JBL is a name synonymous with speakers and good audio. Over the past few years, the company has been bringing its experience to the gaming sector with its Quantum branded headphones but notably missing from the line was microphones — until now. The company aims to change that with the introduction of the JBL Quantum Stream Microphone; a $150 dual pattern USB microphone aimed squarely at gamers, streamers and podcasters.
The JBL Quantum Stream is the companies first entry into the oversaturated USB microphone market. At $150, it’s on the somewhat higher end where many great microphones sit at the $80—100 price range. Does JBL’s newest piece of gamer gear do enough to stand out of the crowd?
Design & features
In terms of design, JBL went for a tried and true, safe design that isn’t necessarily eye-catching or bland. It’s your typical black, metallic cylinder with perforations for the sound to pass through, a single dial at the front and a screw-on desk stand. It’s shockingly lightweight at just 248gm but doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy. This diminutive size of the mic make it perfect for people who want a mic to use with their laptop to create content on the go.
The Quantum Stream’s stand is one of the cleverest designs I’ve seen on a desk mic before. In it’s default state, its a simple swiveling metal rod that screws into a metal base plate. This allows you to use the mic on your desk and tilt and swivel it as you’d like. But that same rod can be reversed to use on either a 1/4” or 5/8” thread mounting found on boom arms or even camera tripods.
As a Cardioid microphone, you speak into the front grill of the mic where the dial and JBL logo are. On top of the mic is a capacitive touch button which you can tap to mutes the mic. You’ll know its muted when the LED ring light at the base of the mic turns an angry red. In normal operation, the color of the LED is a nice green but you can also customise the colors to whatever you want.
The single dial on the front adjusts the volume of your headphones and with a quick press, switches to adjust the gain. The LED ring changes accordingly — blue for volume, purple for gain. Additionally, long pressing the dial for two seconds changes the pickup pattern between Cardioid and Omnidirectional modes.
Continuing on the bottom of the mic, you’ll find a USB-C port and a 3.5mm port for plugging in your headphones to monitor your recording in real time. The Quantum Stream comes with a solid braided cable which you can plug-n-play into Windows PCs, Mac, PlayStation 4/5 and Nintendo Switch. I noticed the height of the stand hinders accessibility to the ports and if you have professional headphones with large connectors tips, it will be a tight squeeze.
The Quantum Stream utilises a dual 14mm Electret capsule condenser with a 96kHz sampling rate and a frequency range of 20Hz – 20kHz. This allows you to capture some high-quality sound with very little effort. I was pleased with the sound of my voice, which while not accurate, was pleasant and bassy enough — especially with the right EQ.
The microphone also does a very good job at ignoring sounds around and behind the microphone unless of course you set it to Omnidirectional mode. I found it works best fairly close to your mouth where you get rich and clean audio capture so you might want to use it with a boom arm rather than the desk arm. The mic does pick up vibrations through the desk as well as your typing away on your mechanical keyboard.
If you want to do professional voice overs, you will definitely need to do some postproduction to get the audio sounding rich and velvety. However, I found that the EQ presets in the QuantumEngine actually make a big difference to your recordings — the Studio preset was my personal favorite. You can create your own pattern and save it but profiles are local to the particular machine and not saved to the mic itself. So, every time you swap to another device, you’ll have to redo them.
The QuantumEngine also allows you to change things like gain, side monitoring, RGB lighting and of course, update the firmware. While the software isn’t the most complicated thing to use, I do think the design language is way over the top and unnecessary to the user experience. The futuristic, digital display vibes often makes it hard to distinguish critical elements like toggles and even reading the fonts can be challenging.
At $150, the JBL Quantum Stream is a fine USB microphone that doesn’t reinvent the wheel. And that’s the problem. There’s a mountain of great USB microphones out there, many of which are much cheaper while still sounding amazing. Case in point is the HyperX SoloCast which comes in at under $100 and sounds amazing while also having a similar compact, sturdy design. In this race, it’s not so much the sound quality but which one has the best price at the time to fit your budget. However, if you do go for the JBL mic, you won’t be disappointed, though I could say the same for dozens of other cheaper microphones too.
JBL Australia kindly provided the Quantum Stream Microphone to PowerUp Gaming for the purpose of this review.