Last week Apple World Today took a look at the Samson Meteorite, a small ball-shaped USB microphone that did a surprisingly good job of capturing sound in our review. This week we're looking at an even smaller USB microphone from Samson -- the Go Mic Direct ($64.99 MSRP, available for $29.99 from Amazon affiliate link). Why would someone plug one of these into a MacBook Air or MacBook Pro when that device already has a built-in mic? Well, the Go Mic Direct supposedly works with Samson's Sound Deck Software to provide noise cancellation, which is usually helpful if you're recording in a noisy environment.
The design of the Go Mic Direct is actually quite interesting: the microphone itself is on a swivel mount on a tiny L-shaped stand with a push-out USB connector built into it. The connector is nicely protected in transit, although the entire mic can be placed in its padded "jewel box" plastic case for extra protection.
The entire thing is tiny. It's not going to take up much room in anyone's equipment bag, so it would be perfect for podcasting or interviews on the road. There's a status LED on either side of the device, so it doesn't matter which way it's plugged in; you'll still be able to know if the Go Mic Direct is ready to go.
The mic itself is made out of a solid piece of aluminum, with metal grilles on both sides -- silver on one side, black on the other. Let's see how this little guy worked.
For my testing, I installed the Samson Sound Deck Software for Mac OS X (available free here) so I could get a feel for how well the noise cancellation worked. The writeup of the app on the Samson website is a bit misleading, showing the Windows version and a full color interface with equalizers, etc... In actuality, I couldn't find the app anywhere until I looked in System Preferences.
I recorded two short 12-second messages, both with a dishwasher running in the background. Here's the initialrecording from a MacBook using its built-in microphone:
And here is the Go Mic Direct:
Both recordings were run through Audacity to bring them to about the same volume. The raw MacBook recording was very loud with a lot of noise in the background, while the Go Mic Direct recording was much quieter, but with some noise still present.
Listening to both through headphones, I felt that the sound quality of the Go Mic Direct was much better than what was achieved with the built-in mic. The voice quality was much more full, while the built-in mic was somewhat "tinny". However, I didn't feel that the Go Mic Direct really did anything in terms of true noise cancellation; in both recordings the dishwasher sound is plainly present.
I would even go so far to suggest not installing the Samson Sound Deck Software, as your Mac should be able to recognize the USB mic as a sound input device. The Sound Deck Software is quite worthless.
If you're looking for an inexpensive microphone that will give you better sound quality than the built-in mics on Apple's MacBooks, the Samson Go Mic Direct USB microphone delivers. On the negative side, the Sound Deck Software doesn't deliver on the promised noise cancellation capabilities, so you should plan on using another app for editing and noise reduction. I find Audacity (free) to be my app of choice for making adjustments like this. The Go Mic Direct is well-built and should last for years of usage.