The RØDECaster Duo is the perfect example of how to take a pro grade device and make it work at home too. RØDE has created an XLR audio solution that ticks every box and even adds a few of it’s own boxes to tick too.
the good bits
All-in-one audio production
Excellent onboard preamps and processing
SMART pads offer great creative options
Can double as a Stream Deck
the not so good bits
Some buttons are feel mushy
RGB control could be more defined
It always seems like a coming of age moment when a creator switches from a simple USB microphone to a full XLR setup. Not only because it means you’re taking things a bit more seriously, but because of all the extra tech that comes with making that audio change.
A great XLR microphone like the Logitech Blue Sona or RODE Procaster is a start, but you can still fall flat without the right audio interface and processing behind it. Now there’s a couple of ways to go about things, you can go simple on the hardware side and worry about processing later, in which case the RODE AI-1 will do the job, or you can push the boat out with this, the all-new RODECaster Duo.
With the same DNA as the RODECaster Pro II, the Duo offers the same things just condensed down into a far smaller frame. Unlike the AI-1 though, this is more than just an XLR interface, the RODECaster Duo is a full audio production suite in a little(ish) black box.
It’s £569/$499 though which is a hefty investment no matter how much it does, so what’s going on inside and is it worth the cash?
RODE have become a bit of a powerhouse in audio over recent years with a serious push towards that flourishing creator market. We’ve loved their small form factor PodMic and debut headphones so there’s a reputation preceding the arrival of the RODECaster Duo. And while it’s destined for home setups, the Duo brings a definite pro recording studio vibe, it’s faders, dials and buttons as far as the eye can see across the face of this matte black unit.
Compared to it’s older brother the RODECaster Pro II, the back panel brings a more realistic two XLR inputs with four physical faders (down from six on it’s big bro) to control input levels across both those XLR connections and a range of virtual inputs. If you’re using the RODE Wireless GO II or ME you’re able to directly connect to he Duo without dongles and there’s Bluetooth connectivity on offer here too.
The faceplate of the RODECaster Duo is metal though the faders themselves, have plastic caps, a minor shame for a near £600 device but they do still feel quality with just the right amount of resistance and no noticeable wobble. The control and headphone dials are plastic too, though again feel premium and are firm enough to avoid accidental bumps but textured enough to not be slippery. They’re also both wrapped by an LED ring around the base that fills as the headphone level increases, which is nifty.
I have to admit though I’m not quite such a fan of the listen and mute buttons below the faders or the selection button above them. The rubber keys feel mushy and wobbly with no obvious tactile feedback on when they’ve properly fired. Slowly pushing them down there seems to be two clicks, but I also managed to trigger them with an angled push or a light tap. Consistency for blind pressing is all I ask.
They’re backed by beautifully bright and saturated RGB, as are the six SMART pads to their right. The brightness and colour of these is all configurable in the UI which is great, though for some reason their brightness in different states is all tied together.
I’d rather have the LED off or nearly off for a mute button when it’s not active and full brightness when it is. Which I can achieve, but only if I then have the SMART pads behave in the same way. But I don’t want that, because their colour is the best way to be reminded what each of them is bound to doing. Tying two sets of buttons together with such wildly different uses feels like a strange choice to me. This should just be a software thing though, so RODE if you’re reading this, can I have a tweak in a firmware update please?
Nearly everything on the RODECaster Duo can be tinkered with via the 5.5” touchscreen which remains unchanged from the full size RODECaster Pro II. It’s great to see that even in a smaller overall unit RODE hasn’t tried to trim down here because the screen itself and the experience using it are a delight and sets the RODECaster apart from others like the popular GoXLR.
The display is beautifully sharp with even small UI elements not picking up rough edges, colours are vibrant and the backlight packs enough punch to stand out even in a bright room. Touches are responsive with what feels like a beefed up haptic feedback engine compared to the Pro II.
What I’m most pleased about here is that while there may be fewer of them, all the inputs and options of the RODECaster Pro II remain on the Duo. This is a smaller unit, not a more dumbed down one and could easily have carried a Pro Mini name. RODE has managed to shrink the footprint by just over 40% and as someone who’s tried both, I can tell you that makes a huge difference in terms of how much desk space you’ll need to find. It’s still not small by any means but it’s now a streamer friendly size which points to it’s new target audience, something that’s backed up further with the new addition of the 3.5mm headphone jack on the front – something you won’t find on Pro II.
If we strip it back, the RODECaster Duo’s primary role is as an audio interface and it’s a very good one. The Revolution Preamps pack a serious gain punch and when testing with a few different microphones they all sounded crystal clear and needed no artificial boosting.
Studio-grade APHEX processing delivers offers a suite of ways to refine and improve your sound, whether you’re using a RODE microphone or something from another brand. RODE do lend a hand if you’re using one of their own, the PodMic for example has a couple of preconfigured presets out of the box for typical ‘Broadcast’ and ‘Podcast’ sounds and I found both were a well rounded improvement over the default. Surprisingly the ever-popular SM7B from competitors Shure also comes with pre-defined options which is a level of self confidence I can only aspire to.
Going a step deeper you’ll find a seriously impressive array of ‘advanced’ options and it’s worth taking the time to page through all eight and dial them in to your own style. The offering covers basics like EQ and high-pass filters right through to utilities you’d be used to adding in OBS like a noise gate and across the board I found these worked wonderfully.
Everything in configured via the 5.5” display which shows a load of real time data and feedback as you fiddle with the adjustment dial and touch controls. It’s worth noting these filters can be used across any input type too, not just the Neutrik combo input ports. So audio coming in over the air from a RODE Wireless GO II or via Bluetooth can get the glow up treatment as well.
While there’s plenty of personalisation available for your sound, it’s the six colourful SMART pads that really unlock the highest level of customisation and where different kinds of creators will find very different value. Each can be configured either on the touch screen or via the RODE Central app to play sound files, trigger voice effects or activate utilities like ducking or censor beeps. I did find the rubber pads took some getting used to, they’re slightly squidgy but also don’t move when you tap them so it’s a strange sensation at first but when I knew what to expect I didn’t have any major issues with misclicks.
Podcasters should find these pads will come in useful for things like music beds, stings or pre-recorded segments. You’ll need to use RODE Central to import files but can also record directly within the unit so it’s possible to prepare a sponsor read or interview ahead of time and then drop it into the show on the fly – very cool. There’s 4GB of dedicated onboard storage for the SMART pads so plenty of space to play with.
Combined with the ability to record locally to a microSD card or an external hard drive via USB-C, the RODECaster Duo is essentially a free-standing and self contained podcast recording studio. Needing just a standard power socket and with a form factor barely bigger than a couple of iPads stacked on top of each other, this could be the ultimate tool for podcasters in a studio space away from a PC or even out and about on the road.
While streamers will no doubt also use the SMART pads to fire off sound effects too (who doesn’t need a DJ airhorn on hand at all times after all?), there is one feature that could really deliver value and start to offset that hefty price tag. The RODECaster Duo SMART pads can deliver MIDI triggers. In essence, if you invest a bit of time to set them up with a plugin for OBS, the grid of six pads suddenly becomes a Stream Deck too. It’s not as visual as Elgato’s option and the config will be far fiddlier, but it is possible to have the RODECaster Duo switch scenes and toggle sources without the use of another device. If you haven’t already got a Stream Deck, you do now.
It’s pretty simple really, RODE have smashed it – the RODECaster Duo is just about perfect. Everything that made the full-size RODECaster Pro II great is still here, it’s now just a smaller and far more realistic option for creators.
The unit itself has shrunk but the price remains a beefy £569/$499 which may prove a sore point for a home setup, particularly when you’ll still need to consider your microphone/s on top. Whether you’re streaming or podcasting though, the RODECaster Duo packs a lot in. It does it all and does it all incredibly well.