MicPort is a USB-powered mini-amp that enables the signal from a three-pin XLR microphone to work with your Mac.
It's useful because a Mac won't take an XLR signal without amplification, and because it outputs the signal over USB for an easy connection with the computer.
This is the smallest solution we have seen that does this task, which makes it particularly useful for interview work and making podcasts from the field, because it takes up next to no space in a laptop bag. Unfortunately, it doesn't come with a XLR mic, so you'll need to consider that cost if you don't already have one.
Broadcast quality recordings
The MicPort has a phantom power feature that works with any dynamic, ribbon or condenser microphone.
We used a fairly standard dynamic mic and a copy of Freeverse's Sound Studio 3 to make some test recordings. Everything worked well, providing 24-bit/96kHz audio capture of broadcast quality with no noticeable latency issues.
The MicPort Pro has a headphone jack, so you can easily overdub existing audio files and monitor the mic signal. It also has an earphone volume control and an input volume for the mix signal. CEntrance claims you can add extra mics in a modular fashion, but you would need to buy adapting cables.
A pricey microphone
When you connect the microphone to your Mac, a band of clear plastic illuminates and no driver installation is necessary. OS X-level support is immediate; the MicPort just appears as an option to select in either the Sound panel under System Preferences, or directly in audio-recording software.
At £110, the price is a potential stumbling block. For £40 less you could get M-Audio's Podcast Factory, which although much more bulky, does include an amplifier with headphone socket, a decent microphone and recording software.
But if you can stretch to it, we think the MicPort is a better product overall, thanks to its intelligent design, clear audio quality and - critically for keen podcasters - a very small footprint.