Updated: Dec 28, 2019
Are you looking for a reasonably priced dynamic broadcast quality microphone for under $230? Well I am going to give the RØDE Procaster a thorough walk through here and compare it against more expensive alternatives just because I like you!
Now, If you’re looking for a good broadcast dynamic microphone (which if you’re reading this you just may be) that doesn’t cost a grand, I’d definitely recommend the RØDE Procaster among my top picks. Let me take you on my journey on how I came to the final decision on this microphone, and how it performs overall.
The Journey begins…
In the beginning, I was looking for a good solution for a microphone for my radio and voice over work. The condenser microphones we were using were a bit too sensitive. They were picking up quite a bit of ambient noise from outside our studio, such a trucks that would drive by and other loud external noises. So how could I alleviate this without blowing 70 grand on a completely sound isolated studio when working from home? Well after a bit of research and some consultations with friends, a dynamic broadcast microphone seemed the way to go. I came across a couple of broadcast microphones that would fill the position.
Two of the most popular broadcast at the time (2010) were microphones like the Shure SM7B and the Electro-Voice RE20. Both are truly great in their own ways, but unfortunately they were both slightly out of my price range. After a bit more digging around I found the MXL BCD-1’s and the RØDE Procaster that retails at about $229.
the Legend of the Grail
This is a very good quality broadcast microphone with a frequency range of 75 Hz – 18,000 Hz, with a slight bump in the 10,000 Hz region. If you compare this with your more standard handheld dynamic microphones like the rock band I was in when I was 20, such as the SM58 or SM57 (the SM58 which has a frequency range of 50 Hz – 15,000 Hz and the Shure 57 of 40 Hz – 14,000 Hz) these microphones won’t capture the nuances of a voice or an acoustic instrument in the upper frequency ranges. That’s not to say these aren’t great microphones, but with radio broadcast and voice-over work as my primary uses I knew I needed something more. I’d definitely recommend a broadcast dynamic microphone where the bigger capsule on the device just provides a much better quality of audio, plus drastically reduces the amount of unwanted external audio in the recording with its cardioid microphone pattern.
The Procaster is a bit on the heavy side but I love that about it, weighing in at 695 g/1.53 lbs. So make sure you have a microphone stand that can carry this weight. I’d definitely recommend the Rode PS1A studio arm or the Auray line of booms. These will handle the weight of the Procaster, plus the arm allows you to maneuver the mic around the broadcast desks quite easily.
the Battle Begins
Now, the Electrovoice RE20 is widely known for its reduction of the ‘proximity effect’. Which is one of the reasons why it has become a standard for most radio broadcasters in recent decades. It provides a clear audio signal when you are moving around the microphone and not keeping a constant distance between you and the mic. The SM7B on the other hand uses its proximity effect to its advantage. Many vocalists will come in closer to the mic for a warmer effect and move away for more dynamics in their voice on the recording. This is something that appealed to me as I was developing my own mic technique at the time. The SM7B has become a standard with most Hip Hop and Rock vocalists because of this proximity effect. I mention these two specifically not so much because they are the radio standard (and pretty damned good for everything else) but also because I’d say, to my ear the RØDE Procaster sits somewhere right in between the two. There is a proximity effect, but not as strong as the SM7B. Which works quite well for me, as I do move around a bit when doing shows and voice overs, but the Procaster makes up for these movements by providing quite a constant clear audio level once set up properly.
the Procaster in the Trenches
So in theory with a dynamic broadcast microphone and its super cardioid pattern, the closer you get to the microphone, the less outside ambient noise there will be that will be picked up. RØDE suggests being no less the 2 inches away from the Procaster. I’d say this is the ideal amount as well.
I tested it out when I was between 2 and 4 inches away and some of the outside ambient noises was introduced when I recorded at a further distance. It was less sensitive than my condenser microphone, but still maintaining a very good and accurate voice reproduction. I even tried recording some audio when a heavy storm was going on outside, and the audio was still super clean with a very, very small indication the storm that was bashing the house outside.
The microphone also has a built-in pop shield, so there’s not really any need for a pop filter in front of the microphone. When reading scripts a pop filter can sometimes getting in the way, so not having to use a pop filter was really handy. I personally like the “foamies” Rode puts out a very nice foam option the RØDE WS-2 and that really cleans everything up as the mic can still pick up some plosives without it. So and as always, technique is still very much a key here.
bring the Juice!
Like the SHURE SM7B, this microphone also does require a good bit of juice. The required amount for a good clean signal is 56 dB of gain. Our problem was that our first USB mixer, the Behringer 1832X only had a gain range of 56 dB on the preamps. So make sure your preamps have enough juice for the microphone.
We upgraded our mixer to the PreSonus 24.4.2 digital broadcast mixer in 2012 and had no issue running gain at only 60%. I also did find another cool solution to use with the Behringer and other mixers and interfaces that had issue pushing the gain to the RØDE Procasters.
As I said, I did do a good amount of research on this microphone. Through my research (and really thanks to Mike DelGaudio the Booth Junkie) I found a device by Triton Audio called the FetHead.
Its an inline preamp and what it does is provide 20 dB of clean gain to any dynamic or ribbon microphone with, or in my case without phantom power. It’s a really small device that connects into the back of your microphone or in the XLR cable chain to your interface or mixer.
You then simply turn on the Phantom Power on your preamps or audio interface and this boosts the signal. The phantom power isn’t passed onto the microphone, the device uses this power to amplify the audio signal. So don’t worry it won’t harm your microphone. This is great as it gave me enough gain on the Procasters to get a real good clean signal through to my DAW. Somehow, this device also seemed to add a touch more bottom end to our mics, or to be more specific, gave them some more punch. So with the FetHead and Procaster combo, we got a really nice clean sounding signals, with a slight boost in the bottom end.
Here is a visual example of the audio signal level coming from the Procaster though the interface without the FetHead.
And here is the visual example of the audio signal level of the Procaster through the interface with the FetHead on and working.
In the End, there can be only One
My favorite line from Highlander! And it is the truth, at least for me. There can be only one in my book, and the RØDE Procaster is the One.
Don’t misunderstand me now, I LOVE the SM7B, and the RE20 and 320, hell I recently reviewed the RØDE PodMic and loved that as well and for the price point, make sure you check out what I had to say about that mic too! I’m simply giving my experiences and sharing what I’ve learned “doing it”. I did a daily 3 hour show in New York city for over 5 years using this mic. It’s a solid, professional grade workhorse that sounds stellar and worth every penny of that $229.00 price point. The simple fact is that I think it really comes down to personality. Yours, mine… everybody’s. What feels good to you, what sounds good to you and ultimately what do you think will add the most to your next broadcast, podcast or voice-over clip. So if you’re looking for a good broadcast dynamic microphone at a good price, definitely check out the RØDE Procaster.
It works really well on our vocals and has seen daily use for years now with no issues whatsoever. It is versatile as well as it can even be used for instruments, so it’s not a one trick pony.
We are very happy with the frequency range and quality of the audio recording we have gotten on the microphones. With their rejecting of a lot of outside noise it has certainly helped improve the quality of all of our radio shows and voice over work. So check it out if you are looking for quality, versatility and affordability.
Christopher John Taylor - VineHill Entertainment