Rode podcast mixer ideal for budget broadcasters

The Rodecaster Pro seems a fine mixer for podcasters. But would I buy one? Not right away. My current set-up works well and there’s not much the Rodecaster offers that my gear doesn’t already do perfectly nicely. So long as I don’t need to take it anywhere.

However, there is one thing my mixer doesn’t do. And that is cutting audio to my monitor speakers when I open the mic after playing music for example. When the Rodecaster was first released it didn’t do that either; but the chaps at Rode tell me that version 2.0 of the mixer’s firmware (a free update to owners) provides this functionality. Super.

The fact that the Rodecaster will cut audio to monitor speakers means it is just a hair away from being a fine mixing desk for budget broadcasters. I wrote to Rode saying that if they can figure a way to switch on-air lights on and off then they will wipe the floor with hobby broadcasters, including the lucrative community radio set.

The USB – or one of the 3 headphone outs for guests – can be used as an output to a computer or transmitter. But do your own checks before buying. There is a dedicated headphone output for the show host which allows them to pre-listen to any channel.

One thing I don’t like about the Rodecaster Pro though is the coloured pads used to fire jingles and such like.

It’s like an old-style cart / jingle machine except you don’t know for sure what you’ll get when you press the buttons – unless you have a brilliant memory. Those coloured buttons can be used to playback any recordings you assign to them via your computer.

If you set it up and use it then you will know what’s what. But for a guest host, or use in a studio where different presenters come in to host shows, then the buttons will be near useless. Smaller buttons and a place to indicate what each one will fire would be great.

Then we come to the decision to use a Micro SD card instead of the full sized alternative. The card is used to record the mixer’s output – making this a neat self-contained unit. But most of us have larger SD card knocking around; harder to accidentally damage and lose. I find Micro cards a bit fiddly.

The Rodecaster Pro is in essence a seven channel mixer. Four mics, USB input; mini-jack input and bluetooth input. The eighth fader is locked to the pad player.

Apart from the Bluetooth option to connect the mixer to anything Bluetooth (such as a phone); the phone connecting option is almost a gimmick as the mini jack socket at the back can be used for any line input.

Although not so fast; because this unit does include technology that prevents the phone caller hearing themselves when they speak. So in that respect it is just like the technology talk radio stations use. No dump button though which would provide a slight delay to give show hosts in live broadcast situations a chance to prevent obscenities going to air (but for the price that would be too much to ask).

There are 4 XLR mic channels with pre-amps and software audio processing for each channel altered via the menu on the touchscreen.

The show host can also listen to any and all channels off-air; just like a broadcast console, using buttons below each audio fader.

There are four headphone channels with individual volume controls meaning guests can have the volume of the main output to their liking.

Because I am pretty happy with my gear at the moment I won’t be rushing out to spend US$599 (NZ$1100) on the Rodecaster Pro. But if some cash were to fall into my pocket from some unexpected source then I’d have a Rodecaster Pro delivered tomorrow.

And the main reason for this is that the unit is so portable. It means that should I need to visit a client’s premises to record a podcast show I can take a fully-functioning mixer with built-in compression, audio enhancements, and recording. Right now I use mics and a digital recorder. All fine; but this does cause some post production work.

No doubt Rode is hard at work developing this mixer and I wouldn’t be surprised if one for budget broadcasters was in the works somewhere (Rode would be silly to miss that market).

Having said that; even the current mixer aimed at podcasters will serve any budget radio station very well indeed. So long as you can insert a limiter into the audio chain somewhere.