A smart retro-look microphone for gaming or conferencing -- MXL AC-404-LED [Review]

MXL AC-404 microphone

We are increasingly using our PCs for communication, whether it's making Skype calls or just chatting to other online gamers.

But while laptops and some monitors have built in microphones they are not always ideally located or the best quality.

If you are serious about the fidelity of your conference calls or whatever then you need to add an external microphone. The MXL AC-404-LED connects to a USB port, it has a pleasingly retro design and it feels nicely weighty thanks to its metal case. There's a soft, rubbery coating on the base so it isn't going to slide around on your desk or scratch your table top. When you switch it on you'll also find that it has an LED light around the edge.

In the box you get the microphone, a standard USB 2.0 cable, a cleaning cloth and a small Philips screwdriver -- more of which later. The mic has a headphone jack, allowing you to use it as an output as well as an input device. Setup is simple enough, you just plug it into a spare USB port and select it as your default audio device in Windows or macOS.

MXL AC-404 port detail

When you first power it up the LEDs cycle through red, green and blue. You can select the color you want in normal use by turning a small screw on the bottom -- this is where the supplied screwdriver comes in. You can choose between white, yellow, red, green, blue, purple or pink and there's an auto setting that selects the color at random.

In use it captures good, clear audio, the AC-404 is designed to have a wide pickup pattern and a 25 foot range, so it's ideal for conference calls if you have a number of people around a table. Top marks here too for providing a decent length USB cable -- around two meters -- so you can easily use it with a PC that's on the floor under the desk, or place it in the middle of a big boardroom table.

At $79 the AC-404-LED isn't exactly cheap, but it is a good quality microphone and has a solidity that suggests it will last a long time. If you can live without the LED element there's a version without it for around $20 less.

More details are on the MXL website and you can buy one from Amazon.

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