Rode NT1 Microphone
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Expert Review: Rode NT1 Studio Condenser Microphone

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This article previously appeared on Harmony Central—your information source for making better music.

By Phil O’Keefe

The original Rode NT1 was first released in 1995. An updated version, the NT1-A, was released a couple of years later, and has been very popular. Rode has taken the model and given it a complete reworking, and in a move that's bound to cause at least some confusion and difficult online searches, released it with the model's original name, calling it the NT1. Let's take a look...

The original Rode NT1 was first released way back in 1995. An updated version, the NT1-A, was released a couple of years later, and has been a very popular model. In fact, the NT1 and NT1-A were some of the first truly affordable large diaphragm condenser models. The NT1-A remains a popular choice among many home recordists and is still in production many years after its introduction, but Rode has taken the model and given it a complete reworking, and in a move that's bound to cause at least some confusion and difficult online searches, released it with the model's original name, calling it the NT1. Let's take a look at what's been changed.

What You Need To Know

  • The new NT1 is an all new design. While it may look similar to the original NT1 and the NT1-A, it is a completely different microphone, and the only component shared between the new NT1 and the NT1-A is the mesh grille.
  • The new capsule is a 1" edge terminated pressure gradient type. It's gold plated and has a fixed cardioid polar pattern.
  • P24 or P48 (24 or 48V) phantom power is required to power the NT1.
  • The capsule is mounted in an internal Rycote Lyre type suspension mount, which helps isolate it from shock and vibration.
  • The internal electronics use surface mount technology, and are designed for low noise. In fact, at 4.5dBA, the NT1 has exceptionally low self-noise, which makes it a great choice for recording quieter sound sources. The NT1 is a transformerless design, and uses a JFET impedance converter and bipolar output buffer. The output connectors are gold-plated.
  • The microphone's body is machined from 6061 aluminum, and then nickel plated and coated with a black, scratch-resistant ceramic coating that also does well at resisting fingerprints and smudges. The front of the mic is indicated with a small gold circle just below the grille.
  • The accessories included with this mic are quite nice, and not just at this price point. The SMR shock mount is world-class; it's made by Rycote, and uses their Lyre suspension system to further protect the mic from unwanted stand-borne vibrations. It also comes with a removable multi-layer metal pop filter. This cleverly attaches directly to the front of the SMR shock mount, and is very effective at reducing plosive pops. I also appreciated the inclusion of a drawstring bag. While you should always put away your mics when you're not using them, let's face it - in the real world, that doesn't always happen. Maybe you're in the middle of tracking vocals, and coming back to it in the morning… it's nice to be able to put a bag over the mic for the night, even if you're leaving it up on the stand. I wish more companies included drawstring bags with their microphones.

Rode Microphone

  • Unfortunately I didn't have a NT1-A handy, so I was unable to do any direct side-by-side comparisons, but I have heard the NT1-A many times and am familiar enough with its sound to make some comparisons. The new NT1 seems to have a flatter frequency response overall, with silkier highs than the NT1-A, and a less peaky and boosted presence frequency region - the upper mids are not as pronounced on the new mic as the rather forward upper-mids of the NT1-A are. If I had to sum it up with one word, I'd say it's a flatter, more lush or more refined sounding microphone than its predecessor.
  • Rode stands behind the NT1 with a one year warranty that they'll extend to a full ten years if you register your purchase on their website.

Limitations

  • It's a cardioid-only mic, so you're limited to cardioid only mic techniques. I'd love for Rode to consider making a multi-pattern version of this mic; I think it would be really popular, and it would offer users even more options and flexibility.
  • There are no pad or high pass filter switches on the mic. While the NT1 can handle decently hot signals without overloading (132dB SPL), it can still pump out enough signal level (+8dBu max) that it can, with a very loud sound source, potentially overload your mic preamp.
  • While the "Complete Recording Kit" has a lot of great stuff in it, it doesn't have a mic cable or mic stand - you'll need to purchase those items separately. That's not uncommon at all, but since everything else you'll need is in there, and since a lot of beginners will probably opt for this kit, it's worth mentioning as a reminder to potential purchasers.  

Conclusions

The original NT1 brought affordable large diaphragm condenser mic performance to the home recording masses at a breakthrough price. The new NT1 refines that performance and improves on it significantly, while still remaining remarkably affordable, especially in light of the accessories that are included, the nice build quality, and the overall sound quality. It's remarkably quiet too, which is extremely beneficial in a oftentimes noisy home studio environment, or when working with softer and quieter sound sources.

Since vocals are probably the most commonly recorded sound source in home studios, it's good that the NT1 performs well in that application. While no single microphone is going to be ideal for every vocalist, the NT1 is versatile enough on a variety of singers and other sound sources, and it takes EQ well enough that it is a good choice for a home studio's first large diaphragm condenser. The fact that it can also serve well on other commonly encountered sound sources such as guitar amps, hand percussion and acoustic guitar is going to be icing on the cake for some users, but absolutely crucial for others with more limited mic collections who need their "one good mic" to be able to perform reasonably well on whatever they put it in front of. This one does… and I suspect it will be at least as popular as its predecessors because of it.  

Resources

Musician's Friend Rode NT1 online catalog page ($395.00 MSRP, $269.00 "street")

Rode Microphones NT1 web page

Harmony Central Review Preview video of the Rode NT1

 

philPhil O'Keefe is a multi-instrumentalist, recording engineer / producer and the Senior Editor of Harmony Central. He has engineered, produced and performed on countless recording sessions in a diverse range of styles, with artists such as Alien Ant Farm, Jules Day, Voodoo Glow Skulls, John McGill, Michael Knott and Alexa's Wish. He is a former featured monthly columnist for EQ magazine, and his articles and product reviews have also appeared in Keyboard, Electronic Musician and Guitar Player magazines.

 

HarmonyCentral.com is a leading Internet resource for musicians, delivering news, product reviews, classifieds, and forums.

Tags: Recording Microphones Harmony Central

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