Back in January 2022, I published How to measure audio latency? How much delay is tolerable by human beings when monitoring their own voice live? (link provided ahead). That was the first time I actually stopped to come up with a precise method to measure latency, because I had received a mixer (not from RØDE, but from Maono) and I was very annoyed by the delay when hearing myself via headphones, even after the manufacturer sent me a second unit. Before then, I had never experienced that issue from any audio mixer I had used in the past decades. Previously, I had only been bothered by latency from a computer when a particular USB microphone lacked any direct latency-free monitoring output, like the very early USB mics and interfaces from Apogee and IK Multimedia. This issue began for the first time with a mixer with that Maono device and then continued months later with the RØDECaster Pro II and the RØDECaster Duo. First, I discussed it privately with RØDE and later privately with Curtis Judd, who had previously accompanied me on the BeyondPodcasting show.
RØDE acknowledged that there was indeed a «tiny bit» of additional headphone latency with the RØDECaster Pro II, but that it was perceived by less than 1% of users, and that RØDE would try to decrease the issue with later firmware updates. (If you read the RØDE specs for any current USB microphone with an inboard headphone jack, they all say «latency-free», while none of the RØDECaster mixers mention that at all.) For that reason, after having published at least a dozen articles about the original RØDECaster Pro, I decided to delay publishing a full review of the RØDECaster Pro II and of the RØDECaster Duo. The RØDECaster Pro II had forced me to drop a lifetime habit of always listening to myself live for quality control. When I first conversed about the headphone latency I experienced with the RØDECaster Pro II (first with RØDE, then with Curtis Judd), I hadn’t actually measured it: I had only been bothered by it. As you may recall, with the Maono mixer I had indeed measured it in How to measure audio latency? How much delay is tolerable by human beings when monitoring their own voice live? I had measured the Maono at almost 18 ms (nearly 18 milliseconds) of delay. Curtis encouraged me to measure the latency I had experienced with the RØDECaster Pro II before commenting further himself, so I did. Using the same procedure covered in that article, I measured the RØDECaster Pro II headphone latency to be about 8 ms (with no processing active). I then realized that I am more sensitive to latency than those tested in the Whirlwind test (covered in the aforementioned article), since they said that listeners hear the latency after 10 or 15 milliseconds.
While I had the original RØDECaster Pro, I never measured its latency since it was so low that I never noticed it. Later, Curtis measured and shared the latency of the following mixers in this recent video as:
- original RØDECaster Pro – 3 ms (too low to be perceived even by me)
- RØDECaster Pro II and Duo – 6 ms (tolerable or unnoticed by many, but too annoying for me)
- Mackie DLZ y DLZ XS – 5 ms (Mackie was recently purchased by RØDE.)
Thanks to my own measurements and Curtis’s, I learned that I personally notice and am bothered by latency between 6-8 ms and greater, but do not notice it at all when it’s as low as 3 ms. Starting at 5 ms, Curtis notices it but is not bothered by it. Tom Buck (another colleague who reviews audio equipment) doesn’t notice any latency even at 6-8 ms, since he has mentioned that in his videos in response to others who have commented about it below his other videos. A third YouTuber (Obscure Mics) often mentions headphone latency on certain mixers, but to my recollection has never actually measured the precise latency as Curtis Judd and I have.
A RØDE firmware update indirectly saves the day
At NAB in April 2023, RØDE had announced that (via a future firmware update), many of the current RØDE USB mics would become compatible with the RØDECaster Pro II and RØDECaster Duo via USB. When that firmware was released a few months ago, it became clear that the issue described earlier in this article was being resolved (indirectly), since RØDE recommends connecting headphones (for those mics connected via USB to the RØDECaster Pro II and RØDECaster Duo) to the microphone’s headphone output, not to the mixer’s headphone output. Thanks to the magic of automatic and foolproof mix-minus, the rest of the mix arrives to the microphone the same way that it does when using RØDE Connect, as I have already covered in several articles.
- If you are among the 99% of people who don’t notice or aren’t bothered by latency at 6-8 ms or lower, have no worries at all. You are officially immune.
- If you are like me and are bothered by latency at these low levels, you have three options: (a) use an original RØDECaster Pro with any XLR mic, (b) use any compatible mic or interface with RØDE Connect software or (c) use a newer RØDECaster Pro (II or Duo) together with a recent USB RØDE mic (i.e. the PodMic USB, pending to be reviewed soon, illustrated below) connected via USB, and connect your headphones to the microphone, not to the mixer, being sure to have both the microphone and the RØDECaster firmware up to date.
Above, the RØDE PodMic USB (soon to be reviewed) is one of the most flexible of all RØDE dynamic USB mics, since it has a sophisticated DSP and is compatible with RØDE Connect software. In any case where it works via USB, the PodMic USB offers a direct latency-free headphone output and is even compatible with the RØDECaster Pro II and RØDECaster Duo, where it continues to offer direct, latency-free headphone monitoring, as long as it is connected to them via USB, not via XLR, using the latest firmware.
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Neither RØDE nor Maono are not paying for this review, although RØDE and Maono have sent devices to Allan Tépper to facilitate reviews. Some of the manufacturers listed above have contracted Tépper and/or TecnoTur LLC to carry out consulting and/or translations/localizations/transcreations. So far, none of the manufacturers listed above is/are sponsors of the TecnoTur, BeyondPodcasting, CapicúaFM 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.