The Rode Rodecaster Pro is a pretty unique piece of audio gear, because it’s designed entirely with podcasting in mind. That’s exciting for the medium as a whole, because it shows that podcasting is a market worth investing in. It’s also exciting because Rode already do very well in the musician and voice over worlds. They won’t have just decided to make a product like this on a whim.
When one turned up on our doorstep near the beginning of the year (completely by surprise, thanks Rode!) it was immediately obvious that a lot of thought and research had gone into this design.
Our initial review was largely positive, but did highlight a few areas where there was room for improvement.
However, Rode, to their credit, seem to have been very receptive to the feedback they've had from the podcast community. There have been a number of firmware updates since the device was originally released. Now seemed like a good time to revisit this review, and give you a more up-to-date picture of the Rodecaster. So let's dive in.
What is the Rode Rodecaster Pro?
The Rodecaster is described by Rode as “the world’s first fully integrated podcast production studio”. But what does that actually mean?
Well, if you took a mixer, cleaned it up, and made it much less complicated looking, then merged it with a digital recorder, that should give you a basic idea of what the Rodecaster is and does.
Mixers are handy things for plugging in multiple mics, doing live shows, and recording Skype calls. But mixers can’t work in isolation, and they can’t save or store audio. The Rode Rodecaster can, so right away it’s going to simplify a lot of lives by swapping multiple pieces of kit and cables for one single unit. You don’t even necessarily need a computer to record with the Rodecaster.
What can the Rode Rodecaster Pro do?
The Rodecaster has a few different talents. For one, it gives you the capability to record phone calls. Whether or not this is a selling point will depend entirely on your niche. If your audience and guests are not overly technical, and unlikely to own mics of their own, then chatting to them over the phone might be the most practical option.
Although you don’t need a computer to run the Rodecaster, you can easily connect to one in order to record Skype or online interviews too. You can also use the computer connection to record into your favourite DAW, as opposed to the device's own memory card. It gives you the capability to add in your own jingles and sound effects so you have access to them whilst recording at the touch of a button. This is a nice feature if you're running a live show, or like to record “as live.”
How many mics can I plug in?
You can plug in up to four XLR mics at once, so you can have four people in the room together recording a podcast. Each mic can be uniquely set up via the control panel, where there’s a few different options and presets. We'll take a look at these in more detail further on.
Can I Record in Multitrack?
You can now record multiple tracks either into a DAW (like Adobe Audition) on your computer, or directly onto the Rodecaster's SD card.
Recording on separate channels can give you a lot more flexibility in post-production. Most podcasters consider it an essential feature of any audio recording tool or device these days.
You can independently control the settings of each mic that's plugged in. Each input has its own gain slider, ‘mute' button, and ‘solo' button. There's a few processing options you can toggle on and off too.
- Compressor – to help level out the overall volume
- High-Pass Filter – to minimise the effects of low rumbling noises or mic pops
- De-Esser – to create a less sibilant recording
- Noise Gate – to reduce unwanted background noise
- Ducking – to automatically lower the volume of music underneath speech
- Aural Exciter & Big Bottom – humorously named EQ presets that change the tone of your voice
Personally, these are things I prefer to do in post-production. But they're a nice feature if you don't know much about audio production, or prefer to spend as little time as possible doing it. Here's a sound sample of me recording with the Rode Procaster into the Rodecaster, and calling Colin on the phone and Skype. Try saying that sentence out loud . . .
Rodecaster Live Broadcasting Features
If you're an avid live broadcaster or budding radio DJ, you'll love a couple of features recently added to the Rodecaster recording arsenal.
Firstly, you can preview any pre-recorded audio file you're about to play. Doing so doesn't interrupt your broadcast or recording session. The preview is also set to a unity gain level, so it doesn't matter the position of the fader – you'll get an accurate reflection of how loud the clip is before you actually play it.
Secondly, you can get a caller on the line and communicate with them off-air. This can streamline your content as all the awkward “hello, can you hear me?” stuff isn't broadcast to your listeners. Speaking to callers off-air means you can check (and fix) any audio issues before bringing them onto the show.
Sound Pads & Show Settings
There's 8 large sound pad buttons on the Rodecaster. You can use these to play effects or other audio clips. This could be anything from transitions and stringers, to entire pre-recorded interviews. You have the capability to pause clips, and you'll also see the remaining time of the sound that's going to end soonest. This is ideal for talking over outro music and knowing how long you have left.
You can customise and configure your sound library from the device itself, or by using Rode's companion app.
You can store up to 8 banks of sounds, which is ideal if you run multiple podcasts, or share your Rodecaster with another podcaster.
You can also save all your sounds and settings for ease of setup. You can even export them for use on a completely different Rodecaster if need be.
Headphones & Monitors
Another big plus for the Rodecaster is the options for monitoring your recordings.
There's four headphone jacks on the back of the unit, and you can control their volumes independently. This means that even if one person was particularly hard of hearing, they could have their headphone volume turned up high without it affecting anyone else. With other devices, you'd need an additional piece of equipment like a headphone amp or splitter for this, which in-turn, takes up more room and adds more cables and wires to your setup.
The headphone jacks are 1/4″ TRS, so if you prefer to use a set of earbuds you'll just need to pick up a little adapter, which you can get for about $2 on Amazon. There's 1/4″ Left and Right outputs to connect to studio monitors or speakers too, and these also have their own independent volume control.
Aside from the inputs and outputs mentioned already, there's two more worth mentioning. The USB connection is what you would use for recording Skype calls or anything else from a computer. It has its own level-control fader, solo button, and mute button.
There's a 3.5mm TRRS jack which enables you to hook your phone up to the Rodecaster and record calls that way. Again, it has a level-control fader, solo button, and mute button.
You can also connect your phone via Bluetooth, and it has the same 3 channel controls as the above.
You can access your recordings directly from the SD card, or by connecting the Rodecaster to your computer via USB.
The USB route is known as “Podcast Transfer”, and it appears on your Mac or PC in a ‘Read Only' format. This means you can drag the files onto your computer for production, but you can't accidentally delete them. It's a nice little safety net.
What Else Do I Need?
You'll still need at least one microphone to podcast with the Rodecaster. When you connect a Rode mic (such as the Procaster) the unit automatically recognises it on the control panel. Presumably the preamps will be designed to optimise the sound of any Rode mic you connect. Aside from that, depending on which mic you use you might want to get a boom arm. Headphones are always a good idea too.
There's no memory card included, so you'll need one of those. The Rodecaster uses a micro SD card.
New Accessories for the Rodecaster Pro – 2020 Update
Rode's constant improvement and support for the Rodecaster continues. In May 2020, they released 4 new handy accessories for the device.
This is a pack of 4 adaptors (3.5mm to 1/4″) which enable you to plug in a standard consumer set of headphones or earbuds into the Rodecaster.
A 1.5m long TRRS to TRRS cable. This lets you plug your smartphone into the Rodecaster.
A power cable that allows the Rodecaster to be powered from any compatible USB output, making it completely portable.
A set of 8 colour-coded rings you can fix to the device's XLR plugs. The colours match those used for each mic channel in the Rodecaster interface. This means you'll always know who's mic is who, even at-a-glance.
Who would use the Rode Rodecaster Pro?
While Rode's target market here is most definitely “podcasters,” that's still a big group of people with many different needs, wants, and budgets.
You Might Want One If . . .
- You want the capability to easily record phone and Skype interviews.
- Your guests are unlikely to have decent mics of their own, meaning you'll do a lot of interviews over the phone.
- You want the least amount of equipment, cables, and connections possible in your setup.
- You want to record live shows, or record your episodes “as-live” with effects and music played in real time.
- You want to record up to four people locally, and also bring in a Skype or phone guest.
- You want your equipment to be as simple as possible, without limiting yourself in any way.
- You want a portable setup that you can easily take on the road with you.
You Might NOT Want One If . . .
- You already have a well-tuned workflow and setup in your studio.
- You're on a tight budget. The Rodecaster will set you back $600 – and you'll still need to buy mics on top of that. If you have very little money to spend, check out What's the minimum equipment I need to podcast?
- You record solo/monologue episodes, in which case, the Rodecaster is overkill for your needs.
Summary: The Rode Rodecaster Pro
The Rode Rodecaster Pro is a truly unique device, and a provides a great “all-in-one” solution for many podcasters.
It was an impressive device when it launched, and now it's even better with all Rode's updates over the past few months.
The only thing it can't do for your podcast is make you a cup of tea before you hit record. I'm sure Rode will add that in before long though.
Of course, it has to be said – the Rodecaster isn't cheap. The price of $600 (not including mics) means it's a non-starter for most. That's not a criticism of the price, but there are a lot of podcasters who simply don't have that sort of budget. If you're just starting out, then you don't need to spend nearly as much as that to get up and running. Again, take a look at the minimum equipment needed to podcast for more on that.
If you've been podcasting for a while now and know you're not going to suddenly quit tomorrow though, then maybe the Rodecaster's many features will be appealing enough to you that you can justify the price. Certainly if you're someone who does a lot of live broadcasting, it will be a complete gamechanger.
If you're able to muster the funds, it'll definitely simplify your setup, your workflow, and give you loads of flexibility around how you record your show. These things can save you a lot of time in the long run, and time is the one thing that you can't put a price on!
Need More Help?
If you need some more tailored advice for your own setup, or want help with any other aspect of podcasting, then take a look at The Podcast Host Academy That’s where you’ll find access to all of our video courses, tutorials, ebooks, and downloadable resources. On top of that we run regular live Q&A sessions and an active community forum of like-minded folks. It's the perfect one-stop place to build and grow a thriving podcast!