Rode Wireless ME – a review of a low-budget Rode

Apr 4, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Rode Wireless ME – a review of a low-budget Rode

Apr 4, 2023

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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When Rode released the original Wireless GO in 2019, they set a new standard for small wireless portable microphones. In 2021, Rode released the Wireless GO II, adding a whole bunch of great features. Things that people had been asking for. So why the Rode Wireless ME (link)? And why now?

The release of the original Wireless GO spawned a whole legion of similar devices. Other manufacturers saw the use case and clear opportunity. Many of the new units lacked certain features of the Rode system, but they came in at a much lower price point. Rode has now answered those competitors with their own lower-budget option, the Rode Wireless ME.

The Rode Wireless ME costs substantially less than the Rode Wireless GO II. – $149. It does lack a few significant features of its older sibling. But, it also offers some features missing from the competition at similar pricing. Digital audio over USB is a prime example.

Rode Wireless ME – in the box?

Unlike the standard Wireless GO II kit, the Wireless ME comes with just two units. There’s one transmitter and one receiver. There is a single transmitter version of the Wireless GO II, but the Wireless ME receiver has an extra trick up its sleeve that the Wireless GO II receiver doesn’t. We’ll get back to that later. For now, just know that there’s one transmitter and one receiver. You also get two of the wind muffs. These are exactly the same as those that come with the Wireless GO II. They twist and clip onto the top of the microphone so that they can’t easily fall or be blown off.

Rode Wireless ME transmitter and receiver

You also get an array of cables with the Wireless ME. Those cover you for all potential connectivity situations.

  • There’s a TRS to TRS for plugging into your camera,
  • TRS to TRRS for plugging into your smartphone,
  • USB-C to USB-C for plugging straight into your computer,
  • USB-C tablet or smartphone as a digital audio device,
  • And there’s a USB-C to Lightning for plugging into your iPhone or iPad.

Rode Wireless ME - cables

Rode Wireless ME vs. Rode Wireless GO II

On the outside, the Wireless GO II transmitter and Wireless ME transmitter both look pretty much identical. They have exactly the same form factor, so you can still use the Wireless ME transmitter with devices like the Rode Interview GO.

Comparing transmitters

top side of transmitter and receiver

On the inside, the feature set is a little different. The biggest difference between the two is the ability to record in the transmitter. And this is one of the main reasons people buy the Wireless GO II over the less expensive competition. It provides another layer of security for audio. This is something that the Wireless ME transmitter can’t do, so you’re reliant on having a good signal between the transmitter and receiver without any interference.

Rode Wireless ME - the microphone side

Fortunately, given the target market for this device, most scenarios in which you might find yourself using it should be pretty safe from interference.

Another feature you lose on the Wireless ME from the Wireless GO II is the safety channel. This channel allows you to record a mixed version of your audio at two different levels. It’s handy to create a lower gain-level backup copy of your recording. Just in case the audio source gets too loud and your main audio clips.

You can address this in one of three ways:

  • Be a little more conservative on your settings or
  • Monitor the audio as it’s recording to ensure it does not clip.
  • Lastly, you can use the GainAssist feature of the Wireless ME.

Rode’s GainAssist

GainAssist is new on the Wireless ME, which provides some level of automatic gain control to prevent clipping. There are two different modes available, which are Auto and Dynamic – as well as “off” for those that want to disable it.

In Auto mode, you get a smoother and more consistent sound, for situations where you’re not fully able to set things up in advance and aren’t quite sure how loud the person or thing you’re going to be recording is. If they’re quiet, it bumps it up; if they’re loud, it knocks it down. It works a bit like an audio compressor.

In Dynamic mode, there isn’t really anything in the way of auto gain, so it’s designed more for controlled conditions, like a studio, where you have control over your levels and can set everything up in advance. This is more of an EQ feature (although it’s not adjustable), that provides some warmth and presence to the recording.

Comparing receivers

While the two transmitters from the two systems look almost identical on the outside, there are some big, noticeable differences between the receivers.

Two of them are quite obvious. Firstly, there’s no OLED display on the front of the receiver to show you the incoming sound levels, battery power, signal strength, etc.

Rode Wireless ME vs Rode Wireless GO II

It also, which perhaps might seem a little strange, has a built-in microphone on top, with an attachment point for the windshield. Why would your receiver need a microphone? Still, more details are ahead. The short version, though, is that it gives you some more options. Options that many similarly priced options don’t offer.

The two buttons at the bottom of the Wireless GO II receiver have been removed from the Wireless ME receiver. In fact, the Wireless ME receiver looks more like the Wireless ME and Wireless GO II transmitters than the Wireless GO II receiver.

The lack of buttons means you can’t change some settings easily when using the unit on the camera. Still, you can reconfigure everything using the Rode Central software – the same as other USB-connected Rode devices (the Wireless GO II, VideoMic NTG, etc.). Rode Central is available for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android, letting you hook them up and change the settings wherever you are through the app interface.

Rode Wireless ME app
Note: At the time of writing, Rode Central doesn’t support the Wireless ME yet, so I can’t show an actual screenshot of it from either Windows or the iPad. So, the app screenshots here are from the Rode website.

The Wireless ME units have their own built-in batteries and are essentially self-powered. So you don’t have to rely on plug-in power or phantom power. Luckily, the settings changes in Rode Central are persistent. So, they’ll stay that way after you unplug from the computer and want to plug it into your camera.

As with most of Rode’s other recent USB-capable microphone releases, Rode Central is also where you’ll update your microphone’s firmware. However, certain devices may need to be updated through the desktop app, as the iPad and Android versions aren’t always capable of doing so.

Rode Wireless ME - firmware upgrade sceenshot
Note: At the time of writing, Rode Central doesn’t support the Wireless ME yet, so I can’t show an actual screenshot of it from either Windows or the iPad. So, the app screenshots here are from the Rode website.

Bringing them together – How it sounds

At its most basic, the Rode Wireless ME works in the standard way you’d expect from a microphone Tx/Rx pair. The transmitter clips to your subject – or you plug a lav mic into it and attach that to your subject – and the receiver sits on your camera, plugged in and sending the signal it receives into your in-camera recording.

Here are some samples recorded with the Rode Wireless ME, some comparisons to the Rode Wireless GO II, and samples using the Rode Lavalier GO and Lavalier II plug-in wired lav mics, so you can hear how all the sound compares.

YouTube video

The video begins with a distance test. Rode claims that the maximum distance you can get with the Wireless ME is around 100 metres. In my experience, I only managed to get about 50 metres outdoors without the connection periodically cutting out, after which it cut out completely.

As often seems to be the case with wireless mics, distance and line of sight are connected. When you are facing away from the camera, the transmitter has to send its signal through your body. This can reduce the range quite a bit. Turning back to face the camera, without a person in the way, the signal can transmit for a further distance without issue. But I still didn’t really trust it beyond that 50-metre range.

In the real world, however, for 99% of circumstances in which most of us would use a microphone like this, we’re never going to be anywhere near 100 metres – or even 50 metres – away from the camera doing the recording. So, for the vast majority of situations, I don’t think any range limits will be an issue.

Rode Wireless ME for Vlogging and interviews

One of the big advantages of the Wireless ME over the Wireless GO II is the microphone built into the receiver. When mounted on your camera’s hotshoe, this allows you to record your voice when you stand behind the camera.

This is a great solution for things like travel vlogging when you want to film what’s in front of you, but also want to talk about what you’re seeing at the same time. The receiver mounts to the hotshoe with the microphone pointed towards you, letting it pick up your voice.

Rode Wireless ME - on camera

The built-in microphone is also quite useful for interviews where you’re standing behind the camera. You can have the receiver pick up your voice and ask questions. Meanwhile, the transmitter is pinned to your subject, capturing their half of the conversation. Or, you can have the receiver pinned to you and the transmitter in the Rode Interview GO, so that you don’t have to keep moving the single Tx in the handle between you and your subject.

You will, of course, still need the receiver plugged into a recording device in such a scenario as there’s no internal recording. So, you may need a longer cable to plug the receiver into your camera. Alternatively, you can plug the receiver into a smartphone in your pocket via a shorter cable for recording audio and sync it in post to the video recording during the edit.

Different microphones

Note: I made no adjustments to the audio recordings except to balance out the volume. Wireless GO II samples were recorded using each Tx, and Wireless ME samples were recorded in the Panasonic GH5 with the Rx plugged into the microphone socket. 

You can hear samples of the built-in microphones on both the transmitter and receiver in the above video, as long as a side-by-side compared to the Wireless GO II transmitter’s built-in microphone.

The internal microphones on the two transmitters are very similar. There is, perhaps, a slight improvement with the Wireless GO II over the Wireless ME, but there’s virtually nothing in it – certainly nothing that tweaking the settings or going a little EQ in post won’t fix.

When it comes to hiding the transmitter, as with the Wireless GO II, you can plug in a 3.5mm microphone. With the Wireless GO II, my lav of choice is the Rode Lavalier II. I do also have the Rode Lavalier GO, so I tested the Wireless ME transmitter with both of these options.

The Rode Lavalier GO on the Wireless ME transmitter was pretty similar to my experiences with the Lavalier GO on the Wireless GO II transmitter. It’s good, but the slightly more expensive Rode Lavalier II is noticeably better.

One thing that was a little bit disappointing – but only a little bit – is that there’s no 3.5mm socket on the receiver. Normally, I wouldn’t care. Because on most wireless mic systems, why would you want to? But the receiver in the Wireless ME is designed specifically to act as a second active microphone. It would have been nice to plug a lav into that, too.

That being said, that’s why the Wireless GO II exists. If you need two lav mics going simultaneously while you’re filming, that’s when you need to step up or go with an alternate option. And then you also benefit from having backup recordings in each transmitter.

The other stuff and features

I wasn’t able to fully test everything as Rode Central wasn’t updated enough to support the Wireless ME. Both on the desktop and the iPad, I was prompted to connect a compatible microphone every time I hooked them up and tried to connect them. As of today, the final release version of Rode Central (and Rode Connect) should be available and fully supports the new Rode Wireless ME, so there are a bunch of features you can go in and change to tweak your sound.

One rather nice feature of the Wireless ME is that its receiver can be paired up with one of the Wireless GO II transmitters. This means that you can still potentially have two remote microphones on different subjects when you need to. Of course, if you’re going to go this route and have a Wireless GO II Tx hanging around, you probably also have a second Wireless GO II Tx and an Rx hanging around, too, so you’d probably use that. But the option is there if you need it.

It’s worth noting that while you can potentially record three microphones simultaneously when you pair a Wireless GO II Tx to the Wireless ME Rx, when used in this configuration, the two wireless microphones record mixed to one channel while the receiver’s microphone is recorded on the other channel.

USB audio connectivity is one thing I haven’t mentioned much, but it is most definitely a big deal. When plugged into your computer, smartphone, or tablet via USB or Lightning (with the correct supplied cable), it communicates directly with your computer or mobile device as a digital audio device. If you’re live-streaming and prefer a lav over a dynamic or shotgun microphone but still want the freedom to be able to move without getting tangled, this gives you a great option to do that.

On the desktop, you can record straight into Audition or Reaper and stream to OBS, Zoom, or Skype. You can also plug it into your smartphone to record digitally. No more worrying about bad smartphone microphone preamps. This works great with apps like Rode Reporter App. Or, if you can wait a bit: the soon-to-be-released Rode Capture – Rode’s first-ever video and audio recording app.

Rode Wireless ME – Conclusions

The Rode Wireless ME is half the price of the standard Rode Wireless GO II kit. Yes, there’s a single transmitter version of the Wireless GO II, like the main kit, but that’s still $50 more expensive than the Wireless ME. Of course, even the single transmitter Wireless GO II can record a backup in the transmitter. The Wireless ME does not. Aside from the price advantage of the Wireless ME, though, it also has the advantage over the single transmitter Wireless GO II kit in that it still has two microphones. The Wireless ME receiver has one built-in. The Wireless GO II receiver does not.

So, which to go for really depends on your needs. I think most people would be able to get along quite well with the Rode Wireless ME. The audio quality is extremely similar to the Rode Wireless GO II, whether using the internal microphone or external wired lavs, like the Lavalier II or Lavalier GO, plugged into the transmitter. Both sound very good.

Ultimately, I think it’s going to boil down to budget vs. how many mics you really need vs. do you want the ability to record a backup in case of wireless interference. That’s something only you can really decide. For me, I think the Rode Wireless GO II is still going to be my small wireless microphone of choice. This is mostly due to the transmitter’s ability to record a backup – I like to play it safe. But I can see the Wireless ME being used regularly for live streaming and to keep in my small smartphone vlogging kit bag – especially with the new Rode Capture app.

One thing’s for sure, Rode’s low-budget alternatives in the $149-199 range needs to start getting scared. Because even with just the ability to connect digitally over USB, it’s already more functional than all of the competition under $199, not to mention the features that are unlocked through Rode Central.

The Rode Wireless ME is available to pre-order now for $149 and should start shipping in the coming weeks. You can find out more about the Wireless ME on the Rode website.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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