In the world of streaming, gameplay is only half the game. You also need great audio if you want to stand out, but even that may not be enough. Recently, Razer unveiled the Razer Seiren Emote (see it at Amazon), a condenser streaming mic with a built-in LED grid that displays animations for your stream. It’s made a number of other improvements from the original Seiren X, but does the LED grid and new hypercardioid pattern justify the $179 cost?
Razer Seiren Emote – Design and Features
By appearances, the Seiren Emote is nearly identical to the Seiren X. The design remains simple with only a mute button and volume knob on the mic’s face. The look is enhanced with glossy rings above and below the grille protecting the capsule. Apart from the stand, the grille is the only part of the microphone that’s not plastic, which is surprising at this price. The Audio-Technica AT2020USB and Blue Yeti are both cheaper and feature durable metal frames which makes the Emote feel cheap in comparison.
Moving downward, the bottom of the mic features a headphone jack for zero-latency monitoring. The Emote also acts as a sound card and passes through all of your PC audio while streaming. It works great for keeping an ear on your levels but since there is no gain or sidetone control, I was forced to alt+tab out of my game whenever I had to make an adjustment.
The stand has been improved from its predecessor and now gives the much-needed option for more height. It features a tiltable ball-head for adjusting to the proper angle and you can attach a 1 ¼ inch adapter or a five-inch gooseneck. Each piece is metal and solidly built but the base is too small for big adjustments. Tilting the ball-head and adjusting the gooseneck more than a touch in that direction causes it to tip, so there are no hard angles here. Thankfully, the ball-head provides a plentiful amount of adjustment on its own and should suit most streamers.
Despite featuring a foam pad on its bottom, the base also falls short in isolating the mic from noise traveling through your desk. Setting a drink down comes through loud and clear. I found the Emote best suited for use on a boom arm where it can be isolated from these sounds and better positioned near your mouth where it also sounds the best. The gooseneck is definitely an improvement from the X in terms of positioning, but I still had to lean over to get the best capture from it.
The big selling point of the Emote is the LED array behind the rear grille. It’s made up of an 8-by-8 grid, essentially giving it an 8-bit, pixel art aesthetic. Using Razer’s Streamer Companion App, you can link the Emote to your Twitch or Mixer account, allowing it to automatically display graphics based on stream events. These are completely customizable based on the event, so if you earn a new subscriber you can choose exactly what’s displayed. In my case, I might choose to make it display the “fire” icon. You can also configure these to react to chat emotes, giving a layer of interactivity
There are dozens of emotes to choose from. A good number of them animate, too, like the scrolling “LET’S GO” text. The Streamer Companion App also gives you the ability to create your own emote or background icon that can display when an emote isn’t being displayed. You can even import custom GIFs, provided they’re only 8 by 8-pixels. With a quick Google Image search, I was able to find and import a neat candle-flame GIF, shrink it down in Photoshop, and make my Emote flicker with a custom fire animation.
All that said, the Emote suffers from some critical limitations. The worst of these is that the colors just aren’t very good. Reds often look pink and yellows are tinted green. At the moment, the software doesn’t allow you to create your own animations, just static pictures, and shrinking a GIF to 8×8 often makes it too blurry to use. The mic also sat too low to easily get in frame in my normal desk setup. Even if it didn’t, your graphic may be hard to make out if your facecam is in the corner like most streamers. Mounting it on an arm is a solution but only if you keep the mic vertical. Otherwise, you’re stuck using sideways emotes or having to go through and rotate every emote you plan to use.
The 8-bit display is a cool idea in theory, but in practice, I’m left to wonder who the Emote is actually for. Traditional stream graphics are clearer, higher resolution and can accomplish the same sort of reactions, emotions, and viewer interactions for much less money.
Razer Seiren Emote – Performance
In terms of actual vocal capture, the Seiren Emote is a big improvement over the Seiren X. Whether I was using the built-in VOIP in Apex Legends or chatting with friends over Discord, I was consistently heard and understood. For most of my side-by-side testing, I ran sample recordings in Audacity and listened back to hear the quality coming from the mic itself, without any compression from being sent over the internet.
It’s clear that Razer tuned the new Seiren to provide a fuller, more natural sound this time around. Compared side by side with my HyperX Quadcast, it features the same full low-end that adds bass and presence to your broadcast. Likewise, the mids and highs are also well represented and made my voice sound crisp without being sharp. In fact, compared to my tried-and-true Blue Yeti, the Seiren Emote sounds more natural because of that response curve.
Spec-wise, it’s very similar to the Seiren X. Both mics feature the same 16-bit bit depth and 44.1/48 kHz sample rate. In simple terms, these ratings are a bit like the resolution on a display. The higher the bit depth and sample rate, the high resolution the audio becomes. Compared to other mics in this price range, it’s wholly standard except for the slightly more constrained frequency response range of 100 Hz – 20 kHz, which has no meaningful effect on vocal capture.
More important is the polar pattern and how Razer has tuned the actual condenser microphone capsule. Unlike the Razer Seiren X, the Emote features a hyper-cardioid polar pattern, which means it focuses in on a tighter, heart-shaped region in front of the mic and tries to block out off-axis noise. Back to back tests show the recording region feels about the same, but off-axis rejection is much better. Positioning the mic in front of your clacky mechanical keyboard will actually quiet it down for your viewers with the Emote. The noise floor has also been improved, so white noise is less audible during quiet moments on your stream.
What I most appreciate is just how well-rounded the Emote is compared to the X. The prior Seiren sounded thinner in the low end and S-sounds often had an unpleasant sharpness to them. In short, it sounded like the entry-level mic it clearly was. The Emote nicely rounds out that sharpness and widens the low end for a much more broadcast-worthy presentation.
The Emote also sounds much better over distance. Using it close to your mouth is still the best way to get a great sound thanks to the proximity effect, but if that’s not possible, you can easily use it set back on your desk with just a bit of extra gain. Unlike many mics at this price range, it doesn’t lose its body until it’s a good couple feet away, which is impressive.
The Razer Seiren Emote has an MSRP of $179 but you can find it going for $160 at Amazon.
This article was originally published by IGN.COM