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Rode NT1 A
3.35 (22 Reviews) Very versatile cardioid condenser for a great price
When I purchased this microphone, it was part of a bundle Rode had put together for their anniversary, which included the microphone, a shock mount, and an XLR cable. I think this bundle is now a permanent deal, so that's what I'm going to be reviewing.
This microphone, when paired with any half-decent preamp, is an incredible bang for your buck. Crisp highs with a smooth low-end on vocals, lots of shimmer on acoustic guitars, and plenty of body as drum overheads. I use it primarily for vocals, and it has yet to fail me. The sound you get is very tweakable, and you can basically make it sound any way you'd like. Very transparent.
I've been using this mic for two years now, and it's been very good to me. I get very pleasing sounds of it here at home with my rather lackluster preamps, but if I bring it to the studio with me and get to run it through some tubes, she really starts to shine. Not quite as smooth or as natural as a Neumann, but why would it be? It's a $200 microphone. And it's worth every penny.
The included shockmount and cable have held up wonderfully thus far.
The NT1a is like an ice pick to the head. Chinese LDCs are known for their hyped high end. The NT1a is the worst of the bunch in my opinion. Very piercing highs that are not contained well with eq. I got one when they first came out thinking it would have to be an improvement over my original NT1. Boy, was I wrong! My original NT1 sounded like a U87 compared to the piercing screeching sound coming from the NT1a. I returned it right away, with no regrets.
I have had my NT-1a for about 4 yrs and it has served me well. It is well-built, stands up to moderate abuse, and the price is right.
Soundwise, it has a 2db rise at 150hz that makes it sound great on most male vocals. On certain male vocals, it has won shootouts here against somewhat better mics like the at4047, mk220, and sm7b. It sounds pretty good on acoustic guitar with some nice mid-range presence and strong low end, but I usually prefer SDCs on guitar, as the NT-1a can get boomy in the low end relative to the SDCs I use (cemc6, sm81).
I don't really notice any harshness in the upper mids or highs that others speak of. The upper mids are present, but I have never found it harsh even with compression. I would not use it on most female voices, but it sounds pretty good on deeper register females.
I love the low noise and high sensitivity characteristics of this mic, as I record a lot of quiet sources like fingerstyle guitar and solo singer/songwriters.
I recently did a systematic shootout of several vocal mics ($200-$600 range) with each of several preamps ($225-$550 per channel range) to find the best pre for each mic. The NT-1a with a Sytek MPX-4Aii was an outstanding combo for male vocals.
The NT1-A is a budget cardioid condenser microphone aimed at the new sound engineer and home musician. The microphone in question here came as part of their 'Complete Vocal Recording Solution' with the mic, shockmount, pop filter and XLR cable. At it's typical bundle RRP of around £160 its a neat little package for a very competitive price.
Its a bright sounding mic, and I have personally used it for both male and female vocals - for metal/rock singers, singer / songwriters and voice over work, also I have used it to record acoustic guitar. Its a great little all rounder for all these uses, sounding particularly nice with an acoustic guitar. It performs better with the quieter end of the scale, for nice guitars and nice smooth vocals/voice over rather than the roaring of rock singers but with the right amount of EQ and other desired effects you can get great results that please engineers and my clients alike.
Its not the be all and end all, and at this price you really wouldn't expect it to be. Its a great solution for the new engineer and hobbyist as you start your journey into the world of audio and lets face it - in the future more mic's in your arsenal isn't going to hurt one iota ... and it won't hurt your bank balance much, either!
Sound Quality - 7
-Nice smooth bright sound that is pleasing to hear and capable of great results even without a fancy pre-amp.
Ease of Use - 10
-Its a microphone, it has no options. Just sing at it!
Features - 6
Great kit included with the bundle but no options for different polar patterns or anything may limit its versatility against other microphones.
Bang For Buck - 9
Almost whoever you are, you really cant go wrong at this price.
Rode NT1A is a very quiet microphone and a little bit hyped on the highs.
I normally run it trhu a dark sounding tube preamp to do voiceover work and it has never let me down. Definitely a bang for the buck, but don't expect it to be a high end mic though.
This mic used to be THE mic to buy if you were on a budget. At the time it first came out it was pretty much the only mic you could get to sound anything close to a good studio mic without spending over a grand. Most the people that used it were on a budget and were using it with budget preamps so it's reputation wasn't great among the high end studios but all the home studio people loved them.
Craig David was I believe the first big artist through that used one and it did sound good on his voice. It can sound good if you match it up with a nice tube preamp. I wouldn't call the highs hyped as it seems to drop down after 16k. There is a peak around 8k which can be a problem for some singers and instruments but since you know it is at 8k you can EQ it out. It's not the best mic out there and for the price now the cheaper Audiotechnica studio condensers and Studio Projects are Rodes rivals.
I still have a pair or Rode NT1a mics in my studio and they do get used from time to time.
Should you get one?
If you're on a budget, why not. It's a decent mic and by spending less money you could put it towards a good preamp and still end up with a fairly decent sound, perhaps a fantasic sound if you find the right preamp. I know I lot of people that have used it with an Aphex 207D with good results. If you run a high end studio, you might even find it useful to have lying around. It can sound great on acoustic guitars.
The Rode NT1-A is the perfect condenser microphone for beginners on a tight budget who are ready to make professional sounding records.
The first thing to note is the microphone is very quiet - it only has 5dB SPL of self noise. This results in very modern, clear, and clean recordings which can either be desirable or sterile. Indeed, this microphone very bright and crisp and lends itself well to male and lower pitch female vocals, but the high frequencies can come off as harsh. This microphone can also be very sibilant, but a skilled mix engineer can utilize some EQ and a de-esser to minimize the aforementioned problems to a very acceptable level.
Another thing to consider is Michael Joly of Oktavamod (Award-winning microphone engineering from Michael Joly) does a modification of the Rode NT1-A that makes it sound very similar to a Neumann U87 (which costs 5 times as much) for only $399. Many Gearslutz members had a very hard time discerning a difference between the modded NT1-A and the U87 which is pretty amazing. I plan to send my NT1-A in to be modded by Oktavamod sometime in the future, so look out for a review of that soon!
All in all, the Rode NT1-A microphone really does sound great for the price (which is under $250 on amazon), and it is packaged with a shock mount, pop filter, and XLR cable so it really is a great purchase for beginners who are ready to get their feet wet in the world of audio recording.
Background: Rode is a best selling brand of well-designed and well-engineered microphones which come with 10 year warranties. The price point is well-judged for the home-studio market and the mics, whilst not high-end, have a good reputation for build, reliability, and tonal quality.
The NT1A was my first microphone and was intended for studio use - vocals and acoustic guitar - but it has also worked well for field recording. I struck lucky considering my lack of knowledge at the time.
Hardware: The NT1A is a revision of the previous NT1 model and it's USP is the low self-noise and bang-for-buck. The review model, purchased 8 years ago, came in a soft cardboard box with a good quality dust case and 'cats-cradle' eleasticated shock suspension with mic-stand mount. The mic is robust and well-engineered with good tolerance. The capsule is 1" cardiod condenser with an incredibly low self-noise of 5dBA - it's claimed as the worlds quietest studio microphone. The active electronics inside consists of a JFET impedance converer with bipolar output buffer. It's a side-address mic and the frequency response is 20-20,000Hz and output impedance of 100 ohms. Maximum SPL is 137 dB. It weighs 326g and connects to preamp via 3-pin XLR.
In Use: The NT1A feels substantial and solid to the touch; I remember getting home from the audio shop and connecting it to a preamp and monitoring with headphones on...I moved the mic on the stand to find a sweet spot in the room; whilst doing this I knocked a pin off my desk and it fell onto the floor...amazingly I heard the pin drop onto the floor through my headphones!
Leaving tonality aside for a moment, the incredibly low self-noise and dynamic response of this mic has taught me a lot about recording...the exactness of the NT1A can really help in terms of mic placement and the textures of different sources. This microscopic nature led me to use it for field use too and it worked very well on quiet sources in the natural world e.g. tiny insects buzzing and grass rustling in the breeze.
When it comes to tonality, the precision of the NT1A can be a positive and negative...it can be harsh, particularly on a 'harsh' vocalist or 'buzzy' instrument. This is problematic come mix time when it can be a battle with EQ and compression. That said, 8 years ago, there was little to touch this in the price range.
Based on the NT1A, I decided to upgrade to a Rode K2 when funds were available; the reason for this was I felt the NT!A never represented the qualities I wanted in the mix and the K2, whilst bright, is much warmer. Lately though I've been experimenting with the NT1A through a BAE preamp and it's like a new mic; the Recording Hacks review (link below) also notes that it's good for tracking to tape which smooths off the harsh edges. When I say harsh I don't mean it's a harsh mic but rather has a tendency towards 'brashness' in certain conditions e.g. bad room or tonality of vocal. Sibilance can be an issue too, although with the BAE this issue has disappeared and the mic has taken on a new lease of life.
I recently compared the NT1A against the sE Electronics sE X1 mic:
Conclusion: This is a great starter mic but needs a decent preamp and careful placement to get the best from it. It won't suit sibilant vocalists but can be EQ'd. It's excellent value and I've never regretted my purchase...it's an old friend I've learnt a lot from. I'd definitely recommend it but the competition has caught up now and, as with all mics, it's worth auditioning against the competition.
UPDATE: Following James Meeker's review below I've decided to adjust my scoring as I was wrong in my assessment and Gearslutz should present factual information. Having used 'better' mics for a while now I can put the NT1-A in a better context; it's still a well-engineered mic with great resolution but it's not deserving of a high score in comparison with other mics...particularly mics at a higher price point.
My assessment is that it's a decent buy for a beginner and the budget conscious (and who isn't that?). But personally, I don't like it at all -- it's just too harsh (although NOT as bad as the C1) and doesn't stand up to what I've become accustomed to over the years. In my opinion, a beginner would be far better served stepping up a bit to something like an AT4050. NOTE: there are a number of mods out there that reportedly revoice the NT1-A to smooth it out some, and a fair number of people swear by them (particularly the Octava mod)
I bought this as my first mic. Before I had this I was using my MacBook mic to record random stuff, so obviously this was a massive leap forward and I had no problems with the sound quality at all.
That was about one year ago. Since then my ears have got better and I've been doing a lot of recording. Only recently have I started to notice it's limitations.
I started getting difficulties when I recorded a female singer with a really special voice. She has some very harsh edges to her voice when she gets louder and the mic couldn't really deal with that. It sounded terrible. My mixing engineer fixed that problem with a deEsser and it turned out ok. http://soundcloud.com/sean-gray/would-it-be-easier
All in all I'm super happy with the mic. It has been a great investment: I spent a relatively small amount of money and got a quality mic that would allow me to make acceptable quality recordings and learn more about recordings. It's been my friend for about a year and within the next year I think I'll have to move on to something better.
If you're starting out and you want to add quality to your recordings at quite a low cost, then go for it. If you want to get more serious then I'd recommend spending a bit more.
This is the mic I recommend the most for broke decent sound engineers, as you can not just plug it in and sing and expect the recordings to sound great.
I use this mic the most in my studio, but everything I record with it have to be EQ out.
Its a low budget mic that can produce great sounds, but expect to have to play with the EQ and play with where you have to place the microphone when recording. - its a $200bucks mic that gets the job done.
i have 2 original nt1's. i modded one with a 47 cap, and was going to do the second one also but decided i'm keeping it stock, because i really like it as a room mic in boxy places. it makes the room sound bigger, with a lot of deep lows and the extended top. it's like the audix d6 of room mics.
Recommended for someone with less than $200 to spend
If I am recording a number of vocalists at once on individual mics, especially if it is for a background singer or someone who I need to brighten up a bit.
, I will go for the NT-1a and it compares favorably alongside my other large diaphragm condensers, e.g. Neumann U-87 or Equitek E-200 or AT 4030's. With a good tube pre, it can warm up just fine; it is a very quiet mic with quite low self noise.
Experiment with different mic pres with different gain characteristics and you wil hear a lot of different qualities so don't be too quick to judge.
I used to do a lot of spoken word and found the NT1a GREAT with a pop filter and a clean tube pre especially on resonant male voices.
If you have less than $200 or can pick one of these up for $100 used, I think it is a great bang for the buck!
- Sound quality: This mic has some outstanding SQ features--it has a wide frequency range and extremely low noise. Recording my vocals tend to sound too bright dead on. When turned 45 degrees or more, it takes the edge off an produces a more neutral tone. I tend to hear this same brightness on other's vocal tracks recorded using this mic as well. There are plenty of mods available for this mic and that's likely d/t the fact that the circuitry produces so little noise. Here's the Graph from Recording Hacks:
To me it seems to sound brighter than the graph would indicate which has been suggested is d/t time domain response issues caused by the protective grill. I cannot confirm or deny that.
- Reliability / Durability/ Usability: This mic is definitely lighter and doesn't feel as solid as some other mics I own. I haven't had any troubles with it however and I think it's made of aluminum. Probably why it feels light--and I have a tendency to equate light with cheap though it's certainly not always the case. Often it's the opposite. It's build quality is closer to my old Samson C01 than some of my newer/pricier mics. It comes with a very good shock mount, pop filter, and mic socks that allow you to leave it on the stand and not get dusty. It's very well thought out package for the lazy among us. The included carrying bag is not a rugged way to protect these for transport however.
- Would I buy this again if it were stolen?: Maybe... I like this mic b/c it's about as quiet as a good preamp and it does sound great many times. It just isn't my go to mic. I imagine I'd miss it if it were gone at times. It's so quiet.
- Features that stand out: The low noise and the wide frequency response!
- What I don't like: The general brightness on axis.
- Similar products used: Blue Spark, cheap Shure LDC, and Samson C01
This mic has some nice features and is definitely useful, but the sibilant brightness needs tamed for my vocals in general.
When these first came out, they fit a niche for a decent budget ldc. I, like many others, brought one of these home to try out. In a way, they were successful because the sound was 'decent'. However after a few tracks, the harmonic biases became nerve wracking. The tinniness of the high end adds up after a couple tracks on different sources and the boomy low-mids really crowd out the mix.
In the last few years, the market has really caught up in this price range. Mics like the sE X1, the KEL Audio mics, and some of the AKG's really blow the Rode out of the water in terms of natural harmonics and balanced clarity. I've relegated mine to use as a backup live mic on piano because the mid-scope gives me a sound that can cut through the mix - but it certainly isn't a great sound.
It's a decent mic, but I think you can do much better on a budget these days.
I bought this microphone because of the price tag. It is great for around $200. I did not go into it thinking that this microphone would blow everything out of the water and I have not been disappointed yet.
Back at school I used this through a Millennia HV-3D preamp and I got a very rounded vocal track. Comparing it to some of the higher end vocal microphones I have had a chance to use I don't think I will need to spend more money on a vocal mic until I get to the point of being a recording guru so to speak. At my home demo rig I lack the same high quality preamps and I am able to hear a pretty noticeable difference in the sound quality but this is to be expected when dropping from a high end preamp to a m-audio fast track's pre-amps.
If I was to try and find a flaw with this microphone I would have to say I don't personally like the screw mounting system for the shock mount it came with but this is a minor detail.
When I used this to record guitars as a room mic I enjoyed the presence of the lower mid region. This plus an sm57 really helped to fill out my guitar tone to sound fuller. Granted I eq'd out the high end on this mic and the lower end of the 57 but I really enjoyed the blended sound.
I am going to keep experimenting with this microphone to see where it excels and where it falls short. Overall though for a budget microphone I feel that this is very versatile choice.
My first impression was the color, probably had the most color I've ever heard on a microphone I'd classify the color as a "rich" sound, I probably would of liked it but the highs were too harsh for my liking so I sold it. This mic would definitely serve a purpose to give some instruments nice sounds but on vocals It's a difficult mic to use. Not impossible, but I would pass on it.
Two NT1A mics (provided by performer) 3' apart for a 4-piece band: bass, guitar, fiddle, dobro/guitar.
Normal venue PA setup:
FOH mixer is a Yamaha, EV high/mid & sub speakers, no monitors, stage area has sound insulation on 3 sides & carpet, room is partially insulated for sound & designed overall for "acoustic" performances.
The engineers have specific experience in folk, acoustic, bluegrass events, indoors & out.
At flat channel settings, these were very bright-sounding and crispy-sharp in an unpleasant way.
They were most unflattering to the higher voices, making them shrill and almost mettalic. Yuck.
EQing will not help, the overall tonal character is jangly.
They don't handle bass very well either, getting woofy very easily.
We don't have these issues with the Shure, Neumann, or AKG mics in the same situation(s), and don't usually have objections to performers using their own mics. I will veto the NT1A next time it comes around.
I am a (relative) Low-End-Theory practitioner & enjoy using several less-than-$500 mics in many cases, but I won't use a mic that sounds unpleasant or dis-phonic to me, and this one does.
It uses the same capsule as the D12, the legendary "Beatles" mic but with a differently shaped basket. In this day and age of digital recording, I find myself using more and more dynamic and ribbon mics instead of condensers, and this mic shines in that category. I first heard it on acoustic guitar, and it had a fullness and a smooth top end which I'd been looking for. It also works really well on vocals, especially female. I haven't tried it on anything yet, but to me it sounds like a very versatile mic.
I gave the features a lower mark because the bottom end roll off is close to useless, and it works in very particular way, actually physically changing the shape of the basket.
The original Rode NT1 was one of the truly affordable budget microphones designed for the burgeoning 80s home recording scene. It had an excellent reputation and was a common sight in local and project studios everywhere. For good reason--it was a decent mic. But times change, companies change hands, costs are cut to maximize profit, components change over the years, and things moved overseas.... and that's exactly what happened to the NT1.
This is not the same microphone that you'll hear old AE's drone on about being an excellent choice. It's not the same mic you'll read about in Rode's advertising blurbs, dribble dreamed up by some marketing weenie that wouldn't even notice the difference between an original NT1 and the low grade, total manufacturing cost about 3 dollars hunk of screaming metal you've just unwrapped. It's really something you should consider before going down this path because, as of the moment I'm writing this, there are PLENTY of options for mics in this price range and, barring a few natural disasters by Samson, all of them will kill-krush-and-destroy the modern NT1.
It's shocking how bad this microphone sounds compared to the original. If given the choice between miking a drum kits overheads with SM57's over NT1's there wouldn't even be a choice--my natural reflexes would have me halfway setup with the Shure's before the thought had even processed. I honestly cannot think of an application for this mic that virtually anything, including a rusty Campbell's soup can and a length of string, wouldn't beat its pants off of. This mic is shrill, thin, processed sounding and sterile. You know the old adage about a good recording engineer being able to make silk purses out of pig's ears? Well, George Martin couldn't get a good sound with The Beatles if he was forced to exclusively use NT1's; instead we'd all be talking about how amazing Gerry and the Pacemakers are. Avoid.
Bottom line: considering the environmental challenges and dwindling resources in the world it should be a crime against humanity to create, market and sell the NT1. It is a testament to the pursuit of money over everything else, in this case: artistry. Total junk.
This is an example of a stereo pair of rode NT1A's on upright bass going straight into a mackie 32x8. Both mics placed about a foot away, facing at where he was plucking. The frequency response of the mic definitely explains why it seemed to sound full and be able to bring out the definition of the plucks almost more than how it sounded in person. It wasn't the most crispy sounding upright I ever got to try. Hopefully it is deemed listenable by the slutty community! As an early go at recording, practically all the gear used were things that everyone loves to rip on in this forum.