Rode has been a trusted name in microphones for years, and they have just launched a new gaming and streaming-oriented brand called Rode X. Part of this new launch is the release of two new microphones, one of which is a USB condenser mic called the XCM-50.
One of the troubles that streamers often discover when trying to find a good USB microphone is that many of them don’t have a lot of options for controlling how their audio interfaces with the other sounds in their PC. Some of them, like the Elgato Wave, do have custom software that solves this issue. Now it seems that Rode is looking to do the same thing.
We decided to review the Rode X XCM-50 and the accompanying UNIFY software in order to see how they stack up.
Zoom In: Specs
- Condenser microphone
- Connectivity: USB Type-C
- Polar pattern: Cardioid
- Internal pop-filter
- Internal shock mount
- 360-degree swing mount
- Internal APHEX voice processing
- UNIFY software
- Price: $149.00
Unboxing and Build Quality
Inside the box, you will find the microphone itself, a USB Type-C to Type-C cable, a plastic desktop tripod mount, a thread adapter, and a 3.5mm headphone cable extender. The mic has a black housing with a few red accents in the branding, the volume dial, and the pop-filter, which can be seen beneath the steel mesh covering the receiver.
The overall design is small and rectangular, though it does have enough weight to make it feel like a solid piece of professional equipment. The tripod mount is a nice addition so you have something to attach the microphone to out of the box, but many users will quickly end up wanting to replace it with a boom arm, since it doesn’t stand very high off the desk.
There is a USB Type-C port on the bottom, as well as a 3.5mm headphone pass-through. The dial on the front not only serves to control the volume of this headphone pass-through, it also functions as a mute button. Overall, the mic seems discreet, and functional — though it’s worth noting that gain has to be controlled digitally.
The XCM-50’s raw, unedited audio quality is quite good right out of the box. It has fairly well-balanced high, mid, and low tones, giving it recording capabilities that are on par with many of the best USB microphones currently on the market. The built-in pop-filter also does a good job of mitigating plosives and is discreetly contained within the microphone’s housing.
It is a condenser microphone, which means it is very sensitive. This is ideal for recording the human voice in an isolated setting, but has the drawback of also picking up a lot of unintended noise from the environment. Some of that can be mitigated with filters, but this microphone is best suited to a studio-like environment where white noise can easily be controlled.
Rode X UNIFY Software
The Rode X XCM-50 is nearly identical to the Rode NT-USB Mini in terms of both design and build quality. What really sets it apart is the new Rode X UNIFY software. This gives people access to a digital mixing and recording studio program that gives gamers and streamers a lot of options for controlling and managing the audio levels in their streams.
There are five separate profiles that streamers can use to control their audio channels: Stream, Headphone, Chat, Recording and Monitor. Within each of these profiles, streamers can mix and adjust audio levels for the Microphone, Game, Chat, Music, System, Browser and Virtual audio. The profiles can be edited independently, or the channels can be linked so that they are controlled together.
Then there’s the fact that it allows the user to upload sounds that they can activate with the touch of a button. There are eight pages on the Sounds channel, each with space for eight different sound effects, making for a total of 64 potential sounds and effects that the user can add to the profile.
It comes with a few built built-in sounds that you can use as soon as you download UNIFY: Airhorn, Record Scratch, Fireball, Meow, Surprise, Ambulance, Rimshot and Sad Trombone. These are a little gimmicky, but they’re a fun addition that many gamers are sure to find ways to integrate into their streams. On top of all that, UNIFY can also record audio directly, cutting out the need for third party options.
In addition to all of its mixing and recording capabilities, the UNIFY software also comes with APHEX processing. This allows you to adjust the signal coming from the XCM-50 itself in order to control gain and make use of a built-in 75Hz or 150Hz high-pass filter.
Then there are the other four major filters: Noise Gate, Compressor, Aural Exciter and Big Bottom. Each of these can be turned on and off with the click of a button, but the more experienced audio engineers out there can get an even greater degree of control by clicking the ‘Advanced’ button on the bottom of the screen, which allows them to fine-tune exactly what each of these filters do. This makes it easy for users of all knowledge levels to control their microphone’s audio.
Is the XCM-50 Worth the Money?
The Rode X XCM-50 MSRPs at $149.00, making it about $60 more expensive than the current going rate of the NT-USB Mini and even more expensive than most other cardioid-only USB mics. But that discrepancy in price is because most USB mics don’t come with this kind of software control.
Gauging the value of the XCM-50 ultimately comes down to the value of the UNIFY software. To that end, the only comparable microphone is the Elgato Wave: 3, since it also comes with mixing control software and is roughly the same price as the XCM-50.
We believe that while the XCM-50 is certainly on the more expensive side, it is a viable option for those who are also seeking to take advantage of the UNIFY software in order to control their system audio levels.
Zoom Out: Verdict
The Rode X XCM-50 is a cardioid USB condenser microphone that produces clean sound, has a compact but sturdy design, and makes use of some amazing mixing, recording, and processing software. It’s more expensive than most USB microphones, but is a reasonable choice for those who are looking to bundle-in a system-wide audio mixing solution.
- Audio mixing through UNIFY software
- APHEX processing for more controlled microphone audio
- Attractive, professional-grade build quality
- More expensive than most USB microphones
- No physical gain controls
- Picks up a lot of ambient audio