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It seems like everyone and their family members have a podcast these days. While I won't get into all of the reasons why not everyone should, I will say that one of the most important factors in the success of your audio content is good-quality sound. No matter how artistic, groundbreaking, or thrilling your audio content is, no one will listen if you sound like you're talking into a tin can with a string on the bottom.
You might think this makes for a high price of entry for getting started with podcasting. While there are cheaper options, the Rode Procaster microphone hits an excellent sweet spot in that cost of entry.
It provides exceptional audio fidelity that shines with simple equipment and has both the build quality and technical specifications to grow with you as you expand your audio content empire. Let's take a look at one of the best ways to get into high-quality audio production for under $200.
End address cardioid
75Hz - 18kHz
-56.0dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (1.60mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz
Carry bag, ring mount for arms and stands, XLR gasket ring
214mm (H) x 53mm (W) x 53mm (D) or 8.43in (H) x 2.09in (W) x 2.09in (D)
745 g or 26.28 oz
Build and features
One of the many hobbies I partake in when not professionally fiddling with electronics for ZDNET is woodworking. Any woodworker that's been at it for a little while can tell you whether a tool you hand them was made for hobbyists or professionals. There's a stark difference in feel. The pro tools have a density to them, and rigid, precisely fitting joints. They immediately seem to communicate that, as long as you care for it, this tool will last you a lifetime. I went off on this little tangent because that's exactly what the Rode Procaster feels like in hand.
The all-metal construction is heavy, sturdy, and confidence-inspiring. In a high-speed collision between this microphone and a brick wall (Disclaimer: Do not test this at home), I'd expect the mic to win.
That same level of precise and sturdy construction applies to the mic's two connection points. The threaded portion at the bottom can either be connected to the included ring mount using the bundled silver nut, or it can be threaded directly into a compatible shock mount like the Rode PSM1 I used during my testing. The XLR connector located on the bottom is also precision-machined, providing a solid, jiggle-free connection with both Rode's XLR cables and other third-party cables I tried.
From end to end, this feels like a professional device that would be entirely in a high-end recording studio.
In the box with the Rode Procaster you'll find a zip-up carry bag, Rode's RM2 ring mount (used with the pre-mounted round silver nut), and a small blue gasket for tightening up loose-fitting XLR cables. The RM2 mount was sturdy enough to keep the mic in place, but I'd recommend investing in a shock mount if your budget can support it. Not only does this make an already impressive-looking mic look like it'd be right at home on NPR, but it also dampens unwanted vibrations that can travel up your mounting solution and into the mic.
I should note that the Procaster's built-in dampening measures made it more resistant to such things than most, but I still noticed an improved resistance to ambient vibrations while using a shock mount.
Aside from the PSM1 shock mount, the only other optional accessory I tested was Rode's WS2 windshield. While the mic has an internal pop filter to prevent crackles and plosives (unpleasantly loud "P" sounds, essentially), you can still add a windscreen like this one if you tend to breathe into your mic a lot. I found that, with a bare minimum of careful positioning, it wasn't really necessary. Your experience may differ.
One last note I'll mention, you'll want a sturdy boom arm for this mic. It doesn't have to cost a fortune, however. I tested this with both the $99 Rode PSA1+ arm that the company sent along, and a $45 Samson boom arm. Both supported the mic just fine and stood where I put them. However, the Rode model was considerably smoother and more easily adjustable. That said, any good-quality boom arm that's rated for the 745g mass should serve you well.
As usual, the best way for you to understand the quality of the sound produced by a microphone is to hear it yourself. Below is a video I recorded using a setup designed to offer the purest, most unaltered impression of the Procaster's sound. Take a listen and judge for yourself...
For me, the sound quality is up there with some of the most expensive XLR models I've tested, including mics that cost far more. There was never any unwanted background noise, hiss, or crackle, even without a windscreen. The quality of the sound is on the warmer end, giving it a broadcaster quality that many other manufacturers attempt to emulate via software post-processing. Some of them manage a passable replica, nothing matches the genuine quality of clear, warm sound coming right out of the hardware.
I'd feel comfortable using the Procaster for any level of game streaming, video production, vocal music, or, of course, as a podcasting microphone.
Rode's Procaster is a meat-and-potatoes sort of microphone. It does its job and does it very well, with no unnecessary frills adding to its cost. All effort that went into designing this microphone was clearly about improving the audio and build quality, not making it flashy to look at. And that's exactly what I'd want in a professional setting.
The Procaster will require some beefy support and a USB interface or mixer that can handle its power needs. But none of these things need to break the bank if you're just starting out. It works great with even budget-friendly interfaces and arms. Better yet, it will grow with you, transitioning from something as inexpensive as the $75 USB interface I used in my testing to far more complex mixing setups and companion equipment.
Sure, you can get cheaper models. But, just like those professional woodworking tools I mentioned at the top, you can spend a little more instead and get something that will be with you for years to come.
If you want similar (if not quite identical) levels of quality from Rode in a smaller, cheaper package, the company's Podmic is designed to work well without an external shock mount and could be a great option for those on tighter budgets.
Also around $100 is Audio Technica's AT2020, a mic that's been around a while but still provides exceptional clarity and fidelity. Its sound profile is also slightly colder and more analytical than the warmer Procaster, which some might prefer.
If you really want to go all in, Shure's SM7B is a microphone you've likely seen in front of several big-time podcasters and YouTubers. It's got a cult following but comes in at over twice the price of the Procaster.