It seems like everybody is scrambling to make gear for podcasting and streaming. But RØDE has done something unique and self-contained and a firmware update makes it look like a serious tool.
As creative media tools mature, it’s only natural to think about more use cases. A lot of the products you’re seeing roll out now would have predated COVID-19, given how long development cycles take. And I think the overall trend could be positive and democratic. We’re past the days of “pro” implying studios and record labels. It’s now about individual production that can range from independent journalists to musicians.
That doesn’t mean everything with “-caster” slapped on the end will be useful. There’s a serious danger of unitasker invention, just to try to capture market. You’ll see a lot of “podcaster” or “broadcaster” gear that might be better replaced with, like, a mixer or an audio interface.
But that’s where the RØDECaster Pro is at least potentially interesting. It has an I/O combo that’s dead-obvious but isn’t easy to find “studio” or “musician”-oriented gear (to say nothing of the amount of equipment out there that assumes you play the guitar). And it has some nice features that make it really immediate for seeing what you’re doing – and built-in APHEX effects.
Pricing street is around USD / EUR 599 – but this could easily replace several pieces of gear costing far more.
They obviously got this out in the field and heard some feedback, because the most encouraging features all shipped last week in a firmware update that RØDE says responded to user requests. This is from last year (wow, was last year a long time ago), but it’s really come into its own via a series of updates – specifically one that dropped this month.
So what is this thing?
- 4 XLR mic ins
- 4 headphone outs
- Automatic level setting, but also hands-on controls
- One-touch record to microSD card (meaning also a useful backup)
- Computer interface (so this also works well in multi-mic live streams)
- Trigger pads for sound effects (morning zoo style!) or intro / outro / ad rolls. Of course these have RGB – yes, you knew that would come to this context eventually. 8×8 sound banks.
- Bluetooth connectivity with the phone, which you can also use for call-ins (cool)
They’ve just added a number of cute little details – even color-coded XLR rings so you don’t get lost with which cable goes to which mic.
Add effects and APHEX
Convenience aside, you could theoretically set up something like the above with your computer. But where RØDE has an actual value proposition may be its onboard audio. On top of what they say are high-quality Class A preamps – something becoming more readily available – you also get a ton of onboard processing that fits this context and makes it easier to plug and play.
So there’s a built-in compressor, de-esser, high-pass filter, noise gate, and ducking. Since it’s in hardware, you don’t have to sweat latency – and it still works even when disconnected from the computer. Hell, this might well be useful recording your barbershop quartet, not just your podcast.
The signature APHEX Aural Exciter™ and Big Bottom™ are there, as well – for a little “I’ve got a proper radio voice” magic.
Now I’m a little wary, in that you’ll probably also want to use a good mic. (Think something like the SHURE SM7b, which sounds good with or without effects – though RØDE also have some great mics of their own, including the Procaster which runs roughly half the cost of the Shure but also works as an everyday vocal dynamic. I actually just asked them for one to test for this very reason.)
It seems they know the mic combo matters – one recent firmware update also includes an Electro-Voice EV20 preset, for the other vocal mic everyone likes. (And it’s nice to see RØDE being agnostic about which mic you might want to use.)
The 2.1 firmware adds a ton of really nice features.
- Advanced editor: now you can tweak the controls of all the effects, not just be limited to presets (so they’re genuinely useful to most of us)
- Master bus compressor (not just individual channel compressors – also essential)
- dBFS level meters
- Post-fader multitrack recording (obviously essential, so you don’t lose your level settings when you record)
- Advanced export for “all podcast platforms” + improved WAV export (not totally sure what this means, but good!)
- Overdub recording (with the pads)
- Companion app (Mac, Windows)
2.1 update on their blog: