Dear Content Creators,
It is great to feel heard!
As a consumer of any product, it is great to know that a company is willing to listen to its customers to improve their products. For companies in the content creation space, it is a game changer for the company and their customers. It should be a no-brainer for the company. It fosters the loyalty of the user base and gets invaluable feedback from the people who use the gear every day.
Well I just experienced an incredible example of this with a new line of products that came out, but it wasn’t the hardware where I saw it. It was in the software.
“For companies in the content creation space, it is a game changer…”
Audio mixing has become a highly competitive space for gaming and audio companies as of late. It all started with hardware mixers like the GoXLR and Rodecaster Pro, providing audio mixing that is directed specifically towards gamers, streamers and podcasters. The only challenge with these hardware mixers were that they were not cheap and took up a good chunk of desk space and were not cheap, costing more that most microphones and, in the case of the Rodecaster Pro, more than four of its own popular microphone, the RØDE Podmic. Both of them also came with software.
The GoXLR’s software allows you to route your audio via a routing table, allowing you to send certain audio to your stream and different audio to your headphones and chat. It also allows you to manage some of the functionality of the hardware itself, including which faders control which sources and some functions of the sound pads. Rode’s software wasn’t as robust, but allowed you to program your soundpads and some other settings. Both also allowed for some level of audio processing to the microphones that is incredibly useful when creating content.
The next step in the evolution came from Elgato, who took a much more simple approach with a microphone that unlocked access to a software mixer. The Elgato Wave 1 (or Elgato Wave 3) unlocked the Wave Link app, a full mixing software solution where you could assign your microphone, music, gaming, chat, browser and system audio (plus more) and control the audio and control it all on your computer. Compatibility with some of their other products, including the Stream Deck allowed for some hardware-based control. You can mute sources, adjust volume and a lot more.
This was a result of seeing a need in a community that was growing exponentially and wanted a cheaper cost of entry with maximum quality. People were able to jump into content creation for a lot cheaper while maintaining a similar production quality. Wave Link was (and is) great, but things were missing from the software that other mixers had. Audio processing wasn’t available in the beginning, but came with a big update nearly a year ago.
RØDE attempted to recreate their hardware in software form with RØDE Connect, containing the ability to record and their programmable soundpads. They took people’s love of their hardware and tried to create a similar solution to Wave Link, offering their own microphone, the RØDE NT-USB Mini. The limitation of only being able to use certain microphones was a problem. Elgato required one of their mics to use the software, but allowed other mics to be used alongside it. RØDE Connect didn’t allow for this.
It was around the time of the big update to Elgato and RØDE Connect’s entry into the space where I made a video on Youtube, comparing the two and pointing out the things that were missing.
“RØDE X… Have you been watching my videos?”
In comes a newcomer to the space, BEACN, composed of people who were behind the GoXLR. They knew what people wanted from their audio before and what they wanted in the present day. They offered a software solution in the BEACN app that had a lot of the missing puzzle pieces that were missing in previous software. They had submixes, a routing table and processing controls for their BEACN Mic that occurred on the microphone itself, saving your CPU from having to handle the processing.
They also offered a cheaper and simpler hardware mixer than anyone else. Utilizing the same software, the BEACN Mix create turned to knobs (get it? Turned? knobs?) and a small LED screen to minimize the real estate that it took up. This came from a team who already knew what was popular in the space and saw that what they could do was missed by many in the community, so they became the first to deliver it.
Now jump forward to the announcement of RØDE X, a new brand from RØDE dedicated to gamers and streamers, including two microphones and brand-new software. My mouth was watering at the possibilities of a new software solution for content creation. I was curious as to what they would offer that we haven’t seen before, if anything.
Now is the time to flash back to my video, where I listed the features of what I would consider an audio interface software. The following things were what I thought were missing from at least one of the mixing apps and, if someone could put them all together, would be the instant leader in the space.
- The ability to mix ten sources, including multiple microphones, music, chat, game, browser and other virtual sources
- Recording Capability
- A Soundpad
- VST Processing support
- The ability to use the software independent of any proprietary hardware, perhaps by selling the software a la carte
- Voice Mods
RØDE X… Have you been watching my videos?
Now I am in no way taking credit for the idea of RØDE X’s UNIFY software. I am sure that this has been in the works for a long time. That being said, I am privately taking credit. Not as the idea man, but as a content creation Nostradamus who willed it to life through prediction, the way that the Simpsons can always seem to tell the future. What RØDE did was listen. Not to me, specifically, but to everyone. They did this with the sequel hardware, the Rodecaster Pro 2, making a lot of big changes to the hardware to meet the needs of a more modern content creator. But oh boy were they listening to the consumer when they released UNIFY.
Literally everything in the above wishlist is in the software (Voice Mods are coming via an update later this year) and they are all done well. They topped my list of 10 sources with an 11th, that being the Soundpad. Their recording capability and ability to manage the recordings and export them with presets for specific podcast hosts is straight out of the Rodecaster Pro’s software. Submixes and routing tables look different from the other software, but they are there and easy to use.
They offer their own proprietary Aphex processing, including a noise gate, compression and their Exciter, a simple, yet powerful EQ. The software is free when you purchase their XCM-50 or XDM-100 microphone, but with a $69.99 subscription to RØDE Primo, you can access it with any microphone, regardless of brand. The processing isn’t available in this version because the processing is actually handled on the RØDE X microphones themselves and UNIFY is just a controller for that.
So it’s important to listen, because when you do, you evolve with your consumer-base and, most importantly, allows everyone – consumer and company alike – to look to the future.