Australian audio and microphone producer RØDE has just released the gold master firmware for its eagerly awaited RØDECaster Pro II mixing desk. The launch of the products is already causing quite a stir among podcasters, gamers and even musicians. This latest version of the has been redesigned from the ground up and is packed with new features that make the device even more versatile and easier to use, especially with digital connections.
The new RØDECaster Pro II has been fitted with a powerful quad-core processor that should prove to be a great foundation for RØDE to build on as the company says it has more advanced features planned with a roadmap of future firmware upgrades. The RØDECaster Pro II that you buy today, will not be the RØDECaster Pro II you’ll be using in the future as because it will be expanded and enhanced with new functions and features.
So, let’s start our tour of the new RØDECaster Pro II by looking at some of the key features that make this a compelling upgrade. The nine available input channels can be assigned to any of the six broadcast-quality physical faders. There are also three virtual faders that can be accessed via the RØDECaster Pro II’s built-in 5.5-inch color touchscreen. Any input can be assigned to any physical fader and allocated its own LED from a palette of 12 different colors. Each fader has its own select button as well as prefade and mute buttons. The prefade enables the podcast host or producer to hear the input channel without anyone else hearing it.
Now let’s look at the inputs on offer. The RØDECaster Pro II has four Neutrik combo analog inputs that can be toggled between mic, line and instrument levels at the touch of a button. The combo inputs can accept an XLR connector or a ¼-inch jack plug, making the RØDECaster Pro II just as handy for musicians as it is for podcasters and gamers. Any two of the analog inputs can be lashed together to form a stereo channel with control of left and right being assigned to a single fader. Each channel can also have its panning set using the RØDECaster Pro II’s screen and intuitive rotary knob control.
The other inputs available include two USB channels that enable two separate computers or USB devices to be connected at the same time. You can even connect two Macs and have separate USB inputs for, say, Teams and Zoom, and everyone can hear each other. There’s also a chat channel for gamers on the USB2 connection.
The USB inputs should also be able to accept the excellent RØDE NT-Mini, after a future firmware upgrade and they can also handle external USB-C hard drives or SSDs. Both USB-C inputs are Apple MFI certified so they can accept an iPad or an iPhone, for playing music or taking phone calls, without the need for an Apple Lightning-to-USB adapter.
There is also a high-quality Bluetooth input for connecting a phone or audio system wirelessly using wide-band voice audio, making it ideal for routing phone calls through to the podcast. The USB and Bluetooth inputs automatically work in mix-minus mode by sending all the audio back down the line minus for the caller’s own voice. This stops the dreaded echo problem that you sometimes hear or experience on phone-ins. The Bluetooth function is bi-directional so it can also be used to play out audio from the RØDECaster Pro II to a wireless speaker or a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
The analog inputs on the RØDECaster Pro II feature brand-new Revolution microphone preamps. RØDE has completely redesigned the preamps with ultra-low-noise and high-gain, with a noise floor of -131.5dBV EIN and 76dB of gain. This eliminates the need for a Cloudlifter, FET Head or any other type of line booster, even with notoriously insensitive microphones like the classic Shure SM7B. The gain for the microphone channels can be set up using a selection of presets designed for specific microphone models or else the user can customize the settings themselves.
I tried out the Revolution preamps with RØDE’s excellent PodMic dynamic microphone. It’s a great mic but my audio interfaces struggle to drive it properly without the gain turned all right up. The result was a revelation. The Revolution preamps drove the PodMic beautifully with plenty of headroom to spare and an astonishingly low noise floor. These new preamps will make a huge change to the audio quality of podcasts or demo tracks and they eliminate almost any trace of hiss, even at higher gain levels.
To make it easy to access all the new features and settings built into the RØDECaster Pro II, RØDE has used a 5.5-inch hi-res color touchscreen with haptic feedback. This makes it easy to access settings like microphone gain or when tweaking the built-in, studio-quality audio processing suite, including parametric EQ, compression, noise gate, de-esser, APHEX Aural Exciter, and Big Bottom, high-pass filter. All those settings are configurable and can be saved as custom presets. The processing features are top-notch and can add a professional sheen to any recording.
As you might expect with a podcast mixing desk, the RØDECaster Pro II has four ¼-inch headphone jacks to feed audio to up to four guests in the studio. RØDE has redesigned the outputs so they can handle a wider range of headphones, even ones that are difficult to drive. There is plenty of volume to spare and, once again, the headphone outputs can be assigned a custom color LED ring, making it easier to identify studio guests.
RØDE also sells color-coded headphone cables and XLR microphone collars to match the LEDs set on the input and output channels. This is a great way of identifying the inputs and output of any guest before adjusting them. One thing I noticed is that RØDE has removed the front-mounted host’s headphone jack that was on the original RØDECaster Pro. I think some people might miss that, but it was only a duplication of the No 1 headphone output on the back.
As well as the four headphone outputs, the RØDECaster Pro II has a balanced analog left and right channel audio output from a pair of ¼-inch jacks that can feed a powered pair of studio monitors. The output setting can be set up to mute the studio monitors the moment any mic fader is opened, in order to stop feedback. If preferred, the Bluetooth channel can be used to send the final mix to a wireless speaker or a pair of Bluetooth headphones.
Not only does the RØDECaster Pro II have a beefed-up quad-core processor, but it also includes four gigabytes of onboard memory for use by the SMART Pads. These eight square pads are situated on the right of the device and can be used to trigger sounds, including music beds, stings, jingles and adverts. The sounds can be preloaded into the pads using RØDE’s Central app. Alternatively, they can be recorded directly into the pads and even edited live with the onboard effects processor and output levels.
In addition to storing sound effects and music beds, the SMART Pads can also be used to trigger automated mixer actions like a swear button, fade-ins and fade-outs, trash talk mode, ducking and even back-channel communication between guests. The pads can also turn on voice effects like reverb, delay, megaphone, robot, voice disguise and pitch shifting. They can send MIDI commands to a DAW on the host computer or to streaming software to stop and start recording. There are eight separate banks of SMART Pads. When totaled up, the SMART Pads provide up to 64 separate triggers for sounds, effects and mixer actions, all with the press of a button.
Unlike the original RØDECaster Pro, the new version has Internet connectivity built-in. This means you can connect to a network using Wi-Fi or Ethernet, for updating the RØDECaster Pro II’s firmware, instead of having to connect it to a Mac or PC. I could imagine this could be a really useful feature if RØDE decides to build a SIP codec into the firmware so that the RØDECaster Pro II can be a self-contained outside broadcast desk.
The RØDE Central software is very useful for loading in a heap of new sounds and actions to the SMART Pads as well as for adjusting other settings. It’s a good idea to use the software if the podcast host doesn’t have the time or training to adjust advanced settings directly on the desk. With RØDE Central, changes can be made using a computer located in the studio control room.
All the settings that can be made, including all the sounds and actions in the SMART Pads, can be saved as individual “Show” settings. Once everything is set up, the current state of the RØDECaster Pro II can be saved with the name of the podcast show and then, when next sitting down to record an episode, the producer just needs to upload the Show and every single setting that was previously adjusted is set and the show recording can start. Unlimited numbers of Shows can be saved so that no matter how many podcasts are produced on a single RØDECaster Pro II, they can all be ready to go in seconds.
Also included in the deal is a microSD slot that can hold a memory card for recording the entire output from the RØDECaster Pro II as a single audio file. Alternatively, the user can opt to record all the audio sources as separate editable tracks which can then be mastered post recording. It’s even possible to record the tracks directly to a DAW with all nine input tracks recorded separately. RØDE has fitted a blisteringly fast 130Mbps card reader and any audio files recorded on it can be transferred at high speed to a computer via the USB connection.
Unlike the original RØDECaster Pro, this new version is powered by a USB-C power supply so everything can be run off a power bank if necessary, making it possible to record podcasts or performances even if there’s no electricity. That’s a nice touch that offers more flexibility for location recording. The use of a USB-C power supply means even a modern laptop power adapter can be used to power the RØDECaster Pro II.
There are so many more functions included on the RØDECaster Pro II, far more than I have space to write about here. Some of them I haven’t even had a chance to fully discover myself yet. And there will be plenty more to come with subsequent firmware updates. Like all new products that use sophisticated software management, the RØDECaster Pro II has had one or two minor teething problems as the early firmware gets bedded in. In the past few days, RØDE has already released updated firmware. If there are any problems, I think RØDE will get them fixed quickly. I haven’t noticed any problems yet, but I hope to post some updates showcasing new features as RØDE rolls them out.
Verdict: The RØDECaster Pro II is no incremental update to what was already a firm favorite with podcasters, radio stations and live streamers. This is a complete redesign from the ground up with the brilliant new Revolution preamps. They are some of the best preamps I’ve ever heard and have gain to spare and the ability to apply some very sophisticated processing to make almost any voice sound silky smooth. The touchscreen is high-res and easy to use thanks to its haptic feedback. In combination with the rotary selection encoder, accessing special features takes only a few presses. Meanwhile, the SMART Pads are superb and can hold up to 64 sounds and mixer actions, making it possible to create a far slicker production, especially when live streaming. The broadcast faders work perfectly and I loved how they can be reassigned to any input. All the buttons have customizable LED colors to suit the user. There are far too many features for me to list everything, so I’ve drawn up a list below. Anyone who enjoyed using the original RØDECaster Pro will be impressed by this new version and what it is capable of doing. The only two things I miss are the host’s headphone jack and the 3.5mm TRRS input. But even with those two small omissions, the RØDECaster Pro II is still a triumph of audio design and engineering. If podcasting, live streaming or recording music is your thing, you have to look at this brilliant new recording and streaming tool. It will change the way you work and lift your creativity to a completely new level once you’ve discovered its myriad features and incredible functions. Highly recommended.
Pricing & Availability: The new RØDECaster Pro II is available now and costs $699.
More info: www.rode.com
- Ultra-low-noise, high-gain Revolution Preamps (-131.5dBV EIN, 76dB gain).
- Four Neutrik combo inputs for microphones, instruments and line-level devices.
- Nine individually assignable channels with six broadcast-quality physical and three virtual faders.
- High-performance quad-core audio engine.
- Studio-grade APHEX audio processing and onboard effects.
- Eight fully programmable SMART pads with bank switching.
- Dual USB-C interfaces for connecting two computers or mobile devices.
- Advanced Bluetooth connectivity for high-quality phone call integration.
- Multitrack or stereo recording to a microSD card, USB storage device or computer.
- Four high-power headphone outputs and balanced ¼-inch line outputs.
- 5.5-inch high-definition touchscreen with haptic feedback and rotary encoder for easy navigation and control.
- New features and enhancements via regular firmware updates.
- Designed and made by RØDE in Australia.
- Frequency range: Mic Inputs: 20Hz – 20kHz Monitor Outputs: 20Hz – 20kHz
- Microphone input impedance: 4KΩ
- Instrument input impedance: 1MΩ
- Preamplifier gain range: 0 – 76dB
- Equivalent noise: -131.5dBV (A-weighted)
- Line output maximum level: 4dBu
- Headphone output power: 250mW
- Power requirements: 30W USB-C PD (15V, 2A)
- Analog input connectivity: 4 x combo jack inputs (mic, line, instrument)
- Analog audio output connectivity: 2 x balanced line output, 4 x headphone output
- Bluetooth connectivity: Bluetooth audio (wide band speech)
- USB Interface 1: 1 x 2-in/16-out multichannel device, 1 x 2-in/2-out with mix-minus
- USB Interface 2: 1 x 2-in/2-out with mix-minus
- Bit depth: 24bit
- Sample rate: 48kHz
- Recording storage: microSDHC, microSDXC, USB-C (exFAT – min 100MB/s)
- Data transfer: USB 3.0 SD card reader 130MB/s
- Network connectivity: Wi-Fi 802.11g/n/ac 2.4GHz and 5GHz, Ethernet 100/1000
- OS Requirements: macOS 10.15 or later, Windows 10 (>1803), Windows 11
- Weight: 1,960g
- Dimensions: 305 x 270 x 60mm (LxDxW)