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Rode X XDM-100 review: The best USB microphone I've used

Rode's experience with creating pro-grade audio equipment combines with the ease of USB-based audio to create a standout entry in the Rode X debut lineup that sounds good enough for the pickiest streamer or podcaster.
Written by Michael Gariffo, Staff Writer on
Pros
  • Rich, broadcast-quality sound
  • Included shock mount and wind screen are excellent
  • Tank-like build quality
Cons
  • Should've come with a USB-A to USB-C cable
  • On-device knob is a bit hard to turn
  • Status LED makes replacement wind screens problematic

Rode's growing reputation in the consumer space has been primarily built around XLR-based audio equipment, like the budget-friendly Pod Mic or the still-affordable Procaster microphone

Many people see analog and XLR as the way to go for the best audio fidelity, widest flexibility, and most professional sound. 

Meanwhile, USB microphones are often seen as the easy way out, providing simple, cheap connectivity at the cost of quality. 

The XDM-100 does a great job of demolishing these preconceptions.

To be clear, the launch of its gaming-focused sub-brand, Rode X (which this microphone is part of alongside its great sibling, the Rode X XCM-50), marks a new beginning for Rode, where it attempts to marry its reputation for excellent sound with the ease and cost savings of relying on USB instead of XLR. Convincing consumers that such a thing is possible is not an insignificant task. 

Also: The best streaming mics: Start that podcast or Twitch channel 

Thankfully, for Rode and budget-conscious gamers and streamers, the combination of these two new microphones with the new Rode X Unify software (free with each Rode X purchase) produces some of the most impressive sound I've heard from USB-based devices, and two of the simplest ways to produce audio that even big-name streamers should be pleased with.

Specifications

Type Dynamic
Pickup Pattern End-address cardioid
Frequency range 20Hz - 20kHz
Connectivity USB-C
Monitoring Zero-latency 3.5mm analog headphone output
Bit depth 24 bit
OS compatibility  Windows 10 or later, MacOS 10.12 or later
Included accessories Pop shield, shock mount, headphone cable, USB-C to USB-C cable
Size and weight 52W x 52D x 213H millimeters, 700g

Demo video

I've recorded a mic test that includes both the XDM-100 and the smaller XCM-50. If you're just interested in the XDM-100, you can skip to 1:51 to hear that in action. But, I'd recommend watching all the way through to get an idea of the sound differences between the two models, and of the capabilities of the Rode X Unify software that will be your main way of tweaking that sound. 

Build and performance

Rode X XDM-100's front and back

The included wind screen has a tiny, translucent pass-through for the mic's indicator LED.   

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

Physically, the XDM-100 closely resembles the Rode Procaster mentioned above, but adds some flare with its black coloration and red accents. While this gives the device enough flash to be a recognizable as a gaming product, the red is also tasteful enough that it would also look right at home on pro photography gear.   

The grille of the Rode X XDM-100

It's almost a shame to use the included windscreen when the grille looks this nice.  

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

The XDM-100 features the same exceptional build quality as its sibling. It is, however, a much larger device with a 700g mass. You'll want a sturdy boom arm to keep this big boy in place. Rode includes a shock mount to help you in that endeavor.  

Review: Shure MV7 review: An 'almost perfect' hybrid mic for podcasters and streamers

The wind screen and shock mount included with the Rode X XDM-100

The inclusion of a bespoke wind screen and shock mount significantly adds to the value of that $250 price point.  

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

Even at $250, the XDM-100 still felt like a great value as I first set it up. The included accessories meant I didn't have to spend extra for a third-party mount or filter, while the USB connectivity eliminated the need for extra audio devices. The mic is about as plug-and-play as you can get, and still extremely versatile thanks to the Unify companion software I demonstrated in the video above. 

The Rode X XDM-100's USB-C port

The one and only connection the XDM-100 really needs to function.  

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

Of course, the convenience of USB-C connectivity and Unify wouldn't matter if the fidelity of the mic itself faltered. Thankfully, it was startlingly good. I doubt I'd guess this was a USB-based solution in a blind listening test. There's none of the aforementioned compression that dampens the quality of most all-digital sound. The audio produced is rich, full, and among the best of any microphones I've tested, not just the USB models. 

The cables included with both the Rode X XCM-50 and XDM-100

The XDM-100 comes with a USB-C to USB-C cable and a headphone extender cable for monitoring.  

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

I must emphasize how impressive this is for $250. That price will get you everything you need for audio aside from a boom arm. Many of the XLR microphones I've tested for ZDNET start from $350 to $400 for just the microphone, without a shock mount, pop filter, or required interface and mixer. For $250, this model gets you extremely close to some of the best audio capture I've ever experienced. That's a huge accomplishment for a debut product from an entirely new line.   

Bottom line 

Rode X's XCM-50 and XDM-100 microphone's size comparison

The XDM-100 next to its smaller XCM-50 launch partner.

Michael Gariffo/ZDNET

As I mentioned at the top of the review, the XDM-100 is a final nail in the coffin of the idea that USB audio has to sound like everyone's negative idea of what USB audio sounds like. I've tested XLR microphones that would be put to shame by the output of this model, while still requiring the additional help of a USB interface or mixer just to produce that inferior sound. 

Also: Logitech aims adjustable key light and premium mic at streamers, podcasters

Is it possible to produce better sound than the XDM-100 can provide if you do opt for XLR? Of course, but you need to consider that you're looking at anywhere from $100 to several hundreds of dollars of additional setup costs. And that's assuming your XLR mic itself isn't more expensive, and also that it comes with the pop filter and shock mount, like the ones supplied with the XDM-100. 

Simply put, anyone short of professional vocalists and big-budget podcasters should be entirely content with the audio quality of the XDM-100. Rode proved that it "gets" gamers with the launch of this new Rode X line by showing it can make pro-grade equipment that's easy to use, without sacrificing quality or looking down on its intended audience.

Alternatives to consider 

The original go-to for good quality, USB-based audio has stuck around for a reason. The Blue Yeti from Logitech is a solid-sounding mic that provides all you really need to get started on your audio journey. Don't let the cheaper price fool you, it's on par with the XDM-100 for weight and size, meaning you'll need an equally beefy boom arm if you don't plan to use its included stand.

The Rode Procaster is the XDM-100's XLR-based cousin. It provides a similar sound profile for slightly lessbut will require you to provide a USB-interface, mixer, or other XLR-based recording device. It's a great buy if you already have the other hardware components you'll need, or if you're determined to stick with analog-only sound.

Review: Rode Procaster review: Broadcast-quality microphone for under $200

HyperX is a brand most gamers should already know. Its QuadCast S microphone is unabashedly "gamery," including a full-on light show's worth of dancing RGB LEDs within its body to ensure your viewers always have something interesting to look at, even if you've run off for a bio break.

Review: HyperX QuadCast S review: Add some flair to your streaming setup

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