For more than 50 years, RØDE audio equipment has been a staple in professional studios worldwide. And now, the Australian company wants to be a part of your home studio too.
While the RODE AI-1 audio mixer is a mid-range priced product, it promises to deliver top-notch performance. So even when streaming with a gaming setup, you will be in for a treat with this product.
The AI-1 is an interface to consider if you want to transition from a USB microphone to an XLR configuration.
RODE AI-1 Audio Interface Packaging
When our item arrived for the RODE AI-1 Audio Interface Review, we were excited to try it immediately. It came in an all-white cardboard box with an image of the audio interface in front. This area also showcases the unit name, company branding, and the RODE official website.
Inside, you will find the AI-1 Audio Interface, a USB-C to A cable, an Ableton Lite, plus a quick start guide. All these are secure in the box to avoid any damage during shipping.
RODE AI-1 Audio Interface Review – Design and Functionality
Let us continue our RODE AI-1 Audio Interface Review by looking at its functions and design.
The AI-1 is a single-channel pro-grade audio interface that offers outstanding audio quality for home recording, live streaming, or podcasting. It has a studio-grade preamp and a Neutrik combo jack for linking instruments and microphones. The product also has a high-powered headphone amp for clear audio playback and monitoring, making it ideal for home recording.
Like other RODE products, everything about this audio interface feels premium. It has a sleek and stealthy aesthetic with its matte black, all-metal case. And to add the RODE signature look, it is finished with a gold dot inlay.
Its rugged aluminium body features a black satin finish, and it also comes with rubber feet to prevent slippage.
For the drivers, the class-compliant product does not require these. It also features a USB-C connector for linking your PC and providing power.
These little details make a huge difference. And it makes you feel like having pro-grade audio equipment in hand.
Additionally, you will find a subtle LED light to indicate peaking and levels. And as for the RODE logo, you can find it at the top of the unit for added aesthetics.
To continue our RODE AI-1 Audio Interface Review, let us check its I/O layout. It has a single XLR input with a 1/4-inch headphone jack in front, pl USB-C and speaker outputs on its rear.
There are two control knobs on the front selection. Yes, these are standard components on the unit, but these are great to have.
You will notice an adequate amount of resistance that adds more to its premium feel. Aside from that, the audio interface serves its function by helping prevent accidental changes in levels.
You will find two LED lights in front of the unit, which notify you of the input levels. The colours you will see include green, red, or orange, and what appears depends on your signal. Additionally, a phantom power indicator is available too.
The rear of the unit features two 1/4-inch balanced jack outputs and a USB-C connector. The AI-1 has no MIDI function but offers an entirely single-channel audio recording function.
Additionally, the output dial of the AI-1 is a button to switch on zero-latency direct monitoring. Its simple design makes the product an ideal option for voice-over recording, new recording musicians, or podcasting.
As we mentioned earlier, the AI-1 is class-compliant, thus, does not require drivers. That means you can easily plug the product and immediately start your project.
Key Features of the RODE AI-1 Audio Interface
Instant Studio-quality Sound
The AI-1 has streamlined controls and a single input, making it easy to use. Connect it to your computer, plug in your instrument or microphone, and you can start recording.
Although the audio interface is simple and compact, it offers lots of punch with ultra-low noise, high gain studio-grade preamp. As a result, you can achieve pristine recordings.
The balanced 1/4-inch outputs are for connecting your favourite speakers. You will also find a high-power headphone amplifier that can drive professional high-impedance models for seamless monitoring.
Get Connected and Create Wonderful Music
Earlier in this RODE AI-1 Audio Interface Review, we mentioned that the unit has a high-quality Neutrik combo jack. It is essential for linking the 1/4-inch and XLR cables to plug a mic, synthesiser, guitar, or bass.
The switchable phantom power guarantees the accommodation of any microphone. The simple indicator LED lets you track your input level to achieve crystal-clear audio.
The AI-1 also has a free version of Ableton Lite in its package, allowing you to record immediately. It does not matter if you are making multi-layered music or live streaming. This audio interface will capture every detail.
AI-1 and the RODE Central App
RODE Central is an easy-to-use companion app for AI-1 and other RODE products. It lets you access device information and update to the newest firmware. The latest version offers an extended gain range for improved performance when you use low-output dynamic microphones.
The RODE Central requires Windows 10 version 1803 or later and macOS 10.13 & above. It also works on mobile devices and supports iOS 14 or later and Android 9.0 and higher.
To continue our RODE AI-1 Audio Interface Review, we will discuss everything about its specifications. For starters, the AI-1 has a 60dB gain range and a bit depth of 24-bits.
Sample rates include 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, and 96kHz, plus one preamp.
You will need macOS 10.10 (or later) and Windows 7 (or later). And it is also a USB-powered unit for the audio interface to work.
The AI-1 has one Neutrik XLR 1/4-inch combo for its analogue input. The analogue outputs include two 1/4-inch speaker outputs and a 1/4-inch headphone output. Additionally, the unit comes with one USB-C connector.
This audio interface from RODE has a depth of 100mm with the knobs, while its chassis is 88mm. It is 124mm wide, 38mm tall, and weighs 560g.
Lastly, it comes with a 1-year warranty which you can extend to two years after product registration.
Hands-on with the RODE AI-1 Audio Interface
This time, we will share our hands-on experience with the AI-1 in our RODE AI-1 Audio Interface Review.
Performance-wise, there is nothing to complain about the AI-1. We can describe it as a set-and-forget hands-off product that can stay behind your desk.
After using the product continuously for a few weeks, we were impressed by the quality RODE packed into the AI-1. And for its price point, it is a good product.
It worked as it should and it did so with perfection. It functioned as a bridge between your mic for streams and your computer without any issues at all.
It was not bad since the AI-1 delivered studio-quality audio during our tests. And honestly, we think that is enough for most streamers today.
Also, Twitch only supports around 44kHz or 47kHz sample rates. That means this unit will successfully keep up with a variety of content.
Honestly, it is a relief to have a plug-and-play audio interface that works how it should. The Razer Audio Mixer requires Razer Synapse to start using, but with the AI-1, we plugged it in and played. We were ready in seconds after connecting the unit.
During our tests, we also did not find any noticeable differences in its sound quality. It was when switching our mic back and forth between the unit and our audio mixer.
Overall, the RODE AI-1 audio interface was crisp and clear. There were no distortions even when we increased gain levels. Plus, we did not require EQ work to achieve excellent results.
RODE AI-1 Audio Interface Review Summary
Upgrading from USB-powered audio to an XLR setup can cost a lot of money. Thankfully, it does not have to be expensive with the AI-1 audio interface from RODE. With this product, you can enjoy a studio experience in the comfort of your home.
Like most audio mixers, it is a plug-and-play product that makes it easy to use, even for beginners. Also, a one-time setup will leave you satisfied in the long run.
During the tests for our RODE AI-1 Audio Interface Review, we were impressed with the performance of this product. Although it is compact with minimal features, it delivers excellent recording quality.
Plenty of audio interfaces on the market have more features, but these also cost higher. The AI-1 may be a simple product, but it lets you connect an XLR microphone to your PC. It is a cost-efficient, high-quality product that is easy to recommend.