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A one stop shop for content creators

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Ratings:
8/10
?

  • 1 – Doesn’t work
  • 2 – Barely functional
  • 3 – Very poor in most areas
  • 4 – It works, but has numerous problems
  • 5 – Good but leaves a lot to be desired
  • 6 – Good enough to buy on sale
  • 7 – Great and worth buying
  • 8 – Fantastic, approaching the best of its class
  • 9 – Top of his class
  • 10 – Borderline perfection

Price: $160

Kris Wouk / Instruction Geek

If you listen to podcasts, you’ve probably thought about starting your own. The problem is, most of them aren’t audio engineers, and acquiring those skills isn’t the easiest thing to do. That’s where the Focusrite Vocaster One comes in, providing an all-in-one audio interface that anyone can use.

Vocaster One is, as the name suggests, a single-channel audio interface that includes everything you need to start podcasting or streaming, plus a microphone and headphones. Focusrite sells a package it calls the Vocaster One Studio, which includes a microphone, headphones, and all the cables you need. For this review, we are focusing only on the interface.

Has Focusrite managed to create an interface simple enough for anyone to use, yet powerful enough to be a serious production tool? Mostly yes, but it largely depends on what you’re looking to do.

This is what we like

  • The form factor makes it easy to transport and set up anywhere
  • Plenty of gain available for both the mic preamp and headphone amp
  • Handy controls provide easy access to common options
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Multiple connectivity options make it ideal for podcasting

And what we don’t do

  • It is clearly not intended for music production.
  • Software packages are not useful for everyone

How-To Geek’s expert reviewers get right down to business with every product we review. We put each piece of hardware through hours of real-world testing and benchmark it in our lab. We never accept payments to endorse or review a product and we never add other people’s reviews. Read more >>

Getting started with Focusrite Vocaster One

Focusrite Vocaster One connected to a laptop
Kris Wouk / Instruction Geek

While most audio interfaces aim to get audio signals into your computer for everything from streaming to music, Vocaster One focuses primarily on streaming, or at least the human voice. This means that it’s not only good for podcasting, but also for video and streaming. Even the single XLR input here is labeled “host” instead of just channel 1.

A single input does not mean that Vocaster One is limited. We’ll get to the connectivity options in a bit, but between the interface and the bundled software, it can handle quite a bit. This includes one-person podcasts, shows with a remote host and guests, phone interviews, Zoom or Skype calls, and more.

The Vocaster One is lightweight and can be powered by your computer, without the need for an external power supply, although you can use an optional adapter (not included). Simply plug in the included USB cable, connect to your computer, and download Focusrite’s Vocaster Hub app, available for Windows and macOS.

Once you launch the Vocaster Hub app, it guides you through the rest of the setup, including powering up your interface and updating the firmware.

Hardware and Connectivity

Focusrite Vocaster inputs and outputs
Kris Wouk / Instruction Geek
  • Dimensions: 294.5 x 113 x 50.5mm (7.66 x 4.45 x 1.99 inches)
  • Weight: 0.3481 kg (0.77 lb)
  • Power Requirements: Bus power USB-3.0 5 V @ 900 mA 4.5 W

As mentioned above, the Focusrite Vocaster One is fairly lightweight, but it still feels sturdy. Compared to other similarly priced interfaces, the Vocaster One feels lighter and stickier, but this is down to how Focusrite chose to build it, opting to use mostly recycled plastics for the casing.

The main design of the Vocaster is simple and easy to use. There are two continuous rotary knobs: one for volume and one for microphone gain. Then you have three buttons on the front: mute, Enhance, and Auto Gain; as well as a button to enable 48-volt phantom power for the single XLR microphone input for use with condenser microphones and other microphones that require phantom power.

There are also some backlit indicators on the Vocaster One: one to indicate that it’s connected to the computer, and another to show if phantom power is enabled. When I first connected the Vocaster to my PC, the computer icon was red, showing a bad connection. It turned out that the included USB-C to USB-A cable had problems. Switching to a different USB-C cable resolved my issues.

In another indicator of how clearly the Vocaster is designed for vocals and not music, the single XLR input is XLR only. Other interfaces often use combo jacks that also allow you to connect a 1/4-inch instrument cable or pro audio jacks. The Vocaster doesn’t even bother with this.

While you can skimp on the XLR front, the Vocaster One packs some interesting connectivity options. A 3.5mm TRRS allows you to connect a phone call, bring the caller’s voice into the interface, and send your audio back to the caller. Another 3.5mm TRS connector sends the audio mix to a camcorder, allowing you to easily synchronize sound and image in videos.

The Vocaster One is a class compliant USB interface, which means it doesn’t need any special driver software to work with your computer. That being said, the Vocaster Hub app and the other bundled software can make your podcasting life a lot easier.

Focusrite Vocaster Concentrator

Focusrite Vocaster One front view
Kris Wouk / Instruction Geek

The Vocaster Hub software functions as your primary control. This is where you mix the various incoming audio signals, as well as where you can adjust the microphone input gain.

The Vocaster One features an auto gain function to automatically set the perfect input level for your microphone. Just tap the auto gain button and speak at your normal volume and distance from the microphone for 10 seconds. This will set the gain to the perfect level for your microphone, not too low and not too high.

You will also use the Vocaster Hub to adjust enhancement modes. These are voice enhancement EQ presets built into the Vocaster One. You can enable or disable the enhancements on the device using the dedicated button, but you can choose from four modes: Clean, Warm, Bright, and Radio.

In addition to the mic and TRRS inputs, you can also use the Vocaster Hub software to control the volume of the stereo loopback channels. This is a common feature in Focusrite interfaces and allows you to route any sound coming from your computer, from a YouTube video for example, and route it through the interface.

You can use this to route audio from Zoom or Skype through Vocaster, for example, but you can also use it in other fun ways.

recording and playback

Focusrite Vocaster One with headphones, microphone cable
Kris Wouk / Instruction Geek
  • Bit Depth: 24 bit
  • Sample fees: 48kHz

Another of the many ways you can tell that Vocaster One is a podcast and video specific interface is that it’s limited to 24-bit/48kHz recordings. Many competitive interfaces, including some from Focusrite’s Scarlett range, offer sample rates up to 96kHz or even 192kHz. A 48 kHz sample rate is fine for voice, and it’s the most commonly used sample rate for video, but this is clearly not an interface intended for musicians.

That said, Focusrite didn’t skimp on the design of the Vocaster One. For starters, there’s plenty of preamp gain available. This is especially useful since broadcast microphones like the Shure SM7b have very low output and need a strong preamp for adequate volume.

The built-in headphone amp also powered my Sennheiser HD650 headphones, notorious for not being the easiest to turn on, without breaking a sweat. Having a quality mix preamp and headphone amp in one box is very useful, although again, the limited sample rate prevents it from being great for listening to music.

You can choose how you want to record, either by recording the entire mix as a single track or by splitting the different channels. This allows you the flexibility to have the finished product immediately or have the flexibility to edit it later.

Other software included

Focusrite Vocaster One silenced
Kris Wouk / Instruction Geek
  • Software included:
    • Hindenburg LITE and Hindenburg PRO 6 month trial
    • aCast—6 Month Influencer Plan
    • SquadCast: 3 month trial Pro + Video
    • Ampify Studio: 6 month premium trial

To record audio on your computer, you need a digital audio workstation (DAW) for recording and mixing. Focusrite includes Hindenburg LITE, as well as a six-month trial of Hindenburg PRO. Hindenburg is a DAW known for focusing on podcast and broadcast production rather than music production.

If you intend to have multiple remote guests, you’ll appreciate the three-month trial of SquadCast Pro + Video. This service makes it easy to collect and record audio from multiple remote guests, automatically taking care of issues like audio drift.

Similarly, you also get a six-month free trial of Acast’s Influencer tier. This service hosts your podcast and also distributes it through various services like iTunes and Spotify, along with other services.

Finally, Vocaster One ships with six months of Ampify Studio Premium. This is an odd inclusion, as it’s more focused on music, but with over 12,000 royalty-free sounds, it’s useful for any type of audio production.

Should you buy the Focusrite Vocaster One?

The Focusrite Vocaster One offers a combination of ease of use, good sound quality, and useful features that are great for an aspiring podcaster or even a seasoned podcaster looking for a quick and easy setup. That said, if you’re looking for an interface for music production, turn to Focusrite’s Scarlett range or something like the Universal Audio Volt 2.

The 24-bit/48kHz sound quality is all you need for a podcast, but it’s still a bit disappointing, as a higher sample rate would have made Vocaster One great for listening to music in Hi-Res Audio. . The tacky build quality is also worth noting, though at least here it’s thanks to Focusrite trying to be more environmentally friendly.

If you’re thinking of starting podcasting, this is a perfect option unless you absolutely know you need something else. If you need something a little more, like a podcast with two hosts or in-person interviews, consider the Vocaster Two, which doubles the inputs.

This is what we like

  • The form factor makes it easy to transport and set up anywhere
  • Plenty of gain available for both the mic preamp and headphone amp
  • Handy controls provide easy access to common options
  • Easy to set up and use
  • Multiple connectivity options make it ideal for podcasting

And what we don’t do

  • It is clearly not intended for music production.
  • Software packages are not useful for everyone

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