This post is by Allan Tépper from ProVideo Coalition
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This is my review of the ≈US$100 Samson Q8X dynamic handheld, XLR vocal microphone, headless with the ≈ US$30 Shure presidential A81WS windscreen. Two details make the Samson Q8X unusual (although not unique) in its dynamic handheld category: It has a supercardioid pattern (not cardioid or omnidirectional) and it has a neodymium dynamic mic element. I’ll explain what that means, both technically and in practice (pros and potential cons), and I’ll include recording tests, including the general sound with vocals (male and female) and handling noise.
Why remove the head and add the A81WS?
Above, the Q8X as it arrives
the factory with the head still installed.
Just like its brother, the lower-priced (yet more versatile) ≈US$60 Samson Q2U which I reviewed back in March 2019, the higher-end ≈US$100 Samson Q8X (Amazon link) is equally vulnerable to plosives, even when addressing it at a 45-degree angle. That’s why I removed the head and added the ≈ US$30 Shure presidential A81WS windscreen (Amazon — B&H), to make it impopable, or impossible to pop.
Above, the Q8X with A81WS, the detached head to the right and all of its other included accessories.
Differences between these two Samson microphones
- The lower-priced Q2U includes a built-in preamp, A-to-D (analog digital converter), headphone jack and 3.5 mm TRS stereo headphone jack for monitoring, in addition to the XLR. The Q8x only has the XLR.
- While the Q2U has a standard cardioid pattern, the Q8X has a tighter supercardioid pattern, although has less rear rejection than than the Q2U. See ahead for details.
- The Q8X has a neodymium dynamic mic element, which means that it’s output level is a little higher versus than most other dynamic microphones that don’t have a neodymium dynamic mic element, so your preamp won’t have to work so hard and you won’t have to crank it up so much. However, both the Q2U and the Q8X are rated at -54 dB sensitivity. As pointed out by Bandrew of Podcastage, the use of a neodymium dynamic mic element can affect the frequency response. Changing the frequency response can be good or bad, so tell me how it sounds to you.
- The Q8X sounds a bit fuller to my ear.
- The Q8X does not have any on-off switch, which I love! I know: Some people love to have an on-off switch on a handheld microphone. In my experience, those pesky switches tend to get rubbed by mistake and turn off in the worst possible moments, so I prefer not to have them. The only exceptions I know so far are the AT2005USB (reviewed in many articles) and the Shure palindromic 545 microphone (reviewed here, illustrated below with a rare photo of the palindromic ABBA group using it). Both of those microphones have a mechanism to lock the switch to the ON position, and require a screwdriver to unlock it after locking it.
Q8X published specs
- Premium dynamic vocal microphone with exceptional mid-range clarity
- Neodymium dynamic mic element for wide dynamic range (see details ahead in this article)
- High output, low impedance design (see details ahead in this article)
- Supercardioid pickup pattern with excellent off-axis rejection (see details ahead in this article)
- High saturation level audio transformer rejects hum/noise
- Smooth, flat frequency response of 50Hz–16kHz
- Handles high SPLs of up to 150dB for close miking situations
- Improved pneumatic capsule shockmount minimizes handling noise (not enough in my test, as you’ll hear)
- Rugged die cast body, hardened steel grille
- Includes mic clip and zipper pouch
- Element: Dynamic
- Magnet structure: Neodymium
- Frequency Response: 50 Hz – 16 kHz (vocal range)
- Polar Pattern: Supercardioid (unidirectional)
- Impedance: 300 ohms balanced (low-Z)
- Sensitivity: -54 dBV/pa (2.5 mV/pa)
- Max SPL: 150 dB SPL
- Microphone Connector: 3-pin, XLR-type
- Polarity: Positive pressure on diaphragm causes positive voltage on pin 2 ref. Pin 3
- Accessories: Mic clip, zipper pouch
- Dimensions: 180mm x 54mm (7.09 x 2.125 inches)
- Weight: 0.44 kilogram (0.97 pound)
Frequency Response Graph:
Q8X vocal and handling tests
Both recordings were made at 48 kHz/24-bit mono, via the preamps built into the multifaceted RØDECaster Pro mixer/recorder (shown above, several articles, B&H link), which I have covered in several articles. The built-in recorder of the RØDECaster Pro was not used. Instead, I recorded it using Hindenburg Journalist Pro (see several articles). Both of the published files are 48 kHz uncompressed WAV files at 16-bit. Please listen with unmetered Internet.
Above, my (male) voice + handling test. Starting at 2:06, I disabled the compressor, gate and low cut/high pass filter in the RØDECaster Pro to hear the raw microphone. At the end, you’ll hear the handling test.
The ≈US$100 Samson 8X (Amazon link) sounds very good with both male and female voices, and seems somewhat fuller than its brother the Q2U. In both cases, removing the factory-installed head and adding the Shure A81WS windscreen makes them impopable, or impossible to pop. This is essential for close use, which is their sweet spot in terms of sound quality. Due to its tighter pickup pattern, the Samson Q8X can also isolate background sound better than the Q2U in some situations, although the Q8X’s mic/mouth position is more critical, and there is less rear rejection. I love the fact that there is no on/off switch in the Q8X, as explained earlier. The fact that the Q8X has only an XLR connection makes it ideal when more than one microphone is used, for example to a recorder, mixer or multi-input interface. I would say that the Q8X is among the best sounding microphones in the US$100 price range, fuller sounding as those which cost substantially less. The USB connection on its brother the Q2U is appropriate for direct connection to a conventional computer or mobile device. (The Q2U also has an XLR connection in addition to its USB, so it is very versatile.)
- Review: Samson Q2U headless mic with Shure A81WS presidential windscreen
- Review: RØDE Procaster dynamic cardioid studio microphone with WS2
- Monitoring challenges when using multiple digital USB mics simultaneously, illustrated below.
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