When it comes to podcasting, streaming, or content creation, creating a great, consistent audio setup can make all the difference. Unfortunately, choosing the right hardware can sometimes become overwhelming, confusing, and extremely expensive, especially for hobbyists who aren’t looking to stream or create content full-time. Rode intends to change all that with a series of accessories meant to take the guesswork out of building a better home studio. Does Rode manage to make the recording foolproof? Let’s dive into it.
Over the years, my recording gear has slowly grown from a single headset to multiple mics, stands, desk mounts, and cables cluttering my desk and workspace. I realized this was a major issue when I had both a desk mounted mic, a floor stand, and 4 different recording devices connected to my system at the same time that I needed to declutter. Fortunately, Rode’s PodMic and a host of accessories were available, and I jumped at the chance to streamline my setup.
In this review, I will provide some hardware-related details, but I won’t go into too much depth when it comes to the quality of the Rode PodMic. This was researched by our hardware editor just a few years before this review, and if you’re looking for an in-depth review of the microphone’s capabilities, I urge you to check it out. Instead, this will be an all-inclusive desktop delivery setup review, which will include unboxing and setting up the Rode PodMic, AI-1 Amplifier, WS2 Windshield, and PSA1 studio arm. Here are the approximate specs:
- Price: $99 (Amazon)
- Acoustic principle: Dynamic
- Polar pattern: Cardioid
- Frequency range: 20Hz~20kHz
- Output impedance: 320 ohms
- Sensitivity: -57.0dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (1.60mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz
- Output connection: XLR
- Weight: 937g
- Product dimensions (LxWxH, mm): 172 x 109 x 62
- Windshield pictured is an additional cost ($12.99 Amazon)
- 6ft XLR cord shown is not included
- Price: 98.70 (Amazon)
- Analog inputs: 1 Neutrik XLR-1/4″ combo
- Analog outputs: 2 x 1/4″ speaker outputs (impedance balanced) 1 x 1/4″ headphone output Gain range: 60 dB (with firmware version 1.3.1)
- Bit depth: 24 bit
- Sampling frequencies: 44.1 kHz / 48 kHz / 88.2 kHz / 96 kHz
- 48V phantom power: Yes
- Simultaneous I/O: 1 x 2
- Number of preamps: 1
- Direct monitoring: Yes
- Bus Powered: Yes
- Power: USB bus-powered (USB-C)
- Price: 99.00
- Thread Size: 3/8″
- Weight (g): 1740
- Horizontal reach (mm): 820
- Vertical reach (mm): 840
- Minimum supported weight (g): 700
- Maximum weight supported (g): 1100
After receiving the items, unpacking them was extremely simple. Rode doesn’t believe in a lot of fluff. Although every piece of hardware was well packaged, there was definitely a minimalist approach, with little instruction or excess, even for the larger, fancier pieces such as the PodMic and amplifier. I expected a full instruction manual for each, but was surprised to find very few instructions. If you’re new to setting up your audio, you might think a little instruction sheet isn’t enough, but it turns out that it’s all mostly plug and play.
Here is a handy arm
I started by setting up the studio arm. If you’re like me, you’re limited on your desk space, and I was especially concerned, as I’ve had desk-mounted studio arms before, and hated them. Usually my main issue with installing a new microphone arm would be that the C-clamp mounts usually leave indentations or scratches on the desk. Now that I have a standing desk with a glass top and metal frame, my biggest fear was that the weight of the arm and microphone could potentially scratch or crack the glass, or that it wouldn’t attach securely because the metal rail under the desk was quite thin, but I decided to give it a shot. There is also an additional bracket supplied which allows you to clamp the Studio arm through the desk, but I opted for the C-clamp version as drilling through a glass and metal desk is not a task that interests me.
After clamping the clamp to the desk, I removed the yellow warning tape that informed me the arm was spring-loaded and placed it in the only available hole on the clamp. At this point, the arm remained straight. There’s no way to clamp the arm in any setup without the mic attached, so I switched to the PodMic and started setting it up. Literally, the PodMic is the only item in its box. The XLR cable supplied by Rode is an additional cost, although it is relatively inexpensive. Rode supplied a 6 foot XLR cable which for my particular setup is a bit overkill, but the cable came with a Rode branded Velcro strap so it was easy to shorten it to the desired length and tie it off with the C-Clamp. The XLR cable simply slots into the back of the PodMic, there really is no other way to do it. I then screwed the microphone into the 3/8th threaded mount and the counterweight thumped the arm all the way.
Run this software
I ran the wiring over the arm, ran it over the back of my desk, and placed the AI-1 amplifier near my PC on the desk. I plugged the XLR cable into the only place you could put it on the amplifier, then ran the USB-C cable included in the AI-1 package to the PC. The hardware part of the setup was basically done. It was as foolproof as possible, so I switched to software. Currently I am using Windows 11 on my desktop and the OS was able to detect and install the software without any request from me. I opened Adobe Audition and attempted a recording, but alas, there was no joy – something was wrong. The AI-1 amplifier has two buttons, the microphone and the headphones. If you press the microphone button, a light will turn on, indicating that the microphone is ready to record. Unfortunately, there was a bit more to it than just turning the knob.
For my life I couldn’t initially get the microphone to record through the amplifier no matter what apps I tried to record with. I went into the sound settings and looked at the options. It turns out that the amplifier will not work if the properties of the channel are different frequencies. From the control panel, under Sound > Playback & Sound > Recording, I selected the AI-1 and went to properties. I then had to upgrade to advanced and change the default format with the same frequency. I chose 96000 Hz, and sure enough, after changing these settings, the sound quality of the PodMic became crystal clear.
The quality of the PodMic and the ease of modulating my audio input once the amplifier was up and running was an incredibly simple and streamlined experience. For new podcasters, streamers, or content creators, the hardware setup couldn’t be easier. Everything is pretty much self-explanatory, and it’s actually harder to do not putting things together in the right way. On the software side, confusion over frequency changes isn’t something new streamers will know right away, and it may not even be apparent when looking for answers.
Yet once everything is set up, you can’t beat the quality of the PodMic and AI-1 amplifier at this price – you just can’t. For around $300, you end up with a solid microphone and amplifier, plus one of the smoothest swivel-mount boom arms I’ve tried. Although I probably won’t keep it mounted on my desk, I have a fantastic floor stand that’s also compatible with Rode’s PSA 1, so in the end I get both a highly articulated boom arm and part of my office space. If you really want to kick start your audio with professional sound, use Rode’s PodMic and accessories as a guide on how to do it right.
* Rode PodMic, PSA-1 Studio Arm, AI-1 Amplifier, WS2 Windshield and 6 Ft XLR Cable were provided by Rode for the purpose of this review.