Earthworks ICON USB Microphone Review: Is It Worth Buying?
EARTHWORKS ICON USB MICROPHONE REVIEW.
After coming away thoroughly impressed by the Earthworks Ethos microphone that I reviewed over on GameRevolution, after which it became my daily driver for all of my recording needs, I was very eager to try Earthworks’ USB flagship, which has a wider range of compatibility including consoles like the PS5 and PS4. Does it deliver sound worthy of the high price tag? Here is my Earthworks ICON USB microphone review.
Stainless steeling the show
It’s clear that Earthworks knows the value of making a good first impression. The premium packaging invites you in and the welcome message on the inside of the box is a lovely touch. However, it’s the microphone that earns the first gasp of pleasant surprise with its stainless steel construction and considerable weight. It’s small yet substantial. The ICON USB is damn good-looking with a timeless design that will look the business at anyone’s workspace or gaming setup.
The ICON USB comes with a little stand in the box. While this stand isn’t very impressive or useful, the Triad-Orbit M2-R ball mount is pure genius. This little ball mount allows for advanced flexibility unlike anything I’ve seen before. Though the provided stand is only really good for traveling, the ball mount is something that you’ll want to use everywhere.
The old familiar
The rear of the microphone is home to a gain knob, 3.5 mm jack for headphones, and a Micro-USB port. That latter spec might be jarring to some of you, as I was also surprised to see Micro-USB on a modern, premium device like this.
Connecting the ICON USB up and readying it to record is as simple as plugging it in with the provided USB cable. From there, connected devices will see it as an input for the microphone and an output for audio through the headphone jack. I tested this microphone with my PC and PS5.
Impressive out-of-the-box sound
Right out of the gate, I was impressed with just how good the ICON USB sounds. Its out-of-the-box sound is undoubtedly top tier for a USB microphone. I was immediately surprised at how the mic handled the low end of my voice, which is usually too boomy, with the mids and highs also coming through nicely. It’s similar to the boost in presence that I normally add with EQ, but that isn’t necessary here. I think it fulfills Earthworks’ promise of “sounds like life” but with a subtle bit of sheen that makes for a very pleasing overall sound.
It’s very rare that I’ll hear an out-of-the-mic sound and not immediately want to touch it up with some EQ for boosts and cuts. Earthworks is going for simplicity here and it doesn’t come with any major compromises… Well, maybe there is one: no built-in microphone monitoring.
Maybe I’m just used to other microphones that have a headphone jack providing built-in monitoring, but I found it jarring when I plugged in the ICON USB and couldn’t immediately hear myself. I consider microphone monitoring a must-have even in casual use, so it’s disappointing to not see the feature here. Now, there is a workaround on PC that can result in low-latency monitoring, but it goes against the whole plug-and-play nature of this device.
As for console users, I’ve found no way of making it work. PS5 won’t playback microphone audio when in-game, so users are essentially deaf to how they sound, which is particularly problematic when using closed-back headphones, as most gamers tend to do.
Little light show
Though you can’t hear yourself by just plugging in headphones, you can at least see whether or not you’re transmitting thanks to a little light indicator. This light also tells you if you’re on mute, a function that is activated by pushing the gain knob. I’m usually not a fan of knobs like this having additional functions, as an attempt to mute could result in accidentally bumping up the gain, but I didn’t experience that issue with the ICON USB, as the knob requires a bit more force to twist.
Earthworks ICON USB Microphone Review: The final verdict
At $349, the Earthworks ICON USB is definitely up there when it comes to the price for a USB mic. After all, my usual USB mic recommendations of the HyperX QuadCast S and Elgato Wave 3 both come in at under half the price of Earthworks offering. However, those mics don’t boast the same high-quality build and aesthetic as the ICON USB.
For the premium price, users are getting top-tier plug-and-play sound without the need to mess around with settings. It’s a simple product that achieves advanced quality and looks good doing it. If you’re hooked on the Earthworks aesthetic, but require a USB input, then the ICON USB is well worth considering, budget-permitting.
ICON USB microphone review unit was provided by Earthworks Audio.