Australian recording studio and video production mic company Røde Microphones announced the imminent release of its new self-powered on-camera directional mic the VideoMic Pro+ on July 25 and yesterday a review sample arrived on our doorstep, and what a microphone it is with a list of hardware and software improvements advancing well beyond its immediate predecessor the VideoMic Pro. Røde’s VideoMic Pro+ aka VMP+ is likely to quickly become the go-to top-end video hotshoe-mounted production shotgun microphone.
I took the VideoMic Pro+ out for a quick spin attached to my Panasonic Lumix GX8, a wonderful stills camera and a sadly underestimated 4K UHD video camera now somewhat eclipsed by the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5.
I threw a third-party TRS 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapter sourced from the local Jaycar store into my bag as the GX8, like many smaller hybrid mirrorless cameras made today, is equipped with a 2.5mm audio jack in order to save space.
I can’t help but wonder if there might be a better solution than adding a non-professional adapter into the audio equation, and whether Røde might be persuaded to make their own 3.5mm-to-2.5mm TRS patch cables in order to eliminate this one particular weakest link.
I often experience problems caused by these third-party 3.5mm-to-2.5mm adapters and have yet to find a more professional alternative. I like Røde’s red coiled cables for their quality, convenience and visibility.
I congratulate Røde Microphones for listening to its users and acting on that by replacing permanently attached cables with detachable cables on its newer products including the VideoMic Pro+, and hope that this is now the standard.
Røde Microphones VideoMic Pro+
My partner and I are both enduring one of the worst influenza seasons ever despite having been vaccinated so avoided street crowds and headed off for a coffee at the local high street, set up camera and microphone and pointed the rig in the general direction of our fellow caffeine addicts lined up at the front of the café.
Our test was quick and dirty to say the least as we want to spend time doing a more in-depth one over the coming days, but the results were impressive.
The first new feature
First feature put to the test was the new hinged battery door.
The VideoMic Pro’s battery door often presented a challenge to new users until time and practice taught them how to push it on and off without frustration and battery popping out onto the floor.
The VideoMic Pro+ is a much easier to use proposition and it takes little time to get the hang of two finger on the latches to release its hinged battery door.
Instead of relying on the locally hard-to-find rectangular 9v Lithium batteries required by the VMP and SVMX, the VMP+ allows the choice of two rechargeable AA batteries or Røde’s own LB-1 Lithium-Ion rechargeable.
If using third party AA-size lithium batteries, make sure that the current rating of the batteries will deliver the same or better than the Røde proprietary battery which is rated at 1600mAh (at 3.8 volts).
Røde’s VideoMic Pro+ product page implies that the VMP+ can also be powered by the detachable Micro USB cable so we will give that option a go soon. Meanwhile we chose the LB-1 lithium battery.
The second standout feature we encountered is the VMP+’s automatic on-off power function. We plugged the detachable 3.5mm TRS cable into the VMP+ and then the GX8’s audio jack, switched the camera on and the VMP+ immediately powered up.
Then we powered the GX8 down and watched the VMP+ do the same. Yay! Great way to help save on battery power especially if toting just the one LB-1 battery about with you.
I wonder though if Røde will be making spare LB-1 batteries available in future? I always feel safer carrying at least one spare even if the batteries have well-earned reputations for longevity.
An easier interface
The next standout feature was the ease-of-use of the VideoMic Pro+’s electronic interface via push buttons instead of the VideoMic Pro’s sliders. I have always found sliders less sure than buttons in other devices and often wondered if I had inadvertently slid off-setting when in the field with the VMP.
The VMP+’s buttons makes that less of a concern, especially its power-on/off button which needs a slightly sustained push to to be activated. That is good, thoughtful design.
Also thoughtful and effective is the circular layout of the VMP+’s buttons and indicator LEDs. Although they are similar in functionality to those on the Røde Stereo VideoMic X, the latter’s controls are in a vertical straight line and have always felt just a little counterintuitive in use given their contradiction to the SVMX’s circular design.
My fingers leapt easily over the VideoMic Pro+’s button and LED arrangement and it was a doddle changing the settings while watching the GX8 audio indicators change in response.
The safety channel
Another new feature I am really looking forward to putting into practice soon is the VMP+’s Safety Channel, activated by pushing the Output Gain Control button and Power Button at the same time, lower right and upper middle.
The Safety Channel lowers the output of the dual-mono signal’s right channel by 10dB to account for sudden audio spikes and reduce the likelihood of fatal audio clipping. If the left channel is compromised then the right channel will most likely be okay.
The other major new hardware feature in the Røde VideoMic Pro+ is its optimized windshield, now larger and more rounded than the one in the VideoMic Pro. My BFF was very interested in that aspect of the VMP+ as she spent some time working on similar features for a US-based audio hardware and software corporation.
The curvy bits
Making windshields curvier apparently helps persuade wind to better deflect around the microphone’s sensitive bits with the benefit of less noise. My wording, not hers! Cue animation of wind represented by arrows approaching windshield and sliding off.
Røde Microphones has had an agreement with famous UK audio accessories makers Rycote in place for some time now whereby Røde manufactures its own Rycote Lyre shockmounts and is permitted to integrate them into its microphone designs.
I have been a Rycote customer for some years having observed various Rycote products in heavy use by audio professionals onset so it is pleasing that the Røde team seems to see Rycote in a similar light.
The folks at Røde Microphones tell me that a new DeadCat optional windshield accessory specially tailored to the VideoMic Pro+ is being made and will be available soon. The DeadCat windshield for the VideoMic Pro is unsuitable for use with the VMP+.
Forget adapters, get a Beachtek 3.5mm-to-2.5mm coiled cable
I finally located a suitable 3.5mm-to-2.5mm cable and (almost) hit the jackpot with it being short, coiled, with gold-plated contacts and, an unexpected bonus, a different look to the 2.5mm end’s plastic moulding for fast and easy identification.
My order for several Beachtek SC25 3.5mm to 2.5mm Stereo Output Cables is now on its way.
It appears that Beachtek came up with this cable back in the Lumix GH1 days when Panasonic’s flagship DSLM had a 2.5mm audio minijack. Given it is likely that fewer cameras will be equipped with such jacks in future, I thought it best to get exercise my Rule of Three, two for location and one for the studio in case either or both are lost or damaged.
Coping with the VideoMic Pro+’s rear extension
Early users of the Røde VideoMic Pro+ have reported problems with the way mic with cable attached juts backwards into one’s face when mounting the VMP+ on the camera’s hotshoe.
I compared the way the VMP+ sits on my GX8’s hotshoe with how it works on my GH4’s hotshoe and can confirm these reports. The VideoMic Pro+ is fine with the rangefinder-style GX8 but the back of the microphone gets in the way when placing one’s eye up close to the DSLR-style GH4’s EVF.
The mic came with its hotshoe mount screw-attached to the centre of its rubber-band shockmount so all I had to do was unscrew the hotshoe mount, move it to the back of the shockmount and problem solved.
The VideoMic Pro+ cannot be modified in this way but there are other solutions. Camera cages are becoming increasingly popular and some of the latest have one or two off-centre coldshoe mounts built-in. All allow you to screw coldshoes onto any 1/4″/20 threaded that you wish.
Another possible solution is to attach a threaded or coldshoe-equipped handle or rail onto the camera’s hotshoe and place the VMP+ where it works best. The choice is yours, and there is a fair amount of choice in how you do it and where you find your ideal solution.
Adapting 3.5mm minijack microphones to XLR devices
While researching the Røde VideoMic Pro+, I came across a new XLR adaptor on the company’s website, the VXLR+.
I added four Røde VXLR 3.5mm-to-XLR adaptors when I ordered my Tascam DR-70D four-channel audio recorder some time ago. This recorder has four XLR/TRS combo jacks and I feel safer adapting 3.5mm TRS to XLR when connecting microphones to all my XLR devices.
The data sheet PDF for the VXLR+ lists these compatible microphones for the VXLR+:
- VideoMic Pro
- VideoMic Pro+
- VideoMic GO
- RØDELink Filmmaker Kit
- smartLav+ (when used with SC3 adapter)
I have been informed that the VXLR+ will replace the VXLR in due course, when the VXLR will be discontinued. In the meantime the VXLR works fine with all the above microphones except for the VideoMicro, VideoMic GO and smartlav+. These three mics require plug-in power, which the VXLR+ can provide when they are plugged into XLR phantom power devices.
- RØDE Microphones – Freedman Electronics launches 50th Birthday Celebrations at RØDEShow 2017 – VideoMic Pro+ and Soundfield Ambisonics microphones shown in video.
- RØDE Microphones – Introducing the VideoMicPro+
- RØDE Microphones – VideoMicro Pro+
Header image composite made from Røde Microphones product photographs in Adobe Photoshop then styled with Alien Skin Exposure X2. Gallery photographs made as 3-bracket HDRs on Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 camera with Panasonic Lumix G 25mm f/1.7 Aspheric prime lens then processed in Macphun Aurora HDR 2017 and Macphun Luminar for a Polaroid look.