Over the past 10 years, I've had many conversations with aspiring and early-stage podcasters that follow a recurring theme. They start out by asking how one might go about recording a piece of audio, and quickly progress to “okay, so how do I record 17 different audio tracks at once, on multitrack, using only USB mics?”.
There's a popular article on the site titled Can You Record With 2 USB Mics? (I haven't got round to writing the follow-up, “Can You Record With 17 USB Mics in Multitrack” yet). The article is basically just a longer way of saying “you can, but you probably shouldn't. Also, here are some better alternatives…”.
If you read the above article, you'll see, recording with multiple USB mics into one computer is far from optimal. Or, at least, it wasn't; until now.
Rode look to have stepped in and (at least, partly) solved this podcaster pain point. The company make some of the best podcasting and audio gear on the planet. One of their latest moves has been the release of their free Rode Connect software. This can power up to 4 Rode NT-USB Mini mics at the same time. Let's take a closer look at how it all comes together.
The Rode NT-USB Mini Mic
One of my pet hates is seeing mics released with names that are just a bunch of numbers and letters. I like the simplicity of this one. It's made by Rode, it's a USB mic, and it's quite small (“mini”). A good start!
This is a nice little condenser microphone, and a downsized version of the Rode NT-USB itself (again, the clue is in the name). As a standalone, it can help you achieve a professional level of sound quality. What gives the Rode NT-USB Mini its edge over all other USB mics though, is the Rode Connect software.
Rode Connect Software
The Rodecaster is a trailblazing device that took the idea of a mixer and a digital recorder, and mashed them into one model, designed specifically with podcasting in mind.
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The Rodcaster is a fantastic piece of kit (see our full Rodecaster review for an in-depth look at it). But, it costs several hundred dollars, and that's before you've even bought a mic to plug into it.
The Rode Connect software has the features and benefits of the Rodecaster made accessible to podcasters who can't afford one. You can now run 1-4 (not quite 17, sorry!) Rode NT USB Mini mics into your computer at the same time – even in multitrack. The software does more than simply record too, as we'll find out in this review.
What Does Rode Connect Do That Makes It Stand Out?
Any software that makes it easy to connect multiple USB mics and record them in multitrack immediately stands out. That isn't all Rode Connect can do, though.
As I've mentioned already, the interface is inspired by the Rodecaster Pro, which is an all-in-one podcasting device. It's a really clean and easy to use platform that enables you to hook up remote calls and live streams, too.
Any remote call recording apps (for example, Skype or Zoom) can be fed into Rode Connect as virtual channels. This automatically sets up a ‘Mix-Minus‘ so that guests can't hear their own voice being played back at them.
You can also apply effects to each mic.
- A Noise Gate can offer some protection against background noise – though you should always try prevention rather than cure, first.
- Compression can bring the louder and quieter parts of your audio closer together.
- The humorously named “Exciter” and “Big Bottom” effects seem to be forms of EQ that can give your voice more of a broadcast radio sound.
These effects can easily be toggled on and off for each individual mic.
Rode Connect then offers settings to export your audio so that it's optimised for publishing to various listening platforms. I can see what they're trying to do here, though I imagine it creates more questions than answers for a lot of users. You generally just publish your episode to one place (your hosting provider) and it pushes it out to all the listening directories. For most spoken-word podcasts, a 44100Hz MP3 at 96kbps is ideal.
What Does It Sound Like?
Here's a sound sample of 2 NT-USB Mini mics plugged into the laptop, recording into Rode Connect. I start off without any of the effects. Then, I switch them on halfway through to let you hear the difference.
How Much Does It Cost?
Just a quick heads up that we use an affiliate link here. So, we may earn a small commission should you choose to buy through it (though at no extra cost to yourself).
The Rode Connect software is free, whilst the Rode NT-USB Mini mics are $99 each. You'd just need to weigh up how many ‘local' participants you'd want to record at any one time. You'd be looking at up to $400 if you wanted to run 4 mics.
If you're using multiple mics, you might want to add the ‘Rode Colours‘ cable management kit, too. This will cost you about $20. But, if you've spent all your budget on the mics, you can easily colour-code them using some cheap stickers instead.
Does Rode Connect Work With Other USB Mics?
At the moment, it seems like Rode Connect only works with the Rode NT-USB Mini. The hardware in the mic is optimised for use within the software (or vice-versa). So if you've got a bunch of other USB mics lying around, then it's back to the drawing board, I'm afraid.
Rode are great at making incremental improvements to their products, so this might change in the future. Ultimately though, their business model is to sell equipment. Would it make sense for them to spend time tweaking their free software to use with other mic brands? That seems unlikely. But if you own a couple of Rode Podcaster mics, then who knows?
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Who Is This Setup For?
There's an infinite number of ways to combine podcast equipment and build your own setup. You might often see the latest great and think “I really need to get that”. For some, combining Rode Connect with one or more Rode NT-USB mics will be ideal. For others, it won't be necessary.
If you're already comfortable with a USB mic, recording either solo or online conversations, it's unlikely you'll need to make any sweeping changes. Your podcast won't live or die based on your equipment. If you've got your recording workflow nailed down, focus all your time and energy on your actual content, going forward.
If you're yet to buy a mic though, then this setup is well worth your consideration. At under $100, the Rode NT-USB Mini is a great little mic (even when used alone) and Rode Connect is intuitive and flexible software. If you want to record interviews and co-hosted episodes locally, then it looks like one of the best options available to you right now!
Need More Podcasting Help?
For alternative mic options, see our Best Podcast Mics, Best USB Mics, and Best Budget Mics roundups. On the alternative software front, check out our Ultimate Podcast Software Guide, as well as our Podcast Recording Software article.
We also run weekly live Q&A sessions inside The Podcast Host Academy, where we're available to offer support, advice, and encouragement on anything you need. On top of that, you'll get access to all of our templates, downloadable resources, and extensive video tutorials, too.