QUALITY AUDIO FOR EVERYONE
The price of a microphone can vary wildly. Brands such as Sennheiser and Neumann easily command prices upwards of £500 not only because of high-quality devices but also because of a proven track record in the industry.
Fortunately, we live in a world in 2019, where decent quality audio doesn’t have to mean ridiculous amounts of money. People who are getting started recording vocals, podcasts, narrating, producing or chatting to friends have options. Options that can sound good, no great, if used well.
WHAT DOES THE A700 OFFER?
The Alvoxcon A700 is a ‘simple as it gets’ USB condenser mic. Connect it to a PC or Mac, and it is ready to go in seconds. It comes in a box together with a small tripod mic stand, USB cable (about 1.5m) and a foam windscreen. At £32.99 on Amazon (at time of writing), if this mic sounds even close to decent, it must be worth a look, right?
Overall, the A700 has excellent audio quality, especially for vocals. The mic has a 6dB boost peaking around 10kHz which gives it a lovely sweet, clear sound out of the box. No need to EQ further down the chain which is usually a good thing if you’re using a mic like this. I can imagine this would sound great on acoustic guitar too, but I haven’t tested it. You wouldn’t want to use this for any high sound pressure level work (kick drum, for example), but for the money, this sounds surprisingly good. The video includes several audio tests of the A700. I think you will be somewhat surprised.
A thinner sound than a more expensive mic but totally acceptable and well worth thirty pounds of your money.TDCat – After comparing the NTG3 with the A700 on reference headphones
As with any mic, you have to use it correctly to get the best out of it (about 15cm from the mic using correct mic techniques to avoid plosives). Also, as I’ve found with mics at this price point, they quickly hit their limitations. Though the A700 fared very well in this regard, a quick peak level into the mic will cause the audio to break entirely. You won’t just get a distorted signal as with high-end ADC. The sound cuts out briefly as though the mic has temporarily given up. It’s not a big deal as it takes a good shout to do this, but it’s a gentle reminder that you’re using a budget mic.
Below is an extra audio test carried out together with my partner. This includes female vocal which is generally much more sibilant than e.g my voice.
As with all USB mics, they present themselves as a new input device on your Mac or PC. In the case of the A700, this device is called USBMIC1. It would be nice to see this as something a little less generic, but it makes no difference.
The sound device is fixed at 48kHz 16-bit, which is perfect for video work, Skype, gaming and pretty much everything else. It’s what almost all PC sound cards natively operate at unless you manually change things. Don’t worry for a moment that is not 24-bit. There is no chance that the pre-amps in a device like this would be able to make use of the 24-bits anyway outside of it just being noise. 16-bit is just perfect.
There is no volume control on the mic itself (I think the A800 includes this). You adjust the level on your computer. It’s handy to have a volume adjustment on the mic but only if the manufacturer has implemented it correctly. It’s not uncommon for these to be a simple digital reduction in the level of an already distorted signal which completely defeats the purpose. No such worries here because it doesn’t have one.
Although it shows as a device in your OS, it would be nice to have something to indicate the mic is powered up. A small white LED to signify when it’s up and running — no flashing RGB lights. As with the rest of the mic, keep it simple.
The mic itself is full metal construction. I’m not a fan of the glistening ‘chrome’ bands at the base of the grill and mic body, but they are metal and feel good in the hand. There’s not much inside the mic, but it does give the impression it would take a knock or two. It looks the part to the untrained eye. I guess this is sometimes half the battle, particularly if you’re buying this as a gift for a son or daughter getting into video work.
The metal build continues down to the USB port which has a thick metal surround and appears about as sturdy as a port of this type could be. To me, though, this is still a point of failure. A sharp tug on the cable could render this mic useless. Even general moving around of the mic with the cable connected could see quick wear and tear on this port. There’s some argument for a well connected permanent cable, but this too could also fray and fail. A recessed USB port where the USB-B connector is semi-supported could work. Equally, it would be nice to have something as sturdy as an XLR connector here, but this is a data connection, not a balanced line audio output. Also, the use of such a port would undoubtedly bump up the cost. There’s no perfect solution here, but the A700 makes a good attempt.
When I saw pictures of the mic, I thought it looked a bit tacky. A bit like a cheap mic trying to look expensive but it’s smaller than I expected and this gives it a much more sensible look. The out of box experience is very good. Not only is the box well designed and durable, but the compact A700 looks rather good tucked away inside its foam insert.
The writing on the mic body is relatively subtle. Although Alvoxcon sounds somewhat like a pharmaceutical company to me, the logo isn’t too prominent, and it keeps the design minimal, basic and clean.
STAND & EXTRAS
As with most products at this price, the extras are ‘billy basic’. The tripod stand does the job, but for how long, I couldn’t say. It’s a low-cost tripod with just enough breadth to balance the mic. The mic attachment is plastic and not standard sizing, though I have no doubt you would have no trouble replacing this on Amazon if you needed to. The foam windshield fits neatly and is snug. It’s a bit of foam and works fine.
The audio on this mic is stunning for £32.99. They all sound pretty similar around this price. I wouldn’t be surprised if the mic capsules were standard across several devices. That said, the Alvoxcon A700 has a little charm. It’s neat and super-simple to use and looks tidy on a desk.
It’s well worth a try.