The new JLab Talk Pro USB condenser microphone is designed for recording music, vocals and podcasts.
A good quality microphone is an essential tool for anyone recording a podcast that people will want to listen to. Microphones are also vital for producing high-quality audio and video chats with a higher quality than is available from the inadequate microphones that are built into many laptops.
JLab is a brand that’s perhaps best known for its range of affordable true wireless earbuds. Now the company has branched out to produce a range of USB microphones that is designed for gamers, home workers, musicians and podcasters. There are three JLab microphones in the range and they vary in price from the cheap and cheerful JLab Talk Go at $49, to the JLab Talk Pro at a more substantial $149.
I decided to take a closer look at the flagship JLab Talk Pro microphone. It’s the most expensive model in the range and is a full-featured USB microphone that’s designed for home broadcasting, recording music or producing professional podcasts. Like all good USB microphones, the JLab Talk Pro can connect to a computer via a USB cable which both powers the microphone and carries the audio signal to and from the computer.
The build quality of the JLab Talk Pro is a little on the light side because the main body is made from plastic. There’s a metal stirrup stand that’s part of the Talk Pro and it can be screwed on a regular boom arm or else used with the supplied screw-in tripod that enables the Talk Pro to be used on a desktop. The tripod has rubber pads on its feet which helps to reduce any vibrations reaching the condenser capsules in the mic.
The Talk Pro USB Microphone from JLab comes with a mini tripod which can be unscrewed so the … [+]
Inside the Talk Pro, there are three condenser capsules protected by a foam windshield which helps to stop plosives, the annoying popping sounds that a voice can produce when close to a microphone. The three capsules can be switched between four distinct polar pickup patterns which are: cardioid, stereo, bi-directional and omnidirectional.
The selection of pickup patterns makes the JLab Talk Pro versatile for recording live music in stereo or an interview between two people. The omnidirectional pattern is ideal for general use, while the cardioid pattern is perfect for voiceovers and close-mic vocals. The pickup pattern can be changed simply by pressing a small button on the microphone’s body which then cycles through all four of the pick-up patterns. The pattern in use is indicated by a blue LED glowing beneath the pickup symbol printed on the mic.
On the base of the microphone, there’s a USB-C port for connecting the JLab Talk Pro to the host computer. Next to the USB port is a headphone socket. This is where a pair of headphones or earphones can be plugged in and the user can hear the output from the computer and the zero-latency monitoring from the microphone.
The JLab Talk Pro has an illuminated mute button for temporarily disabling the mic when needed. At the rear, there are two rotary knobs, one for setting the headphone volume and the other for adjusting microphone gain. An illuminated LED ladder on the front of the mic indicates the volume and gain levels. Like most USB mics, the JLab Talk Pro can output audio signals up to 192kHz/24-bit, which is more than adequate for professional quality for studio recordings.
There are four pickup patterns built into the JLab Talk Pro and it also includes a built in … [+]
This microphone is extremely sensitive and, like most condenser mics, can pick up the tiniest of sounds. It’s probably best suited for use in a sound booth or a very quiet setting. This is not a microphone for use in a noisy office environment where there are far too many sounds to filter out. For those settings, a dynamic microphone like the Shure MV7 would be a better proposition, although it does cost quite a bit more than the JLab Talk Pro.
The quality of the sound picked up by the JLab Talk Pro is good and the pickup patterns are very useful. The stereo selection is ideal for recording live music and creates a convincing soundstage. The bi-directional mode works well for face-to-face chats where there are two talkers and only one microphone. The omnidirectional pattern picks up a bit too much background noise, but the cardioid setting is the best for more intimate recording such as a voiceover or vocals.
The sound quality of the monitoring passed through to the headphones is a bit noisy with some traces of background hiss. The noise floor on the JLab Talk Pro is a bit high and probably wouldn’t compare too well with something like the Røde NT USB or something like the Blue Yeti X. There’s also no control for the monitor and headphone mix to adjust the balance between the headphone monitoring and the sound coming back from the computer. It’s not a deal-breaker but a professional-level microphone ought to have a control like that.
At the rear of the JLab Talk Pro microphone there are two rotary controls for microphone gain and … [+]
Verdict: The Talk Pro USB mic is a good first try from JLab but the built quality feels a bit lightweight for the money. At this price point, I think it’s fair to expect a solid metal-bodied microphone. The pickup patterns are a nice touch and very easy to switch between. The mute button is a welcome inclusion and something that’s missing from the Røde NT-USB. I also like the built-in foam windshield hidden behind the microphone’s grille, which makes the JLab Talk Pro easier to use for anyone unused to using a high-sensitivity condenser microphone. This is an adequate microphone but the price seems a bit high and would be better if it were closer to $99. Possibly worth a look if you can find it on sale at a lower price.
Price and availability: The JLab Talk Pro costs $149.99 / £149.99 / €149.99 and is available from Amazon, Argos and Currys.
More info: www.jlab.com
I’ve been writing about technology for more than three decades and have written for publications covering computing, audio and digital imaging. I enjoy all aspects of