MiCreator Studio hands-on: A $199 portable recording studio worth more than its price tag

Austrian Audio is not exactly a household name. It was formed in 2017 following the closure of AKG’s offices in Vienna. And it’s mostly stuck to higher-end microphones and headphones. Now the company is dipping its toes into more consumer-friendly territory with the $199 MiCreator Studio, a combination condenser microphone and USB-C audio interface in an incredibly portable package. 

At 155 x 60 x 37 mm the MiCreator Studio is quite small, but I’d say a touch shy of pocketable. It’s also surprisingly dense. 13 ounces isn’t exactly heavy, but it’s more than I expected the MiCreator to weigh just by looking at it. The heft makes it feel like a durable and well-made device. The only exception to this is the swappable faceplates. My review sample came with black and red plates, they look nice but feel a little flimsy. And the magnets that attach them to the sides are a little weak and I could see them easily coming off if tossed in bag. At least it comes with a soft pouch you can put it in so everything will stay in one place even if it does get jostled around. 

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

There are a pair of rubber feet on the bottom that allow the MiCreator to sit comfortably on almost any surface with little concern it’ll get jostled around. And the mic capsule is suspended by rubber shock absorbers, so vibration shouldn’t prove too much of a concern. If the tiltable head doesn’t give you enough flexibility, there is screw mount underneath for attaching to a mic stand.

Controls on the unit itself are relatively spartan. On the front is a switch that changes the mic from high gain, to low gain or mutes it. And there’s a knob for controlling monitoring levels or the balance between two sources when you have something plugged into the 3.5mm in/out jack on the back. Below that dual-purpose jack is a dedicated 3.5mm headphone output, and above it is a switch that allows you to set the input level of the additional input.

The switches for changing the input level are probably my biggest gripe with the MiCreator. The difference between the high and low settings are pretty massive. Yes, obviously you can tweak the levels in your DAW and most people will have no issue doing that. But personally I like getting my levels as close to right as possible without touching the gain in my DAW for maximum flexibility. 

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

I also found that the high gain setting still required me to get pretty close to the mic while speaking which resulted in a lot of breath and mouth noises. Probably exactly what you want when recording some ASMR videos, but it wasn’t ideal for podcasting. Again, a lot of this is easily rectified with a decent pop filter. But that’s one more thing to carry and slightly undercuts the portability factor.

Those minor nitpicks aside, the mic sounds great. They’re highly directional so, despite the fact that they’re fairly sensitive condenser mics, background noise is rarely a problem. And they capture a healthy amount of midrange and low end. That’s essential for micing up, say, a guitar amp, and it tends to treat my lower vocal register well. But many will want to toss a low cut on their voice in post production.

That lack of tweakability on the gain is an issue again when you plug an instrument directly into the second input. Something like a synth with a master volume that doesn’t alter tone is fine. But going direct in with my guitar was a little hit or miss. The most reliable way was to go through my pedal board and one of UA’s amp sim pedals to give me better control over volume and tone, rather than relying on amp plugins in a DAW. Austrian Audio gets a ton of credit though for including an instrument cable in the box though that’s standard 1/4-inch TS on one side and 3.5mm TRRS on the other side for plugging into the MiCreator. It might seem like a small thing, but it saves you from having to track down and order a rather unusual cable on your own.

Terrence O’Brien / Engadget

The company also sent over one of its MiCreator Satellites. This is a second mic, without an interface, designed to pair with the MiCreator. It costs $99 but adds a lot of flexibility. For one, it’s the exact same mic as the MiCreator, so you can use them as a stereo pair or for two people in a simplified podcast setup. But the included cable is also long enough for you to put one mic right up against an amp while capturing some room tone with the other. Or, you could mic an acoustic guitar with one and sing into the other. And the Satellite is truly tiny. This is one of, if not the, smallest full-fledged podcast studio you can can get. 

If there’s one feature I would have loved to see, it’s a standalone operating mode. If the MiCreator had a small battery and a microSD card slot so it could double as a field recorder, or capture an interview when hooking up your laptop or iPad is not really feasible, I could see it carving out a permanent spot in my day bag.

Still, for $199, or $299 when bundled with a Satellite, the MiCreator offers a surprising amount of value. Frankly it’s better than it has any right being at that price. It’s an excellent condenser USB microphone and a solid (if simple) audio interface in a small, rugged package. It can be a high-quality go-anywhere podcast studio. Or be the primary way a band records new material while they’re out on tour. 

This article originally appeared on Engadget at https://www.engadget.com/micreator-studio-hands-on-a-199-portable-recording-studio-worth-more-than-its-price-tag-180021292.html?src=rss 

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