If you’re a streamer or podcaster, you already know the value of a mixer. The MaonoCaster takes that concept and dials it up by adding dual mic inputs, customizable sound effects, reverb, voiceFX, and more. At $179 currently on Kickstarter, and $199 at retail, it offers a lot for an affordable price, but does its performance live up to its promise?
The MaonoCaster had been on my radar for months before reaching out to the company. As a big fan of the GoXLR, it looked to provide many of the same features for far less. Having reviewed some of Maono’s microphone kits in the past, that lined up exactly with my impressions of the company: value oriented. Except, while you could say the same about the hundreds of cheap microphones on Amazon, Maono’s punched up. They weren’t the cheapest you could find (the AU-A04 kit was $64.99 but included a boom arm, shock mount, and pop filter) but they felt and sounded like mics approaching the triple digits.
The MaonoCaster, then, represents a compelling product for content creators on a budget. At $179 currently, it packs an impressive feature set. It’s a USB audio interface, so will both send and receive audio from your computer. It accepts two XLR or ¼-inch inputs, and the second mic is connected to a 3.5mm jack to work with headsets, and each has its own headphone jack for real-time monitoring. It accepts two additional sound sources for routing a phone or other device in, which is great for taking calls or playing media. It has a built-in eight-button soundboard, complete with a bleep button and the ability to use three custom effects, loaded from Maono’s software package. There’s a voice changer, six reverb modes, a denoiser, and pitch shifter, and effect/mix knobs to adjust their volumes. There’s even an autotune built in if you create music on-stream or just want to have some fun.
To really wrap your head around what it can do, I recorded an overview/review video that you can watch below:
Maono sent over their Solo bundle, which will retail for $299. It includes the MaonoCaster itself, as well as an XLR mic, desk stand, pop filter, shock mount, headphones, and all of the cables you’ll need to get up and running. If you already have an XLR mic and headphones, you won’t need all of this, but it’s nice to see a simple option that takes the guesswork out of pulling together gear for new streamers.
I was immediately impressed when testing the MaonoCaster for the first time and continued to be through my review period. It works well. The unit provides 48V of phantom power, so will work for most condenser microphones and even powered my dynamics — though, if you’re running a gain hungry mic, you might find it a little quiet. It doesn’t quite have the headroom of the GoXLR or GoXLR Mini and left my Procaster usable but a few dB short of where I usually keep it. Using the built-in zero-latency monitoring, I was able to dial in my volume in seconds. The rear panel was well-labled, so connecting my phone to load in a Spotify playlist and add music to my stream was equally easy, and because I could hear everything mixed right on the unit, I was able to get my levels just correct without second-guessing myself.
Since there are two inputs, it’s a great fit for a two person stream or podcast. MaonoCaster made a smart design choice to add two monitoring outputs, too, so the second host can hear exactly what’s happening on the show. I also love the fact that you can add additional sound inputs, too. I like to keep my music playing through my phone when recording so I don’t have to Alt+Tab out of the game. You can also use this to take calls and bring people into your production remotely.
When it comes to effects, the MaonoCaster has plenty of options. The core features are the reverb options and denoiser, which is a switch on the back. For most situations, you’ll want to stick with Studio or Room reverb, but you have four other, larger space options for ambiance. The pitch shifter is also fun and works on a knob for quick changes. On the VoiceFX section, you have options for male, female, baby, and robot, as well as buttons to opt for Music Only or your sidechain. There’s even an AutoTune option if for music creation or on-screen karaoke.
The soundboard is another neat feature. It comes with eight pads, though the bottom right acts as a bleep button. The top four have some preset effects like a rimshot, applause, and a dramatic stinger. The other three can be customized with your own sound effects using the Maono app. It’s easy to do: you download the effect as an MP3 or WAV, open it with the software, and use two clicks to save it to the pad. I wish there were a way to overwrite the built-in effects, but an included letter says this is a feature they will offer with an upcoming Pro model.
There are some missing features here, though. There’s no compressor, for one, or other enhancers like an equalizer or de-esser. On its campaign page, Maono says it will add features in the to-be-released Pro version, as this model is mainly targeted at mixing and live streaming. It does those jobs well, but the lack of a compressor and EQ is a big omission for any kind of mixer at this price.
The other thing you shouldn’t expect from this device is any kind of audio routing on the software side. Maono never promises it, but given its competitiveness with the GoXLR, it’s reasonable that a new user might come looking and find themselves disappointed. In that way, the GoXLR and MaonoCaster are very different devices. This will mix the audio you have connected to it, but won’t be creating a mass of virtual audio devices to do software mixing.
Taken as a whole, however, it’s hard not to be impressed by the MaonoCaster. This is a great little unit and genuinely feels like a bargain for everything it offers. The sound quality is crisp and clean and being able to produce full stream is much easier than with software solutions. I also really like that here is a built-in 5000mAh battery, so you can take it on the go. Just note that it doesn’t actually record, so you’ll still need to run it into a laptop to be truly portable.
The Solo Bundle feels a touch expensive at $299. You’re paying a premium to know that you’re getting everything you need without shopping around, but you could also buy the MaonoCaster on its own and its separate PM-320S mic kit and have a very similar package, sans headphones and a few audio cables. Still, the mic comes through very clear and has excellent body and clarity. If you don’t want to shop around, the Solo Bundle has everything you need except for a computer.
I followed the MaonoCaster’s development since it was first announced and I’m happy to say it doesn’t disappoint. Even at full retail price of $199, it’s a great value. I wish that there were a couple of extra features, like a compressor and equalizer, built-in but simple plug-ins for audio and streaming software can easily accomplish this same job without costing anything more. The ease of taking your production to the next level of professionalism is an absolute high-point here.
If you’re a content creator that doesn’t like post-production or simply wants to make what you’re producing sound more professional, the MaonoCaster is an excellent choice.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.