Rode recently released their new Rode VideoMic GO II, replacing the VideoMic GO in their lineup. But this isn’t simply an update, it’s a complete overhaul, redesigned from the ground up. So, it presents a pretty major upgrade over its predecessor that inherits a number of features from its more expensive big brother the Rode VideoMic NTG, including the new holey design as well as USB connectivity.
I’ve been using one for a little while now and have done some tests and comparisons on the camera and when it’s plugged into a computer as a digital USB audio device. I’ve also done tests with and without the windshield to see how well it stands up to the breezy weather we’ve been having recently in Scotland.
There’s not much in the box that the VideoMic GO II comes in. there’s the microphone itself with the foam windshield, a shock mount to fix it atop your camera via the hotshoe and a 3.5mm TRS to TRS cable to send the signal out from your microphone and into your camera.
Like the Rode VideoMic NTG, the VideoMic GO II has handy markers printed onto the microphone itself to let you quickly and easily adjust the arms of the shock mount exactly where they need to be. This prevents them from being too close together or too far apart, optimising microphone placement for maximum effect.
As soon as you pull that foam windshield off the microphone, its resemblance to the design of the Rode NTG5 and VideoMic NTG becomes quite obvious. The only real difference is the length and lack of buttons compared to the VideoMic NTG.
Also different from the VideoMic NTG is the fact that there’s no battery inside this one. It relies on plug-in power, supplied by your camera’s microphone socket. But like the VideoMic NTG, the VideoMic GO II features a USB socket for when you want to use it as a digital audio device plugged straight into your computer or smartphone.
When it’s plugged into your computer, it can get much more power than it can from your camera’s microphone socket. This powers not only the USB digital audio interface but also provides you with many of the VideoMic NTG’s features that you can tweak through the Rode Central app. And when you’re using it as a USB mic, the output port becomes a headphone monitor.
Mounting it to the camera is as simple and straightforward as mounting pretty much any other on-camera shotgun microphone Rode makes and the supplied cable is just the right length to go from the audio output socket on your microphone to the audio input socket on your camera.
How does it sound on the camera?
In the video at the top of this review, there are several comparisons between the Rode VideoMic GO II alongside the Rode VideoMic NTG and the crowd favourite Rode VideoMicro. They were recorded simultaneously using three Panasonic G80 cameras (that’s the G85 for you folks in the USA), with the audio settings on each set identically.
I hadn’t listened to all three microphones side-by-side until I was editing that footage, but while I was editing, the VideoMic GO II sounded very impressive – bearing in mind, that each of these microphones was recorded straight into the camera and Panasonic isn’t famous for its great preamps.
It’s probably worth pointing out at this point that it’s only when you hear the three side-by-side that you realise just how noisy the Rode VideoMicro can make your audio on certain cameras. Given that the Rode VideoMicro was often favoured by many (including me) over the original Rode VideoMic GO, the VideoMic GO II is a whole new level of quality, almost matching the VideoMic NTG.
It’s not that surprising, though. The microphones themselves, each put out different audio levels over 3.5mm TRS. The VideoMicro is the quietest and the VideoMic NTG is the loudest with the VideoMic GO II sitting somewhere in between but leaning closer to the VideoMic NTG. The VideoMic NTG is mostly only the winner here because it has that built-in dial that lets you boost the gain by up to 15dB for a much stronger signal to noise ratio and doesn’t really need any boost in post.
The VideoMicro, on the other hand, has a relatively weak signal and the microphone design and capsule isn’t as efficient nor as new tech as the others. This means that when it gets boosted up to match them, so does the camera’s preamp noise. Running noise reduction on audio from the VideoMicro (and the original VideoMic GO II) was pretty standard before I switched to the VideoMic NTG – now I rarely have to do any kind of noise reduction in post.
If you’re only using it for a sync track to match up with externally recorded audio in post, then the potential hiss isn’t an issue anyway, but if you’re a vlogger, regularly pointing the camera back at yourself and using the on-camera microphone as the main audio source for your video, it most definitely does!
Fortunately, it seems that the Rode VideoMic GO II doesn’t really need any noise reduction for the most part – that will depend on just how bad your camera’s preamps may be, though. I’ve applied none at all in the video above to the three microphones being compared and even on Sennheiser HD25 studio headphones, I couldn’t hear any noise that was distracting or really all that noticeable at all.
The VideoMic GO II is definitely much closer in sound and performance to the VideoMic NTG than it is to the VideoMicro, and you can hear it, for sure. They’re don’t quite sound identical, though.
While the VideoMic GO II records a very respectable sound, the VideoMic NTG offers a little bit more presence to the voice (even without the built-in presence boost being enabled). At least on-camera through the TRS output.
The fluffy windshield
The Rode WS12 Deluxe Windshield does not come supplied with the Rode VideoMic GO II. All that comes with it is the foam one and this is an optional extra. But to me, if you’re planning on taking a shotgun mic like this outdoors (and who isn’t if you’re vlogging with it on top of your camera?) then there’s nothing optional about it. It’s a must-have and you should definitely buy it. It does add $30 to the cost of the microphone, but it’s worth it.
As you can hear in the video above, though, there really isn’t much difference at all between using the microphone “naked” or using it with the WS12 Deluxe Windshield, so you’re not going to take the hit in audio quality that you often do with windshields.
And the good news is that it actually works. While I didn’t include any outdoor tests in the video, I did briefly take it outside during a bit of a light wind in order to see how it did. Without the windshield, clipping from the wind noise was very apparent making speech unintelligible when it picked up. With the windshield, I didn’t hear a peep from the wind and my voice was clearly able to be heard.
How does it sound over USB?
This is where things get quite interesting. Because now the VideoMic GO II gets much more power available to it over that USB cable and as a result gains a number of features found in the VideoMic NTG through its external buttons.
When you’re using the microphone as a digital USB audio device, the 3.5mm TRS output becomes a headphone monitoring socket, letting you listen in on your recording. If you end up grabbing multiple VideoMic GO II microphones for recording multiple people simultaneously, like a podcast, this lets everybody listen in on headphones to their own microphone to make sure they’re positioned where they’re supposed to be in front of it.
For this test, I plugged both microphones into the Type-A USB sockets of my laptop and recorded the audio in Rode Connect. This allowed me to record both microphones to separate channels and have separate files for each. I did attempt to record in Adobe Audition, but it only has access to either a single microphone at once or the stereo mix of both microphones combined. There doesn’t currently seem to be a way to record both microphones simultaneously in Audition to separate channels.
Note: You could potentially get around this limitation (at least on Windows) by using the ASIO4ALL driver. Whether or not you’d still be able to adjust the settings of the microphone while recording when using it I don’t know, as it isn’t a setup I tested. Hypothetically, though, it should work. I use the ASIO4ALL driver on my desktop when using the VideoMic NTG plugged into the USB alongside my Behringer U-PHORIA UMC404HD USB audio interface so that Adobe Audition can access both USB devices simultaneously and it works great. In that instance, though, I don’t need access to the Rode software with the VideoMic NTG as it has the buttons.
The Rode Connect software also allows you to adjust extra features that are also found on the VideoMic NTG through its button interface. You can enable the high pass filter to eliminate low-frequency rumble and turn on the HF Boost to give your voice a bit more presence. You can also adjust the input level and turn on the pad if it’s a little loud. You can also adjust the headphone output volume – which you may want to do, depending on the headphones you’re using.
Side note: You can also enable and disable these features on the VideoMic NTG through the Rode Connect interface, too, so that you don’t have to hit buttons and risk bumping your mic mid-record (or mid-stream, if you’re a streamer).
As to the actual sound quality, it’s very similar to the Rode VideoMic NTG, especially once you turn on that HF boost to give your voice a little more presence and richness. Typically, with the VideoMic NTG, I don’t turn on the presence boost, but with the VideoMic GO II, it sounds very good and gives it just that little bit of extra oomph.
With a price tag of only $99, the Rode VideoMic GO II is a fantastic little microphone. It’s certainly better than the Rode VideoMicro which means it’s also definitely better than its original VideoMic GO predecessor. Is it as good as the Rode VideoMic NTG? Well, no, but that’s a $250 microphone, so you can’t really expect it to be. The VideoMic NTG offers advantages that the VideoMic GO II can’t, simply because it has a built-in battery. They’re very close when used over USB, though.
If you’re a vlogger who doesn’t need all the bells and whistles of the VideoMic NTG (although you do still get some of them when using it as a USB audio device), you’ve only got one camera to worry about and you’re trying to limit the budget, the Rode VideoMic GO II is almost certainly the microphone you should go for. Even if you’re not using the on-camera audio in your final edit but just want something better quality than the built-in mics for easier syncing in post, the VideoMic GO II is a fantastic and inexpensive option for that.
If you want the absolute best Rode has to offer on top of your camera, then go for the VideoMic NTG. But be warned, diminishing returns is a very real thing. You’re spending a lot more money for relatively little extra gain in audio quality that 99% of your audience probably wouldn’t even notice. But, it is objectively a better microphone and has some distinct advantages when used on-camera, so the VideoMic NTG is still worth getting if you can justify the cost. And if you can justify a little more, I’d still get one of these to keep handy as a backup in your bag, just in case.
For computer use with Zoom, Skype, etc. or for recording voiceovers at the computer, with the extra features afforded by the Rode Central/Connect apps, then the VideoMic GO II easily holds its own against the VideoMic NTG. In fact, if this is all you’re using it for, I’d argue that the VideoMic GO II is possibly the better option. As mentioned above, though, it would be nice if you could use multiple Rode USB microphones simultaneously and be able to access and record them individually across multiple tracks in applications like Adobe Audition.
Overall, there’s not much to dislike about this microphone, especially for what it costs. The one multi-device driver issue does have a 3rd party workaround, so even that’s a minor thing. It easily holds its own against similarly priced microphones, beats pretty much all of the less expensive microphones and punches very much above its weight in some respects (like when it’s connected to a computer or smartphone).
The Rode VideoMic GO II is available to buy now for $99. The Rode SC16 Type-C to Type-C USB and SC18 Type-C to Type-A USB cables are available to buy now for $15 each. The Rode SC15 Type-C USB to Lightning cable is available to buy now for $25 and Rode WS12 Deluxe Windshield for the VideoMic GO II is available to buy now for $29.