Maonocaster C2 Neo Review (Page 2 of 4)

Page 2 - Physical Look - Hardware

The Maonocaster C2 Neo is a rather standard-looking audio interface and mixer combination. This means we have many knobs, sliders, and level indicators on the top facing the user. We have a glossy finished back that looks nice until anyone lays their hands on it. It is a definite fingerprint magnet and will pick up your prints when you touch it. The unit is constructed out of plastic with several rubber square buttons. This makes the whole unit feel more portable and easier to move. Despite its plastic build, the mixer is sturdy without any strange flexing or bending in the body. Maono's branding is seen throughout with a large logo on the top left corner and its "M" in the middle of the primary rotating knob. Everything has an easily identified label, although these names may not be that recognizable immediately. We will be going through these functions. Otherwise, the overall appearance is nice but unremarkable. It is quite neutral in terms of its design, which may or may not suit your desires.

In terms of dimensions, the Maonocaster C2 Neo does not take up too much space when you consider all the inputs it has. It has a footprint of 185mm in width, 130mm in depth, and 50mm in maximum height of its tallest knob. The body itself is slightly shorter as the knobs themselves protrude out more. As well, the whole unit is slanted down on an angle so it faces the user a little bit more, adding visibility and easier access. In terms of weight, the Maonocaster C2 Neo tips the scales at 354g, which is decently weighted so it stays in place even when users make adjustments. I did find the knobs and level sliders, however, to move about a bit too easily, with not enough resistance to stay in place during accidental brushes.

Looking at the left side, we have the first set of inputs that relate to the combination XLR and 1/4" input on the back. Here, we have two related physical adjustments, which are the microphone input gain knob at the top and the output fader underneath. When powered on and in use, adjusting the level slider will show a corresponding level on the LED lights next to it. As well, this column of lights acts as an indicator for the current input levels. It will show green, orange, and red lights, depending on the current levels. It is best to generally avoid reaching the red region, which is known as peaking, as vocals captured here will cut off unnaturally and be harsh for listeners. Worse yet, any peaked audio captured cannot be reversed or fixed. Underneath, we have a 48V rubber square button, which lets users turn on or off phantom power to the microphones. Only condenser microphones generally require a 48V input to power the microphones. It is unlikely to cause damage to dynamic microphones, but it is recommended to only turn this on for condenser ones.

The next knob at the top is marked AUX, and this controls the acts input volume from either the USB Type-C, 3.5mm accompaniment, or Bluetooth inputs. The button at the bottom marked BT is used to pair this unit to a Bluetooth source. Finally, the third button on this side is marked "Reverb Presets", which is used to change different reverberation effects that is applied to the input. Pressing this button cycles through six different effects, as you will see later in our testing.

In the middle of the Maonocaster C2 Neo, we have a large knob, which affects the output levels. This includes the 3.5mm audio jack and the USB Type-C outputs. We have another set of level meter lights marked "OUT". Adjusting the large center knob will illuminate the level meter momentarily. It will also actively show the output levels while the console is in use. Finally, we have one more level slider, which changes the output going to the headphone audio jack at the back.

Underneath, we have seven more rubber translucent buttons that all glow different colors when they are pressed or active, depending on their functions. Starting from the left, the first one is marked "Side Chain", which makes your microphone input more audible by lowering the other inputs automatically. The "Music Only" label underneath indicates if you long press this button, it will change the equalizer settings to remove the vocals from the auxiliary inputs, which is actually pretty neat. This is apparently used so users can sing along with the song. In my testing, it actually worked well for a lot of music, but I did notice a few exceptions, especially with electronic music. When these buttons are active, they will glow blue and red, respectively. However, if you activate both of these features, it will glow a light magenta, which is intuitive given the color combinations.

Next, we have Direct Monitor and Loopback, which will activate on short and long presses, respectively. Direct Monitor allows you to hear the microphone input, while Loopback is used so any audio heard in your headphones from the USB device is also redirected back into the USB-connected device. This lets the output be a combination of both your voice and the audio in a single track. Once again, there are different colors that show when either feature, or both, are active. "Pitch Presets" cycles through different pitches, applying an effect on your microphone input. "Noise Reducer" cycles through two different levels of noise cancellation to your audio input.

Finally, the three buttons under "Soundpad" are where you can record input sounds and play them back. This allows for three different recordings of up to 20 seconds. First, you will need to erase the sound stored by long pressing the button. It will flash quickly until the previous sound is removed. Then you can press the button one more to initiate recording for up to 20 seconds. If you want to stop the recording earlier, you just need to press the button once more. Finally, to playback the recorded sound, you can short press the button. I found this process to be a bit unintuitive, but thankfully the guide walks you through the steps for clarity.

Before we flip to the back, at the very top, we have a set of LED lights to help with some indication. First, we have four LEDs to show the current battery level. This is seen on one side of the battery icon. Then, we have a red light on the other side that shows when this unit is charging. Finally, we have a Bluetooth logo to show if the Maonocaster C2 Neo is connected to a Bluetooth device for audio input. It also flashes when the mixer is in the pairing process. It should be noted the Bluetooth connection is one-way and is only meant to receive audio from the phone. If you want to send audio out to your mobile device, you will need to use the USB port or 3.5mm audio jack instead.

At the back, we have several inputs. From left to right, we have a power button that turns on and off the C2 Neo. You will need to long press it to turn the mixer on and off. Next, we have a set of two USB Type-C inputs, which are used for power and audio input/output, respectively. I found several issues with this implementation. First of all, they should have allowed for a single USB Type-C connection to handle power and data transmission, especially as Maono only provides one cable. Secondly, the connections are too close together, so if you use any slightly larger plug, it will interfere with the other port. Thirdly, the Maonocaster C2 Neo will not stay powered if you only plug in the right-side connection marked "USB-C". As such, the unit will shut off when it runs out of power. I can understand the need for two ports when used with a mobile device, but it is a heavy compromise for a typical desktop user. At a minimum,, they should have spaced out these connectors further apart. All in all, the two USB Type-C ports were haphazardly designed and implemented, showing a lack of foresight for the user.

Next, we have three 3.5mm audio jacks, which are used for outputs and input. As the labels indicate, the "STREAM OUT" jack is used for the captured audio going out to a different device, whether a computer or something else. Next, the headphone jack is used as an audio output for the stream or from your connected computer. Finally, the AUX jack is used for input. The last input is a combination XLR and 1/4" input, as you can connect either option, but not both.

Flipping to the bottom, we have the base of the Maonocaster C2 Neo. In the middle, there is a label that mentions the battery size and charge input. This also includes a few certifications and the name as well as the serial number. As you can see, this is made in China. Around the corners, we have four foam padded feet to prevent the Maonocaster C2 Neo from sliding about. Internally, a 1500mAh capacity battery is present to power the device. This can be quite handy for mobile use, especially when recording to a phone or tablet. Maono says it will last approximately 7 hours. In our testing with a single microphone attached, this was closer to 6 hours. They also say it will take about 2.5 hours to charge, which is similar to our observed results.

With everything connected, you can see how the Maonocaster C2 Neo may look like on a table. As you can see, I had to find a second USB cable from another audio interface that did not block the other port. As I have already bantered about, this is a foolish design choice. As for its capabilities, the Maonocaster C2 Neo is capable of a frequency response of 20Hz to 20kHz, with a total harmonic distortion, or THD, of less than 0.05%. Its headphone output is 20mW at 32 ohms. Finally, we have a sample rate of 48kHz and 16-bit audio bit depth at its input. This is on the low-end, as I have seen other audio interfaces capable of 24-bit, 192kHz. Maono mentions this can be used with computers, including compatibility for both Windows and MacOS, and mobile devices. Presumably, this should work with Android and iOS, although they do not mention a specific app to use. We will see how this audio interface and mixer performs in our audio tests.

Page Index
1. Introduction, Packaging, Specifications
2. Physical Look - Hardware
3. Audio Performance Tests
4. Conclusion