- January 17, 2007 at 9:29 pm #6807mojoeParticipant
Total posts : 25
I was looking on zZounds for some equipment to use for voice announcements. They have some very nice mikes for about $100. I was also looking at a USB audio interface, so I didn’t have to use my soundcard. They have some nice products in that line, too. While looking, I came across this all-in-one package: http://www.zzounds.com/item–MDOPODCAST
Obviously, it isn’t going to be as good as the separate components I was looking at. However, it also costs half of what I was going to spend on the separate components. I did notice that it does not support phantom power for a condenser mike. The mike that comes with it is dynamic. The product is made by M-Audio however, so it ought to be pretty good.
I have ordered this podcasting package and should have it by Friday. After I try it out, I’ll let everyone know what I think about it.January 21, 2007 at 6:04 am #14691mojoeGuest
Total posts : 45366
After playing around with the M-Audio Podcasting kit last night, I have a few comments. First, a description of what you get in the box. The Podcast Factory USB interface (a small box that you can hold in your hand), a decent looking mike, a USB cable, a mike cable, a tabletop mike stand and some CDs.
The tripod mike stand is not very sturdy and unless you’re a dwarf, is useless. Raised to it’s highest, the mike still sits too low when the stand is resting on a high table. If I lower my chair almost to the floor, I could use it. Another problem with the included stand is that the plastic sleeve that holds the mike has a press-fit threaded insert, to attach to the tripod. You can’t tighten things properly, because the plastic is too soft to hold the threaded insert tightly.
I went to Radio Shack to look for a better mike stand. I didn’t want a floor stand and their desk stand wasn’t any taller, although it had a conventional, round, heavy base. I bought the desk stand, a gooseneck extension and a clip-on mike adapter from Radio Shack ($36).
Using all of the above and parts from the tripod stand, I made a desktop stand that can be adjusted to the proper height. I used the clip-on mike adapter to hold a homemade pop filter to the mike stand. I made the pop filter from a small embroidery hoop. It took some minor use of a drill and a Dremel saw to kludge everything together, but it works great.
Back to the Podcast Factory…
The mike cable is an XLR type (male-female). It is about 3ft long. This is ok for most purposes, since you are supposed to be using a PC to record.
The CDs contained the USB driver for the audio interface box, a copy of Audacity, a program called Abelton Live Lite (ver 5) and software to handle the RSS/uploading part for an actual podcast. I won’t be using that last package for my needs.
As is common, all the software on the CDs were older versions than currently available. I downloaded a newer version of Audacity, the USB driver and Live Lite (ver 6). The Live Lite download required that I register the serial number of the previous version first. I was then emailed a new serial number. This software does require activation, after installation.
I have used Audacity before and it is fairly simple to use. Live Lite will require some study, however. I haven’t taken the time to figure it out yet.
Speaking of figuring out things, another complaint with the Podcast Factory package is the lack documentation. The one slip of paper and one little booklet (in several languages) don’t tell you any more than “load the software and plug things in”. Typical these days, but still useless. If you go to the M-Audio web site, there is a better “getting started” guide that actually tells you something useful. Like every other software vendor these days, you are expected to rely on the help file for documentation.
I did some test recordings last night and it seems that the hardware itself performs nicely. The internal circuit noise, with the mike turned off, is almost nonexistant. Speaking of noise, I do have a problem with fan noise from my PC, which is going to be a problem when you are trying to record anywhere near a computer. I’m working on some sound deadening and better mike placement to resolve that problem.
My test recordings do show a problem that is probably not due to the hardware, but me. My voice is on the low end and is on the soft side, so I am having trouble getting enough volume, without turning the mike gain all the way up. With the gain cranked, I pick up more fan noise. However, if I use a lower gain while recording and later boost the volume in Audacity, I get acceptable results. A friend will be coming over with some other mikes for me to try, in the near future. I’ll see if that makes a difference.
Those are my comments and impressions of the Podcast Factory so far. I’ll post an update when I have more to tell.February 1, 2007 at 8:24 am #14732mojoeGuest
Total posts : 45366
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.
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