USB microphones are great for creators starting out in podcasting — until they have to mic more than one person in a room. There hasn’t been an efficient way to simultaneously record multiple USB mics on one computer, so now Rode is introducing an app that starts to offer a solution.
Rode’s new app, Rode Connect, lets you record multitrack or mixed stereo audio when plugging up to four USB microphones into your computer. There’s one big catch, though: for now, you can only do this with one model of USB microphone — Rode’s $99 NT-USB Mini.
You can think of the app as a virtual version of Rode’s $599 hardware mixer, the Rodecaster Pro, which allows you to plug in multiple XLR microphones, play audio clips, and record locally. The Rode Connect does that in an app on your computer with USB mics, which can come in handy for those who do not have an external mixer or professional microphones. But since the app is locked into Rode’s USB microphone ecosystem, it’s hard to take full advantage of it. The NT-USB Mini is also not necessarily the best-sounding USB microphone that even Rode has to offer, so you are pretty limited on sound quality as well.
Rode says the NT-USB Mini’s digital signal processing is the reason it’s the only microphone to work with this system. The processing lightens the load on the computer by having internal EQ and compression presets work inside the microphone instead of running through your computer.
According to Rode, there may be more models of its microphones added to the Rode Connect capability list. The company says, “We are actively looking at how we can expand the selection of microphones available for use with Rode Connect, and where possible we will integrate other Rode mics into the solution.”
Like the Rodecaster Pro, live-streaming seems to be an ideal use case for the new app. Rode Connect allows you to also add system audio to the mixer — which lets you mix in any sounds playing from your computer or a single application like FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, YouTube, and so on. If you have a streaming setup in something like OBS, you can select the aggregate sound device that Rode creates as your audio input, and the complete mix from Connect can be used in your stream, without having to play with the finicky OBS audio mixer controls or adding more CPU-intensive plugins. Having a separate audio-focused mixer program for more granular settings can significantly increase the production value on a live stream. This also opens up the possibility of mixing audio virtually into your Zoom call or perhaps some new social audio app.
Rode Connect seems to be an efficient way to use software to solve the problem with recording a bunch of USB mics with one device, but the product looks more like a way to convince consumers to buy multiples of Rode’s new microphones for the time being. As an audio engineer, I wouldn’t normally recommend someone buy four USB microphones for their roundtable podcast. If you bought four of these, it would cost $400. And at that price tag, you might as well buy a separate multichannel recording interface and plug in a couple of Shure SM58s. Then you can free up a couple of ports on your computer. As a reminder, the 2020 MacBook Air only has two ports.