Tuning Microphones for Performance, Quality and Versatility

Excellence in microphone performance is a foundational design pillar for EPOS – delivering high quality audio for crystal clear voice pick-up

Many gamers buy their first headset because gaming has taken them on a journey from solo to online multiplayer, and the free earbuds and inline microphone that came with their mobile phone are no longer good enough. For both gamers and streamers, the quality of the microphone and its associated circuitry and software is crucial to deliver the best social experience and optimizing microphone performance is one of the main goals for our engineering team.

In a team-based game, it’s important 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 gaming context, 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.

At EPOS, we have the advantage of building on the experience of other Demant owned companies with a long heritage in audio technology. For example, we make headsets for air traffic controllers – where microphone performance is crucial for pilots to hear instructions clearly.

The analogue advantage

Microphone pick up patterns

We use high quality analogue microphones because they outperform digital components in our tests. For example, while the GSP 600 unit was designed with the unidirectional cardioid pick-up pattern ideal for its use case scenario, the bidirectional microphone in the GSP 670 is an evolution of the analogue 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.

EPOS Gaming Suite noise reduction

Where microphone 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 artifacts 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 microphone mounted on a stable boom and give you multiple levels of noise reduction which can be selected in the EPOS Gaming Suite. If you are 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.

Designing the right tools for the job

The EPOS B20 microphone, designed specifically for streaming and game content creation, offers high performance, flexibility and ease of use. Four different pick-up patterns can be selected, each one ideal for a different set-up. The “cardioid” option is ideal for the solo streamer, picking up the voice from the front while rejecting sound from elsewhere. A stereo polar pattern has a wider pickup from the front sides as well as directly in front, rejecting noise from behind – ideal for collaboration on stream from one side of a desk. The bidirectional or “figure of eight” pick-up pattern is perfect for recording a gamecast with the microphone sitting between two participants. This pattern rejects audio from the sides but picks up the from the front and rear. Lastly, the omni pattern is perfect for collaborative team game streaming, with participants grouped around the microphone in the center.

Audio controls on the B20 streaming microphone gives you full control over the stream with volume, gain, mute and a choice of four pickup patterns – cardioid, stereo, bidirectional and omnidirectional – for different recording scenarios.

The three microphone capsules built into the B20 housing have been carefully tuned by our audio engineers to deliver excellent performance, coupled with convenient controls: a dial for selecting pick-up pattern, along with gain / mute, and headphone volume. An audio jack on the microphone itself enables connection of a headset to monitor both content and the microphone input with minimal latency. With the B20, we feel our engineers have delivered on all the design challenges, resulting in a streamer microphone that delivers superb quality audio in an easy-to-use, highly streamlined package.

Whether microphones are for headset use or standalone for streamers, the goal is always the same for our engineers – to achieve excellent results for this key element of the gaming audio chain without compromise.