Review: RØDE AI-Micro
Micro by name, micro by nature. It’s a supremely portable way of bringing two sources into your smartphone.
The Røde AI-Micro is a tiny audio interface. Like the ’90s game console card it resembles, this little tacker feels indestructible. It’s unadorned, with no buttons, LEDs or sliders, just clearly labelled ports for two microphone inputs, headphones and USB-C. It comes packaged with three cables, ending in Lightning, USB-C and USB-A. And that’s it! Just add a lav or mini shotgun.
With a device this minimal, attention is drawn to the detail. The automatic detection of TRS and TRRS input mics. The elbow grease required to disconnect the USB lead. The delightful glint of gold below the logo. All very nice; all very reassuring. Nothing about this device feels cheap. No second rate parts have been used or corners cut.
Røde recommends using this interface with the Røde Reporter app, which offers a Voice Memos-like experience complemented by software control of the interface. The two inputs of the AI-Micro can be summed to mono, mixed left and right, or Input 1 can accept a stereo input with Input 2 down the middle. Use the app to set gains, select a high-pass filter and turn direct monitoring on/off. There’s a format choice between 24-bit WAV and compressed MP3. The record screen features a big red button, level meters, and a scrolling waveform.
WHAT JOB DONE?
AI-Micro isn’t limited to use with this one app. It’s a class-compliant device that works everywhere and on almost any device. Parameters changed in Røde Central, such as direct monitoring level, are retained in the interface, allowing configuration and subsequent use in DAWs, audio for video and the likes of iOS Garageband. That said, having to switch between Røde Central to adjust levels and the recording app is clunky, especially on mobile devices. As for desktop use, Røde Connect, Røde’s podcasting and streaming desktop app integrates with AI-Micro — but I found the mobile/smartphone experience to be AI Micro’s sweetspot. In fact, let’s take a look at exactly why you might need the AI-Micro.
This interface is clearly designed for 3.5mm output, video-first microphones. When used with, for example, a camera-top shotgun and a smartLav+, the AI-Micro is in its happy place. It sounds good, Røde Reporter works reliably, and gains are easily set — matching levels with the onscreen meters. The resulting stereo WAV file is easy to export and split into left and right for editing. A no-frills and no-fuss experience, just as the chassis of this pocket rocket suggests.
Those looking for a sneaky shortcut to get two guitars into an iPhone, this is not for you. Or maybe you’re a techie type who’ll plug into their DAW and record a podcast that way? The AI-Micro will get you there but will be fiddly in a way that a standard 2-in/2-out interface won’t be.
Rather, AI-Micro is perfect for are those needing a mobile recording solution that’s cost-effective, robust and reliable. Podcasts could be recorded in the Himalayas with this device. Interviews conducted in secret without lugging conspicuous equipment. Wherever two parties need to talk on record, the Røde AI-Micro will be there. No bloat, no scope creep, nothing superfluous. ‘Fit for purpose’, you might say.