M-Audio is best known for the tools it provides for your actual, real life, professional audio types. Which is why it came as something of surprise to see them entering into the Podcast market which is, let’s face it, perceived more as being for amateur soap-boxing than serious broadcasting.
Of course, perceptions are often wrong and that’s the case here. When the BBC take a broadcast medium as seriously as they have Podcasting, you know it’s got a professional future. Thankfully, Podcast Factory makes it very easy indeed for you to join in the fun and become a Podcaster yourself.
What’s more, you can do so within an hour of opening the box, and that includes spending 30 minutes recording your show. What’s even more, you don’t have to sacrifice professional sound quality in order to do this, just your wallet.
The Podcast Factory is not, repeat not a cheap entry into Podcast broadcasting. What you get for your money, and the list price is a whopping £125 although we found it online for £40 less than that, is convenience and compatibility.
The 24-bit USB audio interface is basic, but being USB bus powered it can be used with a laptop on the move, perfect for the mobile broadcaster. You don’t need to be a recording engineer to work out how to use the input, mixer and output controls nor to flick the switch that says "mono/stereo".
The supplied dynamic range microphone, complete with stand, plugs into the back, but you’ll need to provide your own headphones – the bigger the better for that authentic recording studio look. Let’s not forget that Podcasting isn’t just about voice, you can create your own radio show if you like, broadcast your own concert. The audio hardware has a 1/4-inch input that toggles between instrument and line levels if you want to plug a guitar, say, into it.
That’s pretty much it on the hardware front, but you also get audio editing software in the guise of Audacity. This is fairly straightforward to use, but if you’ve seen more pop stars in your front room than you’ve spent playing with audio recording software you might be advised to go download the manual from the Audacity website. Once it’s all connected, you speak into the microphone and watch your audio levels on screen as you talk. But watch is all you do as there isn’t any great granularity of control over the input process. Editing is a doddle though, and you can soon mop up any audio spillage and pop out the other side with a sparkling clean Podcast. You can even add effects or music, assuming you have the relevant license to use it for broadcasting (or don’t care).
Use the supplied software to post your Podcast online, add an RSS feed so other people can find it and listen to it, and you are done. Sure, Audacity, being Open Source, is free software. Sure, that audio interface hardware is hardly going to get a professional broadcaster moist. Sure, you could buy all the bits in to achieve the same quality of recording for a bit less. But that’s missing the point of the factory approach – it’s all been tried and tested for you so it just works. And just work it surely does...
Podcast Factory really is a recording studio in a box, but the price you pay for the ease of use is, er, well the price you pay.