Rode's Rodecaster Pro II isn't just for podcasting

There's something here for streamers, gamers and musicians too.

James Trew / Engadget

When Rode unveiled the original Rodecaster Pro it was something unusual: a capable mixing desk with a singular focus on podcasting. It made it easy to record multiple guests in person or over the internet/phone, while adding background music and audio enhancements in real time or with minimal processing in post. A mini radio station in a box if you will.

Today, Rode is announcing its successor, the Rodecaster Pro II, and the messaging this time is that it’s for all creators, be that podcasting, streaming or music production. The new hardware looks familiar, but brings with it several changes that should improve your audio wherever and whatever you publish.

The most obvious difference you’ll see here is the smaller footprint. The Rodecaster Pro II loses two physical fader strips in favor of occupying less desk space. You still have as many channels available, but some are assigned to virtual controls and it feels like the right move to save desk space.

Other external hardware tweaks include an all new contextual rotary control and the move to combo ports around the back rather than just straight XLR connections like the original. This opens the Rodecaster Pro II to things like guitars and synthesizers without occupying other inputs or needing adapters.

A rear view of the new Rodecaster Pro II mixing desk from Rode.
James Trew / Engadget

Whatever you plug into the new Rodecaster it should sound better as it comes equipped with new preamps that can drive even the most hungry of microphones (looking at you SM7B). Rode claims the new preamps are so powerful and quiet that using an in-line signal booster like a FetHed or Cloudlifter would technically be detrimental, not beneficial, to your audio quality. This remains to be tested, of course, but it’s good news either way if you have a microphone that needs a lot of gain.

On the listening side of things, Bluetooth on the Rodecaster Pro II supports audio out as well as in, which means you can get funky and monitor your show wirelessly on speakers or headphones. Rode also claims if you record call-in guests over Bluetooth there should be improved sound quality also (at least between the phone and the mixer – obviously not the cellular network).

Semi relatedly, there’s no longer a 3.5mm headphone jack on the front edge. On the original, the show’s host/producer could connect their headphones either around the back (with the other headphone jacks) or via the dedicated jack on the front, if that was more convenient. Alas that option has now gone and headphone 1 is only accessible via the 1/4 inch ports on the rear. A mild pain if you have a shorter/non-coiled cable.

On a more practical front, the new hardware has WiFi built-in and ethernet connectivity which allows for easy updating (without having to leave your computer on). You can also connect it to two PCs at the same time, or even your phone which makes it perfect for podcasters on the go or game streamers who have a separate gaming rig. You’ll also be able to record directly to SSDs as well as memory cards. And with that dual-PC connectivity your options for routing where your audio goes are myriad.

A close up of the top right corner of the Rodecaster Pro II where the headphone volume controls are shown with colored LEDs.
James Trew / Engadget

Perhaps the secret sauce here is how customizable the workflow is. This starts with simple things like the eight pads on the Rodecaster Pro II can trigger audio or send MIDI as before but also be assigned to “mixer actions” like a fade out or be used to switch cameras in your stream. You can also reassign mixer channels however you like, including mapping two inputs to one fader and saving them as profiles if you don’t like how things are out of the box.

There are also a number of new audio effects including stereo panning, echo and reverb. But perhaps the most unexpected addition here are some funny voice effects. This might make podcasters recoil, but Voicemod has proven popular… so somebody somewhere is all about the squeaky voices.

Overall, there’s quite a lot new here. The new audio internals and connectivity should make this a more viable option for all types of creators, and the ways to connect, configure and process the audio will likely make this much more flexible. Details important to streamers such as OBS control, dual PC connectivity and the ability to sync/delay audio to match video suggest it’s a genuine attempt at being more capable rather than just a few buzzy marketing terms.

Whatever your use case, the Rodecaster Pro II is available for pre-order starting today for $699. Rode expects to start shipping "early to mid-June."