Left in the pandemic’s wake is a hungry and growing audience of media consumers. Small-time content creators like myself have successfully tapped into this market by streaming games, hosting podcasts and creating videos. While a solid webcam is only part of the equation to expanding viewership, you’ll never grab an audience’s attention in the first place if your content is riddled with crackly background noise-filled audio.
Tonor’s TC30 USB Condenser Microphone ($15 with code AGQDQ2DC; amazon.com) delivers a nearly flawless audio input capture that has become a pillar of my daily workflow. Its premium matte black travel-centric design — complete with detachable tripod and pop filter — easily gives the mic an appearance 10 times worth its cost. After seeing the device in Amazon’s third top-selling computer microphone slot and the thousands of positive authentic user reviews, I bit the bullet and bought it. After just two days with the TC30, I ordered a second TC30 to create a multi-mic setup. Yes, it’s that good.
Flash forward to a week of putting the microphone through its paces in different environments, and I’ve found it to be the perfect entry-level USB microphone. Hell, even intermediate content creators will want to check this out for an extra microphone in their production flow. Throw in the fact that the device improves work-from-home communications for crystal clear Zoom calls, and you’ll see why Tonor’s TC30 deserves a spot on your desk even if you aren’t necessarily looking to be the next great podcaster.
How does a $15 microphone compare to $100+ microphones?
Does the TC30 actually hold up to our picks for the best microphone? According to our testing rubric, in both sound clarity and noise isolation, the answer is a resounding yes. My vocals boomed with crystal clear sound after simply plugging in the USB cable. Noise isolation remained high despite distracting background noise, such as passing traffic outside my home office window or clanks of pans at my girlfriend’s parents’ house. While the microphone caught the clacks of my mechanical keyboard’s brown switches, they were quite dull despite being just inches below the mic. Crisp overall sound quality with minimal interference is possible in a microphone this affordable, thanks to smart engineering, quality build materials and multiple mounting options.
The included pop filter eliminates crackle and extends wide to ensure coverage from all directions. A hefty metal tripod sturdily hoists the microphone into the air without flinching. If you happen to have a scissor boom arm, you can disconnect the tripod and throw the mic onto that instead. Finally, an anti-vibration shock mount ensures pure sound capture by negating interference from background noises like keyboard strokes and accidental bumps into the microphone. These three accessories definitely don’t come standard on most microphones, even on more expensive options.
Compared to a category leader like the Blue Yeti, the out-of-the-box sound is admittedly hollow and could be a tinge louder. While it doesn’t sound as lifelike as the Yeti, some quick tweaks of your EQ and compression in a third-party recording software can help the sound approach the quality of true studio microphones. Unlike those microphones, the Tonor excludes onboard buttons, solely records in a cardioid format and lacks any companion software for audio adjustments.
Cardioid mode records audio directly in front of the microphone to capture richer sound at the cost of a realistic sound image. The Blue Yeti microphone not only includes a cardioid mode but also stereo mode, omnidirectional mode and bidirectional mode for a total of four diverse sound profiles. For those recording music or live events, this is the difference between sound reproduction surrounding you like you’re actually there versus a flatter, more direct tone.
Since the lack of buttons can be remedied by adjusting levels manually on your computer, these two caveats aren’t a major deal breaker. However, the microphone is locked to shooting audio solely in cardioid mode for a single voice. Musicians looking to record stereo acoustic sound or omnidirectional audio for a surrounding presence can pass on this microphone.
A booming versatile microphone that’s great for working from home
Between Zoom calls and Discord chats, my Tonor TC30 is constantly receiving love. As my daily driver, this microphone is what I use to chat during work, gaming sessions and group calls. Outside of communication and content creation, the microphone encouraged me to try new features like Windows dictation in addition to the Alexa app for PC. While the TC30 plays nice with both Mac and PC, it truly shines on a Windows machine.
With a simultaneous press of the Windows and H key, I began dictating articles with utmost precision. While I’ve dictated Google Docs in the past, I’ve never had a more accurate translation experience than with the TC30. Watching my thoughts translate to text in real time with virtually flawless accuracy was one benefit I wouldn’t have anticipated from this device.
As for commands, my laptop is hands-free-ready and equipped with Amazon’s Alexa virtual assistant. While my Facebook Portal (running Alexa) is quick to turn on lights or set a timer, requesting specific songs or unlocking my smart lock using a voice code is normally a headache that requires at least two attempts. Using the Tonor to direct Alexa from my PC was absolutely painless. Whether I asked Alexa to play Drake’s “What’s Next” or unlock the door for my friend, my responses were met by action immediately. Pairing commands and dictations boosted my daily productivity by reducing time spent typing or repeating phrases to finicky smart assistants.
Tonor’s TC30 is a basic USB Type-A condenser microphone that’s of surprising quality with a price tag of just $15. Its phenomenal sound out of the box and portable body make it highly recommended for beginner to intermediate users. It even comes with an outstanding two-year warranty. Audiophiles will definitely have some nitpicks, however.
Sound reproduction is rich but not completely lifelike, and the device lacks both physical buttons and recording modes for musicians looking to capture a scene or acoustic audio.
For everyone else looking to improve the way they sound without spending three figures on a more premium pick like our recommended $129 Blue Yeti or $159 Elgato Wave 3, this is one of the best microphones you can get. This becomes even truer once you realize that the whole setup costs about the same as a single lunch special!