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RØDE NT1-A, January 2003

Jan 1, 2003 1:21 PM, By George Petersen

CARDIOID STUDIO MIC

To celebrate its parent company's 35th year in pro audio, Australia's RØDE Microphones has issued an improved version of its best-selling microphone, the NT1. The new NT1-A (the “A” stands for “anniversary model”) comes from pairing the true condenser (externally polarized), 1-inch-diameter, gold-sputtered capsule from the original NT1 with J-FET surface-mount electronics modeled on RØDE's NT1000 for an entirely new creation, with a personality of its own, an impressive 5dBA self-noise spec and a new nickel-finish body.

The mic retails at a low $349 and includes an effective shockmount and vinyl pouch in a cardboard box. There's no fancy wood coffin or “flight case” here: The purchase price goes into components that affect performance. One unexpected — but appreciated — touch was an extra set of elastic cording for the shockmount. The NT1-A is versatile for many studio applications and will get a lot of use, and somewhere down the road — or on the road — you'll need spare elastics, so it's nice that RØDE provides these up front. A few frills eliminated from the NT1-A include pads and roll-off filters, but the mic handles 137 dB — enough for most sources where a large-diaphragm mic is normally used.

I began testing the NT1-A about three feet back from a Gibson J160 acoustic with an Aphex 1100 preamp and was impressed by the mic's natural, uncolored sound and seemingly total lack of noise. I'm sure the 1100's -135dB EIN spec contributed to this, but the combo of the two was quite nice. Unlike many condensers, the NT1-A has a mostly flat response, without exaggerated presence boosts; it peaks at 4 dB around 12 kHz and then very gradually rolls off to 2.5 dB at 20 kHz. With the NT1-A, what you hear in the room is very close to what the mic captures: There were no timbre shifts at all, even on grand piano.

On vocals, I switched to a Groove Tubes VIPRE preamp, which has plenty of personality and a larger-than-life sound that vocalists love. The combo was great — on male or female lead vocals — although on female background voices, I reached for a bit of high boost to add more of an “airy” feel. The plosives control from the mesh grille is very good — you may not even need a pop filter if your vocalist stays back six inches. The NT1-A has a very controlled proximity effect that adds fullness, but is not overbearing until the lips are two to three inches from the mic. Narrators and radio voices will also love the NT1-A, especially if they know how to “work” the mic.

The NT1-A is a versatile, all-around studio mic that's ideal for the novice or pro, and at $349, there are few reasons not to get one — or a pair — for your mic cabinet.

RØDE Microphones, www.rodemic.com.

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