EXAM: Like everyone these days, you’re probably preparing for your mandatory service as a podcaster or content creator. If so, you’re trying to find the right entry-level mixer and mic that will allow you to focus on your content and not the tedious mechanics of producing that content. Today we’re going to help you get into battle by reviewing the Maonocaster E2A mic and board combo. Does it have what you need to produce the next award-winning People’s Choice podcast show? Let’s find out…
What is that?
MAONOCASTER E2A Portable All-in-One Podcast Production Studio Review – Cost-Effective Podcasting on the Go! is a one-stop solution that contains everything (at a basic level) to get a podcast off the ground (ideas and content sold separately). As the Maonocaster is also battery powered, it is well suited to becoming a travel mixer, giving you more freedom to create your content anywhere. Essentially, you provide the recording medium (PC, tablet, etc.) and E2A provides everything else you’ll need.
What’s in the box?
- The Maonocaster E2 portable mixer
- Maonocaster PM320 XLR microphone with weighted stand and shock mount
- An XLR cable to connect the microphone to the mixer
- 2 audio interface cables (both 3.5mm jacks)
- A USB-A to C cable for charging the battery and/or connecting to a computer
- Wired headphones to use as a monitor while recording
Design and function
The Maonocaster E2 mixer looks pretty much like any other beginner mixer:
Starting at the top left of the board, you have a large knob that controls the audio level of the auxiliary port, usually where you connect background music or connect via Bluetooth with a secondary audio source (say, for example, the subject of an interview). Then there are 3 knobs which control the height of the mic and three more to control the height of any instrument connected to the instrument port on the back. This is followed by the large output gain control which increases or decreases the mixed output to the recording device. Moving down there are 3 knobs to control reverb effects and 6 knobs to control additional audio effects such as denoising which reduces background noise. To the left is the bank of custom audio effects buttons – here you can add your own sounds like a rim kick, applause or laugh track (more on that shortly). Again, on the left are the volume sliders for the mics (on the left for the XLR-connected mic and on the right for any analog mic connected to a 3.5mm port on the back). Below is the 48v phantom power switch for the XLR mic (in case your mic – like the PM320 supplied in this pack – needs power to operate) and the Bluetooth connect button that allows the mixer to use your phone or other device as a grab.
On the front of the board are 2 monitor sockets. You can use the headphones included here, but I would seriously recommend getting a much better open-back headset like the OneOdio Monitor 80 we reviewed here.
The back side of the Maonocaster E2A is where all the connections occur. Starting on the left, there is an XLR socket and a switch used to determine the type of mic connected via this port (condenser or dynamic). Next to the XLR connection is a 1/4 inch jack for the output of a musical instrument such as a guitar, although virtually anything can be used here provided it is self-powered. Next comes a 3.5mm analog mic input, an auxiliary audio input, a connector for a monitor speaker, two live outputs (to an audio system, recorders or whatever you want). To finish on the ports, there is a USB-C output to a computer or tablet and an additional USB-C port for charging the battery, powering the mixer, etc. Finally, there is an on/off button and button board light to turn the board lights on or off.
Since we are talking about the battery (thanks for asking), it takes about 3.5 hours to fully charge the battery. Depending on whether your mic of choice requires 48V phantom power, you can expect north of 1.5 hours of battery time on a full charge with power on and closer to 3 without it. While the battery is nice to have, running it off an independent power source (i.e. not plugged into your computer’s USB port to power it) is the way to go.
And also speaking of plugging this in, there’s no need for any special drivers or software. On Windows and macOS, the Maonocaster E2 is recognized as a microphone and every application that can use a microphone will see it as such. For example, I’ve used it with Tech Smith’s Camtasia as well as Audacity without having to do anything special other than press the record button.
Let’s talk about the mic – the PM320 XLR mic that comes in the bundle.
The mic is a cardioid polar pattern condenser mic. This is perhaps the most jargon-laden sentence I have ever written. Simply put, the mic picks up sound immediately in front and behind it, but not to the sides. This makes it an excellent interview mic that can be placed in front of the interview and the subject. There is a small catch here, however: the PM320 is a sensitive mic, and during my review I found that it sometimes picked up sound from another room in the house because the back of the mic was directed towards the open door of my office. So, like any other mic, placement is important and it’s good to know that before you start recording. Denoise can help, but nothing works better than a closed door.
The mic comes with a metal pop filter that snaps into the shock mount. It works, but it feels a bit loose when mounted. Since the kit doesn’t come with a second filter, if you’re planning on using it as an interview mic, you’ll want to get another one to avoid uncontrollable plosives.
A side view of the mic and desk stand. The mic sits in the shock mount which has a 180 degree adjustable tilt joint just before the mount threads. There is also a knob on the base which gives up to 6 inches of extra height if needed.
The bottom view – here you can see the XLR connector, shock mount and set screws.
And all the other stuff that comes in the box.
How it works?
After finding a spot for the MAONOCASTER E2A Portable All-in-One Podcast Production Studio Review – Budget Podcasting on the Go! on my cluttered desk, I plugged everything in and prepared to record the narration of a training video I was working on. Although I don’t need sound effects on a daily basis, I decided to assign a few to see if the process works well. As the E2 does not accept digital input via the computer’s USB-C connection, any sound signal you wish to record must come from a recording from an analog source (the auxiliary input, a microphone, Bluetooth, etc.). Recording is fairly easy and each button can store around 20 seconds with the A, B and C buttons extending it to almost a minute. To save, press and hold the button you want to use for 3 seconds. The light will flash slowly, so release the button to start recording. Short press the button when finished to stop recording, or wait 20 seconds for the recording to run out of space. From then on, a short press of the button will play the sound. Although I wish I could add a sound file directly to a button, it works great as long as the sound is ready and ready to avoid any sort of annoying gap.
I told you my office was cluttered.
Although from a computer perspective the E2 is just another mic, I find having this between the recording app and the mic a game-changer. I now have a lot more control over the output than before, which for me means less time for audio post-cleanup. The board performs much better than you’d expect from a mixer in this price range, with 48v power the proverbial icing on the cake.
The PM320 mic, however, is only good enough. I had to resort to a fair amount of pitch adjustment to get what I thought was a clear audio track. Maybe that’s me – I often think I have a voice well suited to silent movies, but side by side with other mics I own, I found the PM320 to be lacking. For example, my Blue Yeti is plug and play, but since the E2 doesn’t have a micro USB port, I can’t use it. A while ago I reviewed the Samson Q9U mic (read it here) and plugging it into the E2 I think I found the perfect recording setup for me. No extra processing work is needed and the addition of the E2 (as opposed to the Elgato XLR connector I use) results in some of the best sound I’ve produced.
Is the MAONOCASTER E2A Portable All-in-One Podcast Production Studio Review – Budget Podcasting on the Go! perfect? No. The buttons feel a bit spongy when pressed and the volume sliders are a bit wonky. But those are pretty minor gripes compared to the stellar output and ease of use. Maono put the money into it, and it shows.
What I like
- The number of input sources available
- Clear and crisp output
- How easy it is to learn to use this table
What I would change
- Add a USB input port to allow direct transfer of audio files to sound effect buttons
- Add a wall charger to the box to charge the battery/power the board
A good mixer is hard to find. The best have a price that resembles the annual budget of a Caribbean nation, and the budget tips sound like their (cheap) price. MAONOCASTER E2A Portable All-in-One Podcast Production Studio Review – Cost-Effective Podcasting on the Go! is the happy medium – a budget setup that feels like a more expensive board. With everyone and their first cousin entering the content production fray, anything you can do to stand out is a necessity, not a good thing to have. This set delivers great sound and ease of use, meaning you can focus on your content, not the mechanics of producing it. And at $170 for the package, you’re unlikely to find a better configuration for the money.