Updated: Nov 24, 2019
If you already have a podcast, or are thinking of starting one, the RØDEcaster Pro literally puts a professional level recording and production solution right at your fingertips.
Today, I am reviewing RØDE’s ” RØDEcaster Pro”. I know, it’s a mouthful but this device really is the first all-in-one solution for a huge segment out there and you just might be part of that segment so check this out! It is the first device of its kind that integrates the essentials for producing polished, professional and absolutely stellar sounding podcasts.
Back in the day… or should I say right up to today, trying to achieve this level of production quality has required a lot of know-how and a lot of equipment. This is why I started consulting with podcasters years ago as there was so much confusion and questions it all literally needed a consultant.
You couldn’t just hit up a sound engineer either as most of what they deal with in some cases could have you spending $20,000 dollars to setup a small home studio.
How do I know? Well in addition to my 22 years experience in film & television production in Vancouver I’ve done another 8 years in radio in New York City of all places. In addition to that, I personally have been producing Internet radio since 2010 and can certainly attest to the level of quality matched with simplicity that the RØDEcaster Pro has brought to the table.
Now, there are those out there who do reviews who say it’s too simplistic and limited and you can’t record bands on it. Well, that may be true, but here’s the thing… musician’s are NOT who this is made for. Stunning I know. The fact is that for all the complaining about it’s inability to record bands properly, this unit is perfect for who it is made for. So don’t for a minute think that this simple system compromises on quality or versatility in any regard because you, like them would be wrong.
The only choice you had until now was a regular mixer which wasn’t specifically designed for podcasts and didn’t interface with computers. An interface would be another cost. Things got better with the introduction of USB mixers which did act as an interface but because mixers were not designed for this job, there was a lot of monkeying around you had to do to make things work. Very annoying things. Sure, you could go out and buy a cheap $5,000.00 dollar radio broadcast console but even that would open a whole new can of worms you didn’t want to eat, trust me.
Add to that, if you weren’t an audio expert it still required a certain level of expertise to set it up properly. Luckily I DJ’d many a wedding when I was 20 so I had an advantage at least in nomenclature and understanding of signal paths and noisy preamps in the early days but it was still by no means, “easy”.
Well, I am very happy today to say that now that’s no longer an issue with the RØDEcaster Pro. Dark Ages be gone!
On board this beauty are four Class A (top quality, very low noise) mic pre-amps – that means you can connect up to four microphones at once via the XLR inputs.
This is a huge plus if your podcast has several hosts or even a live studio guest.
In addition, you may also want to interview someone over the phone. Well there’s many hard ways to do that of course, but now with the RØDEcaster they’ve introduced a way to do that now that only requires a cell phone and a dedicated 3.5mm input.
And hey, if your phone doesn’t happen to have a headphone jack?, the fine folks at RØDE thought of that too as the RØDEcaster Pro also has Bluetooth on board to connect your mobile device wirelessly and stream the audio into your recording. Not bad for a bunch of crazy Aussies huh?
There is, of course a USB-C connection on board to link to other devices or connect to your PC or Mac. This is the interface part.
Now it should be noted here as most of the reviewers don’t, that the touchscreen display on this beasty lets you keep an eye on your levels which can be set automatically. The big feature win here is the leveling folks. Before this device if you wanted or needed good level indicators, you were just S.O.L. The mixers gave some options, but hard to dial in with any degree of real accuracy unless of course you were gonna spend $2,000.00 dollars or more on a digital board with power faders etc. The RØDEcaster has masterfully and cost effectively given us sweet (and accurate) digital level meters for all inputs and master which (to be completely honest) are not something you’ll find on any other device for under $2,000.00. Yes, there are some out there for less, but latency and viewability lack. Seriously, like your Dad’s first LCD watch bad.
Now, this glorious full color touch display also acts as the central control system where you can access all settings within the unit including seeing what type of microphone is connected and get this… even determining the tone and strength of your voice to optimize the recording by tailoring the mic more to YOU! NOBODY out there does that!
There is also an easy to navigate menu to manage the connections to the RØDEcaster including the phone and USB connections and whether your recording music or speech. (Yes, of course it does music, just not some bands :D)
The RØDEcaster is a lot more than just a fancy mixer too – it can also record as well to a microSD card which means it can be used anywhere and on the road without the need to be connected to a computer or a standalone recorder. Yes, you heard me, more cost savings and more features. Pretty cool.
Also onboard there are eight pads which can be set to play pre-recorded intros, themes, interviews, stagers, stings and anything else you need to include on your podcast.
From a simple to use companion application on your computer, it is sheer simplicity to drag and drop files to populate these pads with your custom sounds. You can use the ones that come with of course as some of them you might really like too!
It’s also easy to change the color of each pad to distinguish them from each other. Included with the RØDEcaster Pro are two laminated double sided cards showing a diagram of the pads so you can take note of what’s on each one. Then you can simply rub off the writing and get ready for the next show.
This section completely mimics the radio stations all around the world who use VERY expensive software packages and proprietary equipment to control this level of function in their broadcasts and you’re getting it in this amazing package for almost nothing!
Getting back to the unit as a whole, of course, there are faders for each microphone and all the other inputs and a separate fader for the pads within the control interface.
And to make it even less complicated, RØDE has also included more Pro features with illuminated red and green buttons so users can easily tell if their channel is open or muted at any time at a glance.
The simple diagram of an ear on the green button and a speaker with a slash through it on the red button makes it super easy to tell what these do.
For an eager podcaster who doesn’t happen to be an audio engineer, these touches are a true godsend and it is absolutely NOT going without mentioning many times in this review that they really have thought about the end user and how best to give them the very best in final results.
What also helps those final results is that the RØDEcaster Pro can also look after sound quality and limit the peaks by normalizing on the fly – that is to say it keeps all the levels within a few decibels from each other so one mic or input doesn’t take over the show. This is HUGE to me as I probably have listened to or done more podcasts than anyone else in my day to day and can tell you that that issue is very common, even in really good shows and it sucks. Bad.
This is where more pro level quality gets packed into the RØDE with the built-in Aphex Aural Exciter and Big Bottom features that come into play which adds even more to a pro level sound quality which would normally cost you a ton more money and investment in a bunch of rack gear to boot.
The final result that the RØDEcaster gives us, is a rich and warm tone (even from annoying nasally voices like that guy from Podcastage) usually only possible within a professional studio. Until now.
To further illustrate and emphasize just how deeply RØDE thought about their end user and the overall sound quality, output and tone, of their final product. They have built in preset profiles of their most commonly used microphones for broadcast and voice, so that if their existing user was indeed already using any of their current microphone offerings for these purposes, they’re already set. Then of course thinking to add generic Dynamic and Condenser profiles for every other kind of mic you could think of as well. Will they come out with more profiles for other company’s mics? My guess is probably, they do listen to their customers and respond. You’ll likely have more mic profiles released in up coming firmware, or maybe even in the RØDEcaster Mark II! 😀
With the RØDEcaster Pro, I always record to the onboard microSD card as well as directly to our connected streaming computer into our recording software. Trust me on this, redundancy is everything. It gives serious peace of mind to know that there is a backup recording on the memory card should anything go wrong with the recording on our computer. Painfully, I have lost many a day in my life trying to fix glitched recordings because there was too much lag in a stream, or a hard drive took a dump in mid show. It happens and it’s horrible. I don’t want any of you to lose days of your life, so just one more reason to run out and get yourself the RØDEcaster Pro NOW! 😀
Even the big Record button is a well thought out pro feature that is so overlooked by so many reviewers and I don’t know really why. Everything about this unit is pro grade and while some may argue saying the faders feel “a bit plasticy” the bottom line about that is what do you want for $599.00? You’re just not going to get 100mm titanium motorized faders, so don’t be an ass. The fact is for usability and functionality with the job of Pocasting, there is simply not a better choice or option out there. Even at much higher price points and that Big Red Record Button? It’s perfect. It does it’s job and is really hard to miss when you want to start and end your show.
Now, to cover more about the interface of the home screen, I can tell you that the software navigation is so simple to use and if you can read, (which if you’re reading this you’re in the home stretch!) and not a total moron, (I can’t speak to that) You’ll be up and running with this unit in a matter of an hour, right out of the box.
It’s important to mention because whether others will admit it or not, you (and likely they) have and can easily lose a few days setting up your podcast studio properly. This is just not the case here. Simply put, with this unit, a few microphones, a cell phone and your PC or Mac you can put out shows just as good (or better) than Joe Rogan or Adam Corolla combined!
Now, another “gripe” I guess you’d say, that a lot of reviewers complain about with this unit is that it has very limited inputs. I guess if you’re going to try and record a 60 or 80 piece orchestra individually multi-tracking everything sure, but again, this is not built and made for that. It’s for podcasts pure and simple and for that it is perfect… almost. Yes, there are maybe some times when you may possibly need more inputs. Let’s say your show has a 5 piece band who are coming on your show and while you may not be recording their music, you do still want each guest to have a microphone along with yourself as host and maybe a co host or two as well, who knows. The bottom line is you may have need to have more than 4 mics in studio to do a show. It happens. Well, when it does, you’ll be ready because I’ll give you the simple solution to that eventuality right now. Another mixer. Yup, you heard me. Another mixer or RØDEcaster Pro. The beauty about the RØDEcaster Pro’s versatility is that it doesn’t just stop at the unit itself. Because it has proper XLR inputs you can take another mixer’s main outputs and run them into a stereo XLR input channel on the RØDEcaster using a simple XLR Y adapter. Depending on the additional mixer’s inputs, you could easily add another 4, 6 or 8 mic inputs without too much trouble.
Another big plus about the RØDEcaster Pro and it’s versatility, is the sheer thought they have put into the unit. Simply adding 4 stereo outputs for headphones is another big deal. It means you won’t have more cost and bits and pieces lying around in the form of a separate headphone splitter box or even having to use a rack-mount headphone splitter, as they are already onboard. You’re getting very clean quality audio output that is really an absolute joy to work with and its built in.
Now for those who like, me need and use a lot of pre-recorded audio in their shows, Rode gives us the “pads”. Those 8 colored pads on the right side of the unit and the pads on the RØDEcaster Pro are an ideal place to have those ready to play. The problem is that there is only eight of them. Now this isn’t an issue for most as generally all you need is your Intro, Outtro, a few commercial sets (if you’re lucky) and maybe a recorded interview or the odd clip you’d need to play. If so, you’re all set here as those eight magic buttons will make your shows super easy and drastically minimize post to nothing.
Unlike most however, many shows and podcasts I have done required in some cases 70 or even 80 sound bytes for a few variety shows I’ve been known to do. I ended up having to turn to those really expensive software solutions used by radio stations because of that. Now, Will RØDE come out with a Mark II with 32 magic buttons? Quite possibly as I know RØDE listens to their customers. They really do. Just recently RØDE proved that again by offering a firmware update to the RØDEcaster now allowing individual stereo multi-tracking on the unit. This was a big complaint by many… not that I knew why. Didn’t seem to be a big deal to me, but it was to many, so they fixed it. Yep, they did!
The RØDEcaster Pro truly is an amazing product for a popular and ever growing niche market and they’ve really done it right the first time. It has come along just at the right time when podcasting is more popular now than ever before.
So, there you have it. Gone are the days of having to blow $20,000.00 on a studio to do a podcast. Gone are the days of having to DJ weddings in your 20’s to have a clue about what gear you’d need and what you’re doing with all the gear once you got it. That barrier has well and truly been wiped out with this incredible all-in-one device for the modern age.
It took the innovators across the seas at a great Australian company like RØDE to come up with this and it’s become an instant hit and rightfully so. Well done RØDE!
RØDEcaster Pro – $599.00 US
RØDEcaster Pro Specs By The Numbers
– Mic Inputs: 20 Hz –20 kHz, -3dB at 20 Hz (high-pass filter) – Monitor Outputs: 20 Hz –20 kHz better than ±0.5dB
Input Impedance: 600Ω (Mic Preamplifiers)
Equivalent Noise: –125dBA (A-Weighted, measured as per IEC651)
Maximum Output Level: +3dBu (Monitor Outputs)
Headphone Output Power: Max output power at 1% THD: 32Ω –> 220mW | 300Ω –> 31mW
Dynamic Range: 100 dBA (Mic Preamplifiers)
Gain Range: 0dB –55dB (Mic Preamplifiers)
Power Requirements: External DC power supply 12 – 15v DC, 1A
Output Connection: USB-C, 1/4”Balanced TRS STEREO (Monitor Outputs)
Computer Connectivity: USB
Bit Depth: 24-Bit
Sample Rates: 48 kHz
Storage: microSD™ card slot, 512MB built-in internal memory for storing sounds for programmable pads
OS Requirements: macOS 10.11, Windows 10
Color: Black Metal Case/Plastic Backed
Dimensions: (L x W x H, mm) 350 x 275 x 82
Packed Weight: 2850g
Package Dimensions: (L x W x H, mm) 412 x 338 x 127
The RØDEcaster Pro is an absolute breakthrough product that allows users to easily and affordably create podcasts and digital programs that are for all intents and purposes professionally-produced while maintaining its ease of use so you can focus on what’s really important, producing great show content rather than getting bogged down in all the technical goo.
Christopher John Taylor - VineHill Entertainment