I’ve been blessed to be in the enviable position of podcasting on the open seas—aboard a luxurious Holland-America ship as part of a
MacMania Geek Cruise.
While one couldn’t ask for more pleasant surroundings, it has required that I lug a couple of pieces of audio gear that add more pounds to an already jam-packed computer bag. I’ve done the job both with a USB microphone and with a traditional mic in league with a USB audio interface. The former is problematic because the USB mic doesn’t produce audio as clean and robust as I’d like and the latter is a drag simply because there are so many parts to keep track of.
So I was more than a little interested when I heard about SoundTech’s $70
LightSnake Microphone to USB Cable. As its name implies, it’s a 10-foot microphone cable featuring a female XLR (canon) plug on one end for jacking into your microphone and a USB connector on the other end for plugging into your computer’s USB port. The advantage for podcasters-on-the-go is obvious. You’re not limited to a USB microphone and all you need carry is the cable and a standard microphone that doesn’t require phantom power (more on this in a bit).
The electronics within the cable allow it to act as a USB audio interface. Plug the cable into your Mac or PC and the cable appears as an Unknown USB Audio Device. Select it and it’s easily found within GarageBand or any other audio application you care to use. Blinking green lights on each end indicate that the cable is connected properly.
I tried the LightSnake with my good-ol’-reliable rock ‘n’ roll mic, a Shure Beta 58, and it performed nicely once I jacked up the input volume in the Sound system preference on my Mac. The recording was clean and had plenty of gain.
Now back to phantom power. Many high-end microphones require power to operate. This power—termed
—is supplied either via a separate power supply that you string between the microphone and mixing board or an audio interface. For example, the Edirol UA-700 audio interface I use for
provides phantom power to my AKG 414 microphone. Without this phantom power, the mic won’t work. Regrettably (though not surprisingly), the LightSnake can’t provide phantom power.
This could be a deal-killer for some—lots of musicians and podcasters use microphones that require phantom power. But for podcasting on the road, the LightSnake will do me just fine. I have no intention of exposing my beloved 414 to the pleasures of air travel or salty breezes. In such cases, the Beta 58—which, incidentally, can, in a pinch, be used to hammer nails—will serve my purposes. And if I were a future podcaster on a budget, adding up my pennies for not only a decent mic but an expensive audio interface as well, I might look twice at SoundTech’s one-stop solution.