Samson Q9U – Design and Features
If the Shure SM7B and Electro-Voice RE-20 had a baby, it might look something like this. The Samson Q9U is a big, bold broadcast microphone that takes clear inspiration from the classics and would look right at home in a radio studio. It features a large cylindrical design and heavily vented capsule, ultimately culminating in an end-address design. Unlike popular streaming mics like the Blue Yeti or HyperX QuadCast, you talk right into the end of it instead of the side, which can sometimes be confusing for audio newcomers. Looks only go so far in the recording world but they do count for something when streaming, and this definitely stands out from the pack with that professional “radio mic” look.Like the company’s last big mic release, the G-Track Pro, the Q9U features a robust, all-metal design. It feels exceptionally durable but is equally heavy, making even the Blue Yeti feel like a featherweight in comparison. It comes in at 2.2 pounds, and cheaper boom arms will struggle to hold it upright. Even my Tonor T30, one of the sturdier sub-$50 boom arms out there, had to be tightened near the max to keep from sagging. You’ll need that boom arm or desk stand too because there’s none included in the box. Instead, the Q9U ships with a pre-installed u-bracket that connects to whatever mount style you have to use it with. Given the weight and cost of the mic, I would have liked to have seen a simple desk stand included in the box. It does ship with a nice foam windscreen, however.The Q9U is a dynamic microphone, which is an entirely different design than the more common condenser microphones that make up the most popular streaming options. Dynamic mics don’t have the same wide frequency response as condensers, leading to slightly more compressed tone. That doesn’t mean they sound bad, however. The SM7B and RE-20 are both incredibly popular dynamic microphones used by streamers, podcasters, and voice over artists around the world. In fact, many people like them better for spoken word and find they offer a richer tone than a condenser can offer. As always with microphones, it comes down to personal preference and use-case.
As a dynamic mic, the Q9U offers some major usability benefits versus traditional condensers. Dynamic mics are far less sensitive, which means they pick up less environmental noise. The sounds of your clacky mechanical gaming keyboard will be much quieter when using the Q9U versus the Blue Yeti at equal volumes. Because of that, they’re also better for rooms that haven’t been sound treated as reverberations off walls and hardwoods won’t make their way back into the mic as easily. They’re also a better fit for creators that share their space. As a father of four kids under eight, my house is a perpetual noise machine which makes condensers virtually unusable. The Q9U is much more usable in a noisy environment.
The “by the numbers” recording quality is very good. It can record at 24-bit/96kHz, which is far beyond the level necessary for professional streaming. In fact, this lends it the potential for home recording and amateur voice over work. The capsule only records in a cardioid polar pattern, or directly in front of the mic, so it won’t work for an across the table interviews or recording a whole room. Anything in front of it can be captured at a level compatible with the rates of even professional recording studios.
The Q9U is a hybrid mic, offering both XLR and USB connections so you won’t need an expensive interface to run it. That said, the fact that it offers both connection types is a big asset because it allows it to grow with your setup over time. A USB mic can’t easily interface with more than a single PC, but the Q9U can be dropped into much more professional setups with only a change of cable. That also makes the $199 price point a bit more reasonable since you won’t have to replace the mic if you decide to make upgrades.
The Q9U also has a pair of switches for some hardware-level EQ and noise control. On the cylinder of the mic is a mute button (not backlit, which was a problem at times) but on the rear are two switches to boost the mids and roll off the lowest frequencies it captures. The bass roll off is useful if you want to cut down on some of the boominess in your voice or eliminate low frequency room noise. The mid boost, on the other hand, elevates a band of frequencies common to spoken word and can lend your voice added presence and, in my case, a dose of extra crispness. Together, these two switches allow you to dial in your recording more than most microphones with a USB option.
Next to these switches is a zero-latency monitoring jack for plugging in a pair of headphones. When connected over USB, the Q9U acts as a sound card routing all of your PC audio through the microphone and into your headset. It also allows you to monitor your recording in real time, which is useful for keeping an eye on your levels.
Samson Q9U – Performance
Recordings with the Q9U are crisp and detailed. Compared to my Blue Yeti, I found that my voice sounded slightly more boxy but also more deep and full. I don’t have a traditional radio voice but the Q9U gave my words a dose of warmth and resonance that I could previously only achieve through extreme closeness to the Yeti (terrible microphone technique). The mids in my voice also took on a bit more of an edge. When talking to friends over Discord, everyone reported that I sounded crystal clear. When I used it on a video call at work, everyone reported that I looked like a disc jockey playing the hits. Definite DJ vibes through and through with the Q9U.
If you do plan to connect it through an interface, you’ll need a powerful one. The Q9U shares another trait with the SM7B: it needs a lot of power. My Behringer UMC202HD had to be turned up over 90% to achieve a usable volume, topping both the Shure MV7 and Rode Podcaster dynamic mics. Pushing an interface that high can introduce unwanted noise, so short of a high-gain interface or GoXLR, investing in a Cloudlifter may be necessary. USB, on the other hand, goes the opposite way and has lots of headroom, so this is only a concern for XLR connections.
The Q9U’s biggest competitor is the Shure MV7 which launched late last year. The MV7 retails for $50 more but is a similarly hybrid XLR/USB dynamic microphone. The MV7 does offer some expanded features, such as automatic gain control and a companion app, but also lacks hardware switches and requires that app for full functionality. Compared side by side, the Q9U sounded close but not quite as good as the MV7. The Shure offered slightly less compression and a more natural sound overall. Without a side by side comparison, however, most listeners would be hard pressed to tell the difference. Both microphones offer a deep, crisp sound that is well-suited to vocal capture.
The Q9U might be a good value for the money but it did offer some frustrations. The lack of backlight on the mute button made it hard to tell when I was muted or not if I took off my headphones. Likewise, while the mic has EQ controls, it doesn’t have any way to control the actual mic or sound levels from Windows. All of that is done through the operating system, which can be a bit of a pain if you’re mid-game and want to make an adjustment.
Best Gaming Headsets