Technological advances in the audio field have made music production in 2017 very accessible. With the advent of bedroom producers and audio engineers, the sub-$200 microphone category is an enticing, yet ambiguous choice for capable recording on a budget. While there are a variety of options for both USB connections and audio interface use, an industry pioneer remains among the top.
Founded in 1967 by Henry and Peter Freedman, Røde Microphones has been a mainstay in the audio equipment industry for decades. While models such as the K2, NTK, and NT2000 are certainly good mics, Røde’s options in the (slighty over) $200 range really shine.
|Price (Amazon)||Bundle: $229.00 with shock mount and pop filter|| Bundle: $269.00 with shock mount and attached pop filter
|Power Requirement||24V phantom power,
48V phantom power
|24V phantom power,
48V phantom power
|Connection||3-Pin XLR||3-Pin XLR|
Now, it is important to keep in mind, that most mics, of all price ranges, depend heavily on the source. You can only polish garbage so much. Also, you should realize that modern software and digital equipment allow for a wide spectrum of sounds and characteristics, and the inability to create good audio is rarely attributed to the microphone. With that said, let’s take a deeper look at the NT1 and NT1-A by Røde.
The NT1-A is often attributed to having a brighter, more ‘airy’ sound. But this can sound fairly ambiguous if you’re not familiar with this type of gear and terminology.
Taking a look at the frequency response of the NT1-A, we see a slight boost at around 150Hz, and the 6k-12kHz range, with a steep cut at the high-end.
Now, what does this mean? Well, essentially, you’re going to be getting a little more low-end resonance, which can help with clarity and character, along with bright top-end coming from the boost in the higher regions. This can help give your vocals cut more through the mix for added presence.
So a quick run down:
NT1-A: Røde’s older model with a bright and airy profile, ideal for recording out-of-the-box
Boost at 150Hz: More low end, gives character and resonance
Boost at 6k-12kHz: Brighter top-end, helping vocals ‘cut’ through the mix
Now let’s take a look at the NT1-A’s newer counterpart. What the NT1 lacks in name creativity, it makes up for in build quality and versatility. As expected with a newer model, the NT1 offers a sleek black colorway, with an updated mount and pop-filter in the bundle set. Taking a look at its frequency plot, we can see some additional differences.
The NT1 offers a much flatter profile, ideal for someone who knows their vocals, and how to manipulate them. With the lack of boosts and cuts, and generally flatter response curve, the canvas is essentially blank, leaving it up to the creator to adapt to his or her liking. There are rounded cuts to the 20-30Hz and 16k-20kHz ranges, but those cuts are often made regardless, as the human ear is unlikely to notice anything of significance in those ranges.
NT1: Røde’s newer model with a flat response curve, ideal for someone familiar with EQ.
Flat response: With hardly any boosts and cuts, it’s up to the creator to customize their sound to his or her liking. Not ideal for out-of-the-box recording, but still very serviceable.
With all this said, let’s take a moment to reiterate; at most price ranges, but especially the ~$200 price point, it’d be best to not take frequency responses and mic characteristics too seriously. The tools are certainly out there for anyone, with a little knowledge and effort, to make some great recordings.
Sure, perhaps the NT1-A, with its brighter tone and compensated boosts and cuts, will sound slightly better out of the box. Or maybe the NT1 will provide a more natural sound for voiceovers and ambient recordings. However, above all else, knowledge of proper EQ, compression, and recording techniques will enable any microphone, even a $50 USB condenser mic, to create and record satisfactory content.
It’s the age of the bedroom producer (and engineer), so try not to let yourself feel limited by a lack of gear or funds.