Tom's Hardware Verdict
The PodMic USB features dual connectivity and updated internals, but it’s also twice the price of its predecessor — which changes the mic’s target audience.
USB-C or XLR connection
Looks great and feels sturdy
Included pop filter
No on-mic controls
Can’t use XLR and USB at the same time
Requires stand (not included)
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Rode has upgraded its popular PodMic with the almost identical (albeit, different-colored) Rode PodMic USB. The PodMic USB adds an internal DSP and, as its name implies, USB-C connectivity — alongside the existing XLR connectivity. Like the Rode NT1 5th Generation, which came out earlier this year, the PodMic USB has dual connectivity — expanding not only its functionality and user base, but also its price.
The original PodMic has been a podcasting staple since it debuted in 2018, and it's not difficult to see why. The end-address dynamic XLR mic is built like a tank, tuned for vocals and podcasting, and is surprisingly affordable at just $99 — perfect for anyone looking to improve their audio setup on a budget. The new PodMic USB adds USB connectivity and the requisite internal DSP, which means you no longer need to go through an audio interface — which can be somewhat daunting if you're looking to upgrade your gaming or streaming mic — to connect to a PC, tablet, or phone.
USB connectivity means the PodMic USB is a great option if you think you might want to upgrade your audio in the future, or if you're just looking for something versatile that you can use in both the studio and on the go. But that extra functionality will cost you twice as much: the new PodMic USB is $199, which is not nearly as budget-friendly as $99.
Design of the PodMic USB
The PodMic USB comes in a very pretty matte black finish and it looks fantastic — this is one of my favorite microphones, aesthetically. It’s almost identical to the original PodMic, except it has an all-black finish (versus the original PodMic’s black-and-silver finish). I think both microphones look good, but if I had to choose I’d probably go for the new all-black finish — it just looks so professional.
The PodMic USB feels very sturdy and well-made: a hefty weight of 1.9 pounds (900g) makes this microphone feel like it could be used as a small weapon. It measures 4.8 inches (123mm) long by 4.3 inches (110mm) wide, and is 4.2 inches (109mm) high, including the integrated swing mount.
The microphone comes with a great-looking windshield/pop filter made of foam and silicone, which keeps with the overall aesthetic and looks much better than the standard puffball pop filter. The only other item in the box is a 9.8-foot (3m) USB-C to USB-C cable for connecting the microphone to your PC. The mic also connects via XLR, but you’ll need to purchase an XLR cable separately.
The PodMic USB also has the original PodMic’s integrated swing mount design, which is fantastic for positioning the microphone to your liking. However, you will need to find or buy a stand or a boom arm separately for this mic, as there’s no stand included.
|Frequency Response||20Hz - 20,000Hz|
|Connectivity||USB-C to USB-C or 3-pin XLR|
|Cable Length||3 Meters|
|Software||Rode Central, Rode Connect, Rode Unify|
|Dimensions (L x W x H) Inc. bracket||4.8 x 4.3 x 4.2 inches / 123 x 110 x 109mm|
|Weight||1.9lbs / 900g|
|MSRP||$199 / £199|
Audio Quality of the PodMic USB
The PodMic USB may look practically identical to its predecessor, but it's only the exterior that's similar. Inside the PodMic USB, Rode has overhauled the hardware and added extra (USB-C) connectivity — which makes it easier to use this mic in a variety of different situations, for either podcasting, streaming, or small studio setups.
The most noticeable difference is the inclusion of a USB-C connection alongside the traditional XLR output. With the XLR output, the PodMic USB needs a traditional 3-pin XLR interface to connect to or a mixer, but with the USB-C connection opens up the option of connecting straight to a computer — or even a smartphone or tablet, for compact recording setups.
The PodMic USB is an end-address microphone with a cardioid polar pattern. This means you need to speak into the end of the microphone and be relatively close to it in order to be heard. The end address orientation means it does a good job of separating out background noise, and the PodMic USB is a good choice if you're in an untreated room and don't want to worry about echo or background noise (such as typing sounds).
I found the PodMic USB to be very quiet at first — it performed better out-of-the-box over the USB-C connection (thanks to the ability to add a little extra gain to boost pickup). When testing via XLR I connected the PodMic USB to a mixing desk with a powerful pre-amp that helped to drive the microphone. The sound quality was nice and warm with a good balance between not having too much bottom and also not going too much toward the high end. I do prefer a little more bottom in my mics for either streaming or chatting on Discord, and I was able to easily play with the DSP settings to achieve the sound I liked on Rode Central when connected via USB-C.
While recording and testing, I was pleasantly surprised at how well the internal pop filter and shock mount in the Rode PodMic USB were able to reduce plosives and knock sounds from the boom arm being bashed by my clumsy appendages swinging about the desk. Plosives were pretty much non-existent right off the bat, and were a thing of the past when using the included silicon and foam windshield and tweaking the DSP. I was very impressed with how clean the recordings came out, and I received multiple comments from friends on Discord about how nice my voice sounded over the PodMic USB.
Features and Software of the PodMic USB
Rode incorporates its Revolution Preamp and APHEX DSP (digital sound processing) technology into the PodMic USB, and this really transforms the PodMic USB into an even better microphone for things like quick-setup podcasts and interviews. You can use the company’s Rode Central software to configure the onboard APHEX DSP, where you can alter a wide range of processing dials including high-pass filters, noise gates, compressors, gain, and top- and bottom-end filters. This lets you tweak the sound to your liking whether you’re recording or live-streaming.
There are no on-mic controls for configuring the DSP settings, but Rode has several software programs that give you varying degrees of control: Rode Central, Rode Connect, and Rode Unify. You’ll need to be connected to a PC via USB-C to access these software-based settings, but they’re saved to the hardware once configured.
The PodMic USB does have one on-mic control: a volume dial for adjusting the volume of the microphone’s zero latency 3.5mm headphone monitoring output. This dial’s functionality depends on how the microphone is connected. When the mic is connected via USB-C and you’re using the Rode Connect or Rode Unify software, you can press the dial inward to mute the mic. However, if you aren’t using the software and/or are connected via XLR, pressing the dial does nothing.
There are some quirks with the dual connectivity of this microphone — they aren’t breaking faults, just slight annoyances. Basically, the XLR output will not work while the USB-C cable is connected. Now, I can see why this is a thing, but it would be nice to be able to have both cables connected and be able to switch sources for the output. This is more of a personal preference, however, and doesn't really impede the functionality of the PodMic USB.
The Rode PodMic USB not only adds USB-C connectivity alongside the XLR industry standard, it also adds internal hardware updates like Rode’s Revolution Preamp technology and APHEX DSP for excellent sound configuration options.
I love that any settings you make via Rode Connect over USB-C are saved directly to the microphone — so that you can take the PodMic USB with you without worrying about setting up the EQ for the mic every time you record.
However, I’m not a fan of having almost zero controls on the microphone itself — there are no dials for gain or any of the DSP settings. The only dial on the PodMic USB is for the volume control for the headset port, and everything else has to be adjusted via software on a PC/Mac or through a mixer.
The PodMic USB is a quality microphone with great sound, although I used the EQ to get my overall desired effect. The raw mic quality is still good, it just lacks a little bottom-end (but, also, sound is subjective). The PodMic USB is $199, which is twice the price of the original PodMic ($99), but still half the price of a microphone like the Shure SM7B ($399) — and you get a highly versatile, quality-sounding microphone for that money.
Stewart Bendle is a deals writer at Tom's Hardware. A firm believer in “Bang for the buck” Stewart likes to research the best prices for hardware and build PCs that have a great price for performance ratio.