Congratulations, you’ve become a streamer. You’ve used your headset mic, earned affiliate status, and are finally starting to consider the money-making potential of your hobby. If this describes you, then there’s a good chance you’ve already considered how you can increase the quality of your stream without breaking the bank. The Samson MixPad MX124FX mixer and Q2U XLR/USB microphone, all for under $200. But is it worth the investment?
Samson Mixpad MX124FX Specifications
- MSRP: $149.99
- Ultra-low noise, high headroom analog mixer
- Four Class A, MDR (Maximum Dynamic Range) mic preamps with 3-band EQ
- Four Stacked-Stereo channels
- High-quality, precision faders
- Two single-knob, studio-quality compressors
- High-integrity, bidirectional USB interface
- 100 24-bit, low-noise digital effects
- One pre-fader Aux Send per channel for monitor mix
- All mic channels equipped with input Gain and high pass filters
- 48V Phantom Power for condenser microphones
- Multiple outputs: Main Mix, Mix 2, Phones and Tape
- USB/Tape inputs assignable to Main Mix or Mix 2/Phones outputs
- Optional mic stand mount available
One of the most common questions from new streamers is which microphone they should choose. This question is often repeated once the asker has been streaming a while and is ready to upgrade. At that point, the question often shifts: XLR or USB? Almost without exception, the recommendation for expanding streamers is to invest in an XLR microphone and a quality audio interface to connect it to your PC.
At this point, we see quality options like the Scarlett Focusrites suggested, but for the maximum amont of control, I had an inkling from my music background that what you really want is a quality mixer. When Samson reached out and asked us to take a look at their G-Track Pro, I knew I had to take the opportunity to ask about their MXP124FX, a 12 channel mixer that’s also an audio interface. I’m glad I did because that inkling turned out to be correct. For about the same price as the Scarlett Focusrite 2i2, the Samson MXP124FX provides excellent quality with far more options than your average interface.
What you’ll find here is a board that allows for 12 separate audio inputs and can send them through to your PC as a single signal. Four XLR connections are supported and each channel includes a 1/4" input that’s standard for audio gear (though you might want to invest in one of these to connect your gaming headset). The first four channels all feature their own equalizers, allowing you to change your voice to sound its best, as well as high-pass filters to cut out white noise in the background. Channels 5-8 can be recorded in stereo or mono but share the same settings.
Moving all the way to the right, we have some really neat features. Beginning at the top, you’ll find your level monitor that lights up LEDs to show whether you’re levels are too loud, too quiet, or even peaking out and a button to send phantom power to attached XLR mics (USB mics are powered by the computer, XLR mics need an external power source which is our “phantom power”).
Below that, we find controls for mixing in the audio from your PC. Since the MixPad acts as an audio interface, it also receives audio from your computer and sends it to your headphones through the mix. You can quickly adjust the level you’re hearing and the level being fed into the mix. So, if you want the game louder but don’t want it to overwhelm your teams comms for your audience, you can raise it for yourself and lower what’s being sent back out.
To the left, we actually have 99 zero latency effects. These span the gamut from basic reverbs you might want to apply to instrument-centric Chorus and Flange effects. Having these here might not seem immediately useful, but are a lot of fun to play with mid-stream, joking around with your teammates or the audience.
What’s the big deal? As a streamer, you want as much control over your production as possible and you don’t want to leave the game to do it. A mixer allows you to feed second audio sources, like a smartphone for music streaming or even a second PC, in. If you’re podcasting, all of your hosts can be input into their own channel whether in person or over VOIP and balanced out for a more professional feed. The MXP124FX also allows a second mix to be sent, for example if you’re recording a game stream on one system/tool and streaming to Twitch on another.
If it all sounds like a bit of overkill, it may just be for you. While it’s probably worth investing in a decent mixer over an audio interface just for the level controls, EQ, and compressor, many (most?) streamers will probably not use half of the inputs available on this board. Yet, the progression of streaming upgrades typically goes USB -> XLR/Interface -> Mixer. Jumping right to the more powerful tool will not only cost about the same as the standalone interface, it will also future proof you right into the realms of Twitch fame.
The MXP124FX isn’t the cheapest mixer on the market and it isn’t the smallest either. You’ll need a bigger desk to use it. Before you rush out and consider the cheapest mixer you can find, a recommendation from me in this product category demands quality components. Cheap mixers often use low quality preamps which cause a terrible hiss when turned up, both in your ear and in the mix. The MixPad’s preamps are excellent. In the recording at the bottom of this review, the noise you’re hearing is actually my PC fans and, though you’ll hear white noise in your ear, little if any gets sent through to the mix.
Samson Q2U Handheld Dynamic USB/XLR Microphone
Having covered the benefits of a mixer, and the fact that you’ll be spending $149 on the MXP124FX, you might not be quite ready to spend another $100+ on an XLR mic. Thankfully, affordable, high-quality options are plentiful in the XLR world and Samson sent along one of their own for me to check out with the Q2U Recording and Podcasting Pack.
- MSRP: $54.99
- Element Type: Dynamic
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid (unidirectional)
- Frequency Reponse: 50Hz–15kHz
- Sensitivity: -54dBV/Pa
- Max. SPL: 148dB SPL
- Bit Depth: Up to 16-bit
- Sample Rate: 44.1kHz/48kHz
- Digital Output: Mini USB
- Analog Output: XLR
- Headphone Output: 1/8" (3.5mm)
- Microphone Switch: On/Off (USB and XLR audio output)
- Product Dimensions: 7.5" (190mm) x 2.2" (55mm) diameter
- Product Weight: 0.7lb (0.32kg)
- Includes mic clip, tripod stand, tripod stand extension, USB cable (2.25m) and XLR cable (3m)
The podcasting pack comes with the microphone pictured above, a foam windscreen to fit over the top, a tripod with extension, and a pair of USB and XLR cables. For $54.99 it’s a pretty solid set of items to get you started, though the tripod clip may be one of the worst I’ve ever used. It holds the mic well, but is oddly made of rubber which causes the mic to wobble on its stand. For the price, it’s nice they included any stand, so it feels a bit silly to complain but you’ll definitely want to be upgrading it in the future.
The Q2U features USB and XLR connectivity with virtually identical audio quality, live monitoring via a 3.5mm port, and gain up/down controls. The cylinder is made of die-cast metal and has a comfortable weight. Combined with the thick, heavy gauge grill, it may just be the most durable mic I own. It certainly doesn’t feel like an entry level mic by build quality alone.
Plugging it in, I was shocked by how good it sounded for how much it cost. I admit to not expecting much given that it’s $54.99 with accessories, but this is a case where the value is just clear to hear. Have a listen in the audio review of the mixer above:
This audio review demonstrates the benefits of the mixer and uses the Q2U microphone as an example
Not only does it have a natural, warm sound but being a dynamic mic also means it’s much better at ignoring background noise. Where condenser mics tend to pick up everything including the mouse scurrying across your basement floor, the Q2U did a fantastic job of blocking out the fans running in my room to where they were barely audible. For streaming, podcasting, or any other content creation, that’s just fantastic.
For $54.99, the Q2U is an easy recommendation to make, especially because you don’t need a mixer to use it. If you’re a streamer on a budget that tends to have background noise issues, this is absolutely an option you should be considering.
- MXP124FX: 12 inputs, four with EQ control, two with build in compressors
- MXP124FX: Lots of control of your audio output
- MXP124FX: Acts as an audio interface for your PC while also accepting PC audio into your mix
- Q2U Mic: High quality build
- Q2U Mic: Included stand, windscreen, and cables
- Q2U Mic: Excellent sound for the price
- MXP124FX: Large footprint demands desk space
- MXP124FX: The amount of controls can be initially intimidating, some may go unused
- Q2U Mic: Microphone clip is chintzy and causes wobble
The products described in this article were provided by the manufacturer for the purposes of review.