The Neat Skyline is a USB microphone built for the home office. It is a device that is all about simplicity because, frankly, not everybody is about that gear life. Some people just need an easy to use, easy to set up microphone without all the bells and whistles. But Neat added a word to their packaging that caught my attention and changed the way the mic needs to be scrutinized: Streaming.
While some companies may add that word to bring in a larger market of consumers and, let’s face it, the streamer/podcaster market is huge right now, but adding that suggests a quality worthy of that market. Can it be used on a stream? Sure, so they aren’t lying to you. But is it a good solution for a streamer?
Let’s start with what comes in the box. You get your microphone and a USB-C cable. The microphone itself only has a mute button on the base that lights up red when muted. There are no polar patterns to select, it cannot be mounted to a mic arm, and you cannot plug headphones into it for zero-latency monitoring. The Neat Skyline is almost the most bare-bones device I have ever reviewed.
However, bare-bones does not necessarily mean poor quality. Testing the Neat Skyline gave me a nice surprise. First of all, the setup was nice and fast. No drivers to install. No software to speak of (which I figured given the fact that it is primarily a conferencing mic). If you’ll allow me to invent a term here, it is the plug-and-playest microphone possible.
“The Neat Skyline is a USB microphone built for the home office. It is a device that is all about simplicity because, frankly, not everybody is about that gear life.”
Next came the audio test. I tested the microphone from three distances to recreate certain content creation scenarios. I tested it at one foot, two feet and three feet from my mouth. At one-foot away is the ideal distance for someone doing a just chatting stream, which I will explain in a second. The quality of the microphone was actually very good at this distance. It picked up my voice very clearly and had a nice amount of bass and presence. I was taken aback by how good I actually sounded.
Now the reason I said that one foot was a good distance for a just chatting stream is just because you really can’t use your keyboard or mouse and still have a microphone on your desk that’s only one foot away from you (unless you play with a controller, I suppose). At a more realistic 2 feet, leaving you space for your keyboard and mouse, the sound quality starts to fall off, which would be expected of any mic. This is where it begins to just sound like a generic microphone in the middle of a room. You get more noise, more reverb and less of everything that makes a voice sound pretty.
At a distance of three feet, which is only a realistic distance if you are putting it in the middle of a table for multiple voices (and even then, it is a little far), It is OK for a conference, but is not at all usable for a broadcast.
One thing that needs to be considered, though, is the fact that any mic on your desk is going to pick up a lot of desk noise. If you have a mechanical keyboard or anything like that between the mic and your mouth, you will hear every click in a way that will be incredibly disruptive to your audience. Therefore, I always suggest getting your mic on an arm, but that is not an option here.
Also, at $69.99, the Neat Skyline is not the cheapest microphone out there. You can get some microphones with better sound, more on-board features, and aesthetic upgrades for about $10 cheaper. Those microphones, however, may not appeal to a professional just working from home, though.