The Quantum Stream is yet another gaming-centric microphone, but can it do enough to make itself stand above the mounting pile of USB microphones?
JBL’s Quantum range has impressed so far, with the TWS earbuds providing a great gaming experience, as well as a clear and good music listening experience. The Quantum Stream. Unfortunately, has a few shortcomings.
At around $100 (£98.99), the JBL Quantum Stream provides an unprocessed audio experience, that across both PC and Mac left us wanting more support from the software, and a lot of work was needed to ensure that any audio was suitable for listening.
Of course, this is the case for many microphones, but those leaping into content creation might not fully understand why this microphone is providing subpar quality audio.
- Microphone type: Condenser
- Sampling rate: 96KHz
- Power output (RMS): 45mWrms per channel (Load=32ohms)
- Power required/consumption: 5V 500mA
- Dynamic frequency response range (Hz): 20Hz – 20kHz
- Weight: 248g
- Connectivity: USB-C, 3.5mm headphone jack for monitoring
- Features: Touch button for muting, Volume control for monitoring audio, Quantum app connectivity
- Price: $100
Design and setup
Pulling the JBL Quantum Stream out of its packaging makes us thankful we’re past the point of needing plastic. It did look like a big candle in its paper wrapping, but it was a welcome addition.
It immediately – on Windows – began to install the Quantum software, where you can make the same adjustments that you would… anywhere else on Windows.
We know the point of these apps for products is to ensure that the user experience is at its best and to limit time hunting through Windows’ settings, but the fact of the matter is, if you’re getting into content creation you’ll be dealing with much bigger headaches than Windows 11’s settings app.
There’s no macOS support for the microphone’s app either, which is fine, as Apple’s own audio tech provided a much better recording straight out of the box.
It’s poor that JBL hasn’t included a Mac offering in the software department. But, when it boils down to it, the Quantum software doesn’t really add much else other than skipping out on bland-looking menus.
JBL has designed a truly lightweight microphone, with the stand being the only thing between it and the floor. When testing it out, we found that being able to quickly twist it off the stand and onto an arm was exceptionally easy, with the mic supporting standard threads to connect it to your current setup.
On the front, the knob does not mean you’re going to turn up the volume of the audio you’re recording. Instead, this allows you to control the volume monitor, allowing you to hear yourself. If you’re someone who needs to hear what they sound like when recording audio, especially for voice actors, for example, there’s a headphone jack underneath to let you do that. No faff, it just works.
The top has a touch button that will mute the microphone, turning the ring underneath to a clear red, and is all connected up via USB-C.
Recording and audio quality
There are two modes on the JBL Quantum Stream. One will pick up full surround sound audio, while another will focus it on the front of the microphone. Essentially, do you have someone with you or are you streaming alone? Do you move around a lot and record VR games? Having the option to easily switch makes the recording experience easier overall, and is a welcome feature.
In the audio which we recorded, we found that the overall quality was pretty good, but nothing to write home about, once we’d made some adjustments in editing software.
The surround mode did make recording a chore when not in a controlled environment. This is always going to be the case, but it can scupper those not entirely in the know of which modes they can record in. To mitigate any unwanted noise, use software like Nvidia Broadcast.
We do think that Apple’s own under-the-hood technology did some heavy lifting in a few spots. Recording in Garageband versus Windows on Audacity gave us a clear distinction between the two pieces of software.
We did not equip this with a pop filter, just see how it’d do with plosives, the big popping sounds that can happen when saying certain letters. It didn’t respond to our ‘Pickle’ and ‘Poops’ being screamed at into the microphone, but the audio did need a little de-essing to reduce hurting audience ears.
Using for talking to friends over Discord and even using it during a meeting made it clearly apparent that this level of microphone still doesn’t translate over the web, with the audio still coming out the same crispy way that it would regardless of your hardware.
Is the JBL Quantum Stream good for streaming?
The quality of this microphone during some private testings of streaming over on Twitch did not beat our cheap, £30 Samson USB condenser microphone from 2015, nor did it come close to the setup we’ve got, partly because of the various post-processing available with additional hardware.
JBL’s app does not provide many options to help with post-processing barring volume, so if you’re looking to get into the streaming, just know that there are better options out there.
However, the question of whether it’s worth its price tag versus getting a proper little setup is something that you, yourself need to answer. If you’re serious about audio recording, this won’t even be in your sightlines. The USB microphone market has let us down one too many times, and while this does provide a decent result, it still required work, even with a whole app supporting it.
The fact it costs the same as our entire setup, including Behringer UM2 XLR interface, 5m XLR cable, and Behringer condenser microphone, as well as a pair of mid-tier monitoring headphones from AKG, but still supplies an overall worse result makes us wonder if you should just splurge on a slightly more complex setup for higher quality.
JBL is clearly gunning for the gaming crowd, but they’re advertising this microphone for content creators. It will only get you so far before it begins to falter, with too much work to bring up the quality of the audio, and no real backup from any kind of interface barring JBL’s own skin for regular features on a PC.
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