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SM81 to NT5 comparison
Old 10th June 2006
Lives for gear

SM81 to NT5 comparison

Has anyone compared the SM81s to the NT5s? Thanks.
Old 11th June 2006

I haven't played with the NT5, I like the 81 on things like fiddle and HightHat. They have a bit of warmth in midrange and a smooth top end that can warm up a fiddle/ give the HH some body and keeps the bow-scratch from getting too annoying or the HH from getting too sizzly.

The frequency response spec is flat, but the transient response makes a difference. I would assume that the NT5 is a bit more precise and transients are better preserved (just a guess).

I don't think I'd reach for either one for a nylon string guitar first...


Old 16th June 2008
Gear Head

I have a matched pair of the NT5's. I really like them. They work great as overheads and also do quite well on acoustic instruments. I sad to say havnt had access to the SM81 (im working on it) but i can definitely vouch for the NT5s.
Old 17th June 2008
Lives for gear

I have used a matched pair of NT5s to record string ensembles, choirs and steel stringed instruments.

They seem to me a little bit bright (i.e. more so than, say, a MK012), but nothing over the top. I had a little bit of trouble recording a twelve-string guitar: some strummed passages were blurred, but that may have been the M-Audio preamp I used at the time.

Other than that, they have served me quite well.
Old 17th June 2008
Lives for gear
popmann's Avatar
I've sat with both...on the two things I used SDC pairs for--acoustic guitar and the top of the Leslie 122.

The Rodes have a much more smiley faced sound...81s have more midrange detail. The NT5s made my 122 sound a little like an overly pleasant "synth organ"...where the 81s get every groan and whir.

On acoustic, there was no doubt the 81s were more honest in the nuance...but, I did like the more smiley faced sound of the NT5s.

So, they're both good choices, IMO, but they're not really equivalent "quality" mics. There's a level of nuance and detail picked up by the 81s that is just glossed over with the NT5s, IMO. Buying new, the 81s are almost twice as much $$, right? I guess they SHOULD be better. Anyway--shop used. I've had 3 81s around virtually new, one new model bought used, and one old "pre LC" 81--all three sounded consistently the same.
Old 18th June 2008
Lives for gear
Janesaid2me's Avatar
Ive used both and for the price i think the NT5 is the better mic...thats all im going to say.
Old 18th June 2008
Lives for gear

Originally Posted by popmann View Post
The Rodes have a much more smiley faced sound...81s have more midrange detail. The NT5s made my 122 sound a little like an overly pleasant "synth organ"...where the 81s get every groan and whir.
Very interesting comment. I describe them-the NT5's- as sounding "electronic," not because they are bad sounding, but sometimes it's as if someone removed all of the odd partials and kept the even ones. On a piano, they make the piano sound synthetic or electronic. They don't sound bad at all, really, and the effect is subtle. My experience with them has been very limited. No reason to count them out.
Old 19th June 2008
Lives for gear

i own a pair of both, and to make a long story short, i reach for the NT5 when i want something to sound warm/smooth, and snag the 81's when i want a more crisp/detailed sound. i'd also have to give the 81 the edge feature-wise since it has the pad and hi-pass filter, but they're also a lot more $$$....
Old 19th June 2008
Lives for gear

Haven't used SM-81's in quite some time, but as I recall, they're "more flatter" or even-tempered than the NT-5's (a pair of which I owned for awhile), which are indeed a bit more "smiley-curve'd" as a previous poster mentioned.

Neither mic sucks, IMO... just a very different sound to each.
Old 19th June 2008
Gear Maniac
RichS's Avatar

Just a suggestion... Check out the NT55, same mic, but it includes both cardioid and omni capsules. A little more versatile and a lot of bang for the buck.
Old 20th June 2008
Lives for gear

BTW, you can buy omni capsules to use with the NT-5s...
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