Review by Mike Metlay
Re-printed with permission from Recording Magazine


Audio interfaces... once you've decided to record audio with a computer, you pretty much have to have one. There are dozens if not hundreds of designs out there now, from tiny inline gizmos that convert a single signal into a USB stream all the way up to massive sets of PCI cards or FireWire rackage that move multiple channels of high-resolution audio from here to there and back again.

Special features abound—one model has a built-in cue mixer, another model offers effects with its low-latency monitoring system, this one here fits in your pocket, that one there's especially designed for guitars... it seems like all the bases have been covered by one manufacturer or another, and there really is nothing new left under the sun. Or is there?

Just when you thought you'd seen it all, here comes a new USB audio interface from Samson: the GM1U, also called the G-Track. It's a complete 2-channel USB recording and monitoring solution for the recording musician, complete with a cardioid condenser mic—and it keeps size and cabling under control by putting the interface inside the mic! Read on and be amused... and amazed.

All in one

The G-Track looks at first glance like a conventional large-diaphragm side-address mic, but a closer examination belies that fact pretty quickly. Where most mics have slide switches for a pad or filter, the G-Track has controls for input and output signal routing; where most mics have an XLR jack, the G-Track has a USB port; and there are two 1/8" TRS jacks hidden under the mic body, one an input, the other an output. The mic comes with a special adapter cable for attaching a guitar, a USB cable, and a headphone extension/adapter cable, as well as a small but well-built table stand for podcasters. There's no windscreen; the SP04 shockmount is optional (and recommended—in use we found the mic to be pretty sensitive to floor thumps).

Setting up the G-Track is simplicity itself: there's no manual, no driver installation. It's a class-compliant USB device; you just plug it in and you have two ins and two outs. A green LED indicates USB power, and flashes red for peaks. Select the appropriate channels in your DAW and you're rockin'!

How it works

The G-Track's Input switch determines what's in the two channels of audio going to the computer. On the Line setting, the input jack takes a stereo signal at Line level and the mic is turned off; on the Mic/Inst setting, the input jack takes a Hi-Z mono signal and the mic's output provides another mono signal. So you can record a stereo instrument like a keyboard workstation, or a simultaneous guitar and vocal (for example).

The Direct Monitor switch determines what you hear in your headphones as you play back audio from your computer, sing, and play. Mono feeds the mic and instrument signals back into your headphones in mono at zero latency, mixed with the computer's output; Stereo puts the mic in your left ear and the instrument signal in your right, along with the USB from the computer; and CPU provides only the computer's output.

The three knobs on the front of the mic control headphone volume, Instrument level, and Mic level. What's particularly cool about them is that they push into the mic body and lock in place so you can't accidentally change your settings—great for working with folks who have an urge to fiddle with controls they shouldn't touch or who grab the mic in the heat of a performance.

The mic

The G-Track's mic is a pretty straightforward, inexpensive 19 mm diaphragm with a cardioid pattern. We were actually surprised at the quality of this mic at this price: signals were clean and clear with solid lows and mids and an extended but not overly hashy high end. There's a ringing resonance in the mic body when tapped, but this did not translate into an audible ill effect—an example of how resonances don't always equate to trouble.

You'll get your best results with careful placement of your sound source on-axis in a quiet room; the mic's off-axis response is anything but smooth, and there's a large but muddy rear lobe in the cardioid polar pattern (almost a figure-8 in terms of level but with drastically different treble response). But if you do your placement with this in mind, the mic does a lovely job of capturing vocals and acoustic instruments. Combine that with the ability to plug your guitar straight into it, and you've got something really cool here.

Final thoughts and recommendations

We tried the G-Track with Ableton Live, Apple GarageBand and Logic, and Audacity on our test Mac; the mic comes with Cakewalk SONAR LE for Windows machines. In our tests, everyone was surprised at just how good the G-Track sounded, and when I mentioned the cost, the universal reaction was to throw up their hands and say, "Well, heck, at that price, what's not to love? Keep one around just for fun!"

The problem was, the price I was telling everyone was a misquote. I had thought that the G-Track had a street price just over $200... when in fact that's closer to its retail price. You can get the G-Track with the SP04 shockmount (which you'll really benefit from) for less than two bills, making this fun and handy little audio interface even more of a no-brainer to own.

I agree with my colleagues' assessment: keep one around just for fun, or use it to get your songwriting and recording career started. The G-Track is an absolute delight!

Prices: GM1U G-Track, $232.49 (street $149); SP04 shockmount, $39.99

More from: Samson Technologies, 45 Gilpin Ave., Hauppauge, NY 11788. 631/784-2200, www.samsontech.com.











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