Top critical review
60 people found this helpful
A total waste of money
on 30 September 2009
I purchased this equipment from a specialist sound store based in Newcastle, expecting to get good advice and support. What a mistake! With Amazon if a product is of poor quality, or is not as described, you can just return it and get a full refund. With free delivery you also are not out of pocket with delivery costs. Not so with this company. They were unhelpful, rude, and factually incorrect with everything they said.
Now to the product. It seems such a good deal, a mixing desk, a microphone, a headset, and even free software... and a microphone stand thrown in! The product description says it connects straight to a USB socket for simple installation. What could be better? Well everything actually!
The software is free because it's free software available for anyone to download from the Internet at no cost. The unit does not plug straight into a USB socket, it requires a tacky adaptor so you end up with wires everywhere. The unit has an external power unit so more trailing wires and no power switch. So you either have to live with it plugged in all the time or pull the socket out. And it gets hot. But that is just the start of it!
If you are new to podcasting like me, then you probably don't know about microphones and don't expect to have to. It's a beginners podcasting kit so you just plug it in and away you go, right? Wrong! It has a dynamic microphone that only picks up your voice if it is about an 1" away from your mouth. I expected to have the microphone placed in the stand, on my desk, and have it to pick up voice. But placed in the stand it is not close enough to my mouth. All I got was a terrible noise. I wanted to use the unit for Skype, but the Skype audio test system complained that my microphone was too quiet to be used. It remains that way unless you hold the mic to your mouth, and the mic is heavy. I wanted to replace a USB headset with a better quality microphone and all I got was hassle. If I turned up the microphone gain all I got was a terrible noise that sounded like mains hum. Who wants a proper microphone and headset on their desk which Skype won't work with as it says the quality is not good enough?!
But I bought it from a specialist sound shop so they could surely sort out the problem, right? Wrong. They didn't even bother to call me back! When I called them back I got no help at all, just sarcastic comments as if I should know about dynamic microphones. It was clear that they did not want to help a beginner.
After doing my own research on the Internet I found that most podcasters use condenser microphones not dynamic ones. Most also use microphones with a USB connecter that plugs straight into the PC or a USB hub. No masses of wires, no mixer desk taking up space. I thought, OK I'll buy a condenser microphone and plug it into the mixing desk instead of the dynamic microphone. Wrong again! In order to power a condenser microphone the mixing desk has to support "phantom" power to power the microphone. Dynamic microphones don't require power. Now the mixing desk included with podcasting kit is a 502, and the 502 now supports "phantom" power. But the 502 included with the podcasting kit is not the latest 502 and it does not support phantom power. In fact the 502 included in my kit, just purchased as new, was made in mid 2007! So NO condenser microphone can be used with it. Yes I can purchase a USB microphone but then this cannot be connected to the mixing desk and the mixing desk is therefore a pointless waste of money, space and power. Interestingly, Behringer include a condenser microphone with their more expensive "firewire" podcasting kit. One has to wonder, if they think a dynamic microphone is of use in their basic podcasting kit, why do they include a condenser with the more expensive one?
So the podcasting kit includes software that is free anyway, a microphone that is of no use, and a stand that is not tall enough to bring the microphone close enough to the mouth! But there is still the mixing desk and the headphones, right? Well, my cheapest Sony headphones sound better than the ones included with this unit, and are much more comfortable. The mixing desk is pointless unless you want to record musical instruments. But most people who are looking to podcast will have all of the audio they want to mix on their computer anyway and so can mix using just software. In order to mix with the mixing desk you have to pump the audio back out of the computer into the mixing desk using more wires, and you need the connections on the PC to do this. And I don't mean USB, I mean sound cards. So the mixing kit just takes up room, has wires everywhere, and uses power. Whereas a USB microphone can be used anywhere who wants to take a mixing desk with them and how are they going to power it on the move?
To sum up. If you are thinking of buying this kit then think carefully. Do you really want a mixing desk taking up space and using power when it offers nothing of any real use? Would you not prefer to choose some better headphones and check how comfortable they are in a store? Would you not prefer a USB microphone that you can take anywhere with a laptop? If you want some recording software then the Audacity program included is available for free download on the Internet, but I've found Adobe Soundbooth far superior. This is included with the Adobe Creative Suite Web Premimum or can be purchased separately.
I can find nothing to recommend this kit. Musicians would be better off with a more advanced mixing desk that supports multiple microphones and offers phantom power. Podcasters would be better off with a USB microphone that they can take anywhere. Most would be better spending more on the microphone to add more features. Advanced condenser microphones often allow headphones to be plugged in directly into the microphone, and set which directions the mic can pick up sound. If you just want sound from your voice you can shut off sound from other directions. This is a useful function, for podcasting. If you want to record two voices sat either side of a table you can set more advanced microphones to do that.
My last bit of advice would be, buy from somewhere that you can easily return it if it is not what you need and check out the help that is available from online tutorials on podcasting. Don't rely on a specialist shop as they are not interested in supporting a beginner to podcasting. I expected to learn how to use a mixing desk, I didn't expect it to be such a pointless waste of time and money!