If you do any kind of activity that involves your voice, you need at least a decent microphone. While voice chat, Skype calls, and mics for streaming are traditionally associated with PC and console gaming, we’re increasingly seeing activities that require microphones happening on mobile. Streaming is more open than ever on mobile between services like Mobcrush that even have native iOS streaming support. Apps like Discord (Free) make it easy to work together with fellow guild or clan members, with voice chat support that works straight from your phone. Or maybe you talk to your family a lot via FaceTime (which uses a higher-quality audio codec than standard cellular calls) and want something that sounds good to them. Now, while you could use the microphone that comes on cheap pack-in earbuds, you’re sacrificing a lot of quality, as these microphones are built for convenience, not for quality. If you do anything regularly with your voice, you and anyone who has to listen to you deserves a microphone of better quality.
For gamers, the choice has often been to just buy a gaming headset. But the problem is that gaming headsets are often pricey and of subpar quality for the money. I mean, the HyperX Cloud line is fine since it’s based off of a popular OEM headphone, but the microphone isn’t great. Plus, perhaps you have a pair of good headphones that you already use and spent good money on. What is a gaming headset but a set of headphones with an attached microphone? What if you could just attach a microphone to your headphones? That’s what Antlion Audio has done with their ModMic line of headphones – provide a microphone that attaches to a magnetic base clasp that you adhere to your headphones of choice. And with the ModMic 5, Antlion has gone and made their microphone better than ever.
As the name implies, this is the 5th generation of the ModMic. The microphone itself is a standard 3.5mm connector, which you can use with your iOS device and headphones via an adapter that can be found on Amazon or from Antlion’s site. The mic attaches to your headphones via the aforementioned magnetic base clasp, which you adhere to a good spot on your headphones by using the 3M adhesive on the other side of the base clasp to put the mic in a good spot. Some headphones don’t have ideal spots to put the magnetic base clasp near the front of an earcup, and as such the ModMic 5 still can be tough to get in that sweet spot in terms of distance from your mouth. If you can try to simulate where the ModMic will be placed on the earcup, do so, especially if you can test how it will sound via Voice Memos. You want something close enough to pick up the force of your voice, but not close enough that you’re breathing into the mic; ideally, this is above or beside your mouth. The ModMic5 will bend, but it’s not that long. I’d love an extendable design for the ModMic 6. The ModMic 5 comes with 2 clasps for use with multiple headphones, and you can buy more. If you have any left over from the ModMic 4, you can use those. Do be careful in installing the ModMic, as before.
While Antlion had a solid entry with the ModMic 4, there were some shortcomings that they decided to address with the product for the ModMic 5. Before, you had to pick between the unidirectional and omnidirectional modules when you bought your ModMic, but now, the ModMic 5 incorporates both in one microphone, and there’s a switch to swap between the two. Omnidirectional provides more natural sound pickup due to picking up sound from, well, all directions. But, if you’re in a noisy environment, this can be problematic. Thus, unidirectional helps reduce the extraneous noise around you, but trades off some sound quality. Voices might sound more natural via omnidirectional, for example. But the thing that’s nice is that if you use the ModMic in different environments, then you can adjust as to what is effective for you. Even in a situation where, for example, an air conditioner or fan in use during the summer makes your space noisier, having the switch to unidirectional will help.
The modularity extends to pretty much every other aspect of the ModMic 5. The mute switch, once an in-line option, now comes as an optional accessory. It’s also a bigger, easier to grab switch than the built-in version available before. The ModMic 5 only comes with a short 3.5mm connector, but this is because it’s designed to be used with extension cables, with a 1m and 2m cable available. So, you can just combine those to get up to 3m away from your audio source. Also, as opposed there’s now cable tubing that lets you easily route the ModMic 5 and your headphone’s cable together if you so choose. These features all make for an incredibly convenient design, and one that should answer most use cases for the microphone.
The performance of the ModMic 5 is largely very similar to the ModMic 4 which I reviewed previously. As far as sound quality goes, sound seems a bit richer coming from the ModMic 5 than the ModMic 4, but it’s only a subtle improvement. I recorded a test with the ModMic 4 and the two ModMic 5 capsules for comparison. I’m definitely comfortable streaming with this microphone, and wouldn’t have any issue recording a podcast call with it. It’s definitely in the range of “good enough" quality for most people. You might perhaps get better quality with a desktop microphone, but a boom microphone is a different caliber of product. Where the ModMic 5 comes in is as a jack of all trades. The BoomPro, a popular option for headphones with a 3.5mm detachable cable, is cheaper, but has a thinner sound, and is omnidirectional only. There are some expensive headphones with a 3.5mm entry, and the modularity and versatility of the ModMic 5 starts to make me question whether you should go for this despite the convenience of the BoomPro for 3.5mm headphone jack users.
Should you upgrade to the ModMic 5 if you have a ModMic 4? I don’t think it’s an essential upgrade, though I do enjoy the new features on the ModMic 5. If you want an additional mic, you might as well make this your new primary mic. The ModMic 5 uses the exact same magnetic clasp system as the ModMic 4. So, if you’re upgrading, you don’t have to apply anything new to your headphones.
Should you buy the ModMic 5 if you’re just starting out? Well, it’s not exactly a cheap buy-in at $69.99. If you have expensive headphones, say, if you’ve spent at least $100 on yours, and you really want a boom mic setup, then it’s worth it. The calculus changes if your headphones are cheap, where something like the Sony clip-on mic or Zalman might be more cost-efficient, though especially with the Zalman, that picks up a lot of noise. Or even getting the still-decent V-Moda BoomPro for compatible headphones would work. But some headphones don’t work with the BoomPro, of course, by design. And even then, I’d say the ModMic 5’s versatility and richer sound make it something where you could justify the additional expense. If you’re shopping for quality recording equipment, you’re not that far from one of the popular Blue microphones like the Snowball or Yeti. But especially in situations where you just need a convenient microphone by your face, the ModMic 5 is a great option. And seriously, most gaming headsets are still garbage. Buy a real pair of headphones and add a microphone like this.
The ModMic 5 is available from Antlion Audio and Amazon (same-day shipping available in some areas!). It comes with two base clasps, a windscreen for the microphone, the 1m extension cable, 2m extension cable, mute switch, and case.