Rode has just introduced Rode Connect, a new tool aimed directly at the home podcast. The new, free app aims to simplify multi-microphone recording with just one computer and no external hardware. Leading features include recording up to four USB microphones on the same computer, recording system audio (jingles and music beds, for example), as well as a special “virtual” channel to attract guests via Skype / Zoom, etc. (and most importantly, he will hear all the music / jingles).
Rode Connect provides individual faders for all four local microphones, so you can get the mix just as you’re recording. All your system audio will be on one channel, so if you want a quiet music bed but a loud sound effect, this will not be possible, but it is still a really useful feature. There is also only one “virtual”
Most importantly, Rode Connect solves a surprisingly common problem: using multiple USB microphones on a single computer. For all the convenience of USB, you can’t just plug two microphones into a computer and record – whatever you’re recording probably allows you to record from just one USB microphone at a time. With Rode Connect you can record up to four microphones in the same session effortlessly.
Previously, the simplest solution was to get everyone to record their USB microphone on their own laptop and then collect all these files in a digital audio workstation (DAW). Or maybe you can get by just using one mic and taking turns? It’s not great, though.
If you are technically tuned, there are some tricks at the OS level to solve the problem with the multi-USB microphone. In macOS, an aggregate audio device is most often created. In Windows, you will be very familiar with ASIO drivers. But only writing, which sounds like a lot of work. This is usually when you start looking for a hardware mixer (like the Rodecaster Pro).
Rode Connect simplifies all this, but there are some caveats. Well, one in particular and it’s great. At startup, the software only works with Rode’s own NT-USB Mini microphone, so you’ll need at least one of them for the app to be very useful. Rode has confirmed that more of its microphones will be compatible in the future, but it’s unclear if there are any plans to open this for “any” USB microphone down the line.
In practice, this means that although free, there is still some level of buy-in to use the application. You can judge a few things so you can use other microphones. For example, I was able to use Quicktime’s audio recording option to put an XLR microphone in Rode Connect via system sound. If you do this, it is a bit at odds with the whole purpose of simplifying things, but it is still possible.
However, as someone who has been using Rodecaster Pro almost daily for the past year or so, Rode Connect has some obvious advantages. On the one hand, I don’t need to include another hardware element if I want to save myself and a guest (either locally or when scaling). I use Rodecaster most often to record both sides of a conversation or interview, which is now something I can do directly on my Mac (this is something that is much easier on a Windows computer).
The advantage here is that Rodecaster takes years to export audio in multitrack mode and you will eventually get eight separate files (one for each channel of the mixer) along with a stereo mix. Even if you just import the stereo mix, it’s a little more work than doing it in your operating system. Rode Connect offers multitrack export or simple stereo export and looks faster in both in my testing than in Rodecaster.
Rode Connect almost feels like an attempt at a software version of Rodecaster Pro. If you used the latter, the Connect user interface will ring a few bells, although it is quite sparse. For each connected NT-USB Mini there are channel faders, as well as one for system audio and “virtual” guests. The channel number icon is reminiscent of the physical buttons on the Rodecaster Pro channel. Click these buttons in Rode Connect (on one of the USB microphones) and you’ll find some of the same sound enhancement options: Noise Gate, Compressor, Exciter and Big Bottom. These features rely on a previously unused digital signal processor (DSP) found in the NT-USB Mini, another reason why it is currently limited to this microphone.
The fun begins when you press record, obviously. I was able to talk to a colleague via the Slack call option and record both sides of the conversation by directing Slack’s audio output to the Rode Connect virtual channel. When I played some music on YouTube, we both heard it and I could reduce the volume to a level where it worked like a music bed. I could even play local audio files triggered by the Stream Deck, which means that most of the clippings you might need for a well-rounded podcast are possible. Of course, everything is saved either in separate multitrack files – if you want to edit and polish it later in DAW – or simply export it as a single file to share directly on your chosen platform.
Here it is important to note that there is a problem inherent in the record all kinds a podcast with multiple speakers in the same room: Crosstalk. During my testing, I was able to hear a second speaker on my microphone recording, which made my microphone sound more echoing in the stereo mix. This is easily fixed in multitrack mode, as you can simply delete all other audio channels, leaving only the main speaker. But this means that you will have to consider placing a microphone and acoustics in the room if you plan to use only the stereo mix. Fortunately, you get a nice long USB cable with the NT-USB Mini.
If you’re wondering about headphones for all hosts and guests, then Rode, limiting the app to one of their own microphones (for now), may make sense. The NT-USB Mini has a headphone port for direct monitoring, but when used with the app, all local guests will hear every sound that passes through the app. Again, this means that music beds, jingles and guests are heard by everyone. This also solves the need for a headphone splitter or even cable spaghetti around the computer.
If streaming is your thing or if you want it to be, Rode Connect also offers a special output channel so you can easily transfer the whole mix to something like OBS or Xsplit.
Along with the launch of Rode Connect, there is a smaller, sweeter accessory: Colors. This is really just a set of colored caps for the NT-USB Mini, so you can mute or change the volume of the right microphone with a quick visual reference. There are four plastic caps that match the four-channel colors of the icons in the app. This is not a significant purchase, but it will certainly make it easier for the host to keep an eye on who is talking and to make sure their levels are correct.
You can download Rode Connect from today and the NT-USB Mini is now available in most online audio stores.