Fig. 1 A headphone jack provides zerolatency monitoring.
USB large-diaphragm cardioid condenser mic
It’s just a toy, right? Right?!? Actually, no—but Meteor takes an unusual approach to a USB mic that fills a niche superbly. When I’m on the road, I often need to record samples and do voiceovers for videos, and have had absolutely stellar results with an Audio- Technica AT2020 USB. However it’s relatively large, and somewhat impractical when all I need is a mic for capturing musical ideas (or using Skype, for that matter). Its cylindrical shape and weight also fascinates the TSA, and more than once, I’ve been put through a manual search because of it. If only I could have a USB mic that sounded really good, but was small enough to throw into a computer bag, and suitable for less-critical applications too . . . and for the sake of the TSA, looked like the popular conception of a mic.
Meet the Meteor
Well, that pretty much describes the Meteor. It’s a cardioid condenser mic with a surprisingly large diaphragm (about 1 inch), housed in a sturdy, die-cast body with foldup legs. With the legs folded up, it’s about the size of a thick salt shaker, and has a nifty, future-retro look.
Drivers aren’t required for Mac or Windows, but class-compliant operation also results in latency. Fortunately, around back there’s an 1/8" headphone jack with volume control (Figure 1); the headphone amp is definitely better than the amp in most computers, and doesn’t pick up internal hash—another point in its favor—and it monitors the mic with zero latency.
The mic element itself is protected by a finemesh wire screen that handles lightweight wind noise issues, but for heavier-duty pop protection, well, finally there’s a use for that sock that’s missing its match. There’s also a mute button, and a tri-color LED that indicates power, mute, and clipping.
Meteor handles 44.1/48kHz sample rates, and a max SPL of 120dB (which I hope will never be attained in any hotel room where I’m staying). Resolution is 16 bits. As to frequency response, there’s a slight lift around 10kHz; low frequency response starts rolling off gently around 150Hz, and hits about –5dB at 20Hz.
The Meteor mic addresses an interesting market: It pretends it’s a laptop mic, but gives much higher quality. When I tested it doing video voiceovers prior to leaving for the Frankfurt Musikmesse show, it did a great job with my laptop: The quality was a zillion times better than the built-in mic. The AT2020 has a slightly smoother sound with a little more presence, but the Meteor’s small size, and the convenience of a built-in headphone amp, earned it a place in my laptop bag. The legs do tend to transmit vibrations, so I brought along a piece of foam to add some acoustical isolation; and as with the AT, I needed a pop filter (translation: a sock). But overall, the quality, size, and convenience make the Meteor a tremendously useful mic, not just on the road, but at home as well. Oh, and if anyone from the TSA is reading this . . . it’s a microphone, okay?
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