In this post, we’ll review the RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit. If you’ve ever used a wired lavalier microphone, you know the frustrations of cable management. The cable is either too long or too short. The cable is either tripped over or snagged on. The cable is either wound tight like it just used a curling iron or in desperate need of a conditioning detangler spray.
ENTER: The RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit.
It’s all in the name: wirelessly linked, made with filmmakers in mind, designed by the wizards at Rode, and kitted out with everything you need to capture high-caliber audio.
If you’re buying a stairway to audio heaven but aren’t ready to shell out a thousand dollars for a professional wireless system, the RodeLink is an excellent solution. The RodeLink fills a unique niche that balances quality with affordability for filmmakers at the prosumer/enthusiast level.
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RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit Technical Specs
- Transmission type: 2.4 GHz fixed frequency agile system
- Range (distance): Up to 100 m (325 ft)
- Max latency: 4 ms
- Power source: 2 x AA battery or microUSB
- Antenna type: Internal
- Output connection: 3.5 mm TRS locking jack socket – dual mono
- Power source: 2 x AA battery or MicroUSB
- Antenna type: Internal
- Input connection: 3.5 mm TRS locking jack socket
RodeLink Lav Mic
- Acoustic principle: Permanently polarized condenser
- Polar pattern: Omnidirectional
- Signal to noise ratio: 67 dB
Full specs here: http://www.rode.com/wireless/filmmaker
RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit Review: Features
While there are plenty of bells and whistles packed into this kit, there are a few standouts that make this wireless system worthy of your attention. I’ve been using the RodeLink for the past five years and have loved it. Here are my hot takes on an overview of its features.
Ease of use
Starting up the RodeLink is almost as easy as watching just one more episode of The Great British Baking Show. The receiver and transmitter pair quickly, and I’ve never had any trouble getting the small LED to give me the proverbial and literal green light.
If you’re recording an ASMR convention (I don’t know what kinda gigs you get) and the transmitter signal needs a boost, there’s a readily accessible switch behind the battery cover that’ll give you +10 dB or +20 dB gain. Conversely, if the signal is coming in way too hot for your preamps (be they camera, handy recorder, or field mixer) there’s another handy dandy switch on the receiver to cool it down by -10 dB and -20 dB.
The battery life has been clocked at a whopping 30 hours, which will cover every shooting scenario I can imagine. If you’re shooting for more than 30 hours at a time you need to be paid a lot of money. Tip me for this article while you’re at it, will ya?
The plastic build hasn’t been a huge issue for me. Surely a more expensive system would be made of sturdier stuff, but overall the transmitter and receiver feel solid.
The 3.5 mm cable and lavalier cable both have a locking metal socket for the respective receiver and transmitter jacks so I’ve never had to worry about something getting unplugged accidentally.
I shouldn’t forget to mention that I have had a little trouble with the build quality of the battery compartment. At one point, I was removing a battery and snapped the thin metal spring that contacts the negative end of the battery.
Luckily, I wasn’t in the middle of a shoot when it happened and was able to use a piece of tin foil to reestablish contact with the battery until my friend was able to help me solder the spring back on. I’ve since learned to be more careful removing the batteries, but it did make me question the build quality.
Personally, I’m not the most gentle of videographers when it comes to handling gear so the fact that the spring incident is the only problem I’ve had in five years is impressive.
One of the RodeLink’s neatest tricks is the ability to seamlessly hop between frequencies in the 2.4 GHz band. Long story short, 2.4 GHz is a range of frequencies where all of our consumer electronics transmit their wireless signals.
Whether it’s the Nintendo Switch, baby monitor, garage door opener, AirPods, or myriad of local WiFi routers, the 2.4 GHz band is constantly jam packed with traffic like Los Angeles’ I-405 at rush hour.
If the current 2.4 GHz frequency is getting edged out by your apartment complex neighbor’s “Weasley’s Wizard WiFi”, the RodeLink will automatically hop on over to the next strongest frequency. It even changes frequencies in the middle of a live recording so as long as the transmitter and receivers are paired and powered, you’ll never have to worry about getting the strongest signal. If that’s not the closest Muggles get to magic, I don’t know what is.
Here’s a helpful video by Curtis Judd testing the RodeLink’s range and signal strength:
The RodeLink also comes with eight distinct channels. To be honest, I’ve never used more than two. However, if you discovered you loved the RodeLink so much that you bought seven more kits to record an 8-player Super Smash Bros. tournament, you could do that!
Unfortunately, the RodeLink receiver is only able to pair up with one transmitter (and vice versa), meaning you would need to buy a separate RodeLink kit for each source. This is kind of a bummer, but it is a pretty standard limitation for wireless systems in this price range.
Did I mention the audio quality of the included Rode lav is excellent? In the words of the immortal Stan Lee: “‘nuff said.”
Have a listen for yourself:
Can you spot the lav mic?
RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit Pros & Cons
RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit Review: Meet the Competition
No RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit Review would be complete without a look at how it stacks up against some other popular wireless systems out there. Let’s take a look.
Besides a slightly more complicated name, the Sennheiser XSW-D comes from a company responsible for extremely well-renowned audio gear including shotgun mics, headphones, and other wireless systems regularly employed by top-level productions.
Sennheiser’s stellar reputation owes to the generally higher quality gear and higher price point than many of Rode’s intermediate-tier products which makes the XSW-D’s accessible price point all the more interesting.
The Sennheiser ME-II lav mic, which is an excellent wired lavalier on its own, is also included with the transmitter and receiver.
The build is considerably smaller and more portable than the RodeLink, which is probably the most important consideration for run-and-gun productions. It’s also very simple to use with the press of a singular button, but perhaps it’s a little too simplistic.
I do appreciate RodeLink’s more informative LED screen that displays level readouts and most importantly, battery life.
The XSW-D comes in a range of input/output options. There’s a 3.5 mm, ¾”, and XLR version, but you have to choose one or the other. The 3.5 mm version has a locking jack for extra security.
The +/-10 dB and +/-20 db gain adjustments found on the RodeLink are lacking on the XSW-D which automatically adjusts gain internally. This could be a good or bad thing depending on if you need that control. It’d be unfortunate to lose a track to accidental peaking but you should be monitoring with headphones regardless.
The range is slightly less than the RodeLink at 250 ft, but I can’t imagine a ton of situations in which that 75 ft difference would be a huge issue.
What could be an issue is battery life. The XSW-D loses out big time to the RodeLink with a meager offering of 5 hours. You have the option of extending the battery life with connected power banks, but at that point you start to lose out on being compact and portable.
Rode Wireless Go
You know a company is doing well when their product’s direct competition is another of its own products.
The Rode Wireless Go is basically an ultra-compact miniaturization of the RodeLink wireless technology. The Wireless Go is ten times smaller than the RodeLink and is a hugely significant achievement in terms of keeping audio gear light and portable.
The range of the Wireless Go is reduced to 230 ft (70 m) and the battery life taps out around 7 hours. However, it still adapts to dense 2.4 GHz environments just as well as the RodeLink and is also capable of running 8 systems in one location.
The clip-on transmitter has a built-in microphone rather than a wired one. Since the transmitter is the microphone, it’s a little bit harder to hide than a wired lav, but if you have a 3.5 mm wired lav hanging around you can also use that in the 3.5 mm jack. Unfortunately, that 3.5 mm jack doesn’t lock.
As much as I love the RodeLink, it’s hard to deny the convenience of “the world’s smallest beltpack transmitter for a lavalier microphone”. I’m already considering supplementing my videographer toolkit and using the RodeLink lav mic with the Wireless Go. But that’s not really competition anymore, is it? That’s synergy.
RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit Review : Final Verict
Back in 2015, I met some craigslist stranger at a Fred Meyer’s Starbucks to buy his RodeLink Filmmaker Kit. He actually tried to sell me on taking two kits off of his hands at a better deal than I could buy them individually, but in an uncertain moment of hesitation I declined. If I had any idea that all these years later I would still be using the RodeLink as my primary audio solution, I would have snatched up that second kit in a heartbeat.
Five years later, RodeLink has stood the test of technological obsolescence. While a little bit bulkier, the significantly longer battery life and inclusion of the Rode Lav allows the RodeLink holds up to its own company’s competitor: the Rode Wireless Go.
Rode clearly put plenty of thought into a powerful, long-lasting tool targeted at filmmakers that are getting serious about their craft. The RodeLink Wireless Filmmaker Kit is easy to use and delivers high-quality audio. Best of all – you’ll never need that detangler again.