Rode’s Wireless ME squeezes a second mic into its receiver
When Rode released the original Wireless GO, it was an instant success. The ease of use, audio quality and reasonable price made wireless microphones much more accessible. In fact it was so successful that it spawned a number of copycat products from rivals. After releasing the Wireless GO II ($299) with dual mics, the company is back with a more affordable option – the $149 Wireless ME. There’s also a new video app called Rode Capture aimed at creators which offers tight integration with the Wireless ME and other products from the company.
If you’re thinking “more affordable” means fewer features, then you’d be right. But also you might be surprised. Even though there initially appears to be just one transmitter (mic) and one receiver, the latter also has a mic built-in so you can still record two speakers at the same time with their own separate audio files. That said, Rode is calling the second mic the “ME mic” and describes it as a “narrator” microphone because you can’t use it wirelessly (it’s the one that plugs into your recording device) so it can only really be used by someone off camera. That obviously is no problem if you’re not recording video, but worth knowing if you are.
There are, of course, other minor compromises. For one, the receiver doesn’t have any type of display, so visual feedback for connectivity is limited to a pair of LEDs. There doesn’t appear to be any feedback for gain levels at all. There’s also no onboard storage for recording away from a camera, computer or a phone. This also means there’s no option to record a safety track at a lower gain level which, given the lack of a way to see levels means you’ll have to really be sure you have everything set right up front. As a reminder, though, the ME is half the price of the GO II.
There are tools to help, though. The Wireless ME comes with a feature called GainAssist which internally monitors the signal and sets levels automatically depending on your environment and the volume of the subject. This definitely helps keep things from clipping, but you can still go into the red with it. It appears to be using either a limiter or compression (or both) but you can still make it go into the red. There’s a “dynamic” mode too for when recording things with a more consistent volume than speech.
In terms of range, you can expect about 100 meters / 328 feet (line of sight) but in practice this can vary a little in either direction depending on the conditions. This is a shorter range than the Wireless GO II (200 meters / 656 feet) and DJI’s Mic (250 meters / 820 feet) but likely ample for most scenarios. As for battery life, it’s a respectable seven hours but there’s no charging case as with DJI or Anker’s solutions.
With no way to change settings directly on the device, you’ll want to get familiar with the Rode Central app. It’s here where you’ll be able to turn the receiver’s microphone on or off if you want to use it, change whether it records to one or two separate files (if using both mics) and adjust the gain settings. There are versions for both desktop and mobile (Android/iOS) so you can change modes on the go, even if it’s a bit more involved than doing it on the receiver as with DJI and Anker’s products.
Given that the narrator-guest setup isn’t ideal for recording two speakers on camera at the same time it’s a shame that the receiver doesn’t have the option to plug an external 3.5mm lav mic into it. This would mean you could theoretically run one with a longer cable and have two on camera hosts. You can still use 3.5mm mics with the main transmitter though. Alternatively, if you have access to another transmitter, such as a Wireless GO II, you can pair it with the ME’s receiver and record up to three people at the same time – though two of them will have to share an audio channel in case having separate files for all speakers is important to you.
The interoperability between the Wireless GO II and the ME shows that Rode is thinking about how these products can work together, meaning creators can collaborate seamlessly with their own gear or continue using older products even as new ones come around. Expect to see more interoperability with other wireless devices in the future.
Along with the new microphone kit is the aforementioned Capture app. It’s a dedicated video app with a twist: direct access to the settings of compatible Rode microphones. Most video apps don’t even let you know what mic you’re using which can cause anxiety when you’re not sure it’s working with the one you plugged in. Having this assurance alone is useful and the direct access to microphone settings is always going to be a welcome bonus for creators. The app is entirely free and doesn’t require a Rode product to work but will need one of Rode’s compatible products if you wish to access its settings.
The Wireless ME is available for $149 starting today.