I am a fan of quality and affordable gear. Modern manufacturing techniques and advancements in technology gave us a vast selection of gadgets in all shapes and sizes.
With the gaining popularity of live streaming, the demand for good audio interface and microphones is growing. The brand Maono, relatively speaking, is a newcomer that offers affordable audio products.
What we’ve got here is the Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1, which is a portable podcasting gear. This is the very first product I’ve got the chance to try from this brand and I’m liking it so far. This bundle is ideal for someone who is just getting into podcasting or a musician looking for a cheaper alternative.
What’s in the box?
AM200 Podcast Console
At first glance I actually thought it was a miniatured DJ turntable because of the two mini platters, but those are just volume knobs for the mics and music. It is a 3-channel mixer-type audio interface with five outputs. The two inputs are designated for mics and/or instruments and the other input is for music. Three outputs (3.5mm TRRS) for smartphones are available so you can stream simultaneously on different platforms.
A separate main and monitor output is available so you can listen to what your audience hears. Note that all the inputs and outputs are for 3.5mm jacks so if you are planning to plug in an instrument directly using a PL (1/4 inch) cable, you will need a 3.5mm adapter.
Plug and play
You can connect it to a computer with the USB A to C cable that is included. It doesn’t require any drivers, so, just plug it in and it’s good to go. It should be compatible to most DAWs (Digital Audio Workstation) for music recording. There is a 3-band EQ along with a “REC” volume knob which is like a “Send” knob to feed the audio to the devices it’s connected to.
Two crossfaders control the monitor volume and echo level. The “monitor” crossfader controls both the volume level for the (main) output and the monitor (output). I wish they installed separated levers for each one to control them independently.
This is also the case for the mic volume knob, it controls both the levels of mic 1 and mic 2. It would’ve have been handy if there are separate knobs for each but I think they did this design to fit in a compact box.
For outdoor streaming and recording
At the middle portion, you’ll notice along the LED indicator level signal is a battery indicator. Yes, this is also battery powered which makes it suitable for out of home live streaming, if you prefer creating something for your viewers elsewhere. You can easily recharge the batteries with the USB C cable.
There are also audio sample pads, buttons for sound effects and pitch shifters.
This condenser microphone does not require phantom power. It runs below 5V, through the XLR to 3.5mm cable, unlike the industry standard condenser microphones. With its cardioid polar pattern, it will be more sensitive to sounds being captured in front of it.
It comes with a pair of in-ear earbuds with a very long cable, enough to cover the distance for a typical on-desk live streaming. I think that the sound quality would be more appreciated by most modern pop listeners who like a lot of bass. Because it does deliver that low-mid thump.
Out of the box, the microphone comes attached to the mini tabletop tripod. The microphone is detachable to the tripod, but if it is used handheld, it will pick-up a lot of hand noise. So, it is better to leave it on the tripod.
Other accessories included are: XLR to 3.5mm cable, two 3.5mm TRRS cables, USB A to USB C cable, and a windscreen cap.
For podcasting, it is very easy to use. It’s what the AU-AM200-S1 is made for and they did a good job. The microphone delivers a clearer and louder output compared to built-in mics in smartphones/laptops or headsets. You can control the volume of music accompaniment easily with the wheel knob, whenever you want to highlight the music or the voice.
Plus, the sound samples like the applause, laughter, cheering etc., are nice additions for some impromptu segments in your streams. You can also record your own samples by pressing the “loop back” button and assigning to any of the blank buttons available.
Since the microphone does not require a phantom power, the output is weaker compared to classic condenser microphones. The sound quality is good nevertheless.
For music recording, you can record your instruments with it on your preferred DAW. I connected my guitar to my digital effects processor with a 3.5mm headphones jack going to the mic input of Maono console. I noticed that the 2 mic inputs have high gain levels because my guitar was already clipping with the volume knob on the AM200 console at around 10 o’clock.
Usually, I set the volume on my guitar effects unit on almost full when I am recording with a different audio interface and mixers. But with the Maono AU-AM200-S1, I only had to set the volume of my guitar effects at 50 percent. This is good because it doesn’t have a designated gain knob. Just watch out for clipping- if it happens, you may want to lower the volume from the source.
I recorded a few short audio samples to demonstrate how the Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 handles recording. Please excuse my singing voice.
Mic only without echo(onboard) – vocal
Mic only with 50% echo(onboard) – vocal
Mic only with 100% echo(onboard) – vocal
Mic only without echo – vocal and guitar
Mic only with post-editing – vocal and guitar
Guitar through a digital effects processor
In a full band mix – Recorded vocals and guitars (both acoustic and electric)
Fully recorded demo
There are two functions that I have a few comments on:
Denoise — This is their “smart noise cancelling” feature that reduces background noise. It does its job as a noise gate, but unfortunately, you cannot adjust the settings (threshold, attack, range, etc.). Depending on how loud the ambient noise is, the mic sometimes gets a stuttering sound when this feature is engaged. If the room is quiet enough, there shouldn’t be any problem.
Music Only — This feature attempts to minimize the vocals in the music that you are playing, but similarly to the denoise, it sometimes affects the mic audio quality. I suggest looking for backing tracks of the songs you want to sing during your live stream beforehand.
Is the AU-AM200-S1 your GadgetMatch?
The Maonocaster Lite AU-AM200-S1 bundle is a usable and functional piece of gear. I see it as a bring-it-anywhere, all-in-one podcasting kit. It would have been more convenient (for me) if they included ¼ inch inputs for mics and instruments. Although, I guess it would kind of defeat its portable nature because most PL cables are thicker and heavier compared to the 3.5mm cables included in this bundle.
Pricing and Availability
Designed for MMO: Razer unveils Naga V2 Pro
Most adaptable gaming mouse yet
Razer is not done changing the game this year. The gaming and lifestyle brand has announced the release of the new Naga V2 Pro gaming mouse.
Designed primarily for MMO, the Naga V2 Pro is the company’s most adaptable mouse yet, boasting of:
- 3 interchangeable side plates
- 19+1 programmable buttons
- 22 programmable controls
- Razer HyperScroll Pro Wheel
- Razer HyperSpeed Wireless
- Razer Focus Pro 30K Optical Sensor
- Razer Optical Mouse Switches Gen-3
A total upgrade of its predecessor, the Naga Pro, the Naga V2 Pro also supports a wide range of charging and connectivity options for low-latency and uninterrupted gaming.
When it comes to its HyperScroll Pro Wheel, the Naga V2 Pro can have up to 6 scroll wheel modes, including a user-customized mode available within Razer Synapse 3.
The custom mode also allows gamers to make countless adjustments for the best scroll feel depending on the task at hand.
The Focus Pro 30K Optical Sensor, meanwhile, enhances the mouse’s aim, smart tracking, asymmetric cut-off, and motion sync.
Razer Naga V2 HyperSpeed
Coming in as another reliable option, Razer has also made the Naga V2 HyperSpeed available.
The slightly more affordable gaming mouse at PhP 6,690 also has Razer’s HyperScroll tech, Focus Pro 30K Optical Sensor, and Mechanical Mouse Switches Gen-2.
It can be powered by just one AA battery and last for up to 400 hours on Bluetooth or 250 hours on HyperSpeed Wireless.
This mouse will be made available by December 2022.
5 reasons why I like using a pair of wireless earbuds
Time to say goodbye to wired earphones!
Wireless has always been the future. The newest wireless earbuds innovation is taking over the market by storm for years now. Even smartphones are choosing to let go of the traditional headphone jacks to promote their proprietary products.
In the midst of all these changes, I find myself tangled up in making a decision between using wired earphones or wireless ones.
But for months, I’ve been using JBL Tune 130NC TWS earbuds and in my experience, I’ve realized that wireless earbuds are miles better than the alternative. Here are five reasons why:
1. Do more than just listen
Here’s a fact: wired headphones limit our mobility. And yes I know, nothing is more annoying than wanting to listen to a song or watch a video, and the moment you take out your wired earphones, it’s all tangled up.
Wireless earbuds give me so much convenience as I can easily get them straight out of my pocket. The JBL Tune 130NC enabled me to do more. Having two earbuds without an interconnecting cable is a much simpler equation.
I can freely walk 30 feet to the kitchen and grab a handful of chips without missing a beat of music or a word from a podcast. Also, a lot of smartphones nowadays don’t have a 3.5mm headphone jack, which means true wireless earbuds aren’t just more convenient, they’re actually now a full-blown necessity.
2. Awesome features and functionalities
The fact that the earbuds are wireless does not mean that they will not give you the best sound quality. The JBL Tune 130NC houses 10mm JBL tuned drivers, which deliver a bass-rich audio output. The audio volume is perfect and, hence, does not get uncomfortable or distorted even at 100%.
The bass output is excellent and adds a good amount of thump to the audio. A decent pair of wireless earbuds like the JBL Tune 130NC is more than capable of playing back Spotify at its full bit rate. I’m not losing any sound quality through this.
For a long time, wireless earbuds used to sound noticeably worse than their wired counterparts. They just weren’t capable of the same quality of playback as a pair of wired headphones. Now, it comes with longer-lasting battery life! It can survive more than a few stops on the train before needing a quick charge.
The touch controls are nicely placed and can be easily accessed whenever needed. The controls are hyper responsive and work pretty well.
3. Great at compatibility
The moment I opened the case of the JBL Tune 130NC, my smartphone quickly received a notification for pairing and connecting with it. So convenient!
But the main highlight of the pairing was its customizable audio settings, allowing you to alter the settings to your liking. You can also choose from a few presets in the JBL app by default. You also get audio and video modes for a lower latency which does a fairly decent job.
Finally, coming to the microphone, the JBL Tune wireless earbuds house four microphones (2 on each earbud) that record good-quality audio. Yes, it does capture a noticeable amount of background noise, but taking some calls or attending meetings is okay.
4. Look stylish and sophisticated
It’s simply impossible to look stylish while wearing a pair of bulky headphones that look absolutely messy & inconvenient. This challenge is never an issue with wireless earbuds, thanks to their slender design.
The first thing to notice about JBL Tune 130NC’s charging case is its minimal look. I got the black color variant which comes with a single-toned body that looks pretty neat. They are sporty in look and design.
They are made in such a way that they will remain firm when you are working out. It fits comfortably in my ear and the classy product designs make them an accessory that adds to its overall look. You will surely love it even if you are a casual user of earbuds. It is also affordable despite its stylish looks and nature.
5. It matches my lifestyle
A major benefit that true wireless earbuds have over a traditional pair of earbuds is that they can be used easily for a wide variety of activities.
For instance, I use this every day while working out, watching K-drama series in the middle of the night, listening to music, and refreshing my core memory of every song that I need to study — basically, anything else you can think of!
Another thing I love about JBL Tune 130NC earbuds is how it comes in three different sizes. The shape of the buds is so versatile. These true wireless earbuds nicely fit in my ears and offer a nice secure fit, which adds a decent amount of noise isolation to them.
Is this your Gadgetmatch?
We finally reached the point where you can safely go wire-free with almost no downsides. Whether studying a new song, having a virtual presentation, traveling, or just wanting to be alone with music, the JBL Tune 130NC offers excellent audio quality and decent active noise canceling capabilities which you’ll really love.
Even better, these earbuds are usually ergonomically designed for maximum comfort and an even more secure fit. It all comes down to one highly prized factor: If you can’t get enough of the freedom that true wireless earbuds and their innovative, small, compact, versatile, and easy-to-transport design all delivered, you might wanna check this one out.
The JBL Tune 130NC has a good battery life which means 40 hours of exceptional JBL Pure Bass Sound, coupled with an ergonomic and water-resistant design for all-day comfort in any weather. It also comes with plenty of valuable features like customizable audio settings and touch controls.
Yes, these are not the best-looking earbuds and lack features like in-ear detection or multiple devices connected, but when it comes to sound quality, these wireless earbuds are the best earbuds under the price bracket of PhP 5,999.
Sony WH-1000XM5: One I can’t travel without
As good as ever
Sony just doesn’t miss and the WH-1000XM5 is another testament to that. The aforementioned headphones is the latest in Sony’s cream-of-the-crop line of personal audio companions. The WH-1000XM series has consistently gotten rave reviews and the XM5 looks to continue the trend.
Noise cancellation king
The XM5 — that’s what we’ll call it from here on out — is a travel must-have. Its noise cancellation is still king of the hill! Perfect for drowning out all sorts of sounds wherever you may be. One time, I was using this while my brother was in the same room. I didn’t even notice him move at all even though we were in such a cramped space.
You can cover the right ear cup for quick conversations or change to adaptive sound for full awareness, with a single button press. And most buttons and ports are within reach along the sides of the left ear cup. While the usual controls are still on the right. In this regard, not much has changed, so if you’re upgrading from the XM2 or XM3, you shouldn’t have too much trouble with the controls.
Oh and it’ll stay powered on, even if you’re on a long haul flight. I used this almost non-stop, fully charged, on a 19-hour flight and we landed with it still having around 20 percent of battery left. That was probably the most intense scenario that I was ever in while using the WH-1000XM5. In the few weeks that followed where I didn’t use it as much, it took about two to three weeks before I came reaching for the power cable.
And the sound is the same high quality we’ve come to expect from Sony. Clean highs. Solid mids. And a bass that just hits the spot. The sound kind of dances in your head, making it extra immersive. Sony produces this really round and full sound that I haven’t quite experienced with any other headphones that I’ve tried. Which isn’t a lot. I’m keen on trying the AirPods Max as well as the ones from Sennheiser. From what I heard, those should present some real competition.
You can also tweak it to your liking on the Sony headphones app. One setting you might want to toggle off is the Speak-to-Chat feature. That’s only because it works a little too well. Too many times I found myself just mumbling sounds like “eh,” or even just humming and the XM5 would cut-off what I’m listening to.
Should you upgrade to this?
This really depends on what pair you’re using at the moment. If you’ve always been a Sony headphones fan and are coming from the same line, it’s likely a worthy upgrade EXCEPT if you’re coming from the XM4. Why? The XM4 is the peak of that particular form-factor. That one’s more compact, requiring less space in your bag. The sound quality and features also don’t stray too far from the WH-1000XM5. In fact, that might be the more economical buy at the moment.
But if you have to have the absolute latest Sony WH-1000XM headphone, then you won’t regret getting your hands on the XM5. It’s great, it is still very light and tough. Plus all the noise cancellation and sound quality goodness you’ve come to expect are better than ever.
If you’re coming from any other headphones, I dare say, this is an instant upgrade. Can’t have it any better than this.
Of course, I’m saying this with the caveat that I have to personally try the AirPods Max which I’ve heard many good things about. That is especially true if you’re also tied into the whole Apple ecosystem.
Other than that, you can’t go wrong with the Sony WH-1000XM5.
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