ASUS ROG STRIX MAGNUS
Novel deodorant stick or desktop mic? You decide
SO, IT’S COME TO THIS: Asus is trying to sell you Optimus Prime’s beard trimmer. Like streamers didn’t already have enough to answer for, the ROG Strix Magnus is the latest manifestation of their influence, a USB-powered, desktop mic, designed for in-game chat and broadcasting. As such, it comes with all the features you’d expect from a product that carries the word “gaming,” but doesn’t strictly have much to do with gaming: customizable RGB lighting, accompanying software, and a braided cable.
But let’s give the Magnus a fair chance— there’s a definite gap in the market for a product like this. Streamers have migrated away from the scratchy world of headset microphones in favor of quasi-studio mics, such as Rode’s NT-USB and AudioTechnica’s AT2020USB+, both priced slightly below this model. The benefits are obvious: vastly improved sound, and more control over it, too. Do you need one? Probably not, but people don’t strictly need fidget spinners either, yet here we are. Perhaps the more pertinent question is whether Asus’s bespoke gaming effort can offer something meaningful over the aforementioned current favorites, both of which are produced by companies with significant heft in the pro audio space. SEE THE LIGHT That’s a hard question to answer. Really, it depends on how much value you place on RGB lighting, because elsewhere there’s not much to indicate that the Magnus is a no-brainer for gaming and streaming usage. Admittedly, it’s an easy setup job: Pull the mic out of its carrycase (a welcome inclusion), attach the meaty braided USB cable to the mic input and an available USB 3.0 port, and you’re done. Seriously—that’s it. You can use a USB 2.0 port in a pinch, with limited functionality and—gasp—no RGB lighting, but it’s preferable to just give it the juice it needs. You can use Asus’s own Aura software to further customize the lighting, but surprisingly, there are no further options for the audio itself. That absence is keenly felt when it comes to the “ENC” noise cancelation mode—in our testing, we found it too aggressive, clipping consonant sounds and producing a really low overall sound quality. The ability to adjust the noise gate manually would go some way toward alleviating that, but that’s not possible unless you start running VSTs and plugins in front of it when recording with your DAW of choice.
ENC is one of three mic pattern modes available here, along with a cardioid (unidirectional) and stereo (bidirectional) pattern. Cardioid is the most useful for broadcasting, because it’s the pattern with the least background noise pickup, and gives your voice the most clarity. If you did want to get all the ambient noise from your recording environment, too, stereo mode is there, but we’re not sure how useful you’d find it. Even when recording two people next to each other, the cardioid pattern produces the best results. As for the quality of your cardioid recordings and streams, it’s definitely fit for purpose. The lower end frequencies are conveyed infinitely better than a headset mic could manage, and the signal is much cleaner, too.
There is a problem, though, and it comes with the price point. The Magnus certainly isn’t at the level of studio mics, such as Audio-Technica’s AT4050, and that’s reflected in the fact that it’s almost half the price. The latter would require more hardware between itself and your PC, too. But it also isn’t at the level of the aforementioned AT2020USB or NT-USB, the latter of which also comes with a pop shield and tripod stand, which this package is without. The difference is in the clarity and low end of the recorded sound— sadly, the Magnus seems flimsy by comparison. On those grounds, it’s hard to recommend this one—unless you’re a Transformer with a bit of unwanted stubble around the jawline, that is.