JLab Talk Microphone full review
California-based brand JLab Audio may be popular for its earphones and speakers but that doesn't mean it won't try its hand at recording devices too.
At £99/US$99, the Talk is the brand's midrange option, which includes the budget Talk Go (£49) and the premium Talk Pro (£150). I tried it out to see whether it's actually any good, or just talk.
A classy design
The Talk is pretty much all plastic – but it certainly doesn't look cheap. The swivel design is a nice change from other mics on the market and a charming throwback to old-school broadcast mics. The added benefit of the design is you can easily access the USB-C and 3.5mm audio input at the base just by tilting the mic, instead of having to pick up the whole unit.
The plastic body keeps the mic lightweight too, unlike the weighty metal-bodied Trust Gaming GXT Fyru mic which I reviewed last year. You don't get the thrill of various multi-coloured lights like the Trust mic, but that may not be to everyone's tastes anyway.
The Talk's tripod mount was another clear design win for me. The soft silicone tips at the end not only offer excellent grip but protect surfaces from scratches. If I were to nitpick, the tripod does create a broad footprint (about the radius of a dessert plate) – but then again, if you're really tight for space, the Talk still stays balanced if you narrow the tripod to the smallest radius.
This positions the mic higher (see below), so just be careful you don't knock it over. It would be great to see the tripod legs snap to an in-between height, but you can't really complain when you get the tripod for free.
The other benefit is, you can always use your own mic stand. The JLab Talk can screw onto any stand with a 5/8in thread. JLab also provides a generously sized 1.8m USB-C power cable to plug into your computer.
Easy to use
Using the Talk is easy. You simply plug it in and get started, with compatibility on both Windows and Mac. The mic doesn't come with any dedicated software, however, like the top-of-the-line Blue Yeti X (£159.99) which comes with VO!CE – a program that lets you fine-tune the low, middle, and high frequencies. It's not a dealbreaker, especially if you're already using free or affordable programs like Audacity or Reaper. If you want to start streaming on Twitch, see our free software recommendations here.
The Talk does offer a few controls directly on the device itself. You can control the recording mode using the large dial at the front. You get four choices: Omnidirectional, Bidirectional, Cardioid, Stereo. Pressing the dial also mutes the mic.
Pressing the smaller dial below the main dial switches between 'Volume' and 'Gain' levels. Volume refers to what you hear back in your monitor mix, while gain refers to the volume at which you record. An LED ring around the large dial switches from blue to green to indicate which of the two levels you're adjusting, where blue means volume and green means gain.
The dials are labeled, but the labels aren't that bright. This could potentially be an issue if you live stream games in low lighting – you'll need to commit the dial positions to muscle memory. While the gain/volume distinction is easy to remember because of the LED light, you'll have to really look closely at the labels for the four recording modes. An LED indicator system here would have been an added convenience. It's worth ensuring you're in the right setting before you start recording.
Clean and clear audio
Despite a budget price, the Talk delivers an impressive recording quality. There isn't really anything to complain about here.
Audio on the JLab Talk sounds clear, detailed, and warm thanks to a well-balanced low and mid-tone mix. The high tones are clean as well, though can skew towards tinny if you move a few steps away from the mic, but it's unlikely you'll do that in the middle of a recording session. I was impressed with how much nuance the JLab Talk captured, whether in vocals or a guitar lick. Everything just sounds clean.
The Talk is sensitive to external noise if you're using the cardioid or bidirectional settings, so it's best to record with doors closed and in a quiet space if you are using these modes. The gain control on the front of the mic comes in handy here, as you can always lower the gain level and boost the recording levels later using your audio editing software.
Impressively, the Talk supports 24-bit recording sampling, whereas the more expensive options like the Trust GXT Fyru only support 16-bit sampling. While the difference between 16-bit and 24-bit is difficult to hear in a recording, 24-bit sampling offers a higher resolution allowing more flexibility when mixing and mastering. It also means that the audio is less likely to clip when you record and modify levels in post-production. Most recording professionals recommend using 24-bit sampling if it's available, so it's great to see that the Talk offers this benefit at such a low price. Keep in mind, recording at a higher resolution does take up more space on your drive.
The omnidirectional mode did an impressive job isolating my vocals from ambient sounds, like the whirring of a laptop fan. This can be handy if you're using the mic for game streaming and are likely to prop up the mic by your PC.
Pricing and availability
The price places it in the same price bracket as the budget Blue Yeti Nano, though the Nano only offers two directional patterns.
JLab also offers a two-year manufacturer's warranty and a 30-day Satisfaction Guarantee.
The JLab Talk is a winner. It manages to pack in a helluva lot for £100 – including a 24-bit sampling rate, which you won't always find even in more expensive mics.
The Talk not only offers a premium recording quality, it's also easy to use and is versatile with multiple recording modes and gain/volume adjustments.
Whether you're kicking off a new podcast, live streaming games on Twitch, or recording vocals for Soundcloud, you really can't go wrong with the Talk.
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