Maono AU-AM100 Maonocaster Audio Interface Review

Maono AU-AM100 Maonocaster

Audio Interface Info:

  • Brand: Maono
  • Input: 2x XLR, 3.5mm Mic, Phone, Aux
  • Output: 2x Monitoring, Speaker
  • Connection: USB Type-C to USB 3.0
  • Power: Internal Battery; DC 5V
  • Dimensions: 43 x 25 x 11 cm
  • Weight: 1.1 kg
  • Price: ₱9,999 (₱7,012)

For the longest time, I’ve coveted famous streamers for their setups, especially their audio gear. I would yearn for a camera with good enough visual fidelity to take advantage of Nvidia Broadcast, as well as a dynamic microphone fit for professional voice work and an audio interface to match. This year, I gained the ability to obtain all the gear I ever wanted, and I did. While it didn’t make me a better content creator, I get to figure out whichever piece of gear is truly great and which is overrated. I also got to try the Maono AU-AM100 Maonocaster — something I had high expectations for, but ended up being disappointed.

All that daydreaming of having better equipment is a condition called “gear envy,” and I can say now as someone on the other side who finally got everything that having your gear dreams come true doesn’t necessarily make you happy, especially if you haven’t been making content with old gear to begin with, in which case you haven’t earned the “right” to deserve the new and expensive stuff. LIke what Tyler Durden tells the narrator in the movie Fight Club, “The things you own end up owning you.”

If you never before satisfied the urge to make content even when you only had a cheap smartphone, then you’ll remain fruitless even when you have expensive gear like a Sony a7III mirrorless camera, Elgato Cam Link 4K, Shure SM7B dynamic microphone, and a TC Helicon GoXLR. The ability to make content with whatever you have on hand is not only more important than the equipment — it’s a mandatory requirement.

Anyway, this whole diatribe is to preface my review of what I thought to be a poor man’s version of the third example I gave in the previous paragraph. I’ve since procured a camera that I think is superior to the Sony a7III (Sony FDR-AX40) and a genuine Shure SM7B for less than half its retail price. Before, I was aiming for what could be described as the “poor man’s Shure SM7B,” which is the PreSonus PD-70. Since I was able to aim just a bit higher to get the real McCoy, I thought I had enough financial room to get what I thought to be a “poor man’s GoXLR.”

This is a review of the Maono AU-AM100 Maonocaster, a feature-packed audio interface that I hyped up in my head and has disappointed me in reality. I don’t know for sure if it’s just the unit I got from JG Superstore for around ₱7,000 (way down from its usual price of just under ₱10,000). However, what I got turned out to be not what I expected. I wanted an audio interface that can also function as an external sound card, but it turns out that’s not what it’s meant to do, even if they could’ve designed it to be so.

NOTE: This is a full peripheral review based on the reviewer’s preferences and needs. Your needs may be different and you may find this review to not have the information you need. Reader discretion is advised.

Also, the unit I got is likely the first version, which doesn’t have the loopback switch that’s available in the newer version. I suspect the one I got is an early model with lesser quality control. Video reviews of this product on YouTube seem to not have some of the flaws I experienced.

Design

The Maono AU-AM100 is smaller than its cheaper counterpart, the Maono AU-AM200. It has a somewhat stealthy look that makes it fairly inconspicuous in public settings. With what this device is designed for, that’s an important thing to note as Maono intended users to bring this out with them to record podcasts and do streams with friends and colleagues.

But while it does fit that purpose, I don’t think most people here in the Philippines would buy it for that. I see a lot of Maono audio interfaces being sold on Facebook Marketplace, and I suspect it’s because they weren’t designed as audio interfaces first. Most people want external sound cards that can double as audio interfaces, but the Maonocaster may be too specialized.

That’s too bad since the physical design is solid. While it has a plastic body, it doesn’t feel flimsy and should be able to survive accidental drops. However, the white rubber buttons do feel quite mushy while also being hard to press due to not giving enough tactile feedback. Also, since they’re entirely rubber, they may get sticky and gross over time.

What attracted me to this p[roduct at first was the layout, which immediately communicated to me that it had a soundboard. I was looking for something that had a soundboard, and I was playing around with my Elgato Stream Deck for that functionality. That’s where the right side of this Maonocaster made me want to get it in the first place.

However, I do have a problem with that big dial in the middle. The size of the mix dial is understandably designed as such for emphasis, but it still takes too much space for what it actually does. It could be half the size and still stand out enough for function while saving on some desk space. It wouldn’t be that much smaller, but it would’ve still been enough.

Functionality

The only feature of the Maonocaster you really need to care about is its microphone input. It’s powerful enough to drive condenser mics, including the one that comes with the package. Along with that is noise suppression that you can boost with a switch on the back. If you’re having problems with background noise while podcasting or streaming, then this is exactly the audio interface you need.

I personally can’t use the Maonocaster because I do voice work, and the noise suppression on this thing is too strong for that. I still got better results by recording raw audio with my Shure SM7B (somewhat a flex, but I found a listing that sold it for cheap) and Behringer Xenyx Q502USB (which I wanted to replace at first because it has a really loose AC adapter), then denoising and processing it in post-production.

If you’re a professional voice actor or voice over artist, this is certainly not for you. Nothing beats a quiet room with proper acoustic treatment, even if you have the best possible gear. But if you’re just cranking out online content that you don’t need to muck about with too much, the Maonocaster is actually great for that, especially since it gives you two XLR inputs for a two-person production.

You can monitor your mic audio with two monitoring outputs on the front, as well as a speaker output in the back. However, they’re only for monitoring microphone input and not strictly for audio output. I have not found a way to mute the mic monitoring other than to mute the mic, which is inconvenient. In the case of my Behringer Xenyx Q502USB, I can do just that with the press of a button, which lets me switch between monitoring input and PC audio output.

For a much cheaper product to have a feature that’s lacking in something that’s purportedly designed to be leagues ahead, this is a shoddy result.

Other than that, you get the autotune effects, reverb settings, pitch adjustment, voice mods, side chain, and the soundboard. While that does seem like a great deal, having a bunch of features jammed into a small package, the way Maono accomplished that is with the bare minimum. For instance, the voice mods are just presets for pitch adjustment. They might as well not have added those buttons in since the pitch dial accomplishes the same results.

The autotune is alright, so it’s great if you want to sound like T-Pain on stream. As for the soundboard, the unit I got had a half-second delay to each button. That’s fine for most of the buttons, but that’s no good for the bleep button. When you want to say “fuck” without getting demonetized on your YouTube video or keep your podcast or stream clean, it’ll sound like “FUCK bleeeeep.”

You’ll have to bleep in post if you really want to get it right and can’t be bothered with the exact timing of doing it live with this device, which renders its bleep button pointless. Or you can either not bleep or just avoid cursing.

With all of the features that ended up being either below expectation or complete duds, they end up taking space on the device. Therefore, if you only account for the microphone inputs, this should only be almost a third of the size. If Maono decides to make a mini version of this, then that would be a lot better and more affordable.

Value

The unit alone usually sells for ₱8,990 on sale days in Shopee and Lazada. Therefore, when I saw that it sold for just a bit over ₱7,000 for the K1 bundle, which includes a Maono condenser microphone and accessories, I thought it was such a bargain that I had to get it. What I got was something akin to perhaps a defective unit, but that’s entirely on me for impulse buying.

What I got for what I thought was a “poor man’s GoXLR” was definitely poor (for me), but nowhere near the quality of a GoXLR. I say this because in terms of raw audio quality, the Maonocaster couldn’t compare to what I got with my old Behringer. I could’ve bought a Yamaha AG-03 USB mixer instead and it would’ve been a better upgrade for me. My mistake was not being able to determine whether the Maonocaster was right for me before purchasing it.

But even if it was actually right for me, many of its features box the Maonocaster into a corner. I don’t know how many people (especially in the Philippines) can make use of it as a mobile podcasting station, but it certainly isn’t the majority of people in the market for an audio interface, never mind one that costs above ₱5,000 and even close to ₱10,000.

Final Score

Maono AU-AM100 Maonocaster
4 / 10 out of 10
CTier
Pros
  • Solid build quality, albeit plastic
  • Internal battery and outputs allow for mobile audio production
  • Built-in noise suppression makes it viable for different settings
  • Auto-tune, voice effects, and soundboard for adding entertainment
  • Bleep button can be useful for not getting demonetized
  • K2 bundle includes good condenser microphone and audio cables
Cons
  • Cannot separate PC audio from mic monitoring
  • Noise suppression too strong for voiceover work
  • Rubber buttons feel hard and squishy at the same time
  • Soundboard buttons have half-second delay
  • Lack of SD card slot for standalone recording
  • Unnecessarily large mix dial
  • Female voice setting only heightens pitch
  • Difficult to detect for companion app
Summary

I give this Maonocaster a low score due to my personal experience, but that doesn't mean it's completely useless. This device is best for streamers and podcasters who are looking for something with built-in noise suppression. While the Maono AU-AM100 Maonocaster does have other features like effects, auto-tune, soundboard, and so on, they’re not of adequate quality or consistency.

As far as being an external sound card goes, it’s a failure since it can’t provide computer audio output and mic monitoring output separately. That’s the Maonocaster’s main weakness and the reason why I’ve since sold it to another streamer who has more need of it than I do.

The Maonocaster serves as just an audio interface that can cancel background noise on its own, and that’s it. This device is not meant to be used by serious voice over artists and musicians due to how strong and intrusive its noise suppression is, which can distort your audio input and render your recordings virtually useless for high quality work.

Also, don’t be blinded by its seemingly impressive set of other features because they’re not that good at all. You’ll want a separate audio output if you want to use this regularly. What I could use instead is a mini version of this without the accoutrements so there’ll be less to disappoint.

I’ve since sold it to a good friend who has been streaming on Twitch. He has been putting it to better use, so it’s not a total loss.

Design5
Functionality4
Value3

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