The Rodecasater Duo makes more sense for most people.

A couple of years ago, you might have described Rode as a company that makes microphones. Today, it’s positioning itself more as a one-stop-shop for creator tools. The original Rodecaster Pro podcast mixer was the first big step in this evolution. That includes the new, gaming-focused “Rode X” sub-brand and products like the Streamer X capture card. The company, of course, still makes a microphone or two. But, with the new, smaller, more affordable and very capable Rodecaster Duo stream mixer, this move toward general creators is basically official.

The original Rodecaster Pro was the first mixing desk specifically designed for podcasters to really catch people’s attention. The build-quality, price, ease of use and simple workflow struck a chord with pros and amateurs alike. The Rodecaster Pro II ($699) went in a slightly different direction, introducing the ability to route different audio sources to different places, an essential tool for game streamers. The pads were upgraded from simple audio triggers to multi-purpose smart pads that can be used for MIDI, vocal effects and more. The second version also came in with a smaller footprint, removing two physical faders and making them “virtual.”

The Rodecaster Duo ($499) is arguably just the Rodcaster Pro II “mini.” The functionality is identical to its bigger sibling, but it comes with four physical faders (down from six); six pads (down from eight) and two XLR ports for microphones or instruments (down from four). You actually have control over seven mixing channels at any one time, but adjusting three of them is done via virtual faders. Importantly, you get to configure which inputs remain on physical faders and which are assigned to virtual controls in the companion software.

Rear view of the Rodecaster Duo showing the main input and output ports.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

Two other small changes include the removal of the “record” button, which is now virtual/on the display, and there’s also a headphone port on the front edge. This last change solves one of my main nitpicks with Rodecaster Pro II, which only had headphone ports around the back. The port on the front is 3.5mm rather than 1/4 -inch and is compatible with headset/TRRS mics, adding another input effectively — one that’s particularly handy for game streamers.

One of the biggest upgrades from the original Rodecaster Pro is the addition of a second USB-C port around the back which can connect to a second PC. This is a massive boon for streamers who want to keep their gaming rig separate from their streaming one, and the new routing table allows you to send whatever inputs you like to either USB connection. This same port also can be used for connecting a phone, which is perfect for introducing callers or for streaming via mobile apps. You could always connect a phone via Bluetooth on the original model, which was handy but now you have multiple options (and via cable is much better quality).

The fact that there are only two XLR combo jacks speaks strongly to who this is for. While the Rodecaster Pro and its sequel were originally built for in-person, multi-guest, podcasts, it’s also a very capable tool for solo creators which has helped fuel its popularity. And with an increasing number of tools like Zencastr or Adobe Podcast, the need to host fellow flesh-sacks in the same room is no longer required for high-quality audio from all speakers. As such, the Rodecaster Duo makes a lot of sense for a broad stroke of creators from podcasters to streamers and even music producers and video editors (both the Duo and the II Pro are MIDI enabled).

Be under no illusions, the Duo — and its bigger sibling — are just as “pro” friendly as the first Rodecaster, but they both lean into the creator space a bit more than the original. This point is made most clearly by the very existence of the Duo. The smaller footprint is a clear admission that this was made to live on a desk full time alongside your other daily tools.

The Rodecaster Duo's touchscreen display showing the mixer levels.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

The Rodecaster II Pro was already a bit more manageable than the first model, but after a few weeks with the Duo, the difference is stark. It can remain nested under my monitor and easily moved into position when I go live. Before the Duo, I had the Pro II on my desk in a similar setup, but I was frequently moving it out of the way to make space for other things that it became a bit of a burden and I ended up unplugging it until show time. With the Duo it’s clear this can be a daily driver with little-to-no need to organize around it.

The number of tools for creators and streamers is expanding exponentially, and with that are more direct rivals to the Rodecaster series. In fact, just days after the Rodecaster Duo was announced, Boss unveiled its own take on the category with the Gigcaster 8 ($699) and Gigcaster 5 ($459). Both offer very similar features to Rode’s products in a generally smaller footprint. The Gigcaster 8 is a near 1:1 in terms of functionality to the Pro II, while the Gigcaster 5 sacrifices the physical trigger pads to make way for two more physical faders — six total — over the Duo’s four to create an even smaller footprint. Though it has a slight focus on musicians via some sound presets and effects, and doesn’t quite match the overall build quality and polish as the Rode.

Rode’s audio chops are also not to be underestimated. The pre-amps and headphone outputs on the Duo are capital-L loud and squeaky clean with a very low noise floor. When the products were announced, Rode went out of its way to show how well it could power the notoriously quiet (and insanely popular) SM7B microphone. When you’re giving a shout out to a rival company’s product to demonstrate a feature, you better be confident that the feature you’re touting does the goods. And surely it does. The amount of clean gain to drive microphones such as the aforementioned Shure classic is impressive and a step up from the already-decent Rodecaster Pro before it.

The Rodecaster Duo pictured on a desk with a keyboard and headphones.

Photo by James Trew / Engadget

In short, the Rodecaster Duo feels like a product that Rode maybe didn’t initially think was the main event. It’s the smaller, more affordable version of its flagship mixer after all. It turns out that this is likely the one that most solo creators will actually want. Even pros might want to consider the Duo over the Pro II if they don’t absolutely need the capacity to run four microphones in tandem.

It’s worth mentioning that if you’re considering moving over to the Duo from something like the GoXLR or the Razer Audio Mixer know that Rode’s take on a routing table is a little different to what you might be used to. The Duo’s companion software is generally pretty good, but it doesn’t use the conventional “table” format many streamers will be used to. Instead it’s a little bit convoluted, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite powerful. This is particularly handy if you’re in the business of recording audio from multiple sources. I often just use the routing options so I can record either one or both sides of a phone call or online meeting depending on my needs, but it’s also good for feeding PC audio — including Zoom calls or YouTube videos etc. — into, well, wherever you want it to go, including your phone.

If you do any kind of live audio production or recording, especially podcasts, the Rodecaster Duo is an easy sell. For streamers, it’s also a very capable device, one that’s also easy to recommend, but with a small asterisk. Streaming setups and their associated platforms are often a little more to their host’s tastes and preferences. As such, the Duo’s suitability will depend on what you’re used to and the specifics of what you want to do. But for most creators, the Duo is the better option over the Pro II at the very least.

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This post originally appeared on TechToday.

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