Probably The Best Budget Mic Available
I just spent some time with the Tonor TC-777 USB microphone. This is designed to improve the quality of your audio for gaming, online chatting, vocal recording, streaming, YouTube video, Skype, Zoom, etc.
Being a USB microphone, this just plugs straight into a USB port on your computer and it's ready to go. So the first thing I did was plug the USB cable in and check my Windows 10 Audio settings to make sure it was seeing the new mic. Yup. It was right there under "USB PnP Audio Device." This was not quite what the manual said would be there, which was "Tonor TC-777 Audio Device." But that's a minor quibble. It still worked well as a plug-and-play setup.
This mic is a small-to-medium diaphragm (9.5mm) condenser with a cardioid pickup pattern. That means it is most sensitive right in front of the mic and rejects sound from behind it. For more on mic patterns, see my article Directional and Omnidirectional Microphones - What Are They Good For?
What is a USB Microphone?
A microphone that can plug straight into a USB port onto your computer without the need for a separate interface unit can give you the best bang for your buck. The mic preamplifier and analog-to-digital converters that interface units provide are built right into the microphone. For more detail on USB mics, see my article USB Mic Versus Condenser Mic And Interface For Home Recording.
You can get a very good quality USB mic for under $100. My favorite continues to be the Samson C01U (Amazon/B&H), which I used as a comparison in my review of the Tonor. You can hear all the audio samples below.
The problem with USB mics is usually the noise. There is almost always a steady hiss that is pretty prominent in a USB mic. Though this has gotten much better in the past few years.
Also, because the manufacturers have to fit a converter and a preamplifier inside the small space of a microphone, the quality is pretty limited compared to a standard microphone plugged into an interface.
By contrast, with a standard microphone/interface setup, you will need to pay at least in the neighborhood of $200 at the low end. An entry-level standard condenser mic can be had for close to $100. And a decent interface with just one microphone input will also run you close to $100.
So you can see the appeal of a USB microphone that sounds really good. Like I said - best bang for your audio buck.
So what about the Tonor TC-777?
Okay I'll sum it up first and then get into some details. I don't think you'll find any better USB microphone for the almost unbelievable price of the Tonor TC-777 - $40. Is it worth that price. Oh yes. It definitely is.
Now for the details. The box is very professional and slick. I did a video of my "unboxing" of it below.
In the box you get more accessories than I've ever gotten with any microphone at any price range. Usually, after you buy a microphone, you will need to buy a pop filter at the very least. And these usually run between $15 and $20. But the Tonor comes WITH a pop filter!
When you open the box, you'll find the mic already nestled into a shock mount, which is something else you have to buy separately for about 90% of mics out there. The mount has 7-inch flexible goose neck for the pop filter already attached. All you need to do is screw the filter onto the goose neck and you're ready to go! The above accessories are connected to a tripod desk stand with rubber feet.
And ALL of that is put together already in the box. Pretty slick, and definitely unique in my experience.
So how did it sound?
At first there was quite a bit of static-type noise. but it turns out that was because one of the 2 computer monitors I have hooked up is an old (like 20 years old!) style tube monitor. As soon as I switched that monitor off, the noise went away almost completely. So as long as you don't have a 20 year old monitor near the Tonor, you'll be fine.
I was really impressed with how little noise there was! Even my "good" USB mic (Samson C01U) has quite a bit more noise than the Tonor. Though the Samson is going on 10 years old and I think the newer ones have much less noise. Anyway...
Here is the audio of JUST the noise from the Tonor. You'll want to put on headphones to hear these noise samples.
The closest competitor I have to compare the Tonor with is my Samson Q2U USB mic (Amazon/B&H), which is a dynamic mic. By contrast the Tonor is a condenser. What is the difference? In general, condensers are good at picking up more nuance and detail than a dynamic mic. That is a huge simplification though. For more on the differences, see my article Condenser vs Dynamic Microphone: What Is The Difference?
The Samson Q2U is $59. Take a listen to just the noise from the Samson Q2U below. But I can save you the trouble. It is almost exactly the same low level as the Tonor.
I used a third mic in this comparison - the one I mentioned above - the Samson C01U. This mic costs about $90, which more than double what the Tonor costs. So keep that in mind.
Below is just the noise from the C01U. Though as I said earlier, the newer model of this mic is much quieter. Interestingly, the noise from this more expensive mic is quite a bit louder than either of the other two. Take a listen.
The noise level of all three mics is low and consistent (just a steady hiss) enough that the noise reduction effect in any software can easily get rid of it without affecting the rest of the audio.
A big part of audio quality is noise. And with such a low and consistent level of self-noise from the Tonor, that isn't an issue. As I mentioned, noise reduction in Audacity took care of it without affecting the quality of the rest of the audio.
Another aspect of audio quality - probably the biggest one - is how rich and full the audio sounds. It's hard to describe in words, which is why I have samples here to listen to. But basically, the more the audio covers the range of frequencies from 20-20,000 Hz (the range of human hearing), the more depth and detail you'll hear.
Before I pass any judgement, I want you to hear the audio for yourself.
I read a bit of text for each of the three mics to give you and idea of how the mics actually sound without your having to decipher my "wine words" like thin or thick or rich.
Also, I did no editing other than noise reduction. I left the p-pops (plosives) in the recordings on purpose, so you get an unvarnished version of each audio. Yes, even with a pop filter, some plosives on my voice still get through. I must just have a poppy mouth :-P.
I recorded all three voiceovers in the same room with my mouth the same distance from the mic - about 4-5 inches. And I used the same pop filter for each mic - the one that comes with the Tonor. I recommend using headphones to listen to the samples below to hear the detail.
Below is how the Tonor sounds:
Next is the Samson Q2U, which cost almost $20 more than the Tonor.
Finally is the Samson C01U, which costs $50 more than the Tonor!
Let me just remind you that the Tonor TC-777 costs only $40. I would say that for that price range, the audio quality was pretty darned good. It has good clarity and is definitely much better than using the built-n mics on Bluetooth earbuds, which are so common for live streaming these days.
It sounds just a bit thin to me, lacking in some of the lower frequencies compared to the other two mics. But then - though all three mics are under $100, the Tonor is $20 less expensive than the Samson Q2U and $50 less expensive than the C01U.
And not surprisingly, as you go from the Tonor to the Q2U, and then to the C01U, the thing that stands out most is that the deeper, lower frequencies become more prominent.
Overall, I'd say that if you are looking to make a large improvement in audio quality for the lowest possible budget, then the Tonor TC-777 is a great choice! I'm going to start recommending it as the "first" jump up from plastic PC mics or webcam mics, etc.
You can get your own Tonor TC-777 at Amazon by clicking here.