Rode is one of those brands that I can’t seem to walk away from at shows like CES and MWC. The company makes some extremely popular directional microphones, which I see mounted on video producers’ cameras with a large and bold RØDE lettering adorning their sides. As a result, I had learned to associate Rode with professional audio recording before I had even tried out any of its gear for myself, trusting the collective wisdom of the crowd of professional content creators. Having spent the last few weeks reviewing the Rodecaster Pro, I would say the wisdom is there.
The Rodecaster Pro aims to be a complete podcasting studio in a transportable format: it combines four XLR microphone inputs, Bluetooth and USB connections for mobile devices, four monitoring headphone outputs and eight programmable pads for playing jingles and sound effects. It is an extremely ambitious audio kit. Just to take stock, the company shipped the exam device to me in a custom backpack, which also managed to hold two large Procaster microphones, their heavy mounts, and extremely thick, long XLR cables. Without these extras, the Rodecaster Pro costs $ 599; with them it is over $ 1,000. So who is this studio for in a backpack for? It’s a good question.
The vast majority of consumer technologies are designed for one user at a time. Some gadgets are shareable, like iPads, but it’s hard to think of many devices designed for group use. The Rodecaster Pro is one of those rare exceptions. It’s built to withstand a lot of heavy use, with big, crushable pads, sturdy sliders, and sturdy knobs, but you absolutely won’t get the most of it if you use it yourself.
Although it’s marketed to grab the attention of podcasters, the Rodecaster Pro seems overkill for this task. It’s far too powerful (and expensive) to be considered a logical upgrade from a more basic USB podcasting mic setup. It’s definitely an upgrade: The internal circuitry of this machine, combined with those $ 229 Procaster microphones, leads to truly high-fidelity recordings. But podcasts give you a lot of leeway to polish a recording in post-production – you can inject musical interludes, rebalance and isolate vocals, and make some enhancements to the captured audio – which makes some of the capabilities of the Rodecaster Pro redundant. .
At the same time, it’s not as complete as a real studio, so it occupies a kind of uncomfortable middle ground. Edge Audio Director Andrew Marino, who has also had experience with the Rodecaster Pro, notes that its onboard effects options are limited (compression is a binary choice to turn on or off), and he believes that the Rodecaster is better suited for multi-person live streams than anything else. It is when you are recording live, especially in a remote location, that this portable broadcast production station shines.
The Rodecaster Pro is comparable in size to a schoolbag, and it’s almost as simple to set up. Each control dial, slider, and pad is aptly labeled, and I was able to plug all the connections in and get them up and running without needing to consult a manual. Rode always provides a great map with tips and advice, anyway.
With the recently released version 1.1.0 of the Rodecaster Pro firmware, Rode has added two interesting upgrades: one is the color labeling for each mic channel, so that you have a visual cue to adjust to in the settings menu on the touchscreen at the top, and the other is multitrack recording when plugged into a computer. I mention this because with gear like this it’s not immediately obvious how much support you’ll get after the initial purchase, but Rode is rolling out some significant new features and treating the Rodecaster Pro like a flagship. . I also really appreciate the responsiveness and readability of the touchscreen: screens are an aspect often overlooked in audio gear, and it’s good that Rode has resisted that trend.
A microSD card slot on the back allows you to do a full stereo recording without the need for a computer. There’s also a two-way USB-C connector that accepts input from your Mac or PC (while simultaneously sending audio to your favorite editing software like Audacity, Adobe Audition, or Hindenburg). Whether connected via USB or Bluetooth to your phone, the Rodecaster Pro makes it easy to record high quality interviews with a distant person. With its eight programmable jingle pads, you can also do plenty of productions on the fly, highlighting the Rodecaster’s credentials as a live show base station.
There aren’t too many optimal scenarios for using the Rodecaster Pro, but once you find one you will truly appreciate its existence. Say you’re on a daily podcast with a few friends, like taking expert guest calls, and really don’t want to spend a lot of time on post-processing. Get one of these and you’ll be able to mute and isolate mic channels on the fly, add jingles and intro music, and maintain a reliable level of quality that makes the extra work virtually unnecessary. All of this becomes doubly true for live broadcasts, where the immediate quality and polish provided by the Rodecaster Pro becomes more apparent.
The more we review designer gear, the more obvious it becomes to me how more narrowly targeted creative devices are than those that consume. A smartphone can do everything decently, but it can’t match the video stabilization of a DJI Osmo Pocket or the audio recording of something like Shure’s MV88 + kit. When you want to increase the quality cap for your creative endeavors, you must necessarily purchase suitable materials for these activities. The Rodecaster Pro is one of those pieces of equipment that will make life infinitely easier for a few people while having little meaning for the rest of us.
More than anything, I would highlight the Pro part of the Rodecaster Pro name. The inviting color coding, large pads, and accessible design all hint at Rode’s desire to make professional gear more user-friendly for hobbyists wanting to take it to the next level. But make no mistake: the Rodecaster Pro is a step towards professional audio broadcasting and production. You will need to be sure this is exactly what you want before you take the plunge.
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