About two months ago, rode released their $400 Rode Wireless Pro, a set of wireless microphones that catches up with the wireless lavalier industry and then some. We took the set for a test drive, and unsurprisingly, this is the best wireless lav that RODE released to date.
As the name implies, this set is an upgrade to the $300 RODE wireless GO II, which, in itself, is an upgrade to the (now discontinued) RODE Wireless GO, which was the first microphone in this Dual Wireless Lav category. Obviously, we were very curious to see how this kit performs. Click on to find out.
The RODE Wireless Pro transmitter
The kit, like many kits in this category, is made out of two transmitters and one receiver. The receiver is a black square about 4.5 centimeters wide and 1.5 centimeters thick. If you own a set of AirPods, it’s about the same size.
On the top, there is a built-in microphone and a 3.5mm jack for plugging in an external lav mic. It’s the screw-in type, so if you are using a RODE lav mic, it will never pull out accidentally. But if you are using a different lav, it is still compatible. Check the audio samples below.
There is a button on the top, which you can use to start and stop recording. If you are in the recording-manual mode, this will start (or stop) a recording. If you are on auto-recording (which you should be), this will start a new file for you for easy syncing.
On the bottom of the unit, you get your familiar Q button, which you use as a power or pair button.
One interesting thing I noticed is that as you get further away from the receiver, reception changes depending on whether the RX and TX units have a direct line of sight. But even if audio breaks, you can still have a recording saves inside each of the TX units.
32-bit float recording
The biggest claim to fame for the RODE Wireless Pro is its 32-bit float recording. In a nutshell, this means that you are recording your audio on more bits, which, in turn, means that you can capture a wider range of sounds – from a tiny whisper to a very loud shout. The concept is similar to Dynamic Range in photography. You simply capture more “stops” of audio. This feature makes it very hard for you to clip your audio. Check the audio samples below to see how I tried and failed at getting the mic to clip.
But 32-bit float recording is not just superior recording. It’s also a great backup for when you use the system in an RF-saturated area or over a long distance. Even if your transmission breaks, you will still have a usable file that you can pull from the transmitter unit. You will have to sync in post, true. But you will still have usable audio.
if yo are worried about space, then you get about
Mounting the RODE Wireless Pro transmitter
Rode provides a full bag when it comes to mounting the transmitter on your body.
- You have the standard clip on the back of the transmitter, which you can attach to your shirt or jacket.
- You have a magnet and of course,
- You can mount the transmitter to your belt and use the included Lavalier mic.
I am personally having some trouble with both the magnet and the clip. The magnet (which is a piece of art) will not clip to the TX without adding a metal bracket to the clip. The metal bracket is not easy to add and not easy to remove. So, this one is down. I typically wear light cotton shirts, and the weight of the transmitter makes my collar look weird, so this is out as well. But, I absolutely love the Lav II and its included clip, so this is my go to mounting method. Who knows, if one day, I’ll start wearing suits, maybe the clip will work too.
The other minor annoyance with mounting the TX where you can see it, is the LED indicators. You can set them to bright or dim, but you can not set them off. OK, lav mic and belt it is. And I LOVE the new Lavalier II. (but just before jumping into the new Lav II mics, the TX unit can also accept other microphones like RODE’s NTG5, and it will provide power detection on them, so they will turn on as soon as they are plugged (and more importantly turn off when not in use to save battery).
The RODE Lavalier II microphone
The RODE Lavalier II is a great microphone. (I probably sound like a broken record, but check the audio samples below). It is not your standard round mic, but instead, it’s slightly squarish and has a flat form factor. Hey, even the cable is flat. It means that this mic is easier to conceal.
Personally, I like its sound a bit better than the previous lav. The only issue is that this Lav has a “side”, so you have to note to place it so the capsule faces the right direction. (Although to be honest, the audio was great, no matter how I placed it. And you can hear this in the samples below as well). I did see some reviews where they claimed that the mic rotates inside the clip, but I did not personally experience that. The new clip was easier for me to handle if anything.
The last thing worth mentioning is that Rode were generous with the packaging and provided two Lav mics in the kit – RODE Lavalier II (as opposed to one mic with the Wireless Go II). If you typically use both transmitters, that alone covers the price difference between the GO II and the PRO.
The RODE Wireless Pro Receiver
The Receiver typically “sits” with your camera, or sound kit and picks the signal from the two transmitter units. Or SURPRISE! You can also connect a microphone directly into the receiver for a total of three microphones.
The receiver has two control buttons, a Q button, and a two interfaces: a 3.5mm analog jack and a USB-C digital port. It also has an LCD, which serves both as a monitor and a menu system for control.
There is a set of fast presses and short presses to control almost all the aspects of both the receiver and the transmitter. In the end, the menu system and I got along, but I tell you, it took a bit of time.
As with most RODE microphones, you can select between three routing modes (actually five if you include the receiver mic):
- Merged, where the audio from both microphones is recorded to both channels
- Split, where each transmitter goes into a single left or right channel
- Safety, which is similar to Merged, but will record the second audio channel at 10db lower for safety.
If you are outputting to a camera, RODE central has a few presets that you can use. Sadly, not all popular cameras are there, I am not sure what was the criteria to be included, but once you load those presets into the receiver, it is very easy to nail your camera. (I ended up using the Sony A7S3 instead of my FX3 for this).
The receiver also has support for time code, but it is not relevant to my type of workflow, and I did not test it. But if you are looking for a microphone with a timecode feature, you should know that it’s there.
Lastly, the analog port on the receiver is a multi-port, it can output audio to your camera (or phone), to a headset, or take in another lavalier. You would need to configure the right usage for it via the menu.
RODE technology for gain control is called GainAssist, and its specific for each of the two microhones.
And you can select between three different types:
- Manual: This means that gainAssit is off, and you can manually select the gain from 0 to 30db in 1db increments.
- Auto: Auto GainAssist should be used for interview where your audio is less consistent.
- Dynamic: This one maintains a relavily balanced audio while keeping a more dynamic range. You should use for more controlled settings.
As always, if you are not sure, check the audio samples.
RODE Wireless Pro audio samples
Here is a complete round-up of tests with the RODE Wireless Pro. We tested a few things:
- Clipping (I could not hear any, even when shouting)
- Manual, auto, and dynamic gain (dynamic is my favorite)
- Lavalier positioning (seems not to affect the audio)
I am curious to hear your thoughts on this test.
RODE Wireless Pro Charger box
Rode released a charging box for the GO II back at NAB. It was a blessed addition to the kit to match up with other mic brands. It is a semi-soft case with three USB ports protruding up. You connect the female USB of the transmitter or receiver to the USB in the box. It is not as fancy as the magnetic connections that some of the brands have, but it does the job. My only caveat is that it’s very easy to confuse the receiver and transmitter in the box.
On the good side, you can connect a USB cable to the charging box, and your computer will recognize all three units for downloading files or updating firmware. (RODE, if you are hearing this, let us configure the file prefix for each of the receivers. It will make our lives so much easier).
The Charger case has the capacity of a small power bank (4,200mAh), and I estimate it can top off the set about twice. (a single charge will run you seven hours).
RODE Wireless Pro control and RODE central
95% of the control you can do from the transmitter. But still, for some “core” functions, you would need either a laptop or a smartphone with RODE central installed.
The most obvious usage for RODE central is a firmware update. I needed to update my set when I opened the box, and it was an incredibly smooth process. The only thing to remember is that you need to update all units in one sitting. They need to be on the same firmware version to operate.
You would also need Rode Central (the PC version) to add camera presets to your receiver unit. This is understandable, as you don’t want to scroll through a gazillion presets if you only have two cameras.
Another setting that you will only find on RODE Central is button assignment (things like mute/record).
The one setting I would love to see moving to the transmitter unit is LED brightness, along with the ability to shut them off completely.
In the box
This time, Rode included everything but the kitchen sink in the package, and I mean this in the most positive way possible. Everything from the TX/RX units but also cables for Android, camera, and iPhone, a nice thick charging cable, color clips, and windshields for both the lavs and the TX units. Whatever your kit is, the package gets you covered.
A quick pricing breakdown
Interestingly, if you do a full price breakdown, the RODE Wireless GO II is $300 for no lavs. +$100 each for 2x Lavalier II (the one that replaces your $250 Lavalier Pro in the old wireless filmmaker kit you used to use).
Wireless G0 Pro is $300, including 2x Lavalier II. So, as a full it it’s actually $100 cheaper
The Rode Wireless Pro is RODE’s most ambitious kit yet. It feels like they really took in the feedback from previous kits and packed an incredible amount of value into this kit. It is not the cheapest in the wireless lav category, but between the radio quality, the built-in 32-bit float recording, and the complete package, this is a kit worth going for even if you need to stretch your budget.
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