Rode’s new headset will fit into more productions with its superior design.
Review: Chris Holder
Rode is best known for democratising audio products. Rode is arguably the first name in home studio condenser mics (although Audio-Technica can make a strong case), and has become undeniably the first name in on-camera mics in recent years after inventing/defining the market. With the Rode Lav/SmartLav, we saw Rode move into micro mics. The HS1 lightweight headset mic applied the micro capsule technology to the presentation market.
The HS2 supersedes the HS1 with a range of improvements to the build and ergonomics. The ear strips are the headliners; they’re now more flexible and easier to slip on and stay on without discomfort over long periods. There’s also improvements to how the boom arm functions and there’s a new strain relief system at the back.
The whole mechanism now has the look of something that should have a couple of patents pending — hi-tech and supremely adjustable. But it’s not complex to get it fitting just right; there’s an immediate comfort. And with the talent I’ve worked with there was none of that ‘is this thing on right?’ look on their faces that normally comes with a first time fit.
For years I’ve been mostly working with a single-ear headset design. That’s mainly out of sympathy for the presenters I work with, to minimise the ‘can I take your order’ stigma of a larger assembly. I haven’t had any pushback with the double over-ear design of the HS2 — the fit, the weight and the comfort are excellent.
Like any headset there’s some ‘mic whispering’ required to get it sounding spot on. Mostly the trick is to ensure the omni capsule is positioned spot on — as close to the cheek as possible just up from the mouth. My first attempt saw the capsule a centimetre or so proud of the cheek and I spent more time messing about with compensatory EQ than I’d like. The next time I was wise to my error, and ensured the HS2’s flexible arm placed the capsule right on the skin. The result is a natural voice reproduction, with enough gain and imperceptible self noise.
DPA and Countryman dominate the upper echelons of headset mic applications and I don’t see professional musical theatre troupes throwing away their inventory any time soon. This is not where the HS2 is pitching. It’s half the price for starters. And in the spirit of Rode’s ‘democratising’ ethos, the HS2 will find new friends who already have a couple of Rode mics in their Krumpler bags and will appreciate the option because of its price and performance.
Headset mics for most applications are as much about fit as they are about sound. When you’ve got half a dozen school kids needing to be miked up for a musical (there’s a smaller kid’s version of the HS2, by the way), audio performance is the last thing on your mind. It’s about getting the mics on securely (so they stay on their heads and keep the same position on their cheeks for the length of the production) without the sort of tedious fine-tuning that leaves the talent feeling unsure of themselves (seeing a presenter or performer fiddling with their headset before a performance normally makes my blood run cold).
In the few weeks I’ve had the HS2, it’s felt solid, reliable and comfortable — the build quality is reassuring. I’m not entirely sure how it’ll react to a severe sweat test but if any headset is to withstand an aerobic workout, best use some rubber flange as a sweat prophylactic. The HS2 is unobtrusive — both to the audience and to the talent; sounds right; ships in two colours and comes with the right selection of accessories, including a windsock and a collar clip for the lead.