A 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?
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.