Ask any content creator: you can get by with so-so video, but if your audio is terrible, people will tune our right away. This is especially true if you’re podcasting or streaming. Today, we’re looking at the RODECaster Pro from Rode Microphones. It’s a mixer, multitracker, soundboard, effects processor, and recorder all in one, but at $599, is it worth the investment?
- Current Price: $599 (Sweetwater, Adorama)
- Key Features:
- Easy-to-use podcast production studio
- 8 faders to control audio levels
- 4 high-quality XLR mic inputs
- Instant jingle playback via programmable pads (with companion app)
- Echo Free Phone connectivity via either TRRS or Bluetooth™ with automatic mix-minus
- Aphex Big Bottom™ and Aural Exciter™ processing onboard
- Record direct to microSD™ card or computer via USB
- 2 years* Warranty (1 year plus 1 with online registration)
- Frequency Range:
- Mic Inputs: 20 Hz – 20 kHz, -3dB at 20 Hz (high-pass filter)
- Monitor Outputs: 20 Hz – 20 kHz better than ±0.5dB
- Input Impedance: 600Ω (Mic Preamplifiers)
- Equivalent Noise: –125dBA (A-Weighted, measured as per IEC651)
- Maximum Output Level: +3dBu (Monitor Outputs)
- Headphone Output Power: Max output power at 1% THD: 32Ω –> 220mW | 300Ω –> 31mW
- Dynamic Range: 100 dBA (Mic Preamplifiers)
- Gain Range: 0dB – 55dB (Mic Preamplifiers)
- Power Requirements: External DC power supply 12 - 15v DC, 1A
- Output Connection: USB-C, 1/4” Balanced TRS STEREO (Monitor Outputs)
- Computer Connectivity: USB
- Bit Depth: 24-Bit
- Sample Rates: 48 kHz
- Storage: microSD™ card slot, 512MB internal memory for storing sounds for programmable pads
- OS Requirements: macOS 10.11, Windows 10
- Mechanical Specifications
- Colour: Black
- Weight (g): 1980
- Dimensions (L x W x H, mm): 350 x 275 x 82
- Packed Weight (g): 2850
- Package Dimensions (L x W x H, mm): 412 x 338 x 127
The RODECaster Pro has been a piece of tech I can’t seem to get away from. As an avid watcher of content creation channel’s like Tom Buck’s The Enthusiasm Project, it’s a tool that was recommended to me for months before I finally reached out to RODE to see if I could try it for myself. Now that it’s here, I can finally see what all the hype is about.
It’s a versatile tool, much more so than I first realized, acting as multiple devices in one: a USB mixer, a mobile recorder, a soundboard, and vocal DSP (effects processor). At $599, it doesn’t come cheap, but the sheer amount of functionality really puts that price into perspective. To have so many features in one, with the overall quality I’ve found here simply doesn’t come cheap. The is a tool designed for prosumers and professionals, not your average streamer.
Let’s start with what it does. The RODECaster Pro supports up to four XLR microphones, dynamic or condenser, with 48V of phantom power and enough gain to eliminate the need for a separate preamp for gain hungry mics like the Shure SM7B or Rode’s own Procaster. It connects to a PC via USB Type-C and can act as an audio interface or work all on its own recording to a MicroSD card. Each microphone channel has a separate headphone jack and volume knob so every host can monitor and control their own levels. If you’re working mobile, you can even connect a pair of monitors (speakers) so everyone can hear the playback.
In addition to the microphone inputs, you also have USB, 3.5mm, and Bluetooth inputs, each with their own fader. That means you can mix in audio from your PC, take calls through Bluetooth, and have a third source through 3.5mm to mix into your show. Every input has its own slider and, monitoring through your headphones, you can dial in the levels of every source like a standard mixer. The faders are also smooth, completely silent, and have nice metal heads, elevating it from being a mixer to a nice mixer.
To the right is an 8-pad soundboard, complete with a selection of preset effects. These can be completely customized using the PC or new effects can be recorded on the fly, right on the device. It’s not quite as simple as the GoXLR’s one-button sampler, so you’ll have to know that you want to record and navigate to that section of the menu, but it’s still an excellent feature for having a ton of samples right at your fingertips. The soundboard also has its own volume slider so the canned laughs don’t stomp on the joke you just told.
Topping off all of this is a very nice touch screen. Its home screen has a live level monitor so you can see exactly how loud everyone is in comparison to each other. It’s also how you’ll navigate the menus and find some of the RODECaster’s more advanced features.
Inside the menu, you’ll find a ton of customization features and vocal effects. To make sure your hosts sound their best, every channel has a suite of vocal effects, including a compressor, high-pass filter, de-esser to remove those sibilant S sounds, a noise gate, as well as ducking to prevent your channels from competing with one another.
The unit also features built-in Aphex processing. Aphex is commonly found as a rack mounted effects unit and doesn’t come cheap. You’ll often find it in professional broadcast studios 1) because they can afford it and 2) because it instantly enhances your vocal. The Aural Exciter adds clarity to your voice while the Big Bottom effect widens it and lends you presence. Using the effects pictured above, I instantly sounded more like a radio host.
Have a listen for yourself in this audio review (it’s straight-up hard not to feel like a radio host):
With all of that background out of the way, what are my actual impressions after using it for the last month? In a word: game-changing. The RODECaster makes it easy to produce higher quality audio than ever before. The ability to circle my PC audio back into the Rodecaster to be added to the mix is great, but the fact that it just does it, right out of the box without any tweaks whatsoever, makes getting started with stream mixing easier than ever before. There’s no fiddling with multiple inputs, rerouting sources, or anything like that. It’s all right there, onboard and simple.
The actual quality is also great. The RODECaster records at 24-bit, 48kHz. It’s not the highest sample rate I’ve used, but the bit depth is a step above most straight-to-PC recording solutions (which are often 16-bit). I can send audio out of the unit, be it to PC or direct to MicroSD, and know that it’s going to sound exactly as I intended it to, every time.
The versatility is also a high point, and extends the RODECaster well beyond normal podcasting or streaming. If I’m recording voiceover for a video, I’ll send it straight through the Pro and save an entire clean-up and enhancement workflow in Premiere Pro. It even has multi-track functionality so inputs can be separated and mixed externally. Since it records to its own storage media, you can use it as a mobile recorder. Want to do a podcast at a diner or commentate a football game? You’re good to go, no PC required.
Of course, not everyone needs this level of versatility and many people considering this device will be looking at it purely for Twitch. Those users will probably find it to be far too expensive for just those purposes. I look at it from a slightly different perspective having been in the A/V world for the last several years. That is the world in which the RODECaster operates and hails from, and there, $599 for this device isn’t overpriced as it might first seem. Likewise, buying the RODECaster means you won’t have to buy an audio interface. If you have a gain-hungry mic, you won’t need a pre-amp. Both of those $200 or more of extra purchases. In that light, $599 isn’t bad at all and the quality and versatility are simply inarguable.
In my time leading the tech arm here at MMORPG, I’ve come to realize that, past a certain price point, most products are at least decent at what they’re trying to do. Because of this, most of what we and most tech sites review tends to fall between 6-10 on a review scale. I have held off on scoring anything a perfect 10 because there is always room for improvement.
Here… I’m at a loss. RODE has so thoroughly nailed this device that it’s difficult to find things to critique. The faders aren’t motorized? It’s pretty big? The first one is pretty inconsequential and while maybe worth a mention isn’t worth a knock. The second one is negated by the fact that the unit also doesn’t feel any bigger than it needs to be. So, there we have it then. If you’re the kind of person looking for a device like this, a streamer, podcaster, or content creator looking to take your audio to a professional level, stop searching. This is the droid you’re looking for.
The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.