Receiving a free piece of software is always tempered with a feeling of ‘why is it free?’. But RØDE Connect definitely has value for the Podcaster, you just have to invest in some RØDE microphones to make it work – or do you?
So you’re thinking of making a Podcast. That’s a great thing, especially now while the Pandemic still rages and you’re possibly still working from home without a creative outlet. Podcasts are also hugely popular and lucrative now, Audible are calling it ‘the renaissance of audio’.
Look at Joe Rogan’s million dollar deal with Spotify, recently bumped by the trio of Jason Bateman, Will Arnett and Sean Hayes who have had their Smartless podcast picked up by Amazon Music and Wondery, a Podcast network owned by Amazon.
Podcasts are very easy to start, which is never the reason to start one of course. You just need an idea, a microphone and some software to record it on. Distribution is then just a matter of using a service like Anchor who will distribute you across popular services like Spotify and Apple Podcasts for free.
But this isn’t a ‘how to make a Podcast’ article. It’s to introduce a new way of achieving it from audio company RØDE. You’ll know RØDE from their great range of microphones and one of the best desk mounted mic stands out there, the RØDE PSA 1.
What is RØDE Connect?
RØDE have launched a free piece of software especially for Podcasting and streaming called RØDE Connect. Connect is a recording, mixing, processing and distribution platform designed especially for just one microphone, the NT-USB Mini. So, if you have already sourced your microphone you may not see the advantage of Connect but keep reading as this product has hidden depths.
However, a quick Internet search will show you how to use non-RØDE microphones with Connect by applying a hack and fooling the system in to thinking your new mics are originating from your computer system or coming in virtually. You won’t be able to use the DSP this way and there are some performance drawbacks to navigate. It’s your choice.
The great thing about using the NT-USB Mini is that the Connect software is designed to get the most out of it. Hidden in the microphone is some highly desirable DSP hardware offering goodies like a noise gate, compressor and best of all Aphex’s Aural Exciter and Big Bottom. Both these processes add harmonics to both ends of the spectrum for ‘shine and sparkle’ for high frequencies and ‘richness and depth’ for lower.
If these terms mean nothing to you then imagine the sound of some national digital radio stations. How clear, punchy and smooth they sound, to a certain extent this is the gift that RØDE are giving you with the on-board DSP. Buying an Aphex Aural Exciter rack mount unit on eBay could cost you around $250. Big radio stations obviously have racks of equipment for their audio processing but for a single Podcast these processes are a huge advantage for starter projects.
Connect has obviously been designed for the non-technical Podcaster as the software immediately opens in to a set-up assistant to get you on your way (It’s based on RØDECaster Pro which is their all singing and dancing Podcast interface). You are also prompted to identify ‘Virtual’ channels which are ways to bring in remote guests, through Zoom for example. Also, System audio which is just that, any audio that’s going through your computer, so could be Spotify or browser audio for instance.
So complete your set-up with your NT-USB Mini microphones linked – you can input up to four mics – and then start preparing yourself and your guests who are either with you or remoted somewhere else. There are videos to watch here to help you understand more about how the software works but it’s pretty straightforward.
RØDE Connect, like every good piece of software, has a simple interface that belies the sophistication underneath.
Being a Podcaster, I’ve found that one of the secrets is having nothing to distract you so Connect isn’t being condescending with its use of big buttons and color coding. There’s nothing to fear here, in fact RØDE help you with optional colored tops for each NT-USB Mini so you know which microphone belongs to who – again helpful while on air. On export of your show there’s even a choice of a stereo file or the isolated feeds from all the mics so you can then re-mix everything as you like.
Export also gives you presets for your destination whether it is a distributor like Anchor or direct to Spotify for instance.
Streamers are also helped with Connect’s abilities to talk to streaming platforms like OBS. RØDE Connect will help you navigate between the platforms so you can use NT-USB Mini as your main chat and game audio.
Would I buy it?
On the face of it that’s a stupid question as the software is free, but of course RØDE is selling you microphones here by slight subterfuge but we can forgive them that. I think if I was setting up a Podcast again (mine is called Shakedown about the behind the scenes in film and TV), I would definitely buy a RØDE NT-USB especially for its processing but also for its channels in to streaming software.
An obvious counter to that is, when will you be able to have four people in a room Podcasting without social distancing protocols? Joe Rogan manages it by getting all his guests to have PCR Covid tests and then takes them out for a Texan dinner. Podcaster Sam Fragoso does it by sending high quality microphones to his guests with extended instructions of how to operate them and the Audacity editor. Shakedown does it by recording locally while talking on Zoom and then matching the local audio in the edit.
But buy one NT-USB Mini and then three more when you need them. You’ll then have a very effective mobile Podcasting studio with very quick set-up times for when we can all get back in a room together.
Are you just about to start a Podcast? What are you waiting for? Share your thoughts in the comments below.