Sennheiser Profile Streaming Set review: Podcaster’s delight
Need a plug-and-play solution for podcast or vocal recordings? Sennheiser has you covered.
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Would-be podcasters—or anyone who wants to create high-quality vocal recordings—have historically had to choose between the flexibility and high fidelity of an XLR microphone, or the convenience-with-compromises option of a USB mic. The Sennheiser Profile Streaming Set aims to change all that by offering an entire affordable recording setup in a single box without sacrificing audio quality to get there.
Brandt Ranj / Popular Science
What is the Sennheiser Profile Streaming Set?
Sennheiser’s Profile Streaming Set comprises two pieces: A mid-sized dynamic USB-C microphone capable of creating high-resolution 24-bit/44.1 kHz recordings and a microphone arm with a table clamp. This type of recording setup has been common in radio stations since well before the digital era. Still, the Profile Streaming Set’s all-in-one solution is appealing, especially given its modest $199 price tag. If you’re only interested in a high-quality USB microphone, Sennheiser offers the one from this set for $129.
The microphone has three buttons on its front side and a headphone jack underneath it. These buttons grant easy access to common adjustments such as gain (recording volume), muting or unmuting the mic, and managing the volume of sound fed through the headphone jack very simple. The integrated headphone jack should prove especially helpful for people new to recording as it’ll allow them to immediately hear, assess, and address audio issues before creating an entire recording. This could save a beginner a lot of time.
Setting up the Sennheiser Profile Streaming Set
I was impressed that Sennheiser managed to sidestep most of the problems I’ve had with both USB and XLR microphones hooked up to an audio interface in the past. I was able to unbox, attach, and connect the microphone to my computer in under five minutes. Sennheiser’s microphone screws directly onto its arm, which comes in a single piece. The microphone arms I’ve used typically come either unassembled or require tweaking to get the right level of tension, without which the microphone’s weight will make the arm drop. None of that was an issue with the items in this set. The arm clamped onto a kitchen countertop—more on that later—and offered a surprising level of control over the microphone’s position.
Sennheiser includes a USB-C cable in the box, but I opted to hook up the microphone using a shorter one for the sake of convenience. I applaud Sennheiser for including a long cable, which is sometimes necessary depending on one’s recording setup, but I wish it also included a shorter one. On a similar note, Sennheiser could have improved both the aesthetics and overall usability of this set by including a USB-C cable with an L-shape on one end. This would allow a podcaster to snake the cable down the microphone’s arm using the built-in cable management chips—to make their setup look less cluttered. As it stands today, the sleek-looking podcast microphone and arm are marred by the inclusion of a cable that awkwardly juts out the backside. The choice between a thicker longer cable with excess kinked cords, or a shorter one that may not fit in the microphone arm’s slots feels like a hollow one. I’m glad Sennheiser focused on audio quality over aesthetics, but the latter still counts.
Using the Sennheiser Profile Streaming Set
Because of the Profile Streaming Set’s straightforward setup process, I was able to begin testing the microphone almost immediately. My computer—a 13-inch MacBook Pro—instantly recognized the USB microphone, and I was able to use it during Google Meet calls with my team, as well as make local recordings through apps like GarageBand or Voice Memos. My recording needs are very light these days—I don’t need podcasting software or specialized equipment—but I still appreciated how easy this gear was to use. Typically, setting up a recording session takes longer than necessary due to a missed setting or flipped switch, but that wasn’t the case here. The only time I had a problem creating recordings was when I switched USB-C cables during testing and didn’t realize the new cord could only be used for charging, not transferring data. With that minor glitch aside, it was smooth sailing.
The intuitive nature of Sennheiser Profile Streaming Set makes it an appealing recommendation for those who want many of the same features found in a professional recording setup without the fuss and muss. I never found myself in a position where the Profile Streaming Set didn’t meet my needs, and the notice in audio quality, when compared to the microphones built into my MacBook Pro, was immediately noticeable and stark. I have a relatively low voice, and the microphone captured an exceptional amount of detail without over-modulating (a form of distortion). The quality of your recordings will depend on your microphone placement and, more importantly, the room it’s in. If you’re recording in a square, sparsely decorated, the sound of your voice will bounce off the walls, hit the mic, and become audible on your recordings.
If you’re recording audio in a room with lots of stuff on the walls, especially soft objects, this won’t be as much of an issue. I decided to set up the Sennheiser Profile Streaming Set in the open kitchen of a condo with a big plate-glass doorway behind me and a large couch to the right-hand side. This was a challenging environment, but very few people have the luxury of a dedicated recording space or the option of hanging up acoustic panels everywhere. In general, the microphone worked well even in this difficult setting. There wasn’t an abundance of room noise—save for the heater when it came on—when nobody else was in the room. If you’ve held off on getting nicer recording equipment because there’s no space in your place for a studio, we’re confident you’ll get the results you’re looking for with this mic.
I’ve had enough microphone experience to know the right placement to capture my voice best. Still, even so, I was surprised at the audio quality of this relatively inexpensive piece of equipment. My colleagues picked up on the difference between Sennheiser’s mic and the one built into my MacBook Pro immediately, although seeing the microphone gave things away.
So, who should buy the Sennheiser Profile Streaming Set?
Sennheiser has made the experience of audio recording using this equipment so simple that we can recommend it to just about anybody. Whether you’ve never sat behind a microphone, have been relying on the mic built into your headphones, or have already established yourself in the podcasting production space with all the associated mix-specific gear, we can’t see you being disappointed. Our nitpicks—like the lack of an L-shaped USB-C cable, which can be fixed for under $20—are far outweighed by the pros.
Having a full recording setup you can take anywhere your digital audio workspace (DAW) can boot up is very appealing to anyone who travels often for work. If you pack carefully, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t take at least the microphone that’s part of this set with you to hotel or conference rooms during work trips. Podcasters who don’t want their audience to notice a dip in audio quality if they’re recording away from their main setup will also find a lot to like with this set.
For $200, you won’t find a better compact, all-in-one solution to creating professional voice recordings under challenging circumstances. We can only hope other companies can look at what Sennheiser did with the Profile Streaming Set and follow suit, creating an even greater incentive to make gear in this price range even better.