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In The Beginning
Creating a high quality audio input is something that traditionally requires at least two components - the soundcard and mic itself, in some cases an additional mixer might be required. The Samson Go-Mic puts it all into a single package, with a dual capsule - Omni or Cardioid mic with built in 16-bit, stereo audio interface. It's more than just that though, with a nicely designed, compact (about the size of a DV tape - if anyone remembers those), metal clip/stand for sitting on the desk or clipping to the top of your laptop screen.
In The Box
Special mention must go to the classy packaging, it's full-on waxed cardboard iPod style with a real quality feel to it - obviously this has no bearing on the product itself, but it gives you confidence that it's going to work. Inside there's a good length USB mini cable, a nice zip-up carry pouch (only room for the mic) and a copy of Cakewalk's Music Creator LE (PC only folks). A manual, a little cable clip and a nut for attaching to a US standard mic stand thread completes the contents.
In The Hand
Samson have done a good job of making this feel substantial and well built, as the clip/stand is a weighty affair adding bulk and solidity to what is actually a fairly light plastic mic assembly. The fact the the mic folds into the stand is a nice piece of design too and provides a certain amount of protection for the mic - should you have it rattling around inside your bag. Connectors and switches are of adequate quality and there is a dual colour LED on the front (silver side) of the mic for indicating power (green) and overload (red). The clip part of the stand is quite well sprung and grabs hold of the laptop screen firmly. However, I did find that this was pretty much all it could grab, as trying to clip it on to mic stand tube, washing stand etc etc was a bit hit and miss and could result in the clip letting go with a snap. For the desktop, the stand it sits nicely flat with enough weight to resist all but the largest curly headphone leads attempts to pull it over.
In The Use
The device is class compliant which means no drivers nessecary in Windows XP and up and Mac OS 10.4 and up. I had no problem with plug and play and selecting it as a sound device. Plug in a pair of headphones and your good to go. The ability to monitor directly through the audio out is a great help and does provide zero latency monitoring. There's also plenty of gain for the mic and the headphones out is good and loud.
The two mic polar patterns are well chosen so you can use this for directional vocal use - say for podcasts or vocal takes as well as sticking it in the middle of a group of speakers or singers. The omni will of course get you a more roomy, ambient sound, but it was surprisingly good quality. There's not too much noise at higher gain settings, as long as you're not expecting premium mic and amp performance. The only real problem I had was with the mic's succeptability to popping, really not handling close up 'P's and 'B's all that well. Though to be fair, this is something that you get with a lot of mics, and can be solved with careful mic technique, or a pop shield - although this is unlikely to be practical given the size of this mic. In my case I took the wind shield from my Zoom H4 and slipped it over the mic. I think that Samson could do worse than include one of these in the box, they must cost about $0.05c and would make a dramatic difference to the results. Also worth mentioning that its very sensitive to handling and cable noise, so you really do not want to be touching or moving this mic while in use.
In The End
I was pretty convinced by this little mic, and used it perfectly happily on Sonic TALK 142 (an interview with Jordan Rudess) without any difficulty, the only real problem I had was figuring out where to mount the mic, as all I had was a clothes stand in our bedroom to mount it at mouth height, but with a little jiggling about it was fine.
Results are really pretty impressive for the size and cost of the package and I can see this being useful for a variety of uses including - if you are stuck; singing and instrument recordings as well as Skype or interviews. I'll certainly be hanging on to this one just for the occaision when I'm away from my studio and need a usable quality mic input.
$74.99/£49.99 (cheaper on the street)
First of a series, looking at the advanced voice processing tool