Here is my detailed review of the ≈US$200 Samson Q9U studio dynamic hybrid mic with the ≈US$20 Shure A7WS windscreen. In all of my history of reviewing microphones, this is the first time when more than a year has passed between the product’s announcement and its initial delivery. Samson first announced the Q9U at CES in January 2020. That’s the same month when I published my first look article about it. Ironically, I actually published reviews of two other Samson microphones between then and now: the Samson G-Track Pro and the Samson Satellite. Now I finally get to review the Samson Q9U. As I did in 2019 with the Samson Q2U and Q8X, I’m doing it with a third-party windscreen, although not the A81WS windscreen I used those two times, since the A81WS would never fit the Q9U. This time it’s the A7WS, which is actually a third lower in price than the A81WS. Ahead are my observations, screenshots, photos and audio recordings made with this interesting combination, both via XLR and USB.
As stated earlier, the Q9U has an XLR output and a USB-C. As a dynamic mic, the Q9U does not require any external power to be used with the XLR output. With the USB-C connection, Samson officially offers the Q9U to be compatible with iOS, macOS and Windows. All of my published test recordings you’ll hear ahead are made with a laptop running macOS Catalina 10.15. This applies to both the XLR recordings and the USB recordings. I also tested the Q9U with my current Chromebook and with my Android phone. Fortunately, the Q9U was properly recognized and made proper 48 kHz recordings in both the Chromebook and in the Android phone. I don’t know why Samson does not flaunt these important virtues.
- Element Type: Dynamic
- Frequency Response: 50Hz–20kHz
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Electromagnetic Hum Sensitivity (no weighting)
- 60 Hz: 24 dBSPL/mOe
- 500 Hz: 24 dBSPL/mOe
- 1 kHz: 27 dBSPL/mOe
- Impedance: 250Ω
- Sensitivity XLR: -57 dBV/Pa (1 kHz)
- Sensitivity USB: -16 dBFS/Pa (0 dB gain, 1 kHz)
- Max. SPL: >140 dBSPL
- Bit Depth/Sample Rate: 24-bit, up to 96 kHz (including 48 kHz, see details ahead)
- Digital Output: USB-C
- Headphone Output/Impedance: 3.5mm (⅛”) / 32Ω (usable only when connected via USB)
- Headphone Power Output: 38mW @ 32Ω
- Controls: Mute Switch (see details ahead), Low Cut Filter Switch, Mid Presence Boost Switch
- Body Construction / Grille: Zinc Alloy / Steel
- Accessories: 2m USB-C to USB-C cable, USB-C female to USB-A adapter, foam windscreen
- Microphone Dimensions: 178.5 mm x 60mm (diameter) (7″ x 2.4″)
- Weight: 0.97 kg (2.13 lb)
Available sampling rates and resolutions (USB mode)
I am happy with the variety of sampling rates and resolutions available in the Q9U, although I only tested using our standard 48 kHz/24-bit (see Enter the 48 kHz alliance).
The Q9U can sample to 96 kHz/ 24-bit. (96 is exactly 48×2.) I could only justify recording such a high sampling frequency for vocal recordings if you plan to use slow motion as you edit your audio recordings (or audio/video recordings). In addition to our standard 48 kHz and the whopping 96 khz, the Q9U also offers 44.1 kHz (which I would never use for the reasons stated in Enter the 48 kHz Alliance).
As I have covered in prior articles, to set your audio sampling on Android or iOS, simply select it in any of the recording apps that offer such an audio sampling selection (i.e. Auphonic, FiLMiC Pro, FV-5 Cinema) or use an app that uses 48 kHz exclusively, like the RØDE Reporter app. (Stay away from the native camera app or GarageBand, which only support 44.1 kHz, which is kryptonite for video production.)
On macOS, first select in the Audio MIDI Setup (illustrated above) and then in your desired recording app,
which must not be GarageBand. See my 2015 article 48 reasons why GarageBand is kryptonite for video production (illustrated above).
Bulletproof and strong latency-free monitoring (USB mode only)
The Q9U’s 3.5 mm jack for monitoring is designed to be used with either TRS stereo headphones… and even works properly with TRRS headphones with a microphone included. The Q9U is fortunately designed to ignore the microphone on a TRRS headset, if present, while outputting the latency-free audio.
I call it bulletproof since it solves the issue discussed in my 2015 article TS/TRS/TRRS/TRRRS: Combating the misconnection epidemic (illustrated above).
The same 3.5 mm jack also works just as well for playback monitoring (or listening to a remote guest or panelist), as long as your app and system are set to send audio playback to the Q9U. Unlike some other devices I have tested recently (which have a much weaker headphone amplifier), using my favorite CB-1 isolating headphones (which are rated at 32 ohms, reviewed here), the output level in my headphones fortunately was great even at about 60% when recording at -12 dB and setting the headphones. Since the headphone amplifier in the Q9U has headroom, even the popular Sony MDR-7506 headphone (which is rated at 63 ohms) should be fine. If you have extremely high-impedance headphones (I don’t), it may be a bit soft.
Mounting and shock sensitivity
The Q9U mounts via a ⅝” thread and that’s how I easily mounted it onto my PL-2T flexible arm. The official Q9 manual states:
“An internal air-pneumatic shock mount isolates the capsule from mechanical noise…”
However, as you’ll hear in my test recordings ahead, this seems to be an exaggeration. As a result, care should be taken to avoid touching the table, desk or boom arm while broadcasting or recording with the Q9U unless a compatible shockmount is added, assuming you can find one. If you do find one, it may make the use of the mute button (covered ahead) more difficult or impossible.
Built-in mute button (both USB and XLR modes)
The built-in mute button on the Q9U fortunately works well both with the USB and XLR modes. However, the user must be careful to avoid tapping on the microphone when pressing the button. The transition from unmuted to muted (and back) can be very clean if that is taken into consideration, as you’ll hear in my test recordings.
Rear connections and settings
5—Low Cut – When engaged, this slide switch will cut low frequencies by 3dB at 200Hz.
6—Mid – When this slide switch is engaged, you will hear a boosted midrange presence in your audio signal.
7—XLR – Male XLR connector used to send an analog output signal to a mixer or other input device that accepts mic level signal.
8—Headphone Output – Zero latency monitoring from 3.5mm (1/8”) headphone output jack (as described in detail earlier).
9—USB Connection – C size USB connector (as described in detail earlier).
How the Q9U introduces itself to the system (via USB)
Like a few other USB microphones I have tested previously, the Q9U always introduces itself to the system as a single channel (“mono”). I like this, because it saves a step when recording in a multitrack audio recording app (aka DAW) like Hindenburg Journalist Pro, which continues to be my favorite multitrack editing program for conventional computers (macOS and Windows) and I have reviewed or covered it in many past articles. Because the Q9U presents itself this way, we can save drive space and bandwidth when uploading a file without having to make a special adjustment in the recording app.
Above you’ll see how to do that in Hindenburg Journalist Pro. On the far left of this track, I selected the Samson Q9U. Because it is already a mono/single channel, no other options appear for this source. (With USB mics that present themselves as “stereo”, you’ll have to select either Left or Right to achieve that efficiency.) In case you are wondering, Hindenburg Journalist Pro automatically treats signals made this way as centered if exported or published in stereo.
There are no potentiometers on the Q9U, so even in USB mode, all level adjustments are to be made on the connected host device.
Why I prefer the A7WS windscreen than the included one with the Q9U
Even though the Samson Q9U comes with a windscreen which is much better than the one that comes with the lower-priced Samson Q2U microphone (which I reviewed in 2019), it’s still not perfect with preventing plosives.
That’s why I am using the Shure A7WS windscreen (shown above and in the main image of this article) instead of the Samson Q9U’s included windscreen. The Shure A7WS is not the same as the Shure “presidential” A81WS I used with the headless Q2U and several other microphones. Instead, the A7WS has a much larger diameter and is the larger of the two windscreens that come with US$399 Shure SM7B and is fortunately also sold as an accessory for only about US$20 as opposed to the approximately US$30 for the A81WS. In addition to being much more resistant to plosives than the included windscreen that comes with the Q9U, the A7WS is also much better at reducing excessive breath sounds compared with the included Samson windscreen. If we’re going to use the Q9U at the ideal distance, then using it with the A7WS is the only way I’d want to do it. I know that some people (especially in videos) have the Q9U much further away, but that’s not the ideal position for the best sound. So using the Q9U with the A7WS instead of the included Samson windscreen is the absolute best way to use it, in my opinion. Whether you are using the Q9U for live broadcasting or pre-recording for a later edit, it’s better to make the breathing sound natural directly from the microphone, rather than having to attenuate it later, if you even have time to do that.
Test recordings (separate XLR and USB)
All below recordings are uncompressed 48 kHz WAV. Use Ethernet, wifi or unmetered data.
Above, XLR via RØDECaster Pro, flat unless otherwise stated in short sections, with mild noise reduction and normalization from Hindenburg Journalist Pro.
Above, USB flat, with normalization from Hindenburg Journalist Pro.
Above, USB with mild noise reduction and normalization from Hindenburg Journalist Pro.
Looks and build quality
Connectivity via XLR
Connectivity via USB for standard computers
Connectivity for for mobile devices (USB mode)
Zero-latency monitoring (USB mode)
(in its price range, using the aforementioned windscreen/pop filter/breath filter)
The Samson Q9U has great looks, sound quality and universal compatibility via XLR and USB-C. In fact, the Q9U surpasses the manufacturers offering, since it even works perfectly with Android and Chromebook. The Q9U is even better when using my recommended windscreen/pop filter/breath filter. While we find a compatible external shock mount, the only precaution is to have special care to avoid tapping the desk, table or boom arm while broadcasting or recording.
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