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Samson Meteor Mic USB studio microphone: Solid quality in a compact package

Depending on how you look at it, the Samson Meteor Mic USB studio microphone(US$149.99 SRP, available from online retailers for about $100) looks like a little rocket, a silver bullet, R2D2’s best friend, or just another mic. I had an opportunity to try out one of these portable USB mics, which can be used with any Mac or iPad (with the Apple Camera Connection Kit), and found that it is very handy for anyone who needs to record and monitor high-quality audio on-the-go.

Design

The first thing that attracted me to the Samson Meteor Mic was the design. Unlike the traditional design of the IK Multimedia iRig Mic we reviewed a while back, the Meteor Mic immediately catches your attention. Don’t let the cute design fool you, though — this mic is surprisingly stout and looks as if it could survive a lot of abuse.
There are three legs that fold down on the Meteor Mic. The legs, also made of metal, are tipped with rubber to prevent the mic from sliding on a surface. Each leg can be adjusted separately in order to point the mic in a specific direction. Behind one of the legs is a mini-B size USB connector for connecting the mic to your Mac, PC or other device, as well as a 3.5 mm stereo jack for connecting headphones or studio monitors.
Continue reading this review on the next page, and be sure to view the gallery below.

Gallery: Samson Meteor Mic

The legs stay in the position that you put them — each has a screw and a pair of plastic bearings that hold the leg securely in place, and if a leg becomes loose, it should be a simple matter of tightening the screw to make the leg stay in place.
The bottom of the Meteor Mic features a standard 5/8-inch thread mount for attaching it to a microphone stand or arm. While the Meteor Mic has some weight to it (10.2 ounces), it wasn’t hefty enough to hold down the Røde microphone arm in my studio so a standard mic stand would probably be a much better solution for holding the mic.
On the front of the mic is a control knob for the headphone output that surrounds a button for temporarily muting the input to a computer. Above the knob is a small LED that turns amber when the mic is muted, blue when the mic is powered up and working, and red when the input level is clipping.
The top of the chrome-plated Meteor Mic consists of a two-stage grille to protect the mic capsule, reduce wind noise, and reduce the need for a pop filter. Inside that shiny exterior is a large 1″ diaphragm microphone capsule with a cardioid polar pattern, meaning that the pickup of the mic is very strong directly in front and 90° to either side, but less sensitive for sounds to the rear of the mic.

Operation

There’s a small, but very well-written user manual that comes with the Meteor Mic containing tips on recording voices, acoustic guitar, piano, a guitar amp, or an overhead drum kit. My musical skills are limited to vocals and playing with synth apps, so I was unable to test the quality of sound captured by the Meteor Mic when using musical instruments.
As a portable mic for podcast recording, the Meteor Mic works very well. I folded out the legs, tilting the mic back a bit as per Samson’s instructions, plugged the USB cable into the mic and my Mac, and then fired up GarageBand. A pair of headphones provided me with a zero-latency monitor for my recording.
In a previous review of the Blue Mic Yeti Pro USB microphone, I recorded short podcast blurbs just to get a feel for the sensitivity and sound quality of the mic. I did the same with the Meteor Mic, and was pleasantly surprised with the results. I placed the mic about 12 inches away from my mouth, and recorded a short sound bite. For podcasting, I honestly believe that the Meteor Mic is a much better solution than the Yeti. The quality of the voice recording was amazingly crisp and caught all of the nuances of my voice, and to my ears the recording sounded “warmer” than what the Yeti and Yeti Pro had captured. Here’s a short, unrehearsed sample of both of the mics in action (Flash required).

The Meteor Mic also did a much better job of rejecting “p-pops,” those nice thundering noises that appear on recordings when you make a “plosive” or “p sound” near a microphone. When I recorded the famous “Peter Piper” tongue twister with my lips a scant three inches from the mic, the pops were rather muted. Doing the same with the Yeti, the pops were very distracting.

Using Meteor Mic with iPad

As noted earlier in this review, the Meteor Mic can be used with Garage Band or other recording apps on the iPad. This is not the case with the Yeti and Yeti Pro, since they require too much power to work with the iPad. To use the Meteor Mic, you’ll need Apple’s Camera Connection Kit. When you plug in the mic, it takes a moment to “register” with the iPad, but then shows up in Garage Band as an external sound source. Note that this will not work with the iPhone 4.
How well did it work with Garage Band on the iPad? So well that I would say without reservation that the combination of iPad, Garage Band and Meteor Mic is probably the best portable podcasting setup I’ve ever used.
Below is a comparison of the Samson Meteor Mic and the IK Multimedia iRig Mic. Although the sound level was a bit higher with the iRig Mic, it also sounded more harsh to my ears than the Samson Mic (Flash required).

Conclusion

The Samson Meteor Mic is a solid portable USB studio microphone from a company with an established history — 30 years of wireless mics used for live performances, and 6 years of USB mics. I frankly didn’t expect much of this microphone, but found it to be superior in sound quality to the much-touted Yeti mic at the same price point. The Meteor Mic is such a pleasant surprise that I’m seriously considering using it for my podcasting work. It’s small, unobtrusive, well-designed, and does an awesome job of recording sound in a lifelike manner. Anyone looking for a good-quality USB microphone for Mac or iPad should put the Meteor Mic on the top of their wish list.