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    Reviewed: Maono AU-A04 USB Condenser Mic Kit

    Technology Audio Devices Reviewed: Maono AU-A04 USB Condenser Mic Kit

    Today, we’re looking at the Maono AU-A04 USB condenser mic kit to see if it’s a worthy addition to your hardware arsenal. It’s 2021 now, and if you’re still using the built-in microphone of your laptop, it’s time you changed that. With the increased focus on video calls for work, school, and even just catching up with our friends and families, there’s little reason to keep using the limited capabilities of those tiny mics. Fortunately, there are many options available to make computer audio sound much better, such as USB mics.

    Design: 4/5

    As the name suggests, the Maono AU-A04 is an entire kit put together to let you be able to up your audio game without having to go out and get lots of individual items. The heart of the kit is the USB condenser microphone. It’s solidly built, with a metal body and quite a bit of heft to it. The mic has no inputs, outputs, or controls, aside from a USB port on the bottom. The grille on the top protecting the capsule is reasonably robust, though it does flex a bit against thumb pressure. It’s a side-fire microphone, and while there aren’t any lights or indicators as to where to address the mic, the logo is conveniently placed on the correct side. As long as you’re speaking into the side where the Maono branding is, you’ll be fine.

    The kit also comes with a basic shock mount into which the condenser mic clamps, a 5/8-inch to 3/8-inch adapter, a scissor stand that clamps on to your desk, and a nice, large pop filter that clamps on to the stand.

    The shock mount is quite basic but holds the condenser mic firmly and has a single locking joint to set the microphone’s angle. The scissor stand is similar to the inexpensive ones that go for a few hundred bucks online, but at least the clamp that affixes to your desk is done in thick, sturdy metal and not simple stamped steel. The two-layer fabric pop filter is secured to the end of a flexible, metal gooseneck, with a simple screwing clamp that lets it attach securely to your stand. It’s a fairly basic kit, but you could do way worse than this setup provides. 

    Hardware: 3.5/5

    The Maono AU-A04 itself has no frills. It actually has nothing on it. Made as an entry-level device, it has no lights, controls, or jacks, aside from the USB connector that lets you plug it into your computer. There is, unfortunately, no zero-latency monitoring on this mic, so if you’re looking for something for more serious work, you’ll want to give Maono’s higher-level offerings a look.

    The condenser mic records 24-bit, 192kHz audio, which is quite impressive and has a cardioid polar pattern. The frequency response is roughly flat, with a bump at 100Hz, a dip at about 8KHz, and another bump at 10KHz. It has a 16mm capsule and sensitivity of -38dB to +3dB, as per the manufacturer’s website.

    User Experience: 4.5/5

    Just to give a little background, the primary use I’ve had for the Maono AU-A04 was for spoken word, primarily a podcast, as well as in-game comms for Overwatch, so read this review with that in mind.

    I’ve gone through quite a few microphones in my quest to find the one that works best for my purposes, and while I’m very much in love with my XLR condenser mic + Zoom H5, it’s quite a pain to set up, involving unpacking, making space, plugging wires, and adjusting settings. The Maono AU-A04 cuts through all of that with quick, painless USB compatibility. Really all that needs to be done is to plug the wire into the mic, then plug that into a free USB port on my computer, and that’s it. As a matter of fact, since it’s actually quite a compact microphone, I just have it permanently set in place, with the stand clamped to my desk, so I don’t need to do anything extra except make sure it’s the correct input device in Windows. The included cable is plenty long enough for my setup, and at about 3 meters (don’t quote me on that, though), there should be plenty for most applications.

    I have a deep-ish voice, and I have found that the mic actually makes that significantly more pronounced, adding quite a bit of boom to it, even at the recommended 4-6 inch distance. Any closer, and it starts to become overwhelming. In that light, the pop filter ends up serving the purposes of filtering out plosives and helping maintain the proper distance from the mic. Remember, this doesn’t offer zero-latency monitoring, so you really won’t be able to keep track of how you’re sounding while you’re recording, so you have to take extra care to make sure the recording gets done right. 

    That extremely pronounced bass is apparently not a thing for the previous model of the Maono AU-A04, but as mine appears to be a late 2020 production unit with different internal components, it’s quite heavy on the low end. This, unfortunately, cuts into the mids a bit, making them sound a little muddy. This isn’t such a big deal for the spoken word, and clarity doesn’t seem to suffer, but it’s something to be aware of. The highs are present, and audio from the mic isn’t fatiguing to listen to, but it doesn’t have that sparkly quality that some people might be looking for.

    Overall, if you either don’t mind the bass-heavy sound it captures or if that’s exactly what you’re looking for, it’s not bad. This might not be ideal for singing, but taming those bottom end a little in post actually makes it sound quite pleasant to my ears, at least for spoken voice.

    Value: 4.5/5

    This is where the Maono AU-A04 really shines. The performance, ease of use, and price does make it a very viable option for those looking for an upgrade over their built-in mic. It might not be the right choice for singers or people who need zero-latency monitoring (the inclusion of which would probably have bumped the score to a solid 5), but if you just want a simple, easy-to-use mic that is actually quite inexpensive, this is just the ticket.

    Specifications:

    • Microphone-core: 16mm Condenser
    • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
    • Frequency Response: 30Hz-16kHz
    • Sampling Rate: 192kHz/24bit
    • Sensitivity: -38dB+/-3dB (0dB=1V/Pa at 1kHz)
    • Interface: USB

    What’s hot: 

    • Great price
    • Simple setup
    • Includes everything you need to get started

    What’s not:

    • Boomy low end
    • No monitoring
    • Pretty basic

    Bottomline:

    If you just need better audio for meetings, or if you’re not too concerned about extra features, add it to cart now.

    Reviewed by Ren Alcantara
    Also published Gadgets Magazine January 2021 Issue

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