My wife is a filmmaker, and her primary platform is Final Cut Studio running on a Mac Pro. She is neither an audio engineer nor a gear geek like many of us are. For her current project, she needed to do some scratch voiceover work. Instead of setting her up with a mic, cables, and a typical audio interface-with the configuration hassles and learning curve associated with such a setup-I got her a G-Track USB mic. This has to be best technology purchase I've made for my filmmaker wife. We unpacked the mic and optional shockmount, mounted the assembly onto the included desktop mic stand, plugged in a single USB cable between the mic and the front panel of the Mac, changed a few settings in the System Preferences Sound panel, plugged headphones into the bottom of the mic, and she was off recording-no drivers to install, no settings to tweak, no mixer to configure. Huh, you ask? You plugged headphones into the mic? Yup, unlike plain-jane USB mics, the G-Track has a built-in monitoring system; in fact, it was the first mic on the market to include an integrated direct-monitor mixer. The problem with mics that lack such a feature is that you can't listen to what you're recording-the latency is too high when the audio goes into and then back out of the computer. Not so with the G-Track-you can blend in what the mic is picking up with what the computer is outputting. Built-in, no-fuss, zero-latency monitoring, with no additional software or hardware necessary. Awesome. The mic is also equipped with a 1/8" input jack that can take either a stereo line-level or a mono instrument (Hi-Z) signal. You can of course also monitor these at zero-latency, and for the two channels of 16-bit, 44.1 or 48 kHz audio feeding the computer, you can choose either mic/instrument or stereo line. All the cables you need are included: 1/8" to RCA, 1/8" to 1/4", and USB. Once you set the headphone volume, instrument/line, and mic level knobs, you can push them in to prevent inadvertent changes; push them again to pop them out. The headphone output works best with low-impedance headphones because high-impedance sets won't give you enough volume. Although the G-Track looks like it's a large-diaphragm mic from its form-factor, I'd call it a medium-diaphragm due to its 19 mm capsule. According to Samson, the polar pattern is "super cardioid". I found that it has significant pickup in the rear, and proximity effect in the front ramps up quickly. Also, the mic is very susceptible to plosives; I wish its screen was better at stopping air or it came with a pop-filter. The included desktop stand is heavy, but the mic is heavier, so you have to be careful with your cables or you'll topple the mic. The manual is well-written, and it covers everything! There are step-by-step instructions to get you going in Windows XP/Vista or Mac OS X. Diagrams show you how you can connect the mic to the rest of your desktop studio. General mic'ing topics such as proximity effect and operating levels are discussed concisely. And the application notes cover mic'ing vocals, guitar, piano, and drums. For Windows users, Sonar LE is included for free; Mac users can use GarageBand (not included). As a mic, it sounds pretty good, especially considering its $129 street price and the fact that it's got an onboard audio interface. At high gain settings, there is some noise, including what sounds like computer-induced "whine", and the top end isn't very "airy", so it's certainly not a studio-quality device, but as long as you give it healthy levels, the G-Track will be fine for recording in your office, in your home, or on the road. It's perfect for the singer-songwriter, podcaster, or traveling musician. ($199 MSRP; www.samsontech.com)
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