in class" price might put them at a disadvantage with customer appeal.
Much like the in-ear buds, price is going to be the make or break here. This is a PREEMO mic. Going up against the multi-product line up offering of Hyper X and Blue, with just one premium product, might put EPOS behind the eight ball here. If someone handed me $350 and asked me to just go and buy a streaming mic with no concern for change left over, don't get me wrong, it's likely I would go with the B20 (even more so if they add the thread mount adapter... please!). However, there's a limited number of people walking into an electronics retailer like JB Hi-Fi or Harvey Norman with that much cash to throw at a mic, and on top of that, there's a reliance then on the salesman to have enough EPOS knowledge to pull off a successful up-sell instead of just settling for Blue or HyperX that have an established foothold and that a customer may well already be familiar with.
EPOS seem to be playing the 'Premium product' card here and that's fine, because they do bring that to the table, but when it comes to market share in a market as competitive as gaming peripherals, it's a huge expectation to hold the highest price point of its category (24bit mics) without having an as established or recognisable name as the others on offer. At this stage in the game, brand awareness should be everything, and more sales equals word of mouth.
To sum it up without sounding like I'm doing a marketing assignment, can I tell someone hand on heart, its one of the best USB mics on the market? Yes. Can I tell that same person it's the best financial option for that level of microphone? No. But if you got the funds, it'll level up the "Charisma" stat points of your Desktop layout more than the others and you'll be one of the smoothest voiced people on discord.
Nathan is a Gamer, Collector and an Electronics Retail Lifer/Employee. He can't commit to a favourite game, but the Hitman Saga is up there and you'll find him on
twitch.tv/nateoriousfox casually playing Rainbow Six Siege. His dedicated hardware reviews and other critical thoughts can be found at technatelogic.com (coming soon).