The secret life of mics

Excellence in microphone performance is a key feature of high-quality headsets and at EPOS this is a foundational design pillar.

Many gamers buy their first headset because gaming has taken them on a journey from solo to online multiplayer, and their free earbuds that came with their mobile phone are no longer good enough! A gaming headset’s microphone quality and associated circuitry and software is crucial to delivering an optimal social experience for gamers, and microphone performance is one of the main challenges for the EPOS engineering team.

In a team-based game, it’s useful to know who is shouting “I see them!” or for your squad-mates to hear you call for a medic. Speech intelligibility can make the difference between winning and losing. In a good gaming headset, clear, natural audio with strong microphone performance in the vocal range will prevent voices from blurring together. Excellence in microphone performance is a primary goal and we are constantly looking for ways to refine and improve this, while building on a strong existing foundation.

At EPOS, we have the advantage of building on the experience of Demant owned companies with a long heritage in hearing health and audio technology. For example, there is an entire EPOS division dedicated to headsets for the workplace, where vocal clarity is the number one requirement. We even make headsets for air traffic controllers – where microphone performance is crucial for pilots to hear instructions clearly. We also benefit from the large sums our group of companies spend on R&D. We are constantly developing new technologies to improve vocal clarity, for example the AI powered microphone system for our Enterprise ADAPT 660 line. Many of these innovations have appeared – or will appear in future – in our gaming line-up.

While cutting edge technology helps keep EPOS at the forefront of the headset business, of equal importance is our understanding of the basic physical aspects of headset construction. For example, our boom design is tried, tested and trusted – it is flexible but sturdy, adjustable but above all designed to make it simple for the wearer to align the microphone correctly. Matching a good bi-directional mic to a well-designed boom will give excellent results in all but the noisiest environments

Illustration: Microphone pick up patterns

We use high quality analogue mics because they outperform digital components in our
tests. For example, while the GSP 600 mic was designed with the unidirectional pick-up pattern ideal for its use case scenario, the mic in the GSP 670 is an evolution of the units we used in our very first gaming headsets over ten years ago. The basic design has always been good, so we just tweak it as needed. Sure, we’ve now added switchable noise reduction to allow gamers playing in noisy environments to improve their microphone clarity – but it’s a steady evolution, rather than using new components just because they exist.

Illustration: EPOS Gaming Suite noise reduction

Where mic noise reduction is concerned, it’s important to note that we never rely on this alone to deliver optimal results. Even high-end technology will inevitably introduce minor artefacts to the voice – it’s a sign the algorithms are doing their job – but it can make a voice sound unnatural, which in turn doesn’t help your team-mates understand who is saying what. So, for example, in the GSP 670 headset, we have an excellent quality mic mounted on a stable boom and give you multiple levels of noise reduction which can be selected in the EPOS Gaming Suite. If you’re in a noisy location like a LAN party, you can turn up the noise reduction – but at home playing online with your buddies, it can be disabled entirely.

The microphone is one of the key elements of the audio chain where it is difficult to compromise on quality. Which is why, at EPOS, we don’t.

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