Recently, I reviewed the excellent RØDECaster Pro II mixing desk for podcasters and live streamers. It’s a superb piece of kit but it’s not cheap to buy and maybe has far more functions than many people need if all they want to do is record a podcast with a studio guest, a remote contributor or a phone-in. So, what’s the best solution in if you just want to record a fairly basic podcast?
The new Vocaster Two from Focusrite is a brilliant little device that has two XLR inputs with 48v phantom power for driving condenser mics. It also has a USB-C port for connecting to a host computer so it can be used for Zoom calls or simply for recording a podcast to a DAW, such as Audacity or Apple’s Garageband.
In addition, the Vocaster Two also has an analog input for connecting a smartphone with a jack or you can do the same thing wirelessly using Bluetooth. The feature works like a charm and invokes mix minus so the caller doesn’t get the awful echo effect. Two Loopback channels make it easy to inject pre-recorded segments such as intros, outros, interviews, jingles and background music from the host computer into your podcast.
As far as outputs go, the Vocaster Two has a headphone jack for both microphone channels and a pair of ¼-inch TRS jacks for connecting the device to a pair of powered studio monitors. There’s also a stereo 3.5mm output that sums up the entire audio output so that the Vocaster Two can be plugged into a video camera if you want to film the podcast. The designers of this handy piece of kit appear to have thought of everything.
To get the best from Focusrite’s Vocaster Two, it’s a good idea to download the Vocaster Hub software which is available for both Windows and macOS. The software enables the user to control all the input levels as well as the replay volume from the loopback channels which carry the audio from the host computer, smartphone or Bluetooth input. It’s all very intuitive and the microphone gain can also be controlled by the Vocaster Hub software.
The microphone preamps on the Vocaster Two are excellent and have plenty of headroom in the gain to drive the RØDE PodMic that I was using for this review. The panel on the front of the device has three control buttons for each of the two microphone input channels. That’s a total of six buttons in all. One is for muting the microphone, the second is a “magic” button that sets the gain of the microphone automatically, following 10 seconds of monitoring, while the final button is used to select which microphone you want to adjust using the main gain knob.
Each microphone channel also has its own volume control for adjusting the headphone output so that both the host and guest can set the level that suits their headphones best. That’s about the total of the controls on offer on the Vocaster Two. There are indicator lights on the front panel to show when the host computer is connected. Alongside that is a Bluetooth connection status LED and another that shows when the 48v phantom power is turned on.
That’s about all there is to the Vocaster Two. It’s a brilliantly compact, simple and rugged little audio interface that is bus powered from the host computer. Control is simple once you spend a few minutes playing around with it and getting to know the Vocaster Hub software. The sound quality is superb with a very low noise floor on the microphone preamps and plenty of gain for driving difficult microphones such as the RØDE PodMic or the notoriously fussy Shure SM7B.
The Vocaster Two ships with an impressive three-year warranty and for anyone who doesn’t have microphones already, Focusrite also sells the Vocaster Two Studio Bundle which includes the Vocaster Two interface, Focusrite’s premium Vocaster DM14v dynamic mic and HP60v closed-back studio headphones. The Vocaster DM14v dynamic mic includes a built-in windshield and shock-mount for professional results. Also included is the Vocaster software bundle, a full suite of apps worth over $600 from Acast, Hindenburg, and Squadcast so that users of the Vocaster can start recording, editing, and sharing podcasts right away.
Verdict: While I love the RØDECaster Pro II, it’s probably a bit too sophisticated for the simplest of podcasts where you just want to record a studio guest or someone online via Zoom or over the phone. The Focusrite Vocaster Two can handle all of that and produces very high audio quality signal that is perfect for podcasting. It’s also a handy tool for recording phone calls. I can’t fault the Vocaster Two’s performance. If you want to create a basic podcast or even record some simple music with an instrument and voice, the Focusrite Vocaster Two would also fit the bill. It’s physically small enough to be packed in a messenger bag so you could carry it with a laptop and some mics for recording on location. The only improvement I could suggest would be a slot for a microSD slot so podcasts could be recorded directly without the need for a host computer. Highly Recommended.
More info: Focusrite.com