Update: Following publication of this review, Helicon Gaming reached out to use to explain that what we interpreted to be "virtual soundcard mixing" is in fact hardware-level mixing which is controlled by the app. This is an important difference as, should the GoXLR app ever crash, all of your routing will remain intact on the device itself. We apologize for the error and have updated the text to reflect this information.
The original GoXLR from TC-Helicon took the streaming world by storm and no wonder: it combined an audio interface with a hardware mixer, sampler, voice changer, and built-in professional effects in one easy to use package. At $398, it was an expensive investment, so now Helicon Gaming is back with the GoXLR Mini, a trimmed-down version of the original that retails for a fraction of the price. Ready to take your content to the next level?
- Current Price: $249.99 (Available 11/25/19)
- Supported microphone types: Dynamic, Condenser, 3.5mm
- Midas Preamp - Quiet Gain Boost
- 48V Phantom Power
- Supports 70dB of additional gain
- 3-Step Setup
- EQ, Compressor, and Gate Built-In
- Software-controlled, hardware-level Mixing
Slider-based Physical Mixer Control
- Advanced Routing from Multiple Audio Devices
- Bleep Button
- Customizable Lighting
- Easy integration with consoles, PC, and other audio equipment
- App Control
- 3-Year Warranty
Not So 'Mini'
When the original GoXLR launched, it was an exciting time here at MMORPG. Behind the scenes, the hardware channels in our Discord server were buzzing. For streamers, podcasters, and content creators it delivered an incredibly rich package. Previously, if you wanted mixing capabilities and a decent preamp (the piece that powers your microphone), you were stuck with a big, ugly slab on your desk. I should know - that’s exactly what I did for a while. The GoXLR was smaller, more customizable thanks to software-controlled USB soundcards, and added in fun new features like a sampler, voice changer, and bleep button. Most importantly, it gave you an intuitive way to control every aspect of your audio and make sure that your stream or video sounded exactly how you wanted it to.
All of this applies to the GoXLR Mini, the latest addition to the GoXLR family. In many ways, I think this will be the quintessential GoXLR for the majority of streamers out there. By streamlining the experience and lowering the price, they’re making this tool more accessible than its ever been without sacrificing any of the core functionality.
Looking at the two side-by-side, you can pretty much take in every key change at a glance. In this case, looks aren’t deceiving. They’ve chopped off the entire right side which previously housed the effects and sampler, but they’ve shifted the cough/mute and bleep button underneath the channel mixer. That’s… pretty much it.
There are a couple of other changes, mind you. The sliders are no longer motorized - that would have driven the cost back up - but they also feel much nicer and more substantial to adjust. The small screens above each channel have also been removed which makes it look a bit less flashy but makes no difference whatsoever to what those channels can do. And that’s it. Everything else is exactly the same or better than the GoXLR, so let’s look at what they have in common.
The Making of a GoXLR
The first thing to know about the GoXLR is that it’s made by a company with a long history in professional audio equipment. TC-Helicon has been making professional-grade gear for years and when the opportunity to make a gaming product presented itself, they turned to their audience first to find out what they would want in a device like this. Those early streamers wanted something easy to use, something that would allow them to mix their game audio, chat, mic monitoring, and that could easily drop into their existing setups. Most importantly, they wanted something that would make them sound good and have confidence in that fact before they ever went live to an audience.
To that end, they started with excellent preamps. Both GoXLRs feature MIDAS preamps, which are renowned in the recording industry for their excellent performance and silence on the track. Preamps, to put it simply, are the middle-man between your microphone, your interface, and the PC and allow it to attain a usable volume. Cheap preamps often have a hiss which can make even the best mic sound terrible. The MIDAS preamps used here are dead silent and provide up to 70dB of additional boost to ensure you’ll get a clean signal even with difficult to drive mics. They’re also expensive because of this.
Second, the built the hardware to capture and deliver in a high resolution. The GoXLR and GoXLR Mini can record up to 24-bit/96kHz. This is well above what’s necessary for any kind of streaming but for podcasting, voice-over, and video creation it’s a high professional bar.
What I think is most interesting, though, is how the software and hardware work together. GoXLR’s driver creates a series of soundcards within that can each be recognized as an independent output. Mic, Chat, Music, Game, Console, Line In, and System are all independently routable and can be matched to one of the four mixing sliders on the front. Should the GoXLR app ever crash (which it didn't for us), your mix will still be intact since it "lives" on the device itself. It does take a bit of setup; you’ll need to make sure your game is set to the Game output, for example, but it’s all very intuitive inside the GoXLR software.
I was also very impressed by how easy it was to set up a new mic, dial in levels, and apply studio effects. In the picture above, you can see how simple the process is. After clicking “Mic Setup,” you choose which type of mic you use, adjust the amount of gain until your levels are close to the top of “good,” and click OK. After that, you can also add or remove gain by adjusting the Mic slider, too, which gives you an extra layer of control versus a normal USB audio interface.
On the same screen, you can also apply a noise gate, equalizer, and compressor. The larger GoXLR also allows you to tweak your samples, reverb, and other effects. With just the first three, you can really customize your sound. I tested it with the Aston Spirit condenser microphone and was surprised by how full-bodied the GoXLR made it sound. Using the noise gate and tweaking the attack/release, I was able to cut out background noise in a very subtle way, and the compressor really evened out my levels between loud and quiet.
On this front, GoXLR isn’t unique. You can do these same things in other apps. Having it all localized in one app with an easy-to-use interface with the key parameters all ready to go? It was much easier than programming these things into OBS or having to load up yet another piece of software. With those effects living righting alongside Mic Setup, it was perfectly natural to make my adjustments all at one time and then forget about them - and thanks to the mic monitoring and sound routing, I was able to record confidently, hearing everything in my own ear.
Here’s an example of a review of the Aston Spirit I did using the GoXLR (playing with GoXLR App effects at 4:50)
So, do I miss the effects and extra features of the GoXLR? Honestly, not really. They’re cool, don’t misunderstand, but ask yourself: how often will you be using a voice changer, layering reverb, grabbing samples and playing them back, or shifting the pitch of your voice? Those are fun features but ones that I use so rarely that the savings on the GoXLR Mini is absolutely worth it. Nine times out of ten, I’m recording my normal voice with studio effects for quality. Since everything but the effects is the same, the Mini allows you to get the features you’ll be relying on anyway for $149 less.
Ultimately, what it comes down to is this: how much is your content worth to you? The GoXLR Mini isn’t cheap, but when you factor in the cost of a normal mixer plus the time savings and ease of using its USB soundcards and routing, it honestly feels like a good deal on a great product. If you’re a content creator that wants to simplify your life, the GoXLR Mini should definitely be something you consider.
- The core features and quality of the GoXLR at a fraction of the price
- MIDAS preamps are excellent
- Software-controlled, hardware-level routing make customizing sliders (and your output) easy
- Sliders feel substantially better than the original GoXLR
- Easy mic set-up and studio effects, all in one place
- Still rather expensive
- Audio newcomers may find the number of soundcards daunting