It works for me!
Updated: I could now test the Mac compatible version; see notes at the end.
Since preparing mySoftware testing video series for Java developers, I've been thinking about getting some decent audio equipment for mixing and recording. Recently I wanted to starta podcast or YouTube channel about electric vehicles, but I hadn't started to "prepare" yet when two things happened: The 2020 coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown put the brakes on all auto and travel shows and, more relevant to this article, the highMaonoCaster AU-AM100 Podcast-Studiomixercaught my attention.
Since you've read this far, I'm assuming you're at least familiar with mixing consoles in general. If not, you should set thisWikipedia article related to "Console Mix", a longer name for mixer. So what is the difference between a podcast mixer and a regular mixer? A podcaster should have at least two microphone inputs and two headphone jacks so that the person running the program can interview someone in the "studio" (wherever it is), each using their own microphone and headphones and ignoring background noise. A podcaster should also have other inputs so you can, for example, feed in audio from a phone or MP3 player, or even interview a person who is not in the studio via a smartphone. Sound effects and sound clips should round off the offer. MaonoCaster has it all.
But wait! Have more! OKickstarter page for this new devicethis:
MAONOCASTER Portable Podcast Studio is what you need when you want to easily access your podcasts, radio shows or twitch streams but are not sure which device to buy. It's so easy and intuitive to use, you'll be able to dive headfirst into podcasting in minutes and focus on delivering valuable content and engaging with your audience instead of getting distracted by complicated operations.
So I decided to find out how well MaonoCaster met those criteria.
The device combines a four-channel mixer with sound clips (some preset and some loadable custom sounds), sound changes (down/up,...), preamp, analog-to-digital conversion, noise reduction, and much more. Oh, and it's portable - it runs "up to 8 hours" with a built-in 5000mAh battery for use at gigs or anywhere power is an issue, or even to finish your podcast when the power is in between fails! Of course, this would require its output to a battery-powered device such as a laptop, smartphone, or battery-powered speakers.
A single USB-C port lets you charge the battery, load custom audio clips from an MS Windows application, and send the mixed master signal to a computer in analog or digital format, or play computer audio through Maonocaster headphones. This allows you to save the mixed audio output to disk or stream it live to a social media streaming site, alone or alongside a video stream. You can also output the master signal to a set of speakers in analog format.
MaonoCaster has four inputs for microphones or other audio sources (like most products of this type, you cannot use USB microphones as input):
- oneXLRmicrophone connector; Maono sells the Caster alone or bundled with its own headphones and microphones with XLR cables.
- A connector that can have two sockets and accept an XLR microphone socket or a TRS input (3.5mm jack);
- A labeled phone entry
- A labeled auxiliary entrance.
The latter two have standard 3.5mm input jacks and can be used for various types of inputs including a smartphone via a headphone cable to conduct phone or WhatsApp interviews, an MP3 player, etc.
I had already supported the project of a MaonoCaster inKickstarter🇧🇷 The company was kind enough to send me an early production unit for this test - a June/July production starter unit - in a solo package pending final release (macOS compatible).VisionIncidentally, is an established company with around 130 employees. They manufacture hardware in their own factory in Shenzhen, China. Its main product so far has beenPodcast-Microphonesand accessories (including monitoring headphones). These units are primarily designed for podcasters/vloggers/youtubers, so Maono has in-depth knowledge of this scene and has used that to design the MaonoCaster feature set.
The "Solo" package consists of a MaonoCaster with aMikrofon Vision AU-PM320(but with a smaller desktop stand instead of the big boom stand you get when you buy the mic on the website) and a pairAU-MH601 Studio Monitoring Headphones.
The XLR connectors can also accept what the company calls "6.5mm" or "6.25mm" plugs, which North Americans know as the common 1/4" plug found on electric guitars , microphones, etc. can be found.
The two main microphone ports feature large volume sliders and a rotary gain control. If you're unfamiliar with "Volume vs Gain" there are many articles on the internet, but in short, Gain (the small knob for Mic 1 and 2) is the input level of the microphone for each effects processing, while the big one is the volume knob for each this knob controls the output level that is fed into the master mix. The two smaller ones (“Phone” and “Aux”) each have a single gain control. Phone and Aux don't go through the Effects panel, so they don't need both controls. A small knob controls the volume of the two monitor headphones. The single large knob controls the master output volume.
The front panel has two 3.5mm jacks for the monitoring headphones, numbered 1 and 2 to correspond to Mic1 and Mic2. Before opening the box, I assumed they were 1/4" jacks since most monitoring headphones have them. However, the smaller jack opens up the possibility of using a small set of wired headphones if you Using your MaonoCaster on the go I've tried various small headphones and earphones and they all worked well The coiled headphone cable that comes with the Solo pack has 3.5mm plugs on each end, each "hidden" in a threaded adapter are required if a 1/4" connector is used.
Can you really "get into podcasting in minutes"? To test this claim, I recorded a video while:
- device unpacked,
- connected to a microphone, headphones and a computer connection
- and recorded a short video demonstrating some of the effects.
- I expected setup to take a few minutes. And it happened. You can see the unboxing video on mineIanOnEVs YouTubechannel inhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zrif8aDdM38.
Interestingly, the mic mount that comes with the packages has a smart dual-threaded top connector that allows the PM-320 mic's "shock mount" ring mount to be attached via a 3/8-inch thread. but also older mics with a 1/2" threaded mount. For example, my late father-in-law's Japanese crystal mic - which I suspect is from the 1950s (!)... the mic just worked! Well, more or less : I had to turn the gain almost to the maximum Speaking of mics, my RØDE VideoMicro worked fine too, plugged into the 3.5mm jack for mic 2. Of course, not all mics work, but the three or four I tried did have all worked.
One of my first live tests was running courses withLernbaum's AnyWare™️, an online business training package built on top of Adobe Connect, running the course on a Microsoft Windows 10 PC. MaonoCaster worked well for live streaming my voice and other audio and for example listening to questions and remote feedback from students, playing sound clips. Everything worked!
Being a computer geek by the way, I was curious to learn about the device's USB interface. I connected the caster to mineThe OpenBSD system🇧🇷 OpenBSD is a Unix-like operating system, just like Linux and macOS. What I like about OpenBSD for this purpose is that its "dmesg" (operating system "Kernel Diagnostic Messages") provides an accurate and concise summary of devices. When I connected MaonoCaster I got the following:
uaudio0 on uhub2 port 2 configuration 1 interface 1 "Maono Maono Podcaster AM100" version 1.10/2.00 address 3
uaudio0: class v1, full-speed, asynchronous, channels: 2 play, 2 rec, 2 ctls
audio2 in uaudio0
uhidev2 on uhub2 port 2 configuration 1 interface 3 „Maono Maono Podcaster AM100“ rev 1.10/2.00 addr 3
uhidev2: Class 3/0
uhid0 in uhidev2: input=40, output=40, resource=0
Lots of geek-speak, but it basically confirms that the MaonoCaster offers a fairly standard USB audio interface and a (hidden) "human interface device" which I assume is the master volume control. I was able to use MaonoCaster with OpenBSDssndiodAudiosoftware uAucat,insolenceeFinallyrecord and playback smoothly via the USB connection. I listened to ten minutes of MP3 audio through MaonoCaster and didn't encounter any stuttering issues. And I recorded the next episode of IanOnEVs with the Maonocaster, the PM320 microphone and two smartphones - with a package called Camtasia. So this mixer should work with almost every computer system out there, with one painful exception mentioned later.
Since we're not yet open for extended travel and there aren't any car shows yet, I'm planning to record some phone interviews for my EV Youtube channelIan em EVs🇧🇷 To test this (before trying my interviewee/victim's patience), I tried some calls to relatives. The first reported that I sounded distorted, so before the second I reduced the gain and turned up the volume on the main mic. The second call was good. The second was 80 kilometers away and transmitted from cell to cell. Audio was clear and sound levels reasonable in both directions. So I recorded an episode for IanOnEVs with two remote guests on the phone and I'll do that right after I'm done editing.
MaonoCaster has a bank of 8 sound effects. Five are predefined and the remaining three are user programmable. The five fixed clips are clapping, cheers, two "stinger" sounds (one short, one long and "dark", labeled "Suspense") and the BLEEP sound used to mask rude comments. Using a Windows app (not Mac) you can load MP3 sound files into the three custom slots via USB-C, but you can also choose from hundreds of sound files. You can create these sound effects yourself using a program like macOSGaragenbandor basically any sound recording app. There are a variety of websites from which you can download these sound effects. I used the non-commercialfreesound.org, but there are many others, both free and commercial, as a quick web search will prove. I leave one of the 8 buttons loaded with a "back to school" bell, which I use when live streaming full or multi-day seminars. In them, people need breaks, but they need an audible reminder to return to the virtual classroom. This is the modern analogue of bell-ringing in opera houses, signaling visitors to return to their seats after a break.
I found the MP3 upload a bit slow, but the USB cable transmits and/or receives audio at the same time (there is no master mute button; when the unit is on, it transmits). Maybe it's just my computer's USB connection. Also, there's no official way to stop a spike from ringing if you change your mind or decide you're taking too long. If you press the effect button a second time, the effect starts again. However, I found that a quick tap on the BLEEP button (bottom right corner of the frame) stops all sound effects without producing the BLEEP sound. So this is your first unofficial solution!
In addition to the 8 sound clips, there are other sound effects. You can change your speaking voice to sound like a baby voice, a female voice, a deep male voice and even a robot voice.
One I like is the "Sidechain" button, which lets you talk over the song playing at the same volume as your voice; The music volume is reduced just enough to be heard during the conversation, and then back to normal. Also known as "ducking," this is the effect you hear constantly on radio shows and podcasts when the DJ announces a song by talking about the opening or ending song. Maonocaster makes this as easy as pressing a button.
Finally, a Music Only button lets you remove words from a music recording so you can sing along - like karaoke from any recording. The results here vary by song - it doesn't always remove 100% of the vocals, but it does trim enough for you to sing over.
There is an audio sample that shows most of Maonocaster's audio effectshttps://ianonevs/maonocaster.html.
The build quality of the MaonoCaster and all of the included hardware is of the highest quality. Everything is tight as it should be. The buttons and sliders have bright orange accents that are etched rather than just painted. The top and back are made of aluminum, while the sides and bottom are made of solid, thick plastic.
The only issue I've encountered, and it's a minor one and probably my fault, is the plastic nut that attaches the mic shock mount to the table stand. It is a plastic nut to mate the 1/4" thread on the probe end of the mount to the 3/8" thread on the shock mount. By screwing in the crooked clamp I was able to strip the thread; If you have a metal bolt going into a plastic nut at an angle, the metal always wins. At that point the mic started falling and would have hit the floor or table, but of course my hand was there so I caught it. Luckily, by simply removing the plastic nut, the metal part of the shock fits directly into the larger brass adapter threads on top of the strut, providing a solid metal-to-metal mount. If you purchase the mic as a separate product on the Maono website, the mic comes with a larger "scissor" or "boom" mount instead of a table stand. The scissor stand might be more convenient for studio use, in which case you can find it in online stores for around $15. For mobile use, the small stand is certainly easier to carry.
Maono informed me that the pickle issue has been narrowed down to a vendor issue and that they are considering moving to a metal insert so if you buy a unit after, say, September 2020, that issue should be resolved.
Note: If you are reading this after September 2020, the issue described in this section has likely been resolved for unit shipping now.
When you invest in a Kickstarter project (like most crowdsourcing platforms), you're not technically buying a product, you're investing in its development, usually with the expectation of receiving an instance of the product when development is complete (which usually takes some time). after project completion). You will usually get the product at a significant discount, typically around 25-40% off the suggested retail price. The MaonoCaster project on Kickstarter ended on June 25, 2020, and the company is expected to start shipping units in July. But there's that "best plan of mice and men" thing going wrong (aka "Ayrshire Bard invents Murphy's Law 150 years before Murphy"). Just days before the Kickstarter project was "closed" to new backers, the final late-stage internal test of the prototype encountered a fatal error. The drives were basically unusable on Mac computers, at least those running macOS. Audio - especially background music - developed severe stuttering when played on macOS via USB. You need to be able to play back the audio to confirm what you've recorded, and you don't want to redo the cabling to route the analog audio to the headphones on playback... The annoyance is that the audio playback is on other well-functioning operating systems, including MS-Windows and OpenBSD,even when running on the same Mac hardware🇧🇷 So I'll put 50% blame on Apple for having an "interesting" USB stack and 50% on Maono for not encountering this problem sooner. When this was first announced, Mac users seemed to have few options: run Windows in Bootcamp (which essentially restarts your Mac in Windows), or use a traditional dual-boot scheme to run other operating systems (see above). I started OpenBSD). MacBook Pro for the mentioned tests). Or feed the analog output of the MaonoCaster into the Mac's ADC (oneorder thisdItaliancB. switch the "headphone/microphone" jack on a MacBook).
That was of course very disappointing for everyone involved. The company responded by offering sponsors a choice. This was sent inProject update #3, a few days before the end of the KickStarter project. The company needed to release this ASAP in the name of transparency, and they did. Publishing before the end of the project gave people time to withdraw from supporting the project if they were angry enough. I don't have access to company data, but apparently few backers have given up; The day before the update was released, there were 3,277 backers, and the project shut down a few days later with 3,384 backers, so the number of new backers exceeded those who dropped out. Here is the main part of the update (after the problem declaration):
We know that most of you are dying to get your hands on the MaonoCaster, so we offer you the following two options:
1) Let's ship the current device in July. It works well on Windows PCs and Macs running Windows via Bootcamp, and will also work on [macOS?] and presumably anything else that only has an analog output on the caster's 3.5mm TRRS jack used.
2) Wait a while - hopefully no more than a few months - and get the drive with the redesigned card that works on both macOS and Windows. We will try to keep you informed of our progress in resolving the issue.
We know this will be a difficult decision for some of you. As a thank you for being a backer and continuing to support us, we'll be giving each backer a free lavalier microphone.
After the project was complete, the company sent out a KickStarter survey where backers could confirm their shipping address and indicate whether they wanted the macOS-incompatible version or wait for the final version. Every backer, whether they bought the Windows-only version (not macOS) or are waiting for the final release, will get onelapel microphoneas compensation. Microphones have been the company's main product line so far, so this extra comes as no surprise. You may have opted for a full-size mic, but some backers had already ordered one (or two) of these as part of their early pledges. And anyway, nothing bigger than the Lava mic fit into the already designed packages (imagine they were in the press or with thousands of boxes and their foam inserts already printed and cut).
MaonoCaster was designed from the ground up to be economical. As a result, the designers left out features they thought only certain people would find useful. Its decisions were validated as reasonable by the more than 3,300 people who supported the project and were aware of its functionality. The unit doesn't have an SD card, so you send the digital output to a computer for recording to disc (or SD card if you prefer) and/or the analog output to a computer's 'Mic' input or speakers be able. Likewise, there's no Bluetooth for wireless microphones or headphones. People who do podcasts usually wear big headphones and don't walk around much. If you need a wireless input, you can use almost any wireless microphone on the market that has an XLR output or mini audio jack in the receiver.
The various input channels are not available independently from each other at the digital output, but are mixed together. I was a bit surprised when I saw someone asking if the outputs should be available separately in the output. To me, the most basic function of this entity (like all of its relatives) is onemixer🇧🇷 is a blenderdesignedto mix all inputs. But some of the MaonoCaster project's 3,000+ KickStarter backers asked for it, and I later realized why. For example, if you're conducting a phone interview and don't have video of the person (or people), in post-production, alternate between the actual video of the interviewer in the studio and a photo or series of photos of the interviewee while the soundtrack is playing. When the audio is made up of separate tracks, they show up clearly in the video editor's timeline and it's much easier to insert stills over the video when the distant person is speaking.
In addition, the digital output is mono, not stereo - I would have liked that to be different. Alex Lu, CEO of Maono, assured me that in 2021 they will create a "Pro" version of MaonoCaster to add most of these non-basic features. And there will be a discount for those who bought the basic version on Kickstarter.
Finally, there is no mix minus ability. Mix-minus is the ability to output the entire mix minus one input. With a very simple setup without a mix minus, telephone users would hear their own voice in the form of a delayed echo, which normal people find very annoying. To avoid this, MaonoCaster only feeds the local microphones for a smartphone connected to the Phone or Aux inputs. The only practical result is that if you havetwoRemote respondents, one on each of these channels, can hear and speak normally with the interviewer but cannot hear each other. If you're only interviewing people in the studio and at most one distant person at a time, you shouldn't have problems with a missing mix minus.
A smaller part that could have been included for a portable mixer would be a lockable cable slot on the side of the case, which is used on most laptops, tablets and the like. The device is likely to be a target for kleptomaniacs if you turn your back on it, though you'll have to disconnect all the cables in "record time" to get away with it.
My consolidated wish list (from my own wishes and those of others) for Maono's "next-gen" product for 2021 includes the following. Time will tell how many of these features actually make it:
Sound clips - 8, 16 or 64 programmable
Programmable from computer (Win, Mac) E
from any input (line/mic, BT, USB)
for example maybe 8 pre-installed and 8 user-loadable?
Mix-Minus for echo cancellation for long-distance callers
Digital output in stereo and multi-channel
Digital USB input (microphone, MP3 player) for background music
If a USB drive has a .m3u playlist, use it automatically?
USB digital output in stereo or mono to computer
Recording on USB stick and/or SD card
Lock cable slot
Possibly Bluetooth input (microphone, smartphone) and output (telephone, headphones)
Many manufacturers have audio mixers that can double as podcast studio mixers, but none I've seen have that much functionality for the price (it was $139 on KickStarter, $149 on IndieGoGo, $179 MSRP/on the website). Prices for the competition range from around $150 to around $600 - the latter for the high-end.RØDECaster Pro🇧🇷 The RØDECaster has the “pioneer” market advantage and is considered the one to beat. The MaonoCaster certainly beats the RØDE in terms of price and portability, although at 3-4 times the price the RØDECaster should have more features. In addition to the features, the RØDE has certain "smooth and professional" touches, like color-coded input jacks (with matching wraps for the plugs, although they cost a few bucks more). The "Next Generation" edition of MaonoCaster 2021 should be able to keep up better with a full range of functions.
There are cheaper mixers out there, but none of the dozen or so I looked at (even on aliexpress.com) had the paired mic/headphone in/out that you need for interviews. none. They had features like Bluetooth and/or USB, but without an interview feature, they're not what you need for podcast mixing.
Because competition features are constantly changing, I've uploaded that information hereGoogle Docs - TabelleHere is a list of the features of some other devices.
With the MaonoCaster and a microphone and headset, you can be up and running in minutes. While it's always tempting to wait and see if the next shiny object will shine a little brighter than the current one, this year's MaonoCaster offered enough value proposition that I couldn't wait for the 'next-gen' version. The current MaonoCaster is small, light and does the work for my training seminars and for my YouTube channel. will you do it for yours Probably, unless you really can't thrive without one of the "lacking resources" mentioned above. In this case, wait for the next release of MaonoCaster.
Since earlierLeonardo painted the Mona Lisa, the word "studio" meansa space where art is practiced🇧🇷 The meaning of "podcast studio" has recently become associated with devices such as the MaonoCaster being usedInsidea studio, thanks in part to advertising devices like the RØDECaster Pro. Information on the acoustic quality ofRooms used as (real) podcast studios, Ahahttps://wsdg.com/what-makes-a-podcast-studio-unique/.
I got a bit of echo from the computer keyboard through the microphone (on its stand, on the same table). Then I placed some FelTac™ on the bottom of the mic stand.
Save the shipping carton!
Since portability is my goal for this rig, I wanted a durable carrying case for the solo rig. Then I noticed that the original shipping box was about the size of an old electronic engineer's tool box ("technician's case") that I had laying around. I cut about half an inch from the top and bottom (i.e. front and back in the photo below) of both pieces of the original Solo shipping box foam insert to fit in the toolbox, and presto! Here is the result. Perhaps Maono sees this as a prototype for a new product and/or a new addition to the packs. Similar to the Penguin covers but cheaper and sized to use existing foam inserts. Just a thought. [I was told they have an in-house but they didn't ship it because the cost of the 'dimensional weight' used by international carriers would make it prohibitive.
Updated December 2020
The long-awaited Mac compatible version is now available and working! I tested the audio playback on a MacBook Pro and there's not a trace of the stuttering that was a problem before! And it still works for recording and playback on non-Mac systems (OpenBSD Unix tested so far).
In the meantime, they've made other improvements: seven of the eight soundpads are now programmable (up from three), all of which were initially blank (don't think they're not working!). I think I'm missing one or two of the original sounds, but that's okay, there are plenty of sound fx files on the internet and Macs have GarageBand if you want to make your own. There's also a new on-off slider on the back that says "Loopback". I assume it's a negative mix for the phone ports, but I haven't tested it yet. However:a good device improved!