A Budget Microphone with a Flagship Feel
The Rode VideoMic Go II is a sub-$100 microphone much better than the original, with bonus features perfect for creators on a budget.
When I purchased my first mirrorless, it came bundled with a Rode VideoMic Go. The original budget shotgun microphone from Rode seemed like a great addition. It saved me from purchasing a lesser microphone from an unknown brand.
After all, Rode is known for its high-end microphones and attention to quality sound, but I was proved wrong.
Unfortunately, as I have written previously, the Rode VideoMic Go turned out to be a terrible microphone, which suffered from static so heavy it made any audio unusable. And I wasn’t alone. Other accounts online made similar claims.
With audio for several videos ruined, I looked to the Deity V-Mic D4 Duo, a less expensive option with unique features.
So I was surprised when the Rode VideoMic Go II was announced, thinking it would be the same old song. However, I was once again wrong. After testing the VideoMic Go II for the past few months—the microphone was provided to me by Rode—its stable performance, crisp sound, and additional functions have all but made up for the sins of the previous iteration.
Better the Second Time Around
The fact that the VideoMic Go II works and doesn’t produce static in recordings is reason enough to be impressed. Admittedly, that’s a pretty low bar set by the original Go, but the Go II isn’t a rote product update.
For starters, the Go II is much smaller than the original, almost by half. The pop filter also doesn’t cover up the entirety of the microphone like the original, and it’s easier to change out filters than before.
The shock mount is another upgrade, and I did notice when walking around for a vlog that I didn’t pick up on any harsh vibrations. Rode further improved the shock mount with multiple grooves for cable management.
While the small quality-of-life improvements are always welcome, how it performs matters most and doesn’t disappoint. The VideoMic Go II uses the same tube shape as Rode’s high-end NTG and NTG5 microphones, which Rode refers to as “annular line tube technology.”
Inside the tube, Rode has wholly retooled the microphone from its predecessor. As a result, the Go II has a broader frequency range, meaning it can capture higher and lower-frequency sounds than the original. The Go II also has a better dynamic range than the first, allowing it to capture quieter and louder sounds.
Solving the Internal Noise Issue
Most importantly, the VideoMic Go II also has less self-noise, so it’s less likely to act up and introduce unwanted noise.
Compared to the original Go’s self-noise rating of 34dBa, the Go II’s 15dBa is a significant improvement, which is about as low as you can expect from a small diaphragm microphone.
To put this into context, anything below 10 dBa is considered studio worthy. Between 10-16dBA is still regarded as good enough for the studio, though it may need a little help in the post. Meanwhile, anything above 25dBa is considered extremely noisy and therefore unusable.
So, the original VideoMic Go’s 34dBa is quite appalling and probably explains, at least partly, my issues with the microphone.
Supercardioid Polar Pattern
With all that being said, what you get with all these improvements is a smaller microphone capable of capturing clearer audio and less noise. The microphone sounds excellent, especially when you consider the size and price. The Go II is a shotgun microphone with a supercardioid polar pattern. It’s amazing at picking up audio from a single direction and playing down audio from behind or on the sides.
I got to experience this on a windy Saturday at the Garden of the Gods. With the park full for the weekend, it was noisy, but the microphone only captured my voice when vlogging. Paired with the wind sock—unfortunately sold separately—the wind barely registered as a nuisance.
I also noticed my voice sounded clearer and more full-bodied than I expected from the relatively small microphone. That’s due to the improvements under the hood.
In other testing scenarios, the Go II surpassed my expectations. In a video I recorded, I tested the Go II side-by-side with the Rode PodMic, an XLR microphone that requires an audio interface. Compared to the pricer XLR setup, the Go II lacked the robustness of the PodMic, and it sounded quieter, too.
Don’t get me wrong, the audio from the Go II wasn’t unusable by any means; it just won’t replace an XLR microphone. But I wasn’t expecting it to. If anything, the Go II was a solid backup microphone that I wouldn’t hesitate to use.
However, as good as the microphone is connected to a camera, that barely scratches the surfaces of what it’s capable of. The VideoMic Go II is an even better microphone when hooked to a phone or computer.
USB Capability of the Video Mic Go II
I would have been okay if the VideoMic Go II was a shotgun microphone for DSLRs and mirrorless cameras, but I was excited to find out it did more. With the addition of a USB-C port, the VideoMic can plug into iOS, Android, Windows, and macOS devices as a USB microphone.
That wouldn’t be such a massive deal if Rode had not made various software for each platform, unlocking the microphone’s capabilities. Installing and connecting to the various pieces of software allow you to do all of this:
- Adjust gain
- Toggle the high-pass filter (75HZ or 150HZ) to remove unwanted noise
- Turn on the high-frequency boost to make up for using the wind sock
- Activate a -20 input pad to reduce the volume of loud sounds
- Monitor audio via a 3.5mm port
- Monitor peaking via the LED
- Update firmware
RODE Reporter & RODE Central
The apps are entirely free to download and use. The Rode Reporter app gives phone users access to all these features, but you have to record using the app to use the features.
If you want to use your phone’s camera or recorder apps, you need to download Rode Central, which is also available for iOS and Android, and Windows and macOS computers.
Rode central is the better of the two, especially if you create video content with your phone. Using the app will make your TikTok and YouTube videos sound better.
Not only that, but you’ll be able to do two more things that are unavailable to camera users. When connected to a phone via the USB-C port, the VideoMic Go II’s audio port can be used to monitor audio with a pair of headphones, so you’ll know what you sound like as you record and not after.
But, if you forgot your headphones or didn’t want to use them, the tiny LED by the USB-C port will flash red when your levels are peaking, warning you to reduce the gain.
For desktop users, whether it’s a Windows PC or a Macbook, there’s Rode Connect. This software does all the things listed above and more. Rode Connect is made for podcasting and live-streaming, with a slick UI. From here, you can connect, monitor, and record with up to four compatible Rode microphones.
You can also pipe in and monitor external audio sources such as the system audio, OBS, and videoconferencing software.
So, if, for example, you’re recording a podcast with a guest via Zoom, you can patch in the audio from Zoom to Rode Connect to record the conversion. For livestreaming, you can use Rode Connect to manage your microphone and other audio sources. Though OBS has similar tools, it’s easier to apply effects to your audio via Rode Connect.
In addition to all the features listed above, Rode Connect also has a compressor, which balances the microphone’s dynamic range and makes your voice sound clearer, and a very effective noise gate that can eliminate noise.
Also included are two audio processors used in the RodeCaster Pro: APHEX Aural Exciter and APHEX Big Bottom. The former adds clarity and brightness to recordings, while the latter gives your voice a richer sound. Plus, they can be used simultaneously.
The Budget King
The new Rode VideoMic Go II is an entirely different product. Unlike the original, the new VideoMic Go II is well-built and reliable. It delivers crisp audio at a distance, and the low self-noise ensures you’ll have clean, usable audio when you reach the editing bay.
But what cemented the Rode VideoMic Go II as a must-have accessory was the ability to use it with my computer or phone, which unlocked additional features.
While it’s a shame you don’t have access to a high-pass filter or gain control when pairing the microphone with a camera, it’s incredible Rode even added those features to a budget microphone. If you want a microphone with these features when using it with a camera, Rode’s higher-end microphones, like the VideoMic NTG, maybe a better, albeit more expensive, choice.
Though there are more affordable microphones than the VideoMic Go II, none offer the same functionality via custom software as Rode’s microphone. The versatility of this microphone easily justifies the price, especially if you’re looking for a one-size-fits-all solution. Everything from the smaller design, new internal components, and added functionality via the USB-C port make it better than the original in every way and one of the best microphones under $100.
Cover Image Via Rode.
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