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This article was originally published in issue #32
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When the RØDE NT1 was launched back in the mid 1990s it was seen (and heard) as a bit of a breakthrough in the affordable condenser microphone marketplace, and it sold by the bucket-load until it was replaced by the NT1-A in the mid 2000s. In the years between the launch and the update a heck of a lot of very cheap microphones landed in our shops, and a few manufacturers really worked to push the price/performance point of budget microphones. The NT1-A certainly had specs to boast about, and most reviewers (and more importantly, users) agreed that they preferred the evolved sound of the new microphone. Then, in the mid 2010s, RØDE launched a new update to the NT1-A. The NT1-B? Nope - it’s called the NT1 - so thanks for that folks!
Right then; the new-NT1 is a large diaphragm condenser (LDC) microphone with a newly-designed 1” capsule. It’s a straightforward mic, so no pattern selection, no pad and no low-cut filter - if you need those then you need a different model. The mic body is made out of nickel plated, machined aluminium and has a deep grey ceramic coating with nicely understated “RØDE” (and “Designed and made in Australia”) lettering. I think they’ve managed a very classy set of colours here, so hats-off to the design team.
Apparently the NT1 is ALL new - the only common part with the previous mic is the basket that protects the capsule (and that’s a different colour). The specs show self noise of 4.5 dB which is ridiculously low - I don’t know how RØDE manages this without actually disconnecting the socket, and a maximum SPL level of 132 dB, which isn’t quite as high as the NT1-A, but is still much louder than most places I’d ever want to put my ears.
When I did my new mic “tap test” I thought that the shell seemed to be more solid than the older model, and there’s something springy inside. Now most LDC mics have the capsule fixed in a shock mount, but this felt more “boingy” than usual. So, when no one was looking, I took it apart and found that the capsule is mounted on a hi-tech (and very effective) Rycote Lyre shock mount; very impressed.
In use? Well, I think it sounds a bit different to the NT1-A. The top end sounds a little more “old fashioned” in a good way, but the real bonus for me is that the slight hump at around 100Hz that I’m sure I could hear in the NT1-A has gone, opening-up the sound considerably. Like many really good mics it doesn’t scream extreme character at you, and I felt that there is a nicely judged quality that adds a size to the natural sound without seeming to try too hard. I’d love to get my hands on a variable pattern version that sounded just like this microphone, but until then, with these specs and this sound (oh, and certainly at this price) the NT1 is pretty much a mic for all seasons, a real workhorse.
I reviewed the NT-1A in Guitar Interactive issue 22, and said: “the RØDE is at the very-good end of the budget market. To my ears it’s slightly euphoric, but cleans-up very well”. I think that’s a very fair summary, but I do prefer the new one. I think it’s grown-up very nicely.
The NT1 Complete Recording Kit comes with a “Rycote Onboard” shock-mount, a twin skin steel pop-shield and a soft case that fits nicely over the mic on a stand. The mount is brilliant and has the most effective angle adjustment mechanism I’ve ever used on a shock-mount (I use an original Rycote that cost over 1/3 as much as this whole kit and it’s by far the best I’d ever used; until I opened this box). Oddly, the locking ring for the mic isn’t captive on the mount - so make sure you don’t lose it. The pop-shield fits directly to the front edge of the shock-mount and works better than most standard nylon screen units, all of which makes this a very good package indeed.
As always, you need to test a mic on your particular voice, but for a general use workhorse mic, RØDE has really nailed it this time - and at a great price.