Rode NT-USB Cardioid Condenser Microphone Review


Updated on Apr 08, 2021



Score: 9.0/10
Price: $169.00
Brand: Rode
Model: NT-USB
Type: Condenser


The Rode NT-USB is a highly versatile USB condenser microphone that can be used for a variety of applications, from recording singing & guitar to recording speech for podcasts, streams, gaming, and voice overs. This computer microphone appears small in size, and fits perfectly on any desk.

Rode NT-USB With Pop-filter On Desktop Stand
Rode NT-USB With Pop-filter On Desktop Stand

While it may not be important for some, the overall design of the Rode NT-USB has this certain aesthetic to me, with every component fitting together like a work of art. I appreciate a good presentation from my microphones, especially if I'm going to look at it all day.

Of course, looks aren't everything. Rode is one of the more popular brands in terms of condenser microphones, so it's time to put this one to the test and see if it holds.

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Why It's Great

The Rode NT-USB, as the same very clearly suggests, is a USB microphone compatible with both PC & MacOS (and tablets, etc.), allowing you to bypass the need for a preamplifier & Phantom Power, a power source used to operate microphones that contain active electronic circuitry. This level of flexibility is perfect for both beginners in the music scene as well as gamers, streamers & podcasters.

More importantly, we found the Rode NT-USB to have incredible quality for this price range. It's not uncommon for a USB condenser microphone in this range to have strong quality, but when we compare this to some of our other similar favorites, like the Blue Yeti (base model), the Rode comes out on top, which was not expected.

A big reason why this USB condenser microphone has such high quality is due to the extreme sensitivity. Condensers use a lightweight diaphragm to capture the soundwaves with extreme precision, while also maintaining a high transient response, all of which lead to a rich, deep, and accurate recording.

However, as we'll discuss later on, as great as the high sensitivity can be for your audio quality, it can also work against you if you don't have a great environment for recording.

Side Angle Of Rode NT-USB Showing Control Knobs
Side Angle Of Rode NT-USB Showing Control Knobs

The other thing I love about the Rode NT-USB is how versatile it is. More often than not, USB mics work great for vocals, but fall flat for anything else. Some will argue with me on this point, but I've had a hard time using comparable USB mics for instrument use, unlike some XLR condensers in the same price range.

Playing Guitar Into Rode NT-USB
Playing Guitar Into Rode NT-USB

The Rode NT-USB works a lot better than some of it's competitors in this department. When we recorded a few demo tracks with an acoustic guitar, the result was impressive, offering a rich & full sound, capturing every sound made by the guitar.

So we know that the Rode NT-USB provides superior quality, versatility, and ease of use. On top of that, it has a great aesthetic to it, but what is it going to be best for?

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What It's Good For

Overall there are a ton of uses for this versatile USB microphone. If you want to get the best out of this mic, it's a good idea to focus on the accessories, as with the high sensitivity, it's imperative to reduce unwanted sounds where we can.

While it comes with a (cool looking) pop-filter & desk stand, it does not come with a shock mount. Shock mounts reduce handling noises, like vibrations from the floor, touching the stand, etc. Like other microphones in Rode's NT series, this USB mic is compatible with the Rode SMR Shock Mount, which comes included with some of their older NT series mics.

Rode NT-USB Connected To Tablet With Recording Software
Rode NT-USB Connected To Tablet With Recording Software

The Rode NT-USB makes a great recording microphone for anything from music to speech. I see it used for video game streaming, YouTube videos, and similar. However, it's great for other stuff too, whether recording in the studio or maybe as an ASMR microphone. One thing I love about this mic is that it sounds just as good as Rode's XLR microphones.

As you may be realizing, this microphone is just so versatile, and it's hard to pinpoint one or two things it's best for because it works great for almost anything. The only place we wouldn't use it is for live performances, as it will pick up way too much ambiance and noise.

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The Downsides

The only major downside we find with this microphone is the resolution, which is sitting right on the low end of the scale. The resolution is measured in bit-depth & sample rates, which translate to how many samples it can record / how many bits each sample is.

The low end, which the Rode NT-USB conforms with, is 16-bit / 48kHz, whereas the high end is 24-bit / 192khz. However, this is only one factor to consider, and many low-end microphones focus solely on the resolution to mask the negative features, like low sensitivity. We'll take high sensitivity & low resolution over the opposite any day.

Another factor you must consider is your own environment, the noise, and the ambiance of the room. High-sensitivity microphones like the Rode NT-USB will pick up everything, from the echos made by the walls & ceiling in your room to the A/C in the room next door. If you don't have a quiet enough space or you can't block the echoes, your audio will be affected, and these types of issues can be treated but not fixed in production.

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Pros & Cons

Pros

  • Good Quality
  • Good Accessories
  • Smooth Design

Cons

  • Low Resolution

Best Used For

  • Recording Vocal & Guitar
  • Streaming / YouTube / Twitch / Gaming Microphone
  • Performance Microphone

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Alternatives

The price of the Rode NT-USB is not achievable for everyone, which is totally okay because there are so many amazing alternatives out there. If you're worried about background noise, we recommend you skip on ahead to the Rode PodMic below, which is dynamic (less sensitive) but offers incredible quality, comparable to one of our favorite $400 microphones, for 1/4 the price.

HyperX Quadcast Design Award Winner of 2019
HyperX Quadcast Design Award Winner of 2019

Designed for gamers, the HyperX Quadcast has one of the coolest visual appearances in the microphone space, offering both a red version and a customizable RGB version, allowing it to match your gaming PC. On top of that, this USB gaming microphone is very durable & has a lot of great features included.

If you're interested in exploring this microphone further, you can get a live price check here. You may also be interested in reading our review of the HyperX Quadcast.

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Coming in at an even lower price, the Rode PodMic is a major favorite by the Musician Nerds, essentially acting as the affordable version of the very much loved Shure SM7B Cardioid Dynamic Microphone. The Rode PodMic offers incredibly rich sound for vocals (whether singing or speaking), with the visual appeal of a vintage broadcast microphone.

If you want to learn more, we've written a review of the Rode Podmic here.

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Rode PodMic Suspended From Boom Stand
Rode PodMic Suspended From Boom Stand

Between both of these alternatives, you're sure to find a great microphone for yourself. If you decided to choose one of these, we'd love to hear about which one and why in the comments below!

Summary

All in all, the Rode NT-USB offers incredible value for a USB microphone in this price range. Compared to its competitors, it definitely shines, and we can't say it enough, this microphone is so versatile!

The sensitivity is definitely one of the selling points for us, as it offers a level of depth we don't always get from affordable condensers, especially USB types. While this feature is great for a condenser microphone, it doesn't make it the best fit for everyone, and so it's worth thinking about your environment before jumping right into this microphone. Fortunately, Rode's PodMic is the perfect alternative for that issue, as it's not only more affordable but has lower sensitivity and offers insane quality.

If you decide to go ahead and get this microphone, we'd love to hear what you think. Did it meet your standards? Let us know in the comments!

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Posted on Sep 21, 2020

Streaming Recording

Have questions for us? Email us at info@musiciannerd.com


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