Review: Sennheiser Profile
Sennheiser joins the ranks of pro audio brands creating podcast and streaming friendly USB mics.
Whether it’s a podcast recorded at a dining table, a YouTube influencer reviewing a product to camera, or an all-night-long Call of Duty stream on Twitch, there’s one crucial necessity in the toolkit of today’s digital content creator: a good microphone.
But selling a microphone to a Twitch streamer is very different to selling a microphone to a recording studio owner, PA rental company or a corporate AV manager. The product will be judged mostly on ease of use rather than accurate frequency response. Ergonomics are of equal importance to the noise floor spec, and aesthetics matter as much as room rejection.
FITTING THE PROFILE
Sennheiser’s pro audio credentials don’t need flag waving – since 1945, the family-owned German business has a proven track record of audio engineering prowess. Now the company is bringing that wealth of expertise to a very different market.
Meet Profile – Sennheiser’s first microphone offering, specifically for podcasters and streamers.
It’s a plug ’n’ play USB microphone with a side-address cardioid condenser capsule. A futuristic design and innovative tilting chassis give Profile more appeal to streamers and podcasters, and it’s available in a Streaming Set bundled with a high quality boom arm.
Profile has a list of fairly standard audio specifications: a max SPL handling of 125dB, frequency response from 20Hz-20kHz, and audio resolution up to 24-bit/48kHz. Powered by USB-C, it’s housed in a small but solid body weighing 350g.
There are no surprises or headaches getting started with Profile. Pick Profile as your computer’s default audio input and output for the mic and headphone output to engage. Once your headphones are plugged into the rear 3.5mm output, the centre knob is your Mix control to balance between real-time mic monitoring and playback from your computer. The first knob controls 40dB of mic gain from 85dB to 125dB and the green LED ring around it flashes orange/red when clipping. The lowest knob adjusts headphone level, which is plentiful when turned up – impressive for a bus-powered USB mic. The LED rings around the gain knob and Mute button light red when muted.
Sennheiser has voiced the Profile microphone with a neutral yet polished tone that’s ideal for speech purposes. There’s a hint of overzealous trebles, especially on female or sibilant voices but for the most part Profile produces a clear, solid and ‘dry’ sound with subtly scooped mids and a bump in the 2-8kHz presence region. Suppressed low frequencies are a noticeable characteristic – the spec sheet shows a rolloff from 200Hz downwards, and this is actually beneficial as a ‘built-in’ high-pass filter (no switchable option) and lends the mic some inherent plosive control. The downside is a very mild proximity effect which only kicks in significantly 2-3cm in front of the grille – worth mentioning for voiceover talent who like to work the mic.
A tight polar pattern that rejects background noise is generally a good thing with USB mics. While the Profile has a cardioid capsule, recordings made with it disclose a fairly wide pickup, as confirmed by the polar pattern diagram in the manual. Talking into the mic 90° off axis yielded a vocal tone that actually sounded mostly natural, like a less bright version of the direct sound. By the time I swivelled the mic a full 180° my voice was attenuated a decent amount.
I was happy to discover how well the grille manages plosives even when fairly close to the mic, and with a little distance it virtually all-but eliminates pops and booms. Despite a stated equivalent noise spec of 28dBA at maximum gain, Profile remained commendably quiet when gained right up. In fact, I could crank the gain knob and speak in a whisper 15cm away and the mic still yielded clean recordings.
NEED TO KNOW
USB Streaming Microphone
Everything about Profile exudes uncompromising build quality. The three knobs turn with a smooth and consistent resistance and the rubber mute button engages silently. Even the boom arm has a premium feel with subtle Sennheiser branding and a clean, minimalistic black finish.
My favourite part of the Profile mic’s design is the tilt function. Built into the bottom half of the mic itself is a type of Y-mount which allows the middle section to tilt upwards 30-degrees or so. Pointing a mic directly at your mouth is ideal if you want to produce the most present sound. Profile’s tilt-ability means you can do exactly that while keeping it out of your face and, importantly, out of sight lines for those presenting to a camera.
The boom arm bundled in the Streaming Set plays a similar role in getting Profile precisely where you want it. The three pivot points are quite resistant but rotate smoothly enough to operate the whole assembly with one hand. It’s one of the better looking boom arms I have encountered – the matte black aesthetic is beautifully understated and internal clips allow the 3m USB cable to be concealed. While the arms themselves are shorter than most, the full extension of 88cm still gets Profile in close proximity to anyone sitting behind most office or gaming desks.
Sennheiser has done well funnelling its mic manufacturing knowledge into a product that meets the needs of a live streamer or podcaster. Profile’s sound is better than average and the mic excels both in form and function in a variety of environments. For a content creator who depends on a faithful USB mic, the Profile is an attractive proposition.