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NZXT Capsule Review – IGN

NZXT may be best known for its stylish PC cases and components, but it’s finally ready to try its hand at something new. Today, the company is unveiling its first-ever USB microphone, the NZXT Capsule, and I’ve spent the last week putting it through its paces against both the Blue Yeti, Blue Yeti X, and HyperX Quadcast, some of the best microphones out there. Coming in at $129.99, it’s all about simplicity, allowing gamers to kickstart their stream in style without spending time learning the ins and outs of microphone settings. It certainly looks cool, but is it worth the more expensive price?

NZXT Capsule

NZXT Capsule – Design and Features

NZXT’s goal with the Capsule was to make the mic as plug-and-play as possible, and it’s safe to say it succeeded. The Capsule streamlines the process of getting started with a new mic, making it a good fit for new streamers and gamers who don’t want to fuss about with settings just to be heard well. It removes settings most people don’t need, integrates features that would usually come as accessories right into the body of the mic, and comes tuned with enough gain that you could plug it in, set it in front of your keyboard, and go without touching anything else.

It accomplishes this by focusing purely on what’s important for gamers, and because this is NZXT, that also means looking great on camera. The microphone is shaped like a cylinder, not unlike the HyperX QuadCast. Rather than go with the usual boring matte black, the Capsule embraces contrast with a white body and integrated black grille on the front. Around the back, the side facing the camera, an array of drilled holes reveals the same black grille hidden underneath. The bottom is ringed by an LED diffuser that’s white when it receives power and turns red when muted. It’s altogether more stylish than the majority of mics out there and feels solid thanks to its aluminum construction (though the gain and volume dials are plastic and have a bit of wobble to them).

Unlike the Yeti or Quadcast, the Capsule only features a single cardioid polar pattern. This makes the mic a good fit for recording your own voice or another single sound source, as it’s tuned to capture what’s directly in front of it and reject outside noise. If you’re hosting a podcast with another person or conducting interviews across a table, that single polar pattern is going to be limiting. For most users (and especially newcomers) just interested in recording their own voice, including only cardioid mode eliminates a source of confusion and the chance of a poor recording because the microphone was set wrong. At the same time, it does make it less versatile than the competition for different types of recording.

What it lacks in polar patterns, it makes up for in recording quality. NZXT has equipped the mic with a medium-to-large 25mm condenser capsule that’s been tailored for speech. Large diaphragm microphones are a popular choice for broadcast and other spoken word content due to their tendency to sound warm and lush (though that isn’t quite the case here). The microphone is able to capture hi-res audio up to 24-bit/96kHz, putting it in line with the Blue Yeti X and exceeding both the original Blue Yeti and HyperX Quadcast. While that level of detail is far beyond what you’ll hear in spoken word, especially when streamed over the internet, it lends the Capsule some definite chops for local recordings, especially for musicians.

The mic also streamlines the process of getting started and learning how to use the microphone. There are only two dials on the front, one for system volume and another to adjust microphone gain. Clicking the gain button mutes the microphone and turns the LED ring red. Once it’s connected over USB-C, Windows automatically detects it and installs drivers without the need for additional software. After it’s installed, the mic acts as a sound card for your PC, so by connecting a pair of headphones to the audio jack by the USB port, you can hear your system volume and monitor your own voice straight through the mic with no latency.

These features are all straightforward and easy to figure out without looking at a manual. Even the process of swapping over sound sources from my speakers to the mic happened automatically without any need to to fiddle with my system’s Control Panel. A quick turn of the two dials made it clear what they controlled, and I only needed to moderately adjust its mic volume since it defaults to 50-percent out of the box. I liked that I didn’t have to flip the microphone around to adjust multiple dials like on the Yeti, but wasn’t a fan of how the Capsule’s knobs endlessly turn. Having a hard stopping point makes it easier to tell gain levels at a glance but here I had to play it by ear – literally.

The Capsule features an innovative mounting solution for swapping to a boom arm. Virtually every other USB mic that comes with a desktop stand forces you to unscrew its adjustment knobs and keep track of multiple washers when it’s not in use. The Capsule features a removable back piece that detaches with a simple button press and allows the microphone to slide off its stand. A replacement piece comes in the box to fill in the gap, as well as an adapter to screw the mic onto the boom arm. The back piece on my pre-production model had an extremely tight fit which made it difficult to remove, but NZXT is aware of the issue and claims it will be fixed for launch. I would usually be cautious in a case like this, but I was able to remedy the issue myself simply by bending the guide rails out a hair, so it seems like an easy fix.

NZXT Capsule – Performance

I started testing the microphone with some local recordings captured in the free software, Audacity. On its own I was impressed by how crisp and clear the microphone sounded. There wasn’t a lot of excess white noise coming from the microphone’s electronics either. When I wasn’t speaking, there was enough noise to tell that the microphone was turned on and not muted, but not enough to be distracting or make the recording sound low quality. Discord and OBS noise suppression had no trouble removing it.

While the Capsule sounds good, it’s entering a busy market with lots of options at similar prices, so I was curious to see how it compared. Against both the original Blue Yeti, the Yeti X, and the HyperX Quadcast, it delivered impressive results. The Capsule lacked nothing in clarity that the others offered, but did offer a more realistic, brighter tone overall. If you like a bit of extra warmth and bass to your voice, the Yeti may still be the better bet, but for realism the Capsule is the better choice.

I was also impressed to see the Capsule win in overall white noise too. The results between all four mics were close enough that you wouldn’t be able to tell a difference without a decibel meter, but the Capsule managed consistently less self-noise than any of the other mics by 2-3dB. This shows that the internal design of the microphone is well-done and uses quality components.

For gaming and Discord, the Capsule performed well. My teammates were able to hear me clearly whether I had the mic on its desktop stand or mounted on my Rode PSA-1 boom arm. At only 314 grams, the mic was a bit too light for my arm, so you’ll want to use it with one that supports lightweight mics or can be tightened down.

As a condenser mic, it’s naturally more sensitive to outside noise, but it did a good job of quieting down sounds that aren’t right in front of its capsule. I played in an untreated room with hardwood floors but didn’t have any issues with reverb. Even the sound of my clacky mechanical keyboard was effectively dampened. It could still be heard, however, so you’ll still want to limit unwanted noise to keep it from making its way into the mic.

The dials left a lot to be desired. Compared to the Yeti, they just felt cheap, endlessly spinning on their pins. At this price, I would have liked to feel a little more resistance and to quickly see what my level is instead of guessing. The clicky mute button also causes a nice “chunk” sound every time it’s pressed, which makes its way into recordings.

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