Adding an external microphone to a PC, even with a purely digital USB connection, is nothing new – but Terratec's iQuader uses an interesting mic technology that can allow inexperienced users to get high-quality results, simply.
The TerraTec iQuader is based around a boundary layer microphone, made for TerraTec by specialist Brauner Microphones of Germany. The intriguing behaviour of this technology is the way these microphones collect both far and distant sounds without prejudice.
Also know as a pressure zone microphone (PZM – although the term is trademarked elsewhere), the TerraTec iQuader will work best when placed on a large flat surface, such as a boardroom table. And this is one application that suits the technology well, as it can be used as a high-quality omnidirectional pickup for conference calls through Skype or similar VoIP programs.
The TerraTec iQuader itself is a simple rectangular slab with two thumbwheels on the front for controlling mic and headphone volume, and a USB socket on the back. On top sits a recessed on/off switch, which becomes backlit when the unit is plugged in. White LEDs denote basic operation; blue LEDs flash on and off to show input signal, while red indicates peak or overload.
The signal is amplified internally and converted to digital, before being sent to a connected computer via USB. In use, you don't need to be too worried about setting recording level as a built-in limiter prevents digital overload.
In tests, fidelity was found to be good, the TerraTec iQuader able to capture near and far sounds crisply, although you will need to find a large surface for realistic bass response. In practice, placing on the floor works surprisingly well, and used thus we got good results capturing the low end sound of acoustic guitar. Low gain was an issue, as we had to turn the mic up full to get good level, at which point pre-amp hiss was all too intrusive. The unit is capable of use up to 24-bit/96kHz quality, but quieter amp electronics may have benefitted the unit more than high-resolution analogue-to-digital converter.
Able to collect sounds from afar, you may have to be careful what you inadvertently pick up. Useful for basic demos rather than studio recording, the TerraTec iQuader is a good, if expensive, mic for hands-free telephony.