Samson G-Track Pro USB Microphone and Audio Interface
By Phil O'Keefe |
Samson G-Track Pro USB Microphone and Audio Interface
A USB mic with a little something extra for musicians
by Phil O'Keefe
USB microphones are one of the simplest ways to add audio recording capabilities to your computer, and they're close to ideal for a lot of users - gamers, video narrators and video streamers, podcasters and voiceover artists - but many USB mics run at lower bit depth and sample rates, have only a single polar pattern, and/or lack other features that would make them more useful for musicians. With tons of features, Samson bucks this trend with their latest USB mic offering - the G-Track Pro. Let's see what it has that makes it more appealing from a musician's point of view.
- The G-Track Pro is an updated version of Samson's earlier G-Track USB microphone. While some features are similar on the two microphones, the G-Track Pro has some significant differences and offers much better audio quality.
- The Samson G-Track Pro is compatible with Mac and PC computers, and it's class compliant, so you don't need to worry about installing any drivers.
- At the heart of the G-Track Pro is a large diaphragm (25mm) dual backplate, multi-pattern electret condenser capsule with 3 micron diaphragms.
- Frequency response is rated at 50Hz - 20kHz, with no tolerance listed. The maximum SPL rating is 120 dB, so it's capable of handling fairly loud sound sources without distorting.
- With cardioid, bi-directional and omnidirectional polar patterns available, the G-Track Pro offers a lot of pattern flexibility.
- Unlike the original G-Track, you're not just limited to 16 bit recordings. While you can record at 16 bit if you want to, the G-Track Pro is capable of recording at 24 bit resolution for better fidelity. Not only that, but you can also record at up to 96 kHz - which is double the 48 kHz maximum sample rate of the previous model.
- The G-Track Pro has a two-input audio interface built-in. In addition to the signal from the microphone, you can also simultaneously record a second signal from the built-in 1/4" mono instrument input.
- Physically the Samson G-Track Pro is a pretty large microphone, measuring 10.5" high (when mounted on the included heavy duty metal desktop stand) and 4.5" in diameter. It has all-metal construction for durability, and weighs in at just a touch over three and a half pounds.
- On the front side of the microphone you'll find switches for pattern selection and a Recording Select switch. This selects between two different recording modes - Mono and 2-Track. In Mono mode the signal from the mic and 1/4" instrument input are mixed together. This is ideal for streaming applications. For multitrack recording, you can select the 2-Track option on the switch, which routes the mic and line input to individual tracks.
- Also on the front of the mic, just below the grille, is a tri-color LED Status Indicator that glows green when the mic is powered up over the USB connection, flashes red when the input is clipping, and turns amber when the mic is muted.
- The Mute button is directly below the Status Indicator LED, and it mutes the G-Track pro's USB and headphone output signals.
- Right below the Mute button on the front of the mic are three rotary controls. The first one sets the Mic level, while the second adjusts the input level for the Instrument input. These also allow you to mix their relative levels when combining them together and using the Mono setting on the Recording Select switch for streaming purposes.
- The third rotary control knob sets the output Volume level for the G-Track Pro's built-in 1/8" stereo Headphone output jack.
- The Headphone output, along with the 1/4" Instrument input jack, are mounted on the opposite side of the microphone's body. The stereo headphone output can be used with headphones or to drive external powered studio monitors.
- Also on the back side is a Direct Monitor switch. When set to the On position, this monitors the input signals directly, before they pass through the computer system, giving you near zero latency monitoring when recording.
- The Type B USB output jack is mounted to the bottom of the mic, in the place where you'd expect to find the XLR output jack on a similar looking side-address studio microphone.
- Samson includes a well written and easy to understand user manual in the box, with lots of step-by-step instructions for setting the G-Track Pro up with your Mac or PC, as well as helpful information on setting levels and polar patterns that will help new users get up to speed quickly. They also include a USB cable and a card with info on how to download a complimentary copy of Mark Of The Unicorn's AudioDesk Mac / PC multitrack audio recording program too.
- The G-Track Pro is compatible with Samson's optional SP04 spider shockmount. ($39.99 "street")
- While Samson's site shows that the G-Track Pro comes with a mic clip that allows you to use it with a standard mic stand, there was no clip in the review unit's box. This is a fairly serious omission since it limits you to using the included desktop stand (or buying the optional shockmount), which is fine for many purposes, but far less flexible when micing up musical instruments.
- The size and weight of the Samson G-Track Pro make it far from the most ideal choice for mobile users who want a USB mic that they can take with them wherever they go. While you can certainly move it around, it's probably better suited for more stationary, home-based use.
- Since the Instrument input is mono only, the G-Track Pro isn't ideally suited to serve as your only audio interface if you want to record the outputs from stereo hardware, including media players, keyboards and drum machines.
The Samson G-Track Pro is easy to set up and simple to configure and use, making it a good choice for recording neophytes. With the ability to record the signal from both the built-in mic and a mono instrument input simultaneously, the G-Track Pro is well suited for recording vocals and an instrument at the same time, or recording a miked and direct signal from the same instrument at once. It's nice that Samson gives you the ability to route those signals to either individual tracks (for multitrack recording) or to sum them together for streaming purposes. The G-Track Pro is also a classy looking, if somewhat large desktop mic for voiceover artists, gamers and podcasters. It's not a good choice if you need to record stereo line or instrument sources, but if that's what you're trying to do, a USB mic probably isn't your best option anyway. While I really like the quality of the included desktop stand, I was disappointed that a regular mic clip wasn't included - I would have rather used the mic with a studio boom stand when recording some sources, such as acoustic guitars.
The Samson G-Track Pro did well when I used it to record a variety of different types of signals that would typically be encountered in a home studio, including vocals, acoustic guitars, guitar amps and hand percussion. The multiple polar patterns make it easy to record one person (while reducing room ambience), two speakers / singers at once (using the figure 8 pattern), or even a small group of singers simultaneously using the omni polar pattern. It also handled direct recording of things like acoustic guitar pickups and electric bass through the Instrument input with ease. With better bit resolution and higher sample rate capabilities, multiple polar patterns and a true 1" large diaphragm, the Samson G-Track Pro is a substantial upgrade over the previous G-Track USB microphone, and is capable of very clean and quiet sounding recordings. If a USB mic is what you're in the market for, this is one you should definitely consider, especially if you're a musician who would like to be able to record a second Instrument source direct at the same time. -HC-
Want to discuss the Samson G-Track Pro or have questions or comments about this review? Then head over to this thread in the Studio Trenches forum right here on Harmony Central and join the discussion!
Samson G-Track Pro USB Microphone and Audio Interface ($194.99 MSRP, $149.99 "street")
Samson's product web page
You can purchase the Samson G-Track Pro from:
Phil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.