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Maonocaster AM100 Audio Mixer Review

Fine as an interface but the extra bells and whistles don't quite hit the right notes.

If you’ve decided to make the jump from USB to XLR microphone you’ve probably realised there’s just as many options for audio mixers as there are microphones. Streamers tend to favour the GoXLR and podcasters creators might look to RØDE, Maono want them both to look their way.

The AM100 is one of a handful of Maonocaster variants all with the same goal in mind. To give you XLR microphone connectivity with a few extra bells and whistles too.

simply put

The Maonocaster AM100 doesn’t quite know what it wants to be. Purely as an XLR interface for streaming and podcasting it does a good job, but at a mid-range price point the extra features are disappointing.

the good bits

Solid build quality
Good range of inputs and outputs
Customisable sound effect pads

the not so good bits

Built-in voice effects are poor
No on-board recording option
Surprisingly expensive

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Maonocaster AM100 Audio Mixer

design

There’s a lot going on across the face of the Maonocaster AM100, but it still remains a surprisingly compact little unit. Neatly arranged are controls for each of the two XLR inputs, gain control knobs for the phone and auxiliary inputs, and a handful of dials for monitor mixing and effects. On the right hand side you’ll find a series of built-in and customisable effects pads and presets.

Across the board build quality is decent with a plastic chassis, metal faceplate and rubberised pad feet. It’s a little hollow feeling for my liking which does detract somewhat from any premium vibe but that’s somewhat of a nitpick. All the dials and sliders are a respectable quality too with a nice amount of buttery smooth resistance that makes them hard to accidentally knock.

The Maonocaster AM100 won’t demand a huge amount of deskspace and yet nothing across the top feels unnecessarily small or squashed together. Unlike the dials on the RØDE AI-1 which are too close together for the sake of a small footprint, everything on the AM100 has room to breathe and is well laid out.

Across the back of the Maonocaster is an impressively wide range of input and output options. The two XLR inputs are joined by a 3.5mm port labelled MIC2B which shares the XLR 2 input and allows for the connection of lapel mics or USB microphones that have a dedicated headphone output like Maono’s own PD400X. It’s a clever solution and one that makes the AM100 pretty flexible to a range of recording setups. 

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Tucked inside is a 5,000mAh battery that Maono say will deliver the Maonocaster AM100 with 6-8 hours of juice. There’s no in-built recording here though like you’ll find on premium mixers like the RØDEcaster Pro II, which does call into question the benefits somewhat, but it may prove helpful to some. 

performance

The quality of the hands-on experience is pretty cleanly divided into two halves, the interface and the effects. One is solid, the other is unfortunately lacking.

As a basic audio interface and a way to capture XLR audio into your PC the Maonocaster AM100 performs just fine. I had no issues connecting both a Maono PD400X and RØDE PodMic and setup was as simple as you’d want it to be. The AM100 popped up immediately in OBS and while audio levels were perhaps a tad low, they were clean and noise free.

The effects area however was less of a quality experience. There are four dedicated preset voice effect buttons, please don’t use them. I found these to be raw and harsh and they ended up being more like distortions than effects. If you’re looking for a way to make yourself sound like a robot, you’re better off sticking with a software solution like VoiceMod

The same is true of the ‘electron’ button which acts like an autotune. Again, this is a feature probably best left pretty unused unless you’re chasing comedic effect. I regret to inform you the Maonocaster AM100 will not be allowing me to launch a musical career.

The six reverb modes fair considerably better however and each did offer a distinct impact on my voice. While the main button for this mode is touch sensitive, the individually labelled ones alongside are just a readout so you have to tap through sequentially to select one or revert back to ‘studio’, making them somewhat cumbersome to use on the fly.

Underneath these are seven customisable pads and an eighth that acts as a censor tone button (which Maono suggest is a muting cough button, strangely). These come preloaded with some definitely not copyright free sound effects, but Maono also offer an app for customising them with any of your own sounds or jingles. The software is a little basic and isn’t as user friendly as it could be, so will require a bit of tinkering initially.

summed up

As solely an audio interface and mixer for streaming and podcasting with XLR microphones the Maono Maonocaster AM100 does a pretty admirable job. Audio comes through clean with a minimum of fuss and there’s a strong array of inputs and outputs. The extra effects and features are disappointing though and are either unlikely to present much value or can be tedious to setup and use.

At £145 the Maonocaster finds itself in a tough spot in the market, simple audio interface options like the RØDE AI-1 are noticeably cheaper or you can pay a bit more for total audio control with something like the Razer Audio Mixer. This leaves the AM100 stuck in no man’s land and a tricky one to recommend as a go-to option.

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