When someone asks “what’s the best microphone,” the answer is usually “well, it depends on what you’re recording.” Rode’s new VideoMic Go II, as the name suggests, would not be suitable for podcasting. Would it?
Obviously, the VideoMic Go II is designed to sit on top of a camera. That’s just a fact, but with USB and 3.5mm outputs and compatibility with Rode Connect — the company’s USB-friendly podcasting app — this $99 lightweight mic proves to be more versatile than it meets the eye. seems.
If you’re looking for a microphone for your DSLR, the VideoMic Go II has a cold shoe mount, the aforementioned 3.5mm output (which can also be used for monitoring) and comes with a Rycote -shock mount and a windshield in the box. There’s no secondary/safety/stereo recording or gain control on the mic here, but that’s normal for something in this price range.
In terms of performance, the sound is surprisingly rich for a microphone of this size without sounding too “dead”. There is no appreciable difference between the audio you get from the USB port and the 3.5mm port with a slight variation in gain. When comparing to Rode’s VideoMic Me and VideoMic NTG, the VideoMic Go II is arguably my favorite of the bunch. It’s natural, focused with just the right amount of atmosphere/sense of space.
Where the VideoMic Go II gets more interesting is how it performs in other use cases. When connected to a computer and placed on a desk, the VideoMic Go II sounds just as robust as much more expensive dynamic microphones. So much so that it put me off for a while.
Perhaps the best illustration of this is when I tested it against the $400 Shure SM7B and Rode’s own $99 NT USB Mini. Since both Rodes in this test are condenser mics and cost about the same, you might think the two would be the best match, but it turns out the VideoMic Go II sounded much closer to the SM7B. That’s not to say it’s as good as the SM7B (the Shure has a little more depth and maybe a bit more dynamic range), but it certainly wasn’t to be expected given the price difference.
This resemblance is even greater when you consider that the different type of capsule – Rode’s capacitor versus Shure’s dynamics – alone would give a very different sound. You can hear all three microphones in the example below. It starts with the Shure, then the VideoMic Go II and then the NT Mini. The transition between the first two is subtle, but the latter is clear. Oh, and the VideoMic Go II was about two inches further from my mouth than the SM7B.
This is of course only one test, in one scenario in one specific room. But for a quick comparison of what a $400 microphone can do compared to a $99 microphone, this is a good starting point. Despite the lack of controls on the device, there are some configurable options through Rode Central. When connected to the app (mobile or desktop), you have the option to adjust the gain level, apply a high pass filter/high frequency boost and adjust the monitoring volume. It’s less convenient than physical controls on the mic, but still gives you some control over how it sounds or responds to various inputs. (If you’re wondering, the audio above starts with the SM7B and switches to the VideoMic Go II at “two condenser mics”).
Since Rode has added compatibility for Connect and the USB option makes it phone and tablet friendly, the VideoMic Go II could suddenly be a good all-rounder for the price. A mic that has video chops, but can also do double duty as a podcast mic (and thus an all-purpose computer mic), seems like a lot of bang for the buck.
Of course, if you really need something that incorporates a safety channel, has physical variable gain controls or if XLR connectivity is a must then obviously this isn’t the way to go. But for most common creator uses? In the end, it may not be entirely “depending on what you include”.
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