Troubleshooting a Samson USB microphone on the Mac

Samson USB MicA number of months ago, I invested (just in case my wife reads this) in a Samson CO1U USB Studio Condenser Microphone so that I could begin recording podcasts on my PowerBook G4 laptop. I was running Tiger (Mac OS X v10.4) at the time and, although it recognized the mic as a USB device, the input volume was so low that it was virtually impossible to use out of the box. Imagine my disappointment in light of the glowing reports I had read on numerous podcasting blogs and websites: even professional sound technicians seemed to gush over it. After a little searching on the net, I learned that others were having similar difficulties and it appeared the solution lay in an auxiliary piece of proprietary software called SoftPre for the microphone.

The results were a little better with the SoftPre applet, but nothing like I expected, so the microphone has been taking up deskspace for months. Recently, I upgraded to the new Mac OS X v10.5 (Leopard) on my laptop and replaced my desktop Windows PC with a new Mac Mini that also came with Leopard pre-installed. Guess what? Soft-Pre does not work in the Leopard environment, at least not right now, so I found myself dead in the water with a beautiful podcasting microphone, spider mount, and desktop stand that seemed destined to become either a very expensive paperweight or the next item I would auction on eBay.

Once again, I've been frustrated with Samson and the Macintosh operating system. Then yesterday I discovered—buried several layers deep in a Mac-based technical forum—at least one workable solution. It's a bit unusual, quirky, and unpredictable; and it nearly blew my eardrums with the mic's sensitivity when I first tried it. Are you ready?

Sound panel URL

Just open up the system preferences panel, click on the "sound" icon, and then the "input" tab. Make sure the Samson CO1U is the highlighted device for sound input and slide the "input volume" selector up to 75% while speaking into the flat side of the microphone (not into the top, as you might think). I would recommend a pair of headphones…just be sure they are selected as the sound output path in the preferences panel. DO NOT CLOSE the system preferences panel so you can keep an eye on the mic's input level! If you put the panel away, your application software may override the settings and drop the input levels through the floor. Leaving it open makes your system preferences dominant over your recording software (I suspect you would get the same results in Tiger, but I no longer have it available to confirm this).

Only after you get a good sound check should you launch your audio recording application: like Audacity, GarageBand, Audio Hijack Pro, or Übercaster. There are others out there, but these are the ones I use, depending upon what I'm trying to accomplish. I noticed that Übercaster knocks the input volume down to 50% when you start the recording process, but if you're keeping an eye on the sound input level (as I strongly suggested above) you will immediately be able to see and correct any such misbehaviors, regardless of the audio recording software of choice. Now that I know how my recording software affects the Samson's input levels, then I can either close the system preferences panel (if it has no effect) or leave it open (as in the case of Übercaster) for monitoring and adjustment.

I don't know if Samson or Apple is to blame, but this great piece of audio gear should not have to be mollycoddled in such a ridiculous manner. If others have discovered other solutions, please leave a comment. It might help us all.

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8 thoughts on “Troubleshooting a Samson USB microphone on the Mac

  1. That looks like a great mic. I did a little search on Amazon for it and the price isn’t too bad. I’ve gone through my own periods of starting a podcast and then discontinuing it, but I’d really like to put one together and keep it going. There’s something sort of rebellious about broadcasting your own podcast.

  2. You can get the Samson Podcasting Kit, like I did, and it includes the microphone, the spider mount, and the desktop stand in a customized aluminum case with foam cutouts. Really nice if you need to be mobile. I’m hoping to crank up my podcast frequency now that I’ve found a solution.

  3. Have you guys found a solution to this yet? I realize its an older post but I’m having similar problems on my Mac. Using the Samson C01U, by the way.

      • Hi, Bill

        I’m running Leopard while my business partner is running Snow Leopard, yet we were both experiencing the same problem with the Samson mic. We just could not get any gain. However, we were able to resolve the problem yesterday afternoon after reading and implementing the following post on a forum:

        “Samson CO1U USB Gain Problem. On my Mac this has been a problem that came up when I switched the same Samson USB mics between laptops, which I have just solved. I am using two of these for stereo recording, but the issue is the same for a single mic. The source of this potential issue is the fact that even though these are mono mics they have two channels, and both channels must have their gain all the way up in order to have full gain from the mic. On a Mac, go to the AudioMIDI Setup Utility in the utilities folder, select the Samson mic in the dropdown for “Properties For”. Under “Audio Input” you will see the option of 1 or 2 channels. Select 2-ch. Down below and to the left the L & R volume sliders for both channels should be all the way to the right. Make them so and you have maxed the mic’s internal gain, which can be later adjusted down in your recording app without affecting this internal setting. You can now put the mic setting back to 1 channel without affecting overall gain. If you use two mics for stereo, set each mic like this individually, go to the Aggregate Device Editor under “Audio” on the menu bar, aggregate the two mics, and you are done. If you need to balance the gain on these mics afterward, you can do so by selecting them individually, making any changes, and then go back to Aggregate Device as the Default Input and Properties For. (There may be similar configuration setting on a PC.) Hope this helps!”

  4. I got to tell I am really unhappy the way the mic records it is so live it’s terrible. Im using garage band . I set the mic before I use garage band and when I turn garage band on the mic output is back to all the way high no good I can’t even adjust it back down wile garage band is open help

  5. Sorry to re-hash this old old old post, but it’s still relevant as there are still people (me) dragging through the internet finding out what is up with these mics and Mac OS X – I’m running 10.5 Leopard. There seems to be three things that make it better that I’ve come across …

    1) As stated in this article … monitoring System Level Input preferences
    2) As stated in the comments … setting AudioMIDI Setup Utility to crank the gain in the internal mic driver on BOTH channels (one mono signal feeding to two stereo outputs equally)
    3) Go to Garageband > Prefs > Audio/MIDI > select Samson C01U as input device … this will prompt the GB application to change over to the mic driver (which I assume we just dealt with in the previous step)

    Since you’ve all been away from this issue for a while, anything else to add and/or findings????

    thanks!

  6. Hi!
    I stumbled across this page today cause I’m at my wits end regarding my CO1U Samson mic.
    My mac is a few years old, a MacBook OSX 10.4 and I have always been using SoftPre. There have always been some noise issues when the fan has been on, so I’ve always had to prop up the laptop to lift it off the table to allow air in and wait till the fan goes quiet etc. before recording and it has worked ok, some slight noise but way less than the built-in mic.

    Now I hadn’t used it for a while, and this time, despite the fan being quiet I kept getting loads of interference noise, a very loud monotonous noise, not like the regular fan interference, and occasional cracking/popping. I unplugged the computer power lead, made sure I was away from other electrical appliances etc. but to no avail. Read up online about uninstalling SoftPre since there could be a problem with this programme. I binned it and thought, sure if I need it again I can just download it from their website, but NO!!! Now I’ve deleted it and it’s no longer available online!!! I’ve read all sorts of tutorials but I can’t seem to up my gain levels without it. (I use garage band) and I’ve tried Audio MIDI etc but maybe it’s that my computer is old and DOES need SoftPre, unlike the newer ones… I guess I can throw this mic away now… I don’t understand the interference issue in the first place, but now it’s definitely been rendered useless once and for all…

    Does anyone know where I may be able to download SoftPre since it’s no longer available on the manufacturer’s website and seemingly nowhere else either? Is there any plan B in order to save me from having to buy a new mic? Any help much appreciated!

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