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Go XLR: Accessibility Review

Introduction

The Go XLR is now a relatively common name in streaming circles, designed not only to make your microphone sound as good as it possibly can, but also to give you superior control of your audio.

As a gamer without sight, audio is crucial to my experience of a stream and that's not just true from the viewing side. I want everything to be as easy to control from my side as well when I'm broadcasting my gameplay too, including being able to change levels of audio in my headphones without impacting the experience for my viewers.

Having purchased a Go XLR after hearing good things from various other gamers in similar positions to myself, I thought I'd review the product as well to see just how workable this is and how much sighted assistance you might need.

Let's start with the unboxing.

Note

I did have a little assistance opening the box, so this starts from once any seals have been cut and the box opened up.

Unboxing

In the left-hand side you'll find a USB cable in a plastic bag-like material and underneath, a relatively thin box containing a plug and necessary adaptors if required.

In the main section of the package, held in place by foam material, is the Go XLR (GX hereafter) itself. Lifting it out requires a little manoeuvring, after placing a hand each side to get underneath it, but if done right and with enough care, it should come free very easily.

First-time Setup

Being all too aware of the frustrations of devices re-routing the audio that comes into the PC when new items are plugged in, I was prepared with the soundcard I got as part of my ModMic review as it happens, keeping NVDA routed to that as best I could

Plugging in the device moved the faders of its own volition, quite the spectacle if you've never seen things like that happen before. Downloading the software, however, which I had to do in order to get any audio to appear (as the device isn't plug and play as might be hoped for), required me to go down to the bottom of the browser window I was in and click "agree" a couple of times on different dialogue or checkboxes to start the download.

This was arguably made all the more infuriating as it had just appeared initially that the download wouldn't start in the first place.

After extracting the zip file, I started what turned out to be a very accessible install process, where the app was installed and the driver began to follow suit.

Unfortunately, after this was where the problems started. NVDA was automatically moved to the GX's own audio system, meaning I had to unplug my headphones from the Antlion soundcard and try to see if I could get sound to come from this new piece of kit. After a little tweaking of what I hoped was the system fader, I was able to hear my screen reader again, but not until after I got sighted assistance to finish the setup process just to be on the safe side.

Surprisingly, using Optical Character Recognition (OCR) worked relatively well on the firmware and device update screens, but when it came time to set up my mic (a key point in the GX getting started process), I couldn't do anything other than getting sighted assistance to make sure everything would work.

Power And The Go XLR

Not wanting to leave my Go XLR on all the time (including when not in use), I wondered what would happen if you unplugged the device after you shut your computer down. Turns out that when you plug it back in, all the faders reset to the default values on the profile, thus meaning that at times you have no sound at start up. This could be resolved by being able to save your profile in an accessible manner in the first place, but we'll come on to saving profiles later.

Should you be feeling extremely adventurous, you could always look at the GoXLR-A11Y Wiki, found here, but when trying to follow the instructions they didn't seem to work for me with profiles not saving without sighted assistance to save to the active one. Other users have said they had it work fine for them, so I'll just say your milage may vary here.

Once everything was set up the way I wanted it though, I still had one unexpected point of contention: my ModMic didn't sound how I'd expected it to.

The Antlion XLR Power Converter

For a good while now I've used the ModMic Uni as a primary streaming microphone and, while it doesn't deliver the quality of sound you'd expect from an XLR microphone like the Samson Q7 for instance, it's been great at allowing me to broadcast my voice while still having a mic on-stream that doesn't obscure the camera.

Being uncertain of just how well the mic could work with the built-in 3.5mm mic port on the Go XLR, I wanted to test and see if the signal was stronger with an actual XLR converter. It turns out that Antlion produce just the piece of equipment I was looking for in their own XLR Power Converter.

Disclaimer

The converter was provided by Antlion at no cost to the reviewer.

Power Converter Unboxing

The unboxing is the most straightforward one I think I've ever had to undertake. Simply pull the top flap (where the hanger for stores is located) up and towards you, then reach inside and feel for the bottom of the plastic insert that holds the adaptor.

Putting a finger underneath it, pull the insert out and you should be able to lift the adaptor out easily enough.

Testing

After getting sighted assistance to calibrate the mic gain and other settings (based on some recommendations from various YouTube videos), including a compressor and noise gate amongst others, I went live. I'm happy to say that the adaptor was all I'd hoped for, delivering a solid and clear sound and working well with the built-in effects from the GX itself.

If you're set on using a Modmic or other 3.5mm connected mic and you'd rather use the power of XLR, this adaptor will definitely be a useful addition.

Effects

The GX has numerous inbuilt effects, some of which can be adjusted via knobs and various buttons and others via the software itself (which as previously stated is inaccessible to screen readers). These effects range from reverb and delay to pitch shifting and megaphone style distortion filters, all of which can be used to lend individual character to your voice.

Personally I have a number of different ones set up usually for specific lines or scenarios for comedic effect. However, I did have to have sighted assistance to calibrate them. Once done though, it's pretty much fire and forget, which is certainly appreciated.

As for fader assignments, though the manual advises you to set up the device a specific way for streaming purposes, I decided to leave it as it was, at least initially. This means that my mic gain was the first fader, Music the second, Chat the third and System the fourth.

What this actually meant in practice is that I could assign devices that I wanted to be able to control to differing channels through their own routing capabilities to modulate their volumes smoothly and easily, rather than having to go into Windows own sometimes inconsistent sound settings. For instance, I have my screen reader's synthesiser outputting to the Music channel and everything else set to system. If I have a YouTube video playing and need my screen reader to be louder or the video to be quieter, all I need do is reach over and move the associated fader.

Unfortunately working with things like the audio routing table was something that I required sighted assistance for too, which was frustrating but something I personally learnt to work around and likely won't be a dealbreaker unless you plan to constantly use things such as the line-in port for controller audio.

pros

Cons

Conclusions

The Go XLR is definitely a force to be reckoned with in terms of its software and hardware capabilities, but the lack of accessibility in the former makes it a tough sell for gamers without sight who won't have consistent sighted assistance.

If the app were accessible to screen readers, which I've been informed is now possible (thanks to the toolkit used to develop it getting screen reader support), it would greatly improve what the device is capable of. It's now on the shoulders of the developers working on the app to make the necessary adjustments.

That being said, the device has greatly improved my workflow, allowed me to adjust audio on the fly and give my content a new element of character and, especially as a streamer, that power and fluidity can't be understated.

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