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This $150 microphone beats out more expensive mics I've tested with this brilliant feature

The JBL Quantum Stream microphone is a competitively-priced mic with features that podcasters and streamers will appreciate.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The JBL Quantum Stream mic.

The JBL Quantum Stream is a crisp and functional mic for podcasting and streaming.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

ZDNET's key takeaways

  • The JBL Quantum Stream mic is available now on Amazon for $150.
  • This mic offers rich sound and a host of features to make it punch well above its price point.
  • However, it doesn't include a low-pass filter.

I've used quite a few mics over the years, but my go-to has been the CAD E100S for quite a long time. It's been hard to find another one that offers the same level of quality and sound. Don't get me wrong, I've found some that come close (without reaching into the stratosphere for price) but few have surpassed it.

Also: My 9 must-have gadgets for creating quality YouTube videos

That doesn't mean I'm never impressed by a mic. Case in point, the JBL Quantum Stream. When I first received it, my first thought was that it was a nice-looking piece of tech, but I had my doubts it could punch high enough to impress me.

It didn't take long for it to prove me wrong. Not only is this mic easy to use, it offers a couple of features that help make it stand out. 

View at Amazon

JBL Quantum Stream tech specs

  • Triple, 14 mm electret condenser mics
  • 96kHz sampling rate
  • Power output (RMS) - 45mWrms per channel (load=32 ohms)
  • Power required - 5V 500mA
  • Driver sensitivity at 1kHz/1mW (dB) - --37 ± 3 dB (1 kHz @ 1 Pa, 0 dB=1 v/Pa)
  • Dynamic frequency response range (Hz) - 20 Hz - 20 kHz
  • Impedance (ohms) - >16
  • Mute/unmute
  • USB Type-C connection
  • 3.5 mm headphone jack
  • RBG ring indicator light around volume knob to indicate you're live as well as volume level
  • Reversible stand for easy mounting
  • Selectable pick-up patterns (omnidirectional, cardioid, bi-directional, and stereo)

When I first unboxed the Quantum Stream, I must admit: I thought it was cute, but I didn't take it seriously. You know what they say about assumptions.

Yes, I was wrong. This little mic packs a serious punch. After connecting it to my iMac, I loaded Audacity and hit record. After about 30 seconds, I played back the sound and was surprised by the richness and depth for which it was capable. It might not be capable of the warmth found in my CAD mic, but it sounded far better than a lot of other mics I've tested at this price point.  

After the initial test, I decided to try out the different pick-up patterns. There's a button on the bottom of the mic capsule that cycles through the four patterns. The difference between each pattern is subtle but if you know what you're listening for, it's there. For a single voice, the cardioid pattern is the best setting because it focuses primarily on the voice in front of the mic but also picks up ambient sound (which makes the recording more natural). 

Also: I streamed with Logitech's Mevo Core camera and it nearly beat out my $3,600 Canon

If you have two voices, however, it's best to put the mic between them and select the stereo pattern. That will allow the mic to pick up each voice equally (all things being equal). Just keep in mind that it'll take a bit of testing with the placement to get the right pick-up pattern for your needs and environment.

The JBL Quantum Stream pick-up pattern icons.

Each pick-up pattern is indicated by a tiny icon that is illuminated when activated.

Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Another feature I really appreciate is the RGB light ring around the volume control know, which not only indicates that sound is being picked up, but also serves as a volume meter. If you see red in the ring, turn the mic volume down because you're probably peaking (which will distort the sound). 

The other feature that comes in very handy is the mute button on top of the mic. To mute the mic, just tap it, and the green light that encircles the top of the device will turn red. Tap it again to unmute -- the light turns green, and you know you're live.

Also: The best streaming mics of 2024 for TikTok, YouTube, and Twitch

You'll also find a 3.5mm headphone jack on the back side of the mic. I always use headphones when recording voice because I find it gives you a more accurate representation of what the mic is picking up.

Finally, you can unscrew the flat base and screw the Quantum Stream onto a standard mic stand, which is a big plus (and means you can also use a pop filter).

ZDNET's buying advice

The JBL Quantum Stream might not stand up to my favorite mic, the CAD (which is three times the cost) but it comes surprisingly close. It has a rich sound that offers plenty of depth, a smoothness between lows and highs, and a presence that you might associate with mics twice the price.

This mic would be perfectly at home recording podcasts, streaming, and gaming. And with selectable pick-up patterns, easy muting, and RGB volume meter, comes with all the useful features you need and nothing you don't. For $150, this mic is a steal for anyone looking to improve their podcast game.

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