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King Bee II Microphone Review: The Hype Is Questionable

Rating: 7/10 ?
  • 1 - Absolute Hot Garbage
  • 2 - Sorta Lukewarm Garbage
  • 3 - Strongly Flawed Design
  • 4 - Some Pros, Lots Of Cons
  • 5 - Acceptably Imperfect
  • 6 - Good Enough to Buy On Sale
  • 7 - Great, But Not Best-In-Class
  • 8 - Fantastic, with Some Footnotes
  • 9 - Shut Up And Take My Money
  • 10 - Absolute Design Nirvana
Price: $140
The King Bee II in front of some pink curtains.
Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

Neat Microphones’ affordable King Bee II has garnered a massive following from both amateur and professional audio nerds. But after testing the microphone for a few months, I have complicated feelings. The King Bee II sounds awesome, but its weight and design make it a bad choice for some customers.

Note that the King Bee II is a “studio microphone” with an XLR input. It requires phantom power, and it doesn’t have a USB port. You can’t connect the King Bee II to your computer without an audio interface.

Here's What We Like

  • Nice audio for the price, very "flat" or "natural" sounding
  • Comes with a shock mount and proprietary pop filter
  • It's one of the only XLR condenser mics with a flashy design

And What We Don't

  • Ridiculously heavy, requires a high-quality stand or mount
  • Lacks a built-in high-pass filter
  • Design doesn't seem very durable
  • Several reports of manufacturer defects

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An Interesting Design, to Say the Least

  • Dimensions: 8.5 inches tall, 3 inches wide
  • Weight: 2.47 pounds with shock mount
  • Connectivity: XLR (Phantom Power required)
  • Accessories: Shock mount and pop filter

The King Bee II is one of the only “XLR studio microphones” that looks like a USB mic. And for the most part, I mean that in a good way. Microphones should look exciting, and the King Bee II’s unique design inspires young people to upgrade their gear and record higher-quality audio.

I also appreciate that Neat Microphones created a special shock mount and pop filter just for this microphone. These simple accessories not only increase the King Bee II’s usability but they enhance its design. I didn’t expect this kind of flashiness at such a low price. (However, I have a complaint about the pop filter—more on that when we get to the sound quality.)

A side profile of the King Bee II. There's a decent air gap between the removable pop filter and the capsule.
Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

But I’m concerned about the King Bee II’s durability. The skinny little neck under the capsule of this mic looks very easy to break—I always feel like I’m going to snap the poor thing when I remove the pop filter. It’s a bad trade-off for a cool design, which is a bit of a shame, as young people seem to be the most interested in this microphone.

And man, the King Bee II is heavy. It weighs 2.47 pounds with the included shock mount, which is nearly three times the weight of Audio Technica’s AT2020. Cheap mic stands or arms won’t hold this beast. You need a mic stand that’s $100+ if you want to use the King Bee II, and even then, I suggest checking the stand’s specifications to see if it’s up to scuff. (My K&M stands worked great. You can also get away with a cheap tabletop product like the Samson desktop stand.)

To me, the heft and design of this microphone are very frustrating. The King Bee II is clearly intended to attract younger customers who may have little to no experience with “studio quality” XLR recording. A lighter microphone that can survive some abuse would be more appropriate for this crowd.

I don’t think that experienced or responsible users will have any problems with the King Bee II, but still, the weight of this microphone is just obscene. At least it sounds good!

Unique and Impressive Sound Quality

The King Bee II without its pop filter.
The King Bee II without its pop filter. Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

  • Transducer Type: 34mm condenser capsule
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Response: 16 Hz to 20 kHz
  • Connectivity: XLR (Phantom power required)
  • Self Noise: 6 db

The King Bee II is primarily intended for single-source voice or music recording. You can use it for instruments, singing, voiceover work, podcasting, and other applications. In my testing, I found that it’s effective in all of these areas, though I have a few notes.

Sound-wise, the King Bee II has a fairly “neutral” tone. It has a relatively flat frequency response, though there’s a slight boost in the high treble (4 kHz – 10 kHz) to add detail to voices or instruments. Neat Microphones also dampened frequencies below 50Hz—this cuts out some of the sub bass range, which removes some and tightens up the bottom end. (By the way, the included pop filter sucks the life out of this mic. I suggest using a traditional pop filter if you need one.)

For comparison’s sake, I’ll say that the King Bee II sounds vaguely similar to the Rode NT1. Both microphones have a “neutral and flat” sound quality, although the Rode NT1 is a bit brighter and has a lower noise floor. Either way, it’s a flattering comparison—the Rode NT1 is an industry-standard workhorse.

But the “this is the best mic ever” stuff is a bit overblown. The King Bee II is one of many affordable condensers, all of which have a unique frequency response and polar pattern. It will sound amazing with some voices or instruments, but it might sound awful with others. (For example, I think that the King Bee II sounds dull with my speaking voice, but it sounds great with my guitar. This is the kind of thing you encounter with every good microphone!)

The King Bee II on a mic stand.
Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

And I’m a bit disappointed that the King Bee II doesn’t have a optional high-pass filter. Most condenser mics in this price range have a high-pass switch to carve out some bottom-end detail, which can tighten up voice or instrument recordings. I think that both amateurs and professionals would appreciate such a feature, but to be fair, you can always apply an EQ to this microphone in software.

Anyway, the cardioid pattern of this microphone lends itself to single-source recordings. So, if you try speaking into the back of the King Bee II, it won’t pick up a ton of sound—it’s a perfect design for radio shows, podcasts, or live musical recordings where you really want to focus on a single voice or instrument.

The King Bee II also has a fairly low noise floor. That’s a fancy way of saying that it doesn’t hiss too much, which comes in handy when layering multiple recordings or capturing audio at a low volume.

But like all condensers, the King Bee II can pick up a lot of background noise. If you’re an amateur podcaster or streamer in a noisy environment (or you own a mechanical keyboard), you may need to get a bit creative with your mic placement. (Or just buy a dynamic mic, which will be a lot less sensitive to off-axis noise.)

And I need to shoot down a weird rumor. I’ve seen complaints that the King Bee II is sensitive to plosives—you know, “p” sounds. From what I can tell, these complaints are a symptom of user error. Set this mic at a reasonable distance from your face, or aim it diagonally toward your mouth, and you won’t get any plosives, even without a pop filter.

A Note About Manufacturer Defects

Holding the King Bee II without its shockmount.
Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

Almost every review I’ve written in 2022 has a dedicated section on manufacturer defects, privacy concerns, and other off-putting stuff. I’m not sure if manufacturers are getting lazy or if I’m just unlucky. Either way, the King Bee II has a relatively common manufacturer defect.

Several reviewers and customers say that their King Bee II makes an awful humming noise. It’s clear that some of these microphones aren’t properly grounded. You can hear it yourself in reviews by Voiceover Village and Free Podcast Tools

The King Bee II that I’m testing doesn’t have this problem. Still, I suggest keeping manufacturer defects in mind when shopping for this mic. You may not want to buy the King Bee II from a stranger on eBay, for example.

If you buy the King Bee II, try checking for ground loop hum before you throw away the box or receipt. Plug it into an interface or active speaker and touch the area beneath the capsule. If there’s a hum when you touch the mic, return it or ask for an exchange.

The Gist: It’s One of Many Great Options

The King Bee II on a mic stand.
Andrew Heinzman / Review Geek

There’s a lot of hype around this microphone. Some of that hype is justified; the King Bee II sounds awesome and has a unique Rode NT1-like tone. But there are plenty of awesome XLR condenser microphones in the $100 to $200 range, and amateurs may be better off with something different.

The King Bee II’s weight is a genuine problem. If you’re just getting into audio recording, you probably don’t own a high-quality mic stand, arm, or mount. You’ll need one to use the King Bee II, and that’s an extra $100 (unless you buy a cheap tabletop stand).

I know that the King Bee II looks cool, and it’s a unique microphone. But if you’re buying your first or second XLR mic, you should probably get something a bit more mainstream, such as the Audio Technica AT2020, the Rode NT1, or the AKG P420 (which has three selectable polar patterns). These mics are more fully-featured than the King Bee II and aren’t as heavy or awkwardly shaped.

Rating: 7/10
Price: $140

Here’s What We Like

  • Nice audio for the price, very "flat" or "natural" sounding
  • Comes with a shock mount and proprietary pop filter
  • It's one of the only XLR condenser mics with a flashy design

And What We Don't

  • Ridiculously heavy, requires a high-quality stand or mount
  • Lacks a built-in high-pass filter
  • Design doesn't seem very durable
  • Several reports of manufacturer defects

Andrew Heinzman Andrew Heinzman
Andrew is the News Editor for Review Geek, where he covers breaking stories and manages the news team. He joined Life Savvy Media as a freelance writer in 2018 and has experience in a number of topics, including mobile hardware, audio, and IoT. Read Full Bio »