Audio doesn’t get the attention that video does — so that also means video camcorders work their sleek lines and enhanced features to an appreciative crowd while microphones bite their lips and wish they didn’t still look like they were being used for 1940’s radio soap commercials. The basic black oblong shape of a mic hasn’t changed, even in an age where mobile tablets replace studio systems and laptops become portable audio mixers. But can you say “NEAT?” Or “A, B, C?” If so, then you already have a good idea why the NEAT Widget Desktop USB Microphone is going to stand out. Because it has the needed audio tech but goes off the line when it comes to design.
The physical shape of the NEAT Widget first: there’s three different models, all with the same electronics working inside, but a radically different appearance in what you can see. Widget A is green and straightforward in that the mic is being held by two vertical rods with a large green base at the bottom (plus highlights of yellow); Widget B changes that to red with a wrap around of the cord to create a swirling effect; Widget C having the mic stand out more via vents and encircled by blue.
Since there’s a USB 2.0 cable attached, that means that both power and data (in this case that’s audio) travel along the same cable and so plugs into a desktop or laptop. While not heavy by any means, the Widget is fairly large in size and so is not so much “portable” as able to be moved from one place to another indoors or outdoors if care is taken. And if some kind of protective case is used since NEAT Audio doesn’t provide one for the Widget as part of the $99.99 price tag.
Now for the audio that gets driven by the mic: the Widget uses a custom capsule (polar pattern: cardioid). This is surrounded by an integrated pop filter that’s internal so it won’t go flying away if used outside where the wind can really howl — a “pop” filter controls the vagaries of the air that impinge on a mic and cause unwanted frequency results (a.k.a. audio interference). The mount holding the capsule is designed to minimize vibrations and shock, specially the minute ones that occur just after adjusting a mic’s height (which can be done here since the stand is user adjustable).
The Widget is designated as “plug ‘n play” but a more realistic way to look at it is to say that both Windows and Mac OS X — the two main computer operating systems — will recognize when the Widget is plugged in. Then it’s jus a matter of accessing it via an application. NEAT Audio says that they use a proprietary design for the capsule, coupled with a circuit design that provides positive audio results. In use for video conferencing or recording notes, voices come through with a strong “punch” to them that makes for clarity and a sound fidelity. It’s absurd not to realize that the room or location doesn’t affect the sound quality, but in almost any realistic scenario, the Widget will perform better than just adequately at giving you audio playback that is understandable and similar to that which was spoken into it. This is due to the frequency range that the Widget possesses (20 Hz – 20 kHz) and able to record at up to 96kHz @ 24 bit.
The quality that the NEAT Widget Desktop USB Microphone provides is well worth the cost of getting it and well worth the time spent in using it too. Plus it looks so cool — how can you beat that?