About a nanosecond after RØDE’s strict embargo ended on Wednesday, November 3rd at 10 AM AEDT (UTC+11 — Australian time) —which works out to Tuesday at 7 PM in Florida or NY time, I am delighted to share with you the information about the new AI-Micro multiplatform dual channel 48 kHz/24-bit audio interface. I am particularly excited and enthusiastic about it since I had done so much deep and wide coverage of the otherwise underpublicized SC6-L dual channel interface in 2018-2019. I consider the original SC6-L to be the inspiration for the just announced AI-Micro. In fact, the two devices share much more similarities than differences. Both are specifically designed and marketed to connect and adapt up to to two unbalanced 3.5 mm microphones to connect digitally to a modern device at our absolute standard of 48 kHz (see 48kHzAlliance.com) and 24-bit depth/resolution. Both supply bias voltage (“plugin power”, not phantom power) for these microphones and both offer stereo monitoring, with latency-free sidetone so you can hear yourself for quality control. Ahead, I’ll cover the small —yet huge— improvements in the new AI-Micro as a preview of my upcoming review, to be published shortly after I receive the sample unit I’m expecting soon. I also added a video from RØDE.
Link to my prior articles on the SC6-L
Here is a link to my prior articles on the SC6-L.
What’s in the name?
Although not specifically mentioned by RØDE, I suspect that the AI portion of the name does not stand for Artificial Intelligence but for Audio Interface. Although the Micro suffix could refer to the word microphone, I suspect it actually refers to how small and light the Ai-Micro is. Weighing less than 20 grams, the AI-Micro is extremely compact and lightweight – a pocket-sized solution for recording 48 kHz/24-bit audio anywhere.
What’s new in the AI-Micro
Unlike the original SC6-L (which is limited to those Apple devices which have a Lighting port, i.e. iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch), the new AI-Micro is officially multiplatform for Android, iOS, iPadOS, macOS and Windows. (Since it is rated to work with Android, I hope that means it will also work with the latest Chromebooks. I’ll be testing that personally when I receive it.) In order to work with all of the new platforms, the new AI-Micro includes cables for USB-A, USB-C and Lightning.
In addition, the AI-Micro’s 3.5 mm inputs are now universal and bulletproof. This means that the AI-Micro automatically resolves the topic I covered in 2015 in TS/TRS/TRRS/TRRRS: Combating the misconnection epidemic (illustrated above).
Now you can plug in any 3.5 mm microphone without worrying whether it’s TRRS (as above) or TRS (as below) and it will simply work, without having to look for any adaptor.
The free RØDE Central software let’s you configure the AI-Micro from a computer (macOS or Windows) or mobile device (Android, iOS, iPadOS), including adjusting the input gain and headphone output level, switching between Merged (for live broadcast or live-to-drive production), Split(when post production will be done later) or Stereo channel mode, with the option of engaging a high-pass filter. The free RØDE Reporter mobile app (Android, iOS or iPadOS) also allows complete device configuration, as well as broadcast-quality 48 kHz/24-bit recording in the field.
The AI-Micro interface also promises a “high output headphone output”, which implies that it is higher powered than the one in the SC6-L, although I never had a problem with the headphone output in the SC6-L, since all of my headphones are well under 100 Ω (ohms). However, this will be welcome if your headphones are much higher impedance.
Wait: There’s one more thing in this preview article!
The new AI-Micro interface is fully compatible with RØDE Connect software, a free recording and streaming program for macOS and Windows I previously covered here. As a summary, RØDE Connect software enables up to four microphones to be connected to a computer, with level controls, solo and mute buttons, and 48 kHz audio processing accessible at the click of a button. This includes a compressor, noise gate, and APHEX Aural Exciter and Big Bottom effects which previously have been available in the US$599 RØDECaster Pro (covered in many past articles). Up until now, RØDE Connect has been limited to using certain —very recent— USB microphones from RØDE, excluding conventional microphones with only an analog output. Now, using the AI-Micro with RØDE Connect allows us to record or live broadcast with nearly any 3.5mm microphone. (See the third point in the next section.)
Some things I plan to test in my upcoming AI-Micro articles
- General audio quality with unbalanced electret condenser 3.5 mm microphones
- Responsiveness to the mentioned modes
- As I did with the SC6-L back in 2019, I plan to test the new AI-Micro interface with dynamic microphones too, since I am excited to have dynamic microphones work with RØDE Connect, for all of the benefits that dynamic mics offer in untreated environments, especially when there multiple microphones are used in proximity. (Up until know, that has been feasible with the RØDECaster Pro, not with RØDE Connect.) If I discover that the AI-Micr preamps have the necessary gain for dynamic mics directly, I’ll publish those results as is. If not, I’ll use a pre-preamp between the dynamic mic and the AI-Micro interface and document it.
- Determine whether the RØDE software allows disabling the bias voltage (“plugin power”) if/when connecting directly to dynamic microphones. Unlike phantom power (which is not required for dynamic microphones, but is considered to be harmless to a dynamic microphone, although not to your battery), several leading manufacturers of dynamic microphones (including Shure and Sony) have warned against possible damage to dynamic microphones from the much lower bias voltage (“plugin power”). Fortunately, I have a special cable from female XLR to 3.5 mm TRS which blocks the bias voltage (“plugin power”) for this situation, which I’ll document in my review if the RØDE software doesn’t immediately offer a way of shutting off bias voltage (“plugin power”) in the AI-Micro. The feature of activating or deactivating the bias voltage (“plugin power”) is something that is offered in many portable audio recorders (but sadly not all).
All photos of the AI-Micro in this article are courtesy of RØDE.
The new AI-Micro audio interface seems to unlock all of the quality and power of the original SC6-L and unleash it to work with nearly any platform. In addition, it solves the TRS/TRRS misconnection epidemic making the connection to the 3.5 mm microphone foolproof. The bridge between RØDE Connect software and conventional analog mics promise to make it “like a bridge over troubled waters”. We’ll know more with my upcoming review and other articles, including its behavior with dynamic mics too, either directly or indirectly. Be sure to be on my free mailing list.
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There is currently no financial relationship between RØDE and Allan Tépper or TecnoTur LLC. Some of the other manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. Many of the manufacturers listed above have sent Allan Tépper review units, including RØDE. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur, BeyondPodcasting, CapicúaFM , SpeakCastilian or TuSaludSecreta programs, although they are welcome to do so, and some are, may be (or may have been) sponsors of ProVideo Coalition magazine. Some links to third parties listed in this article and/or on this web page may indirectly benefit TecnoTur LLC via affiliate programs. Allan Tépper’s opinions are his own. Allan Tépper is not liable for misuse or misunderstanding of information he shares.