Turtle Beach has dominated the world of gaming headsets for some time now, but in recent months, the company has been angling to make a more fully-fledged run at another audio market – that of high-end microphones. It’s a natural expansion, and one that of course fits well with the streaming ambitions of many gamers.
For Turtle Beach, key to this expansion is a sub-brand; Neat Microphones. Neat is its own company, but is owned by Turtle Beach, and there’s undoubtedly some technology and knowledge crossover between the two. Neat has been around for a little while, but just made its European debut with a small selection of microphone products a few months ago.
My first brush with Neat is the Bumblebee 2, a surprisingly compact little desktop USB microphone that nevertheless packs a pretty impressive punch for its size and price bracket. Here’s the key stats to be aware of:
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
- Bit Depth/Sample Rate: 244 Bit / 96kHz
- Dynamic Range: 98dB
- Weight: 400g
- Connector: USB-C (USB-C to USB-A adapter included)
- Price: $99.99 / £89.99
The idea behind this device, as far as I can tell, is to offer a relatively simple do-everything solution for those who might want a mic but also don’t feel devoted enough to the idea to break the bank. It’s a jack of all trades and therefore a master of none, but it handled pretty much every task I threw at it quite admirably - and most importantly at a reasonable price.
It’s suitable for recording music, for instance - so if you want to whip out a guitar, sing into it, or even croon on a sax into it (I tested the first two of these, but not the third), the Bumblebee 2’s got the guts to tackle it. Indeed, the fairly detailed and well-written manual that comes in the box even features tips and tricks for exactly how to position and configure the mic for a range of instruments. The same is true for if you plan to podcast, or even just use it for Zoom calls. The tips are there to help you make the most out of it – but what actually matters is that this little mic has the oomph to make it work and give you the ability to configure it to work well.
In practical terms, the Bumblebee 2 really slims things down,for better or worse. The Mic only has two buttons, for instance – one a mute, and the other a ‘catch-all’ button and dial that can be used to adjust things like mic gain, as well as playback volume and mix balance if you’re using the built-in headphone jack to monitor your audio.
The way this works is simple enough; a ring of LED light surrounds that main button, and when you press the button, the light changes color. When the light is yellow, the dial changes the playback volume. If it’s blue, you’re adjusting the gain. Green means you’re adjusting the mix balance. It’s simple enough, but initially a little bit of a pain; you have to remember what each color means quickly in order to reconfigure on the fly. With that said, a physical button and dial for messing with gain and balance is far preferable to some cumbersome PC software. In fact, that’s another bonus: The Bumblebee doesn’t have any dumb propriatery app. Plug it in via the included USB-C (mic end) to USB-A adapter, and then use the physical buttons. Perfect.
Another touch I appreciate is that the main mute button also has a clear indicator LED that goes red when you’re muted. I welcome this as I never really truly trust the mute buttons on Discord, Teams, Zoom, and what have you. I much prefer a physical, hardware-side mute – and the Bumblebee 2 has it.
I wouldn’t want to just carelessly toss it into a bag, but the Bumblebee 2 feels generally rather sturdy – though it is particularly light, which does make me wonder how it’ll stand up to real abuse. It comes with a desktop stand attached, but you can jettison that in favor of a boom arm or the like if you prefer. The detachable stand is probably the cheapest-feeling bit of the product with a mostly plastic construction. If this were to become my main mic, I’d pretty quickly be ditching that stand in favor of a desk boom anyway. The design of the mic itself isn’t anything radical, but it’s also so compact as to be entirely inoffensive when sitting on your desktop – which is more than be said for some of its more outlandish peers.
Would I use it as my main microphone? Should you? Well, it all depends on your price bracket. But from my time testing the Bumblebee 2, I do think it’s absolutely appropriate as a starter mic for anybody looking to pick up a versatile USB mic that could be used for streaming, gaming, work, or music. Versatile is the key word there – as versatility is not something that comes particularly easy within this sort of price range. Usually you can get a mic that is decent at just one thing, and naff at others. That isn’t the case here.
I hopped on to record a recent episode of the VG247 Best Games Ever Podcast while using the Bumblebee 2, and while my colleagues did notice I was using a different mic and commented that I didn’t sound quite as good as I usually do, there’s an important caveat here: the mic I usually rock, the Rode NT-USB, is three times the price of this humble offering from Neat Microphones. That it gets so close is impressive; $99 for a 96KHz sample rate is particularly so. It’s unlikely to set the world on fire, but it’s also an easy recommendation for those squarely in its target audience.
Curious what our teasm uses day-to-day? Check out the VG247 Gear List, listing all of our favorite hardware.