Focusrite’s Vocaster Two puts everything you need to podcast in one very well designed box.
With the Vocaster range, Focusrite have made the flip over to a fully dedicated podcasting solution. This is not an audio interface for musicians — it’s a podcasting interface for content creators. And on first impressions it’s very good indeed.
The Vocaster Two is a good‑looking box. It sits solidly on the desktop, in the shape of a luxurious, granite‑bottomed soap dish. It’s a dish filled with a sleek and tactile front panel and a row of rubberised buttons. Various lights and illuminations break the surface giving confident indications of what’s going on. I’m slightly disappointed that the Focusrite red trim doesn’t light up like a neon shop sign, but its metallic qualities do sparkle in the sun. It’s designed to sit between two podcasters and is entirely unafraid to call them what they are: Host and Guest.
The single large knob in the middle controls the level for the connected microphones. You select Host or Guest on the row of buttons to specify which mic level is being altered, and the level halo and metering light up accordingly. The Host and Guest then have their own mute button, Enhance button and headphone level knob. The Host’s headphone control also controls the main output if they are using it, giving the Host just that little bit more power to make them feel like they are in control of the situation.
The overall feeling you get is that this device is absolutely designed for the job. It is exactly what a podcaster would need.
The feature list ticks every box along the way to podcasting nirvana. The Vocaster Two I’m reviewing here is designed for two people engaging in a podcast. There’s also a Vocaster One for people who want a simple podcasting or a live‑streaming solution just for themselves. But staying with the Two, we have a pair of XLR microphone inputs with switchable phantom power on the back. These are not combi connectors; there are no Hi‑Z inputs for guitar or line‑level inputs; this is about two people talking.
To that end, Focusrite have added a row of buttons for each party to play with. First, there’s a handy mute button (or ‘cough switch’ as they say at the BBC), and then an Enhance button denoted by a magic wand icon. This adds some compression, EQ and a high‑pass filter to either microphone, and you can choose from four presets. And finally, in the middle are Host and Guest buttons, which determine which mic level is being controlled by the main knob.
There is a secret setting that I think is a bit more magic even than the Enhance mode, and that’s Auto Gain. Hold the button until it flashes, and then speak into your microphone for a few seconds; the Vocaster will automatically set the right level for you. It works perfectly every time and makes you wonder why they went to the trouble of putting that big knob in the centre when you don’t really need it. Maybe it would have been a level of automation too far.
There are some other inputs. On the back is a TRRS connection designed for a smartphone. This will let you play music from your phone into the Vocaster and mix it into the podcast. However, it’s also a two‑way connection, and so you could use it to talk to a remote guest and have their audio come in while your voice over the microphone routes back out to the phone. The mix sent to the phone is mono and contains the whole podcast mix but without their own voice, which is a nice and well‑thought‑out touch.
An alternative option is the Bluetooth connection. Within a range of about seven metres, you can pair your phone or Bluetooth device with the Vocaster and do the whole remote guest phone call wirelessly. The caller gets the same mono mix as if you had it physically connected.
Focusrite had one other idea for useful connections: an output designed to plug into a video or DSLR camera. If you’re filming your podcast, you could have all the audio plugged into the camera, so you don’t have to sync it all up in post. It’s just a mini‑jack output containing the same mix as the master output, but the fact that it’s marked up with a camera icon gives us an ease of application that we don’t often see on audio interfaces.
We also see this with the mic sockets, control knobs and headphone outputs (the latter are usefully placed on the front edge). They are all labelled as Host or Guest. Focusrite are going out of their way to reinforce the ease of use and making no assumptions about the user’s capabilities. It’s terrific and inspires a lot of confidence in the box.
While there is plenty of control on the hardware, it’s also mirrored in the rather plain‑looking Vocaster Hub software. So, you could set the levels and adjustments in the Hub, but you are more likely to enjoy doing it on the hardware, particularly if you are engaging with a guest. However, you also get all the mix controls for the other elements. You have individual level control over the Bluetooth and auxiliary (phone) input, so you could potentially use two phones, one wired and one wireless. Then there are two loopback channels letting you feed in the outputs of two other pieces of software.
It’s all very clear and straightforward until, perhaps, it’s time to work out how you would actually connect it all up for live streaming or recording into your DAW...
Once you’ve selected the Vocaster as your DAW’s audio interface, you are faced with a quite alarming array of inputs. Everything gets its own channel, but you also get ‘Video Call’ and ‘Show Mix’ to play with. So, in your DAW, on separate tracks you can record both your own and your guest’s microphones, the output from a wired phone, the output from a phone over Bluetooth, and the playback from two other pieces of software on the same computer.
Show Mix refers to the mix from the Vocaster Hub. You can set this up as the stereo input to your DAW for recording the whole show. For live streaming, you’d set this as an input to OBS, Vmix or whatever streaming software you use. Then everything you have plugged into the Vocaster will be recorded or streamed.
Video Call refers to a ‘mix‑minus’ version of the whole show without the audio from loopbacked phones. You’d send this back to video call guests for their monitoring.
That’s an impressive 14 channels in total from this little interface, which otherwise gives you the impression of being a simple 2‑in/2‑out device.
The software package is a little on the light side and feels like Focusrite are way out of their comfort zone. You get three months of SquadCast Pro+ for live streaming and six months of Acast Influencer for podcast publishing, neither of which feels like a good deal. For recording, you get Hindenburg Lite which is worth £73 and seems a bit more like it. I’d not come across Hindenburg before, but the Pro version is a DAW and audio editor designed for podcasting and radio production.
The Pro version looks great, whereas the Lite version leaves you feeling a bit disappointed. The Lite version only supports regular USB audio drivers and can record a single stereo track at a time. You’ve got no way to select any of the 14 channels — it just records a mix. All the tutorials and guides on the website appear to reference the Pro version, which can happily do multitrack recording. Unfortunately, the settings and options referred to don’t appear in the Lite version, so you’re left a bit stuck. This is really the only misstep that Focusrite have taken, so I’d recommend using any DAW that uses ASIO drivers for a much better experience.
Once you’ve worked out which input drivers go where in your software, the experience of sitting down and using the Vocaster is pretty seamless. The Auto Gain works well provided that you speak normally into the microphone during the calibration. You don’t have to touch that middle knob at all.
To keep good separation between the podcasters it’s probably better to use dynamic microphones as you will most likely be sitting across from each other. Focusrite offer a ‘Studio’ bundle of the Vocaster Two, which includes a Shure SM7B‑style dynamic mic called the DM14v and some headphones. A pair of those would do the job nicely.
Having some controls available to your guest on the interface is a really lovely thing, and being able to set their headphone level and mute status should put them nicely at ease. The design with the I/O all on the back keeps the cables out of the way and gives you a neat and tidy desktop around which to do your podcast. These things should not be underestimated.
Vocaster Two sounds great in terms of sound quality, which is probably not very helpful from a musical perspective, but that’s not the measure of this unit. Focusrite don’t go into much detail about the preamps but they can deliver up to 70dB of gain with a frequency response of 20Hz‑20kHz and a THD+N of ‑94dB. The interface runs only at 48kHz, which is normal for regular desktop software and underlines that this is for a specific application rather than having the versatility we’ve come to expect for music‑making.
Focusrite have judged this perfectly. The range of features is spot on, and I applaud the lengths they’ve gone to to make it easy to use — this is how you make complicated technology accessible.
Focusrite have judged this interface perfectly. The range of features is spot on, and I applaud the lengths they’ve gone to to make it easy to use — this is how you make complicated technology accessible. Everything works; the phone connections, Bluetooth, routing audio back out to the caller, loopback routing, Auto Gain, Enhance, and even allowing your guest to mute their microphone as they’re about to sneeze. It makes for a completely comfortable podcasting experience.
The only thing that might trip people up is the software. Putting the odd choice of bundled software aside, how do you set it up to live stream with OBS? How do you record your podcast into a DAW? How do you record on your iPad? These questions are not really answered with reference to the Vocaster in any of the documentation or support FAQs. There’s an OBS tutorial, but it’s based on a Scarlett interface which will have none of the same I/O options. There’s plenty of info out there on how to do it generally, and Vocaster users will get through it, but considering the marvellous ease‑of‑use aspect that Focusrite have pumped into the podcasting hardware, I’m surprised about the lack of instruction on how you actually do the podcasting itself.
If you are looking for something musical, then this is not for you. The lack of instrument or proper line‑level inputs would make it a hard pass for most musicians. And that’s fine because that’s not what the Vocaster is about. However, it might be interesting to see a Vocaster Four that added back some more musical connections, because the hardware interface could be just as brilliant for people writing songs together.
- Every connection a podcaster needs.
- Very easy to set up.
- Perfect interface for podcasting.
- Auto Gain and Enhance features are excellent.
- Phone and camera connections.
- I can’t fault the design choices.
- Unhelpful software bundle.
- Software configuration could do with more explanation.
Focusrite’s superbly designed Vocaster Two nails the podcasting market, pulling together all your possible setups into one box. Not for musicians, though.