Review: Rode Stereo Videomic X
It’s still got a 3.5mm output, but that’s the only concession in this otherwise completely professional new addition to Rode’s Videomic line.
Though mics from Rode’s Videomic series have found their way into most video camera bags, the third addition to its Stereo Videomic line, the X, shows a real commitment to professional folk. For one, it has balanced stereo outputs on mini-XLR connectors that can interface with professional gear, and also be used to feed the mic phantom power. When there’s no phantom power on hand, or you’re using the stereo 3.5mm output jack instead, power is supplied by a 9V battery, securely housed behind a metal door.
The two 1/2-inch, externally-biased, true condenser cardioid capsules are acoustically matched. And unlike some other stereo mics, including the ones that come attached to a lot of portable recorders, it doesn’t exhibit any phase issues — it’s real broadcast-quality sound, mated to Rode’s incredibly quiet electronics. It’s not Rode’s quietest mic, but its Equivalent Noise Level of 12dBA is very good. It can also handle a maximum 143dB SPL, which is very healthy, and necessary when you’re out in the field surrounded by sources with an unknown dynamic range and output. The onboard preamp also has a -10dB cut and a clean +20dB level boost to accommodate different sources and recording devices.
The level select button is one of four on the back of the unit housing. The others are power on/off, high-pass filter and high shelf. The buttons toggle through each setting, with mini LEDs denoting the selected position. It’s a great system, and better than the traditional sliding switches.
Rode’s slightly older Stereo Videomic Pro houses its X-Y capsules in a cage, with the whole unit, including preamplifier, suspended by rubber bands. The X version shows how serious Rode is taking these sound-for-video accessories. The all-aluminium body is ruggedly built, and has an upward tilt to accommodate both capsules in a perfectly stacked, 90° X-Y pattern without any interference between them.
Both capsules have individual shockmounts in a mini-Rycote Lyre setup made of a single piece of thermoplastic. They’re much hardier than any rubber band suspension system, and work far better too. Plus, the suspension mounts clip into place rather than being glued, suggesting they could be replaced if damaged down the track. The Stereo Videomic X does come with a 10-year warranty too, so you’re well covered in any case.
The whole unit weighs 300g, which is less than a quarter of the weight of typical small DSLR and zoom combo. Everything adds up, but for the solid construction and level of audio quality you get from the Stereo Videomic X, it’s not too much to bear.
POP ON A SHIELD
The naked capsules are much more resistant to wind noise than the Zoom H6’s, for instance. And once you put on the pop shield, it cuts out any short gusts quite comfortably. It’s made of durable foam that won’t rip, and has a layer of rubber hexagonal webbing that extends around the shield for extra protection. The rubber-coated, plastic mouth swallows up the X comfortably, with the inside of the foam cut out perfectly to accommodate the exact shape of the capsules. It clips on with the grip of grandma’s teeth; firm, but no trouble prying off.
With the dead cat wind shield on, I could swing the mic right past a fan blasting on high, without any adverse affect. You’d have to have be in the midst of a gale to have any issue. To compensate for any loss of high end with the wind shield on, Rode has incorporated a switchable +6dB high-shelf filter.
There’s also a two-stage high-pass filter, with what sounds like quite a steep dB/oct slope. It’s useful for chopping out nearby low rumbling noises — road noises, air conditioners, the usual occupational hazards. It’s not a foolproof solution, but necessary to have. The higher 150Hz setting does cut out a chunk of the low end in a male voice, so just watch that depending on the talent in front of the camera.
As far as cons go, you could note the lack of mini-XLR cables. But that’s like looking a gift horse in the mouth. The 3.5mm spiral connector will suffice for most users. And it’s a great-sounding stereo mic, worth the money, especially since you get every other custom accessory you need in the box.