Neat Skyline Review (Page 3 of 4)

Page 3 - Recording Performance Tests

While a typical user may not always need a dedicated microphone, there are use cases for one, especially as working from home becomes more of a norm across industries. In addition, dedicated studio-grade microphones are often the audio input of choice for content creators, streamers, and gaming enthusiasts. We have tested microphones in various contexts in the past, and the result has ranged from barely usable to surprisingly clear. While we could just sit and say, "Yep, it picked up my voice loud and clear, 10/10", there are some audio tests we can do to see how it actually performs. Furthermore, we can also test various use cases for a microphone, whether it means speaking for recording podcasts or instruments and singing for music recording. A single product may not work for every situation, but this will be a demonstration of the Neat Skyline's capabilities.

As mentioned in this review previously, the Neat Skyline captures with a polar cardioid pattern. This means the sound picked up is the most natural from the front of the microphone and captures audio at the loudest amplitude. As you go from left to right, you also will not notice any left-right shift because, while it captures both left and right channels, it is the same amplitude between the two channels. When we move around the Neat Skyline, you can hear the off-axis pickup. Off-axis pickup is related to the type of pickup pattern, as it shows how the microphone deals with sounds that are not directly facing the diaphragm and if there are any distortion or changes in the captured sounds. Generally, the recorded audio from the sides of the microphone sounded a bit hollow or shielded from the sides and muted from the back. This was not surprising and mirrored what I would expect from a typical cardioid effect.

As for the more technical tests, you can hear how the Neat Skyline handles plosive and background noises. Plosive sounds traditionally refer to a speech sound where the vocal tract is blocked and airflow stops right before the pronunciation of these sounds. If you try making sounds like p, k, t, d, b, or g, you will notice right before you say these letters, your airflow will have stopped. Afterwards, this produces a "puff" or immediate contrast in air pressure. When it comes to microphones, this air pressure change can result in an unpleasant sound. As for background noises, this is affected by the pickup pattern of the microphone as well as the off-axis capturing behavior.

In terms of plosives, the Neat Skyline recorded a couple "p" sounds that popped and distorted in our test. Neat does suggest users keep a bit more of a distance away from the microphone and these tests were a bit closer than its intended use case, but I think it is still important to test at different extremes. Even so, most of the plosives were handled well. It would still be helpful for Neat to provide a bit more of a muffler to prevent these noises from becoming too harsh, but it is alright for this price point. As for the background noises, this condenser microphone easily picked up background noises, which is not too surprising. This can make it a bit more distracting in gaming situations, as the Skyline will hear sounds like mouse clicks and keyboard presses. The purpose of the Skyline is meant for teleconferencing and meetings, so this behavior is understandable.

As with all recordings, a good microphone should capture the source in a natural way. I recorded a reading of the Neat Skyline's retail box description for some spoken word comment. The second and third recordings were of me strumming on an acoustic guitar, then overlaying the recording with me singing into the Neat Skyline. For the spoken word test, you could hear all of my different speaking articulations while reading out the box information. The sound was natural and clean, with no distortion or strange effects applied. My voice is in the baritone range and often microphones may cut off at the bottom due to a limited frequency range. Thankfully, this was not the case for the Neat Skyline, as my voice sounded natural and full-range. It also captured me without any nasally qualities you might hear from gaming headsets. I also ended up using the Neat Skyline in a Zoom meeting with multiple people in the room, and I was happy to see a single microphone pick up multiple people with clarity.

With respect to the music and singing recordings, I placed the microphone close to the sound hole on my guitar. These natural qualities heard in the spoken word test translated to a clean pick up of my acoustic guitar. Unfortunately, there are no other mounting options for the Neat Skyline, so it was a bit difficult to orient the microphone in an ideal way, but at least the recorded sound was not negatively affected, and the sound was clean. As for my singing, other than my own lack of tuning and slight voice cracks, the Neat Skyline did not get overwhelmed. For a conferencing microphone, I am happy to report the Neat Skyline was quite usable for other applications, as demonstrated here.

As for the song, if you are interested, I have put the lyrics below for your perusal or to sing along with me:

I've been speaking at the edge of my table
Long as I was able, never really knowing why
I wish I had the perfect mic
but I come back to my table, still having the same cry
Everything I say, conference meetings too
Every word I tell, or my calls with you
To my audience, or my acquaintance
Where I can be heard

Neat Skyline, where my voice meets the mic, I call thee,
Few people know, this microphone,
If my mouth speaks the words that they hear, it is clear
Then they will know, this microphone is just how they will know

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Recording Performance Tests
4. Conclusion