It took me a few days but I’m back in action again. Replaced my computer / office chair with a better one and its amazing to feel how easily you can get used to something. While I was sitting quite comfortable in my previous chair (before the collapse) it simply not as comfortable as my current one. BUT… Let’s talk microphones…
Here you see the latest addition to my synth gear; the Samson G-Track; a USB condenser microphone which also provides an audio interface.
As you might know by now I’m a big fan of DAW’s, Ableton Live in particular. Ever since I became more interested in sampling I planned to pick up a microphone of some sort. And when I learned about the existence of USB microphones I was basically sold. Best of both worlds IMO.
G-Track, what is it ?
The G-Track is a USB condenser microphone. As you may, or may not know there are several types of microphones. I’m no expert on the subject, but the most common types are dynamic and condenser (or “capacitor”) microphones.
A microphone basically works in the opposite way of a loudspeaker. Where a speaker changes an electrical current into sound vibrations a microphone changes sound into an electrical current.
The main difference between a dynamic and a condenser microphone is the way they operate; a dynamic microphone captures sound waves and uses them to create the actual electrical current itself. A condenser microphone on the other hand doesn’t use the sound to create the current but to make 2 electrical charged plates vibrate. When these plates vibrate this has an effect on their electrical charge and by measuring this change the microphone detects sound. This is the theory in a nutshell, as said I’m no expert on the matter and for more specific information I’d like to point you to Wikipedia.
A complete package
The G-Track combines the microphone with an audio interface. Apart from the USB connection it also features two 3.5″mm (1/8 inch) jacks which can be used to connect an instrument (guitar or keyboard or both) on the line input and some headphones on the output. So basically you can record vocals while also playing another instrument. And to complete the experience you can immediately check the generated sound using a pair of headphones.
In every aspect the G-Track is a very complete package.
Of course this begins with the inclusion of the audio interface. But I think its a very good deal that it also ships with every possible cable you might need to connect your gear. Besides the USB cable the G-Track comes with guitar (a 1/8 to 1/4 cable; so also usable to connect keyboards), stereo line input and headphone extension cables. Everything you need to get started right away.
And as you can see it also features a very sturdy and robust desktop stand. While I was worried a bit about this picking up unwanted noise or vibrations this turned out not to be an issue at all.
Working with the G-Track is a breeze indeed. The setup went quite smooth on my Vista machine; all I had to do was to connect the mic and the rest went completely automatic. No need to manually supply drivers or something.
Next all I had to do was to point my Asio4All driver to the right USB interface and I was good to go.
Now, because the microphone can use multiple sound sources it maybe a little puzzling in the beginning; you can switch between sound sources on the microphone itself. The sound which is picked up by the microphone is sent out over the left channel whereas the line input is send out over the right channel. However, you can also switch the microphone to “stereo mode” in which it will only send out the sound coming into its line-in, but this time over both channels. This allows you to use instruments which provide a stereo signal, or to record 2 instruments at the same time.
The headphone channel works in almost the same way. By default you can hear the sound as it is picked up by the microphone itself. Here you will hear the microphone over the left channel and the line input over the right channel. You can also switch to “stereo” mode; here you’ll hear the sound from the line-in. Finally you can also switch to “CPU mode”; then it will only play sounds coming in from your DAW. I use this in Live for monitoring purposes or to ‘cue’ tracks.
Volume controls & clip detection
On the front of the device you’ll find three level controls which can “pop out” by gently pushing them in a bit. I like this approach since this prevents unwanted changes. With these controls you can adjust the volume on the headphones, the volume of the incoming line-in sound as well as the volume (or sensitivity) of the microphone itself.
The led on the front is both an indicator that the device is connected and operational as well as an easily used clipping monitor. Whenever the sound starts to clip the led flashed bright red for a moment. This really helped me a lot to set my Casio keyboards volume to the right amount (playing the keyboard with or without a rhythm playing makes quite a difference).
Setting up the G-Track in Ableton Live
The key to using the G-Track in Ableton Live is to make sure that you setup both a stereo and a mono input. To make this as clear as possible I’ve only used one audio input in this screenshot and as you can see I selected both options (1 & 2 as well as 1/2).
Its easier to use both options because the G-Track either sends out 2 mono signals or one stereo signal. And although you could simply use Live’s utility audio effect to simply drop one channel and continue using the other it is more effort than simply telling your audio track to use a specific input.
Another possible advantage is that (pre-) selecting the input instead of filtering it may very well save some CPU cycles as well.
Processing the signal
Although the G-Track provides a very clear signal I always use some effects to enhance the sound a bit. This can be either a compressor or compensator (or both) and just to make sure nothing bad happens I always add a limiter as well.
And to complete the review; obviously you can purchase optional expansions for the microphone as well. Here you can see the so called SP04 shock mount.
A shock mount basically fastens your microphone using elastic cables. This will make sure that the microphone is basically “hanging” on the cables, so any possible vibrations coming in across the standard will be absorbed by the elastic bands; and as such will never reach the microphone itself.
This prevents the microphone from picking up any unwanted noise or rumble. Although I’m not an expert on microphones I think that using a shock mount using the desk stand maybe a bit too much (then again, it heavily depends on your desk I suppose) but I can sure see advantages whenever you’re using the microphone on a larger standard (which are also available of course).
All in all the Samson G-Track is a very complete package. Everything you need to get started with your recordings right away is available.
The only con I’ve found so far is the seemingly limited frequency range of the headphone outlet. Although at this time I cannot completely rule out an issue with my Asio driver I did notice that although the headphones produce good audible signals some sounds tend to sound vague and incomplete. Its not comparable to your average mp3 player for example.
Obviously this is not a big issue when you’re simply using this to cue your music, but I can imagine this to be a caveat for some people. For me this was simply something I suddenly noticed a bit, but it never managed to bother me.
But apart from this I have no complaints what so ever about this microphone and I’m very pleased to have discovered this. Also because I can’t wait to start experimenting further with actually using the sounds I can produce using my Casio keyboard in my DAW. Although my Casio isn’t a synth workstation you still shouldn’t underestimate the sound and music you can produce with this.
And there you have it.
If you’re looking for a microphone I can really recommend this one. Also note that Samson makes more than merely USB microphones. For a complete overview please see their website here.
Finally, you can find the official G-Track product page here.