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Quick review: Samson C01U Podcast Pak (USB condenser mic)

(This is a review of a product I bought with my own cash money, and still use – Gary)

I’ve been talking about this in the comments of another post but I figured it’d be a good idea to post a quick review (not least ’cause it makes the information easier to find if you’re Googling).

Samson C01U podcast pak

So, you’ve got a computer and you want to make music or do some podcasting. Internal mics aren’t up to the job (particularly on laptops – they just pick up hard disk thrashing and fan whirr), headset mics are okay for Skype but a dead loss for music, and proper studio mics cost a packet and need an external power source. Enter Samson, whose Podcast Pak is aimed – yes! – at podcasters. I reckon it’s pretty good for home music makers too.

Dull details first: some shops will charge you £129 for this pack, but if you shop around you can get it for £84 (via an Amazon partner in my case, but other music shops have similar deals). I did a quick Google and the going rate in the US seems to be about $160, but I’m not up to date with US bargain hunting so you may well find it cheaper. If you don’t want the goodies but do want the mic, the going rate is around £50.

What you get: the Pak comes in a lockable, well padded aluminium case with cut-outs for the various bits and bobs. Inside there’s Samson’s C01U condenser microphone, a 10-foot shielded USB cable, a desktop mic stand, a spider shock mount and a mic stand clip with an unscrewable European mic stand adaptor (the Samson stand is a US fitting). You also get a copy of the basic but OK Cakewalk Sonar LE software (PC only), although if you’re on a Mac you’ll use Garageband anyway.

What you don’t get: Samson’s SoftPre software, which provides a low frequency cut, preamp gain and phase switching. It’s well worth having and you can get it for nowt from the Samson website.

So is it any cop? Garageband recognised it immediately, and while I thought there was a bit of delay while monitoring the input it turned out to be Garageband running out of puff. Muting a few tracks and changing Garageband’s buffer size reduced but didn’t eliminate the problem, so if you’re doing vocals and monitoring them at the same time there is a slight but noticeable delay. As the Samson’s a USB mic there’s no way round this – you can’t hook it up to something else for real-time monitoring. If you’re singing, the best bet is probably to strip Garageband right down to minimise this delay or just switch off mic monitoring altogether.

If you’ve used a condenser mic before you’ll know what to expect. For vocals or speech, close-miking gives a wonderfully warm and deep sound, which in my case made me feel like Barry White. Like all such mics the sound changes according to where you put the microphone, so it’s worth experimenting: up close acoustic guitars are way too boomy for my taste, although the low frequency cut in the software preamp can get rid of unwanted rumble. It’s classic microphone proximity effect: the closer you are, the more bassy things get.

It’s very sensitive, so you will need a noise gate – Garageband has one in software – to get rid of unwanted noise. In my case it picked up planes going past, dogs barking in the street… which is actually a pretty good thing for podcasters, because it means you can stick the mic in the middle of a table and record group discussions. If like me you tend to tap your foot and generally fiddle around when the microphone is live, you’ll really, really appreciate the shock mount, which stops that stuff reaching the mic.

Signal noise doesn’t seem to be a problem. The Samson has an internal preamp, and the trick seems to be to use the SoftPre software to whack the gain up and then keep the volume low in your recording software. Do it the other way round (low gain in SoftPre and high gain in Garageband) and the results will be hissier than a big box o’snakes.

I paid my own cash money for this, and I’m pleased I did: it’s exactly what I want from a mic without costing too much money. But if you fancy one, shop around – the price differences out there are dramatic.

You’ll find more info, tech specs etc on Samson’s website.

36 replies on “Quick review: Samson C01U Podcast Pak (USB condenser mic)”

What’s the stand like? The mic comes with a desktop one on it’s own (which pissed me off as I bought one seeing as it wasn’t mentioned in any of the spec I saw). So, by my reckoning that’s a tenner for the case.

The version of Sonar is 4.0.1. Curtrent version is 6.0. It will not work with Vista.

“In my case it picked up planes going past, dogs barking in the street”

Iremember reading an interview with Jyoti Mishra wherehe said something similar – he went back to using his old mic. This is why I don’t buy a better one – my room is an acoustically horrible space and a good mic would just show that up. My bottom of the range Shure (un pre-amped) only picks up what’s in its immediate vicinity. I mean, it’s not like I’ve got some amazing singing voice or anything.

Shit, that’s bad. I hadn’t checked the vista status.

FWIW I know everybody likes to whale on Microsoft for this stuff, but if this is a driver issue then it’s purely the hardware companies’ fault. I mean FFS, Vista’s been out since November 2006 (business customers) and January 2007 (home), and it was in widely available beta for about 200 years before that. It’s just laziness on the part of hardware firms.

I had the same problem when I did PC music making and WIndows moved to XP. *Years* afterwards, firms hadn’t updated their drivers.

I’m sure you’ve seen this already, but if not:
http://forums.techsmith.com/showthread.php?t=4020&page=2
(various vista/Samson stuff).

What’s the stand like?

Just yer typical few-inches-high, big-heavy-base effort.

This is why I don’t buy a better one

Well, there’s no point replacing what you’ve got if it does what you want. I’ve got a good (if very dusty) vocal mic for stage stuff, but getting it into the laptop would have meant additional kit anyway. And it’s crap for acoustic instruments – very much a voice mic.

my room is an acoustically horrible space and a good mic would just show that up.

Heh. You could always turn the volume down ;)

>>I know everybody likes to whale on Microsoft for this stuff

Is it really spelt like that? Gives me a weird mental image. Anyway, it’s because it’s easy and it’s fun.

Oh, the mic is glorious on Vista. It’s the softwares that doesn’t work. Although, if you go by the Samson site, you don’t need SoftPre for Vista. I suspect they refer to the drivers alone.

Found a little £20 recording app that looks great. Mailed the author a few questions and his response was so friendly and helpful I nearly bought it before even testing the demo version did what I required. Plan to investigate further this evening.

Vista schmista. A surprising number of new laptops are sold with XP, some even advertise the fact. Me, I’m sticking with Win2K: I reckon MS peaked there.

“I’m sticking with Win2K: I reckon MS peaked there”

I think you may be right, it was a nice stable OS, did things that you wished 98 had done and included things (like audio previewing in Explorer) that XP inexplicably didn’t.

My brother bought a PC laptop about 2 months ago, ran smooth as a very smooth thing with XP but now groans like an old fart with Vista. Needless to say he’s not impressed.

Mind you, I’m going to hold off Leopard until someone gets ClearDock to run on it – I HATE that reflective shelf thing the new dock has.

Incidentally, does anyone know of anyone running OSX successfully on a PC? I know of a lot of less than legal ‘Hackintosh’ guides but I’d be interested in how well it works….

Alex, an extra RAM stick would solve your brother’s vista performance issues. That and turning off inessentials (indexing, widgets, etc) – same stuff I do on the powerbook and the mac mini. A lot of operating systems’ eye-catching features are a pain if you don’t need them; they just sit there gobbling resources.

As for OS X on non-Apple x86, it’s not something I’d want to bother with. legality aside, putting OS X on a machine with unsupported hardware sounds like a recipe for crashes, missing drivers and so on. I have enough problems getting the right Windows drivers for PC hardware :)

I’ll pass on the RAM hint to my brother, I’ve recently done the same thing for my dad’s Packard Bell laptop, he bought it 20 months ago and it shipped with a pathetic 192mb of RAM. When I went with him to pick it I actually chose another machine for him that had 1gb….then PC World said they didn’t have it in stock and replaced it with a machine with ‘identical’ specs (impossible to check til we got it home). It’s been crawling along with XP for ages now, taking *minutes* to open IE, so I pushed him to the Crucial site and got him to upgrade. Took 2 minutes to put the new RAM in and now the machine runs pleasantly swiftly.

I stuck an extra gig in my MacBook a few months ago, runs like a dream :)

I’d love to upgrade this ‘book but it’s the 15″ one that freaks out with third-party memory chips. When I upgraded it to a gig previously it took *ages* to get chips that actually worked, and I’m wary of going through all that faff again.

Then again, it’d only be £120 to make it a 2GB machine…

All the major manufacturers now supply chips guaranteed to work with that model. The original ones you got weren’t guaranteed. The second lot were.

Ah, that’s good to know. I’m breaking Garageband with alarming regularity at the moment.

i can’t get rid of the delay on the C01U
can someone help me
i’m using windows xp media edition and audacity for recording
i still can’t get the delay off of the monitering

If you haven’t tried it already there’s an updated XP driver here:

http://www.samsontech.com/usb_mics/driver_update/

And other software here:

http://samsontech.com/products/productpage.cfm?prodID=1810&brandID=2

Other than that, there’s the general making-music stuff – if it’s not the device driver, latency (the delay) is almost always a problem caused by overloaded computers, so disable absolutely everything you don’t need. Anti-virus, wireless internet… anything at all that isn’t related to recording. Certainly I don’t think it’s the mic, because when I strip Garageband tracks down to the bare minimum, disable effects etc the latency’s acceptable; when I turn everything on again it goes to hell.

Failing that, see if you can blag someone else’s PC for a bit and try it on that. It’s possible the sound card is a factor…

Sorry, it’s not an updated driver in the first link – it’s instructions. Driver should be in the SoftPre download from the second link.

Is it really spelt like that?

Probably not.

I think it’s spelt “wale” as in:

“a streak or ridge made on the skin especially by the stroke of a whip”

I always thought that was “weal”.

I’d assumed the “whale on” was “wail on”.

I am using the same mic, hooked up to a Macbook Pro with Leopard OSX 10.5.2 and GarageBand 3.0 and I cannot get the damn thing to record any sound without the Soft Pre app – which merely increases the gain. It also does not give me true stereo when used with Audacity on the Mac either. Yet it works fine with Soundtrack Pro (as it naturally increases the gain) and works brilliantly with Audacity on and XP PC.

Short of recording on the PC and importing into Garage Band, or using Soundtrack Pro, I am losing my patience with it and considering selling.

Any ideas what I can do to get the mic to work as well on a Mac?

Hi Lee. It won’t give you true stereo because it’s a mono mic; the centering thing might be because Audacity thinks it’s a stereo source rather than a mono one.

In Garageband, is the mic definitely the selected input source? I’ve found that GB sometimes does its own thing irrespective of System Preferences settings.

can anyone help, Ive purchased the samson C01U USB condenser mic and it shows up fine on my PC (im using windows Vista) the solid green light shows on the mic to signal its on.
The problem is the mic doesn’t seem to work, why is this ?

Is the problem because i use windows vista or is it something else ?

Please HELPPPPP !

mac isnt adobe audition compatible

they should just make a good product and mac should make a product that doesnt sell boarderline freeware (linux clone) at sony vaio prices.

Just a wee update: if you’re using this mic in Logic, low latency mode is your friend. It disables any FX and processors that could cause latency with a single click.

Hmm. That’s not ideal. I don’t know where you are, but if you’re in the UK you’re entitled to return it for a refund without restocking fees, packaging fees etc, assuming you’ve just got it of course.

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