Every once in awhile, there comes a product that while not strictly filmmaking related, is so game changing for content creation as a whole, that I simply have to talk about it. These days, filmmakers have to be more than just runners and gunners. They have to create all kinds of content, from behind the scenes, to video blogs, to even podcasts. And for doing podcasts and even basic audio mixing, I don’t think you can do any better than RØDE’s RØDECaster Pro Podcasting Studio. Especially for under $600.
Designed around doing podcasts with up to three additional guests (plus your host), and after a recent firmware update, the RØDECaster Pro can now mix up to fourteen channels of audio, connect to your computer, take incoming calls via cellphone, connect to another device via Bluetooth, and even offer separate channels for sound effects and music.
Update: A second firmware update was just announced that brings multi-track recording to microSD via poly wave file formatting. More here.
With each update, the RØDECaster Pro becomes the Swiss army knife of audio and podcasting. But before we get into just all what this board can do, let’s take a look around.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the specs:
- 4 Broadcast-Quality XLR Mic Inputs, +48V
- 8 Faders to Control Audio Levels
- Onboard USB and microSD Multitrack Recording
- Mix-Minus for Phone Call Interviews
- APHEX Processing for Rich & Warm Voice
- 4 Headphone Outputs for Host and Guests
- 8 Programmable Pads for Instant Sound FX
- USB Interface for Streaming
The RØDECaster Pro comes with four XLR microphone inputs so you can do a four person podcast really easily. Each has its own channel Class-A Servo Biased preamp, with fader sliders for mixing, but buttons, separate dedicated channel buttons for checking sounds without affecting the listening of any guest.
The microphone tracks are mono, but there’s also a separate stereo live mix track and a stereo track for a USB in/out, 3.5mm TRRS, Bluetooth, and eight different sound pads. The RØDE Podcaster Pro via USB, so you can record to your PC based software, but it also has a microSD card and a big fat recording button, meaning that you can record your podcast directly without the need of a computer.
Moreover, the RODECaster Pro gives you a few more options as well. For instance, if you need to take incoming calls or doing interviews via Skype. I’ve been using this feature for the last month for my weekly doddleNEWS Update spot on the Digital Production Buzz, and it’s incredibly easy to connect and manage my settings so that Larry doesn’t have to worry on the other end.
Then there’s the cell phone channel, which connects via either Bluetooth or through a separate TRRS connection. You’ll need a separate TRRS to TRRS adapter cable for this. Both channels give auto mix/minus capability for clear, echo free audio. You can use on regular cell calls or via a VOIP app like Skype. With these two separate channels, you can connect two separate mobile devices to take incoming calls in addition to your three other guests, and yourself, on your microphones.
Next comes the effects PADS. The RØDE Podcaster Pro comes with eight, color assigned pad buttons, and a dedicated fader to provide background music and effects for your podcast or audio program. Each come preloaded with a generic jingle, plus effects including applause, crickets, a drum rim shot, audience laughter, trombone, harps, and a scary shot. But the pads are also customizable, so you can add your own, dedicated themes, custom sound and audio effects, or even a prerecorded interview.
The sounds can be loaded directly to the board by recording over them, but it can also be changed with the free, downloadable RØDECaster Pro software on your PC. It’s a very simple app that not only enables you to drag and drop new sound effects into each pad. Each pad can also be set to long replay that doesn’t stop and repeats, standard play, or latch mode, which stops the effect immediately. And for those who really like to customize their gear, you can also adjust the color assigned to each according to your preferences.
Connecting the RØDECaster Pro and getting up and running is essentially plug in play. No, skip that. it’s even easier, since you don’t really need a PC to plug into in order to use it. All you need to do is connect your preferred microphone to a channel, then go into setup on the RØDECaster Pro Touchscreen to Mic setup. turn up the fade control and the RØDECaster Pro automatically accepts the input and gives you the option of what microphone setup to use.
By default, those options are RØDE PodMic, RØDEProcaster, RØDE NT1, RØDE RØDE NT-1A, RØDE NT-2A, or standard Condenser and Dynamic microphone settings. Clearly RØDE would prefer you use one of their mics, and they are all excellent options. My kit came with a pair of RØDE Procaster Microphones, but I also checked it out with two other XLR microphones that accept phantom power and it worked great.
You can also move to the next tab, SETUP, to adjust the level, select Phantom Power or not, and then advanced features like a high pass filter option, compressor, ducking, or Aphex’ Aural exciter and Big Bottom processors, etc. I left those alone since I don’t really have a need for them yet.
Finally, there’s a voice tab, which offers voice tone and strength settings to further dial in your or your guests vocal range. If you have someone with a soft voice as a guest, for instance, you’ll want to select that here, or if they have a deep or high voice. Nice settings to really make you or your guest sound as good as they can be. Once that’s done for every mic you’re using, you’re ready to go for a basic podcast.
To manage your guests audio settings, there’s four dedicated gain controls for each headphone channel, a master headphone volume control, and each fader comes with dedicated buttons to mute any incoming or outgoing audio for that particular channel. This means you can mute either what the guest hears, or what the guest is saying, or both.
From here, you can record directly to the microSD, which admittedly, was a strange choice for me. I was expecting a standard SD card slot, but RØDE chose otherwise and it just goes to show just how widespread this media card format has become.
Everything about the RØDECaster Pro screams ease of use and convenience without sacrificing the broadcast quality that it delivers. And because it has so many options, it grows with you. Once you’ve gotten your feet wet, you can move on to more advanced options like taking phone calls and doing “phoner” interviews, or even have guests remotely via Skype. All that is available through the RØDECaster Pro.
For instance, to connect your mobile device via Bluetooth, you just hold down the button at the top of the Bluetooth channel, and the RØDECaster Pro becomes discoverable to your phone. Select it, and Bob’s your Uncle. You can also add a second cellular device through the TRRS connection channel.
You can even add your computer into the mix and record directly to your audio software of choice for even more options that you are familiar with. In fact, thanks to a recent firmware update, RØDE quickly answered user feedback and gave us the option of MultiTrack Recording. So, it not only outputs the stereo mix to USB, but it will also output each individual track over USB for an offline mix after recording. That opens up a wealth of potential for other kinds of audio applications like voiceover, music recording, and more.
One thing though. Unfortunately, the USB connection isn’t an incoming solution for adding yet another incoming Skype connection. In order to do that, you must connect to your PC via Bluetooth. However, this means that can also use either channel for other audio connections that can be connected via the TRRS or Bluetooth connection.
You can watch a host of videos from RØDE on each feature here.
Podcasting is the single fastest growing genre for podcast creation right now, and with the RØDECaster Pro, you can get a piece of that for very little investment. At $599 for the mixer, plus your mics, it’s a no brainer. Available through B&H, and other authorized RØDE dealers.
I rarely give out a perfect star rating, but in this case, I must make an exception – 5 out of 5 stars