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RODE RODECaster Pro 2 Review: Almost Perfect

A Triumphant Sequel

Christopher Coke Posted:
Category:
Hardware Reviews 0

When it comes to content creation, audio is everything. RODE has been an industry leader in this space for more than 50 years, and when it released its original RODECaster Pro (reviewed here), it quickly became one of the single-best tools for content creators money could buy. With its combination of in-depth soundcrafting, live mixing, studio-grade processing, and regular updates, it was a recording studio in a box. With its in-depth control, it was capable of taking your live streams and podcasts to a whole new level of quality.

This month, RODE unveiled its sequel, the RODECaster Pro 2 and it’s nothing short of groundbreaking. It takes everything the original did and amplifies it. It features three virtual channels to route audio from your PC, four mic inputs, four headphone outputs, Bluetooth I/O, customizable sound pads, and so much more. It’s also powerful enough to drive even the most demanding microphones without the need for expensive preamps — because it has class-leading preamps built in. It also features a powerful processor and WiFi upgradability with plenty of updates planned for the future.

The RODECaster Pro 2 takes the throne as one of the best audio upgrades home content creators could add to their setup. It’s not perfect, yet. But it’s close.

Specifications

  • Current Price: $699 (Amazon
  • Frequency Range: Mic Inputs: 20Hz - 20kHz Monitor Outputs: 20Hz - 20kHz
  • Microphone Input Impedance: 4K?
  • Instrument Input Impedance: 1M?
  • Preamplifier Gain Range: 0 - 76dB
  • Equivalent Noise: -131.5dBV (A-weighted)
  • Line Output Maximum Level: 4dBu
  • Headphone Output Power: 250mW
  • Power Requirements: 30W USB-C PD (15V, 2A)
  • Analogue Audio Input Connectivity: 4 x combo jack inputs (microphone, line, instrument)
  • Analogue Audio Output Connectivity: 2 x balanced line output, 4 x headphone output
  • Bluetooth Connectivity: Bluetooth audio with Music and Headset profile (wide band speech)
  • USB Interface 1: 1 x 2-in/16-out multichannel device, 1 x 2-in/2-out with mix-minus
  • USB Interface 2: 1 x 2-in/2-out with mix-minus
  • Bit Depth: 24bit
  • Sample Rate: 48kHz
  • Recording Storage: microSDHC, microSDXC, USB-C removable drive (exFAT – minimum 100MB/s)
  • Data transfer: USB 3.0 SD card reader 130MB/s
  • Network Connectivity: Wifi 802.11g/n/ac 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Ethernet 100/1000
  • OS Requirements: macOS 10.15 or later, Windows 10 Version 1803 or later, Windows 11
  • Internal Storage: 4GB (SMART pads)
  • Weight (g): 1960g 
  • Dimensions (mm): 305(L) x 270(D) x 60(W)

RODECaster Pro 2 - What Is It?

The RODECaster Pro 2 is a digital mixer aimed at podcasters, content creators, and home musicians. It features six physical and three virtual faders to control up to four microphones, three USB audio sources, a Bluetooth channel, and sound pads. It’s the successor to the original RODECaster Pro, which was one of the most popular devices of its kind. This sequel takes what worked with the original and improves upon it in every way. 

The RODECaster Pro is all about creation and removing barriers that might stand between you and your creative process. It features brand new Revolution preamps that are powerful enough to drive the Shure SM7B with headroom to spare, so you’ll never need to worry about buying and adding a Cloudlifter into your mix. It also features a quad-core audio engine with APHEX sound processing for studio quality effects and soundcrafting. What’s more, it comes with presets for RODE’s most popular mics, as well as the SM7B, Electro-Voice RE20, as well as generalized condenser and dynamic microphone presets so you can experience broadcast-worthy audio right out of the box. 

RODE refers to it as an “integrated audio production studio,” and they’re not kidding. The RODECaster 2 is designed to offer all of the functionality you would need, self-enclosed in the unit. All four mic inputs have their own headphone jack and independent volume control. You can record episodes and save settings as “shows” to a microSD card. You can even run the deck on a portable battery pack to make it truly portable. 

What’s more, it’s able to accept and send audio in a surprising number of ways. In addition to the four microphone inputs (which also double as instrument line-in ports), the deck is also able to connect over Bluetooth to easily add calls or handheld music into your show or stream. It can also send audio over Bluetooth, so you can use your iPods Pro to record your show. 

The RODECaster Pro 2 has two USB Type-C interfaces to accept and send audio over. The first, USB Main, creates a second audio device for USB Chat. The second USB connection can be used to connect to another PC or run into that same machine to add a third channel. Once everything is connected, you can select which sources your want to return to each channel, either fully customized with Custom Mixes thanks to a recent firmware update, or as Mix Minus, which subtracts the source from what it sends back (preventing echoes as co-hosts hear themselves piped back to their own ears). That functionality makes it possible to have separate channels for microphones, game audio, and music. 

Once everything is connected, you’re given a studio’s worth of high-quality effects. Built into the unit, you have a high-pass filter, de-esser, noise gate, compressor, equalizer, exciter, and panner. Each of these effects has live read-outs of the current sound output, so you can make informed choices about how to best tweak your sound. There are also reverb and echo options to add different effects. The resulting quality is impeccable and gives you a high degree of control over exactly how every mic and audio source sounds on your stream.

There are also eight built-in sound pads. Pre-loaded effects come ready to go, such as applause, a music bed, crickets, and sad trombone. Each of these can be swapped out using the RODE Central software or recorded and edited live. Two paging buttons below allow you to swap to vocal FX to change the sound of your voice, as well as bleep out expletives and enable ducking so your voice cuts through the mix. 

Controlling all of this is possible through the console’s large built-in touch screen. By default, it displays the current levels of the six physical and three virtual faders, but as you tap on sources, you can access settings menus to customize the RODECaster, including reordering which fader controls each source. Illuminated buttons above each slider change color so you can always tell the location of each source at a glance.

There is a definite “kitchen sink” vibe to the RODECaster Pro 2. If you can think of a feature that would fit with a device like this, there’s a good chance it has it. Output to monitors? It can do that. Ethernet and WiFi connectivity to pull firmware updates from the cloud? Yup. Selectable gain for high impedance and low impedance headphones with shockingly good sound quality? It has that. MIDI support for virtual keyboards and control devices? Yup, it does that, and can also output all of its audio in multitrack format to directly interface with desktop audio applications. It even has haptic feedback so you won’t have to tap endlessly to know your touch has been registered. 

The RODECaster Pro 2 is an incredibly feature-rich and powerful device for content creators and podcasters. Let’s dive further into that.

RODECaster Pro 2 - Streaming and Content Creation

The RODECaster Pro 2 borders on a dream tool for content creators. The quality and feature set put competing products like the GoXLR to shame — at least mostly. More on that soon. 

The core of its performance for streamers lies in its ability to gather all the sound from your PC, phone, and line-in sources, process it with an impeccable degree of control and customization, and then reroute it back to your streaming platform as a customized mix. Since it has two USB inputs/outputs, you’re able to connect it between two machines for a classic dual PC setup, or connect both to a single PC for an additional customizable channel. Bluetooth shouldn’t be forgotten either, as it makes for a perfect supplementary channel, piping music, calls, or video audio into your stream.

The preamps are also worth remarking on here, because they guarantee you can use most microphones with absolute ease. It even comes with presets for demanding but incredibly popular professional mics like the Shure SM7B or Electro-Voice RE-20. These are tools that usually require separate gain boosters that range from $80-150. Here, not only are the preamps powerful enough to drive those mics with headroom to spare, they also produce a cleaner signal for improved sound quality. Fewer things to buy and setup and higher sound quality is a winning combination. 

I also appreciated the wide array of vocal processing effects RODE built into the RODECaster Pro 2. It’s easy to enhance the sound of your voice, cut out background noise, and craft the character of the vocal you’re looking for. These are professional quality effects powered by APHEX, which is famous in recording studios. 

The large display is also put to good use, displaying live vocal data as you’re tweaking each effect. The noise gate displays a live readout of the sound in your room as you’re adjusting where you want it to kick in, making it easy to see where the appropriate level is. The compressor actively shows you when it’s kicking in. The de-esser live graphs when it’s pulling those “s” sounds down, so you’re not sharp. It’s practically useful and makes dialing in your settings so much easier. There is next to no guesswork here — but, as always, you’ll want to use your ear.

When you’re actually live streaming, the faders become your best friend. RODE allows you to reposition these and color codes them so you can tell at a glance what’s where. The screen also displays live decibel levels so you can always tell what’s making noise. Tapping the button above the fader to the meter on the screen takes you to a customization interface to dial the level of that input up or down. This is extremely important for balancing out the volume of that input with your headphone volume. It also allows you to add effects, EQ tweaks, and sound presets to individual channels. 

RODECaster Pro 2 - Streaming and Content Creation - Custom Mixes and Room to Improve

The biggest feature for content creators came in the first major update, released earlier this month: the ability to create custom output mixes. This is critically important and fitting for a first major update because it gives you control over what sources get sent back to each channel. 

This can get confusing quickly, so we’ll begin with an example. For my single-PC use case, I wanted to have separate mixes for taking calls versus streaming to Twitch. When I’m on a call, I only need the microphone to come through. On a stream, I want the mic, game, and Spotify. Since the RODECaster Pro 2 supports three virtual outputs (devices that show up in the Control Panel), you can specify which sources you want going to each output. Then, in that program, you simply select the output as your audio source. For Twitch, I have my Main mix. For Discord, I have my USB Chat mix. That leaves me with an extra Secondary mix that I can create another custom setup with.

What’s exciting here is that this functionality was added as a supplementary update. It’s a major feature addition released as only the first of what RODE says will be many updates to come. 

And that’s a good thing because there is still room to grow. 

The biggest missing feature currently is the ability to create sub-mixes. A submix would allow you to change what you’re hearing in your headphones compared to what makes its way out to your audience. For example, I tend to keep my music louder in my own headphones than what I want on a video. A submix would also allow you to adjust how much of your own microphone you hear versus the actual level you want to send to your audience. Right now, there’s no way to adjust the microphone monitoring level without turning down all of the audio going to your headphones. 

Another area for improvement ties into the next section, so let’s move on.

RODECaster Pro 2 - Worth It Over the GoXLR?

Let’s get right down to it: is it worth buying the RODECaster Pro 2 versus the GoXLR? In my opinion, yes, but with some caveats. The first is that it only makes sense if you need the extra inputs, features, and processing power the RODECaster Pro 2 provides. This is a very high-quality unit that is far more capable than either GoXLR model. The amount of inputs, features, connectivity, inputs, and final sound quality all put the RODECaster Pro 2 on another level of quality and capability. Using it side by side with my own GoXLR, you can hear the jump in quality right away. You get what you pay for. 

At the same time, the RODECaster Pro 2 is a significantly more complicated device. It can do much more, but also requires more setup and tweaking to bring it to its potential. The good news is that you really only need to do this once. But it’s intimidating in a way the GoXLR just isn’t.

The GoXLR also has a major advantage in how it handles mixes. Where the RODECaster falls short is with its limited amount of virtual devices. The GoXLR creates many that each becomes its own mix. You can do things like create a custom mix just for console audio (and it also has a separate volume slider just for headphone mic level adjustment). 

The RODECaster Pro 2, on the other hand, has a total of three and requires two USB ports to access the third. This feels inefficient in comparison. I found that three was enough for solo PC streaming and video creation, but is right at the limit of what you might need as a streamer.

Add those virtual devices. Make them available from a single USB port. Enable submixes. These three features would make the RODECaster Pro 2 the unquestionable king of the content creation hill. 

While it might seem like a small thing, the RODECaster wins in another way: sound quality to the headphones, completely separate from any of the soundcrafting or mic adjustments. I’m talking good, old fashioned sound quality for music and games. The jump to the RODECaster Pro 2 is huge coming from the GoXLR. If you have a nice pair of headphones or just want to get the best sound quality out of your favorite gaming headset, the quality coming from the RODE is much higher than either GoXLR model.

The final consideration is a practical one: the RODECaster Pro 2 is much larger than the GoXLR. At 12 x 10.6 inches, it takes up quite a bit of desk space. You'll need to be sure you have the extra room to support it, as it could easily make your desk feel more cramped. You get added features for that additional size, but it's still an important consideration to keep in mind. 

Final Thoughts

The RODECaster Pro 2 is a triumphant device. At $699, it doesn’t come cheap but when you look at what you get, that price comes into focus. Its excellent Revolution preamps are tremendous in both quality and power. The APHEX audio processing is top-notch. The wealth of input and output options, customizable sound capture and editing live, improved sound quality — to your headphones and to your audience — are all outstanding. It has room for improvement, but with RODE’s commitment to continued feature updates, I’m optimistic that these very features could come in the future. 

As it stands, the RODECaster Pro 2 is incredibly impressive. It’s hard to imagine RODE one-upping itself quite as effectively as it has, but they’ve done it. The result is the best audio tool for content creators, streamers, and musicians you can buy at this price and it only stands to get better with time. 

The product described in this article was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes. Some articles may contain affiliate links and purchases made through this will result in a small commission for the site. Commissions are not directed to the author or related to compensation in any way.

9.5Amazing
Pros
  • Incredible sound processing and final quality
  • Powerful, clean preamps that can drive demanding microphones
  • Outstanding connectivity and portable creation potential
  • Ridiculously feature-rich
  • Tremendous tool for content creators, single or dual PC
Cons
  • No submixes and limited virtual devices
  • Inability to adjust mic monitoring level separate from other sources
  • Requires two USB ports for full, single-PC functionality


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight