When a microphone has been around for 30 years, it must be doing something right. The Rode NT1 is arguably the company’s flagship studio microphone and origin story for the brand’s name. The microphone was originally called Rodent1, shortened to Rode NT1 and the rest is history. Today, the company is unveiling the fifth iteration, and it comes with two important updates that should interest podcasters and vocalists alike. There would be 32-bit fluid recording and the addition of USB connectivity.
The inclusion of USB may feel like something that should have been there all along, but typically “pro” studio mics are XLR only, with USB as a reserve for desktop mics. However, times are changing and more people are looking for a classic microphone, but without the need to use an audio interface. Now, with NT1 you have both. The USB connection is hidden right at the bottom of the existing XLR port. It’s a smart solution, but you need a USB cable with pretty slim connections, otherwise it won’t fit.
With the new USB connection comes the possibility to tailor the sound of the microphone. Usually that part is offloaded to an interface or mixer, but now there’s a built-in DSP that lets you use things like a noise gate or compressor directly on the mic (via Rodes Central or Connect apps). Not to mention this makes the microphone much more portable as you don’t need to carry around a separate, often clunky interface.
The biggest advantage of the MK5 (and the built-in DSP) is easily the introduction of 32-bit float recording. In a nutshell, 32-bit allows an exponentially greater dynamic range than 16- and 24-bit (which is what most systems use). This means you can forget clipping (when the sound is too loud and distorts) as there is enough headroom for almost any sound possible. Or put another way, you can effectively forget about setting levels safe in the knowledge that you can adjust them in post without sound loss.
What this means for podcasters and vocalists is less time worrying about levels when recording, knowing you can tweak things to your liking in post. Of course, good levels at the recording point are always advisable if possible, but at least it means that sudden noises won’t ruin the recording. It’s also currently very rare to find 32-bit float on a mic like this – usually you’d have to buy a pro-level audio recorder if you want this feature.
At $259, the NT1 is in an interesting spot. Shure’s MV7 also offers XLR and USB connectivity and retails for $250 without 32-bit floats (it’s also a dynamic mic, which will either be an advantage or a disadvantage depending on your needs). Sennheiser’s amazing MK 4 condenser usually goes for around $300 and doesn’t offer USB connectivity. Likewise, if you use something like a Blue Yeti and are looking for an upgrade, the NT1 is a compelling option.
NT1 goes up for pre-order today.
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