Trying to better a microphone as impressive as the original PodMic is a tough ask, but RODE have done a great job at bringing new features and flexibility to a classic.
the good bits
Choice of XLR or USB output
Crisp, rounded vocals
Excellent onboard Aphex processing
Works with mobile devices
the not so good bits
Still very heavy
Requires a mic arm or stand
RODE PodMic USB Microphone
It’s a question that litters content creation forums and subreddits. Should I get a USB or XLR microphone? You’ll find answers recommending both and for good reason, one isn’t necessarily better than the other, they each have pros and cons. There’s also an overwhelming amount of options on the market which only adds to the confusion. In theory, the RODE PodMic USB should solve that problem.
To quote the Old El Paso girl from the mid 2010s, why not have both? An evolution of the acclaimed XLR only PodMic that RODE released back in 2018, the RODE PodMic USB rocks the same stubby form factor but brings dual XLR/USB connectivity with onboard Aphex processing. Double the connections also means double the price though and £199/$199 sits this streaming microphone in an entirely different bracket than it’s older brother.
At first glance you’d be forgiven for thinking the RODE PodMic USB is just a new colour option for the existing PodMic. Not much has changed in the overall styling, just a splash of black paint across the grilles. There was little to improve on from the original PodMic in the looks department so it makes sense the iconic Australian brand didn’t fancy messing with too much this time around.
With your eyes closed there’s nothing to tell the PodMic USB apart from it’s predecessor. The same sawn-off body with integrated swing mount is almost identical to the XLR version with its solid exoskeleton design remaining too. The barrel is just 12cm long, a far more realistic size for home setups and a lot easier to fit than other RODE dynamic microphones like the Procraster that measures in at almost double that.
One of my main takeaways from the original PodMic was just how heavy it is and there’s been no summer bootcamp for the USB version. At the best part of a kilo it’s almost unbelievably heavy given its size and while there’s no doubting that brings a quality vibe, it also means you’ll need to be careful when it comes to choosing a mic arm.
While the dual ⅝” and ⅜” threads are industry standard and make the PodMic USB largely universal when it comes to choosing a stand, you won’t be able to skimp out in this area to claw back some budget. Cheaper, non-brand mic arms I tried struggled to hold the PodMic USB in place, sagging depressingly under the weight and looking rather sorry for themselves. Thankfully and unsurprisingly if you invest a little more you’ll find no issue, I tried RODE’s own PSA-1 and Elgato’s Wave Mic Arm and both happily held the PodMic USB in all positions.
The changes arrive when you get around to the back of the PodMic USB. The major selling point here is the dual USB-C and XLR connections though I was surprised to find them existing as separate ports, rather than the clever Dual Connect combined XLR/USB-C port RODE debuted in the refreshed NT-1 earlier in the year. It doesn’t actually make a difference and there’s enough real estate for both to have their own space alongside a 3.5mm headphone jack and a volume wheel for latency free monitoring.
I was delighted to find a proprietary pop filter in the box, it’s become commonplace for this to be a paid add-on and it’s a trend I’m happy to see being challenged here. The offering here is more of a sleeve than a traditional filter screen which remains in line with the overall compactness of the PodMic. It’s the microphone equivalent of putting a hoodie on, it adds a little extra bulk but you quickly don’t notice it’s there. There’s also one of RODE’s lovely quality 3m USB-C to USB-C cables in the box, plenty of length to work with but a USB-A adapter would have been welcome too – we haven’t quite reached crossover yet where I have enough USB-C ports to spare on my PC.
I raved about the original RODE PodMic, the XLR variant delivered fuss-free, studio quality audio at a price point that still surprises me every time I see it. It shouldn’t come as a shock therefore that the PodMic USB is also excellent, it’s just excellent out of two ports now instead of one. Whether anyone actual needs dual connectivity is a valid thought. The truth is most people probably don’t, but there’s a subset of creators that will find real value here and a case to be made for the upgrade potential it offers.
USB connectivity is the simplest option, a single cable to handle power and audio with extra gear needed. Having that on a PodMic now allows green podcasters and creators to dive straight in before perhaps expanding to a beefier XLR setup down the line. In that way, the PodMic USB is perfect, plus that new headphone port is a welcome addition when it comes to listening out for alerts and chatting away to Discord friends or co-hosts.
The PodMic’s USB connection also provides out of studio freedom and makes it a great option for creators who are out and about more often. Plugging the supplied USB-C cable straight into my iPad Pro the PodMic USB performed perfectly and to the same standard as when connected to my PC. Not only is that impressive, it unlocks a world of possibility to capturing great sounding audio on the go.
RODE has a couple of apps in the App Store to help with this, a very stripped down version of RODE Central and a recording companion too, but the PodMic USB also simply worked as a microphone across any app I tried. The only disappointment came when trying to connect to my iPhone 13 Pro. This can work, but you’ll need an Apple MFI Certified lightning cable which, almost unfathomably, the official Apple USB-C to Lightning cable that comes with the phone isn’t. It’s a short term problem as there’s plenty of third-party options, but you’re going to need to make a separate purchase.
Whether you’re connected to a PC or a mobile device though, in general I found the PodMic USB sounded every bit as wonderful as its older sibling. Vocals were as strong as we’ve come to expect from RODE, with a great level of presence but without wandering into that almost comical late night radio territory you find when a microphone tries a little too hard. Across the board audio is crisp, full and being a dynamic microphone you’ll benefit from a focused, directional pickup. I found the PodMic USB did well when it comes to ignoring the usual unwanted distractions from within the room like mechanical keyboard clacker.
That included windsock sleeve does deliver the goods and warrants its spot in the setup. There’s a noticeable improvement in plosives without adding any muffle. Sadly however despite featuring an internal shock mount, in my testing the PodMic USB was pretty susceptible to casual desk bumps and knocks to the mic arm which is something to be aware of if you’re looking to take it on the move.
You’ll notice I said ‘in general’ earlier, and thats because while I can rarely find fault with the audio the PodMic USB delivers, in this iteration it didn’t always deliver the same thing. It’s a case of either-or with the cable connections and surprisingly there is a discernible difference in sound between the two outputs. That isn’t to say one is better than the other, both are great and you’ll need to be flicking back and forth to really notice, but to my ear the audio from the USB connection was actually the stronger overall choice. It’s more a case of seasoning than anything else, a little pinch of extra salt and pepper on the USB output that sees it offer greater depth and a slightly more rounded overall profile.
This advantage over the XLR output is likely down to the inbuilt APHEX processing onboard the PodMic USB which skilfully and discreetly takes care of some basic EQ. This is the same DSP that you’ll find in the RODECaster Duo or Pro II and to have this sort of tech onboard a microphone of this size is a huge win. If you’re keen to personalise things you can fiddle with each area of the sound via the RODE Central PC app and there’s a couple of simple presets available there too. The app itself is simple to use and both options felt intuitive. Even if you don’t know the difference between an Aural Exciter and a Big Bottom, simply stumbling your way from menu to menu is all you need to end up sculpting something that suits you and sounds great.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that an updated version of something as good as the PodMic and from a brand with as strong a reputation as RODE, is still incredibly good. And that’s the simple summary here, the RODE PodMic USB is an incredibly good microphone for streamers, podcasters and creators.
From start to finish this is a high quality dynamic microphone and the added choice of both XLR or USB outputs brings a new level of versatility. It’s nowhere near as aggressively priced as the XLR-only PodMic, but even still there’s no doubting you get what you pay for though and if flexibility is front of mind, the PodMic USB could be the answer.