A Norwegian company has just released the Nomono Sound Capsule, a portable podcasting studio for up to four people that you can take pretty much anywhere you want. The hardware is pretty, but the price is steep, and the real magic is actually on the back end in Nomono’s cloud audio processing.
Ultimately, you can get similar quality for most scenarios with much less cost.
The Nomono sound capsule consists of a base station charger, a 360-degree spatial audio microphone array with an LCD screen, and four lavalier mics that attach to a shirt or jacket with a backing magnet. It all fits neatly in a small carry case that snaps on top of everything. Open it, lift out the sound capsule, put some mics on whoever you want to record, and press the big red record button, and you’re set to go.
Assuming, of course, you’ve set up a Nomono account in the accompanying iOS or Android app, named the capsule, connected it to WiFi (not necessary for recording, but will enable automatic upload to the Nomono cloud).
I recently tested a demo model which I’ll be returning to the company.
The appeal, of course, is the go-anywhere podcast studio. Nomono fulfills the dream of podcasting anywhere, anytime, with minimal fuss, no wires, almost no complexity. Open it up, put the mics on, and start recording.
The promise is that you’ll get quality audio without the hassle. And it’s a promise that is largely fulfilled. But the fulfillment is in the audio processing and enhancement in the Nomono cloud, not in the actual capture of much better audio.
Here’s an example of the same clip, one with raw Nomono audio capture, and the other processed by Nomono’s very good online audio enhancement software:
As you can hear, the raw audio has unadjusted levels between the female voice (my wife) and I, and the background sports game is much louder. Much worse, when I laugh at pretty high volume, I blow out the mic and get significantly bad audio. All of that is cleaned up by the Nomono audio processing in the cloud, which renders the overall result actually really good despite being recorded in a noisy, poor audio quality environment.
Does that mean Nomono is a good buy?
There are significantly cheaper options to capture audio on the go. For instance, I bought a set of wireless lavalier mics on Amazon from a no-name made-in-China company for perhaps $50. They connect to my iPhone and record two people with similar quality. Or there are products like the Zoom H6 6-Track Portable Recorder, which you could theoretically connect with small mics for a somewhat portable set-up. Of course, this will not be quite as easily portable: if you can find small lavalier mics to plug into the Zoom, it would be as or more portable than the Nonomo Sound Capsule.
And while Nomono’s cloud audio processing software is good, I can get similar processing in Descript, the podcasting software that I use regularly. (With one exception: Descript’s audio leveling feature does not, according to my repeated and increasingly frustrated testing and usage, work at all.)
So paying $2,500 for cool hardware and lavalier mics that still requires post-processing isn’t the smartest buy, unless you really need all four mics, want the cool hardware, and don’t really care about the cost. Plus, the Nomono cloud has additional cost for serious use: from $15 to $29 per month.
Nomono does offer a gorgeous, well-thought-out, and complete hardware and software solution. But it does come at five to ten times the cost of other options, which is a significant challenge for small podcasters. Position it against a stay-in-place full mixer, laptop, quality mics, and mic stands set-up for a very high-end podcast: it’s a no-brainer. Position it against good-enough solutions that work very well … not so much.
Another challenge: I record my TechFirst podcast with video. I’m not certain how Nomono would work with a video solution, or if it would. Likely, if you captured video entirely separately, you’d have a challenge syncing the two.
Ultimately, I like the solution. But I wouldn’t buy it.