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After experimenting with the Podcast Factory for a while, I have a few more comments. Although the USB audio interface box itself is fine for my needs, I find the rest of the package lacking.
It seems that the USB interface itself can be had for $79, as the Fast Track USB (same box, different name). Audacity is freely available on the net, however, Abelton Live Lite costs money. I couldn’t find a price on the Lite version, but the Abelton site shows a $200 difference in price between the full version and the cost of an upgrade. If we totally ignore the bundled software, the included microphone, XLR cable and stand are probably worth the $70 difference between a Fast Track USB and the Podcast Factory bundle.
The included microphone is not bad. In fact a friend of mine who works in a radio station tried it and said that it was a good, inexpensive mic. He said it was probably more suited to PA use than studio use, however. I find that when trying to record my voice, it sounds a little harsh and somewhat distant. My radio friend sounds better on this mic than I do, however.
I also borrowed a $400 studio mic and tried it on the Podcast Factory interface. I like the way I sound on this mic much better. Of course, it should sound better, considering the price.
What all this boils down to is – I like the USB interface, but will probably buy a better mic. Others may find that the included mic works just fine for them. If so, the price of the whole package is a good deal. In my case, I should have gone with separate components. This is the type of thing you can only find out by trying the hardware yourself.
For those interested in separate components, M-Audio sells several different USB interfaces with different features. Other, similar USB interfaces are made by Tascam, Alesis and others.