The Thronmax MDrill Zero Plus is a capable microphone that offers good quality audio at a reasonable price
- Manufacturer: Thronmax
- Model: MDrill Zero Plus
- Type: USB Condenser microphone
- Supported platforms: Windows, MacOS, Linux, PS4
- Reviewed on: Windows PC
- Price: £49.99 MSRP
- Supplied by: Thronmax
The Thronmax MDrill Zero Plus sits comfortably in a very affordable £49.99 price bracket, where it faces very little competition when it comes to high-performant microphones. The MDrill Zero Plus is very similar to the original MDrill Zero variant, with the major difference being that the Zero Plus now supports 96kHz 24bit recording for superior sound quality.
In comparison to Thronmax’s MDrill One Pro, which retails around £75.99, the difference in sound quality is negligible. You are missing a few of the quality of life improvements found on the One Pro, like the integrated boom mount connector, gain display and customisable RGB lighting, but as a more budget-focused alternative it’s hard to fault the Zero Plus.
Design and build
The pill-shaped MDrill Zero Plus looks great from the moment you take it out of the box. It comes fully assembled, so all you need to do is plug in the included 3m USB-C to USB-A cable and put it in place on your desk.
Both the microphone and stand are constructed from a mixture of plastic and aluminium, and the quality materials give it a distinctly premium feel. There aren’t any visible screw fixtures, and the build quality is superb with no gaps between any of the fittings. Instead of a more traditional mesh, the acoustic chamber at the top of the microphone has an attractive aluminium cover with a distinctive vertical arrangement.
Aside from the pleasing aesthetic, this Vertigain Technology (patent pending) is designed to minimise the scattering of sound in comparison to a more traditional mesh array. The clarity is exceptional, however, without an identical mic without Vertigain to compare with I couldn’t say exactly how much difference it makes, but it sure does look good!
The rear of the microphone has only the Thronmax logo and identifier, while the bottom of the mic has a USB-C input and a 3.5mm jack output for connecting a headset/headphones for zero-latency monitoring.
On the front of the mic, there’s a small dial that controls the volume output from your PC, either to headphones connected to the mic or whatever sound solution you use on your computer. The larger dial controls the recording pattern and gain, and is ringed with an LED light that changes colour depending on the mode selected and whether or not the mic is muted. With the dial in the centre, the mic glows red, indicating that it is muted; There is a very subtle notch indicating when the dial is centred, but I would have preferred it to be more defined as it’s easy to overshoot or not properly feel the notch if you need to quickly hit mute.
Rotating anti-clockwise switches the mic into cardioid mode, with a blue glow, and clockwise activates omni-directional mode, glowing green. How far you rotate the dial determines the level of gain, and the intensity of the light increases as you turn up the gain. It’s a slightly inelegant solution, as if you need to mute the mic it is difficult to quickly return to the exact same position.
If you have carefully calibrated your audio levels prior to starting your stream or recording you don’t want to have to redo it just because you needed to mute the mic. Minor quibbles aside, the fact it has gain control at all is a major plus point as most microphones in this price range are entirely reliant on software on your system to calibrate.
Unlike other mics in the Thronmax range, there is no universal mounting screw connection. You can buy a compatible mount that adopts the Y-shaped fork of the stand for compatibility, so there are options available, but the included stand has a small enough profile that it shouldn’t interfere with your setup when placed on your desk.
Connectivity and setup
The MDrill Zero Plus supports simple plug and play connectivity. You can use either the included USB-C to USB-A or, if you have the ports and cable, USB-C to USB-C, to connect to a USB 3.0 or higher port on your PC. Once connected, it auto-detects and routes audio inputs and outputs through the microphone.
When you first connect the microphone it defaults to 44kHz 16bit audio, so you’ll need to manually switch it to 96kHz 24bit for the best sound quality, but this is a one-time adjustment. It’s a simple process, although if you’re unfamiliar with how to do it, the instruction manual has a simple guide to changing this that covers Windows PC and Mac.
Like the rest of the Thronmax range, there is no custom software for the MDrill Zero Plus, so any sound enhancements will need to be done via third-party software such as Audacity or with integrated solutions like those found in Discord or OBS.
The MDrill Zero Plus is a dual condenser microphone with integrated gain control, with two distinct recording patterns, a 96kHz 24bit sample rate, and a 20-20,000Hz frequency response. This is above what you will traditionally find for microphones at this price point, and makes it suitable for recording a wide variety of audio beyond just voice..
I was very impressed by the quality of the cardioid mode. During a Discord chat, my friend commented on how clear and full my vocal audio was. In comparison to the excellent Logitech G-Pro X (with Blue Vo!ce enhancements), I expected the headset microphone closer to my mouth to be far louder, but the MDrill Zero Plus was significantly louder and clearer, even placed at arm’s length.
Although condenser microphones work best if you speak directly into them, the excellent pickup means it works very well offset. This is helpful if you don’t have a pop-filter, as it helps limit plosives (the harsh sound like when you hit a hard ‘p’). It also allows you to keep the mic away from your peripherals while gaming, limiting the sound of keys and button presses.
It should be noted there is no integrated shock mount, but the MDrill Zero Plus’ stand does a decent job of limiting the pickup of any bumps or knocks on your desk.
Setting the gain to around 50% was optimal for my setup, and the sound was clear and well-balanced. Increasing the gain to full caused the recording to sound over-amplified, and while it wasn’t necessarily distorted, it sounded blown out and lacked clarity.
I had no issues with volume or clarity with the microphone around 2.5 feet away and placed beside my keyboard, and could be heard without having to raise my voice. For most uses, this should be ideal. At distances greater than this, the sound quality is definitely lacking, picking up ambient echo and reverberation.
The omni-directional mode works ok if everyone is within a few feet of the microphone, but typically conference calls tend to have users spread much further apart, and as such, there is a significant variance in the sound quality between individual voices. Even for those up close, the sound lacks the fullness you get in cardioid mode, and the overall audio is lacking in richness, especially at lower frequencies. We mainly focus on how things work in relation to gaming, and it’s superb for streaming or VoD creators, but if you’re planning on using the mic mainly for conference calls, there are better options.
Without any integrated noise-cancelling, the microphone does pick up a lot of background noise, and especially the clacking of a mechanical keyboard. This can be easily remedied with recording or streaming software. It’s more problematic in omni-directional mode, as you are more likely to have the gain turned up to aid in picking up more distant voices, but in cardioid mode, you can reduce the gain and move the mic closer to you to negate it somewhat. As mentioned, third-party software can help out a lot here, but it can be difficult to eliminate all background noise.
Pricing and suitability
Coming in at £49.99, the MDrill Zero Plus is a great choice if you’re looking for a good quality budget condenser microphone. There are other options available at this price range, though many don’t share the same plug and play simplicity or granular control over the gain. The audio quality is almost as good as the more expensive Thronmax MDrill One Pro, just without the extra recording patterns and more refined controls, making it a decent alternative if you need to save money.
The Thronmax MDrill Zero Plus is a capable microphone that offers good quality audio at a reasonable price. It has a stylish design, and the simple USB connectivity makes it easy to set up and get started. The lack of noise cancellation means it can pick up unwanted sound, but that can be negated with third-party software.
For gaming, streaming or recording podcasts, the cardioid mode works great, giving loud and clear vocal pickup that is only hampered by the sensitivity of the microphone and its tendency to pick up unwanted background noise. In contrast, the omni-directional mode is sub-par, and unless your meetings take place huddled around a small desk, not really fit for purpose. If you’re buying a microphone with the intention of using it for a lot of conference calls, we’d look elsewhere.
Having an integrated gain control is very welcome, but I’d have preferred if there was a more clearly identifiable gain indicator, as it can be tricky to return to the exact level if you have to mute your microphone.
Overall, this is a great microphone that represents good value for money and offers a suitable alternative to other microphones, where you pay as much for the brand as you do the performance.