Updated on Apr 08, 2021
The Rode NT1 Condenser Microphone package from first glance would appear to be the perfect beginner's kit. Packed with everything you need, the mic comes with a plastic shock mount & pop-filter right out of the box.
This review is a special one because everything above was my exact thought many years ago when I purchased my very first condenser microphone for my attic studio.
The Rode NT1 comes in at a reasonable enough price point that it's easy to see why it may appeal to so many beginners. However, while the all-in-one bundle & the pricing of this condenser mic may be appealing, it is not going to be the best mic for everyone. It all depends on what you plan to use it for.
The Rode NT1 was a total redesign of their prior model, the NT1-A. The NT1-A is a slightly less expensive condenser microphone from Rode that also makes a great entry studio mic. The NT1 line dates back all the way to 1997, though the microphones have gone through a series of changes. In 2003, the NT1-A made for an incredibly popular entry level studio microphone, and 10 years later, Rode decided to completely redesign the NT1 model, releasing it in December 2013.
The NT1 features a capsule codenamed the HF6, which aside from the aesthetic shape, leverages the prestige accent of vintage microphones while staying true to the modern standards of low-noise condenser microphones. I would be lying if I said I wasn't initially drawn to this microphone by its signature shape. The artistic design, while simplistic, gives you that authentic studio feeling, and I'm a strong believer in loving what you own.
More importantly, the Rode NT1 features a rich emphasis on the midrange frequency response, while building onto it with crisp highs and warm lows, while staying virtually flat on the frequency chart. The responses & level depth this microphone offers your audio is completely in line with what we look for in condensers.
The large diaphragm of the NT1 allows for a more romantic reflection of the recorded audio. It adds a level of color to your voice to give it a large, roomy feel, which can be advantageous to a degree, especially for beginners in the production world. If you're working with a limited digital audio editor, it will be in your favor to use a large-diaphragm condenser microphone. However, it's important to keep in mind that it won't have as raw (and natural) a sound as small-diaphragm condensers offer. An untrained ear may not notice the difference, but as you advance in audio production, you'll find a level of importance in this regard. All in all, even for professionals, small-diaphragm & large-diaphragm condensers have their own unique purposes, and it's not something I would fret over.
Something I find very important is the quality of the Rode NT1's electronics. They use high-quality industry-standard electronics that offer a competitively low-level of noise, and while not perfect, it beats out most lower-end microphones.
Overall, there's not a lot of bad that I can say about the Rode NT1, especially when I consider the price. Condenser Microphones are held to higher standards, particularly due to the wide frequency response and high sensitivity, and so for a lower-end model, the NT1 is coming in strong.
However, the accessories that it comes with are definitely worth replacing... eventually. I'm not going to say the included pop filter is completely ineffective, but I've noticed more peaking on the "s" and "p" sounds compared to my other filters. This shouldn't be a deciding factor, however, as pop filters are not too expensive.
On that same thought, the plastic shock mount isn't great quality. It's a bit flimsy, and comes apart pretty easily. I don't find it as effective as I'd like, and the overall aesthetic of it doesn't give me the confidence I'm looking for in the studio.
The only reason I would buy this microphone is for a home studio. If you're recording vocals or acoustic instruments, the Rode NT1 is a solid choice. However, it can definitely be repurposed for both streaming purposes (e.g. a gaming mic) and an instrument microphone when performing live. When doing the latter, it's important to experiment and make sure you have the proper equipment (like a good preamplifier).
As I mention in a lot of our articles if you're looking at beginner microphones for your home studio, and you don't have the budget for soundproofing equipment, you really need to reflect on your recording space. Is it quiet? Do you have a noisy A/C? Can you hear birds or cars from your windows? These are all issues I ran into when I bought the Rode NT1 many years ago for my first home studio.
With the sensitivity from condenser microphones, you have to take all noise into consideration. If you don't think you have the best space for recording with one, then you may need to look at other alternatives (which we cover below).
The Rode NT1 may not be for everyone. Whether it's because there's too much noise in your recording environment, or it's out of your budget, or maybe you think it's overkill for what you're doing. Fortunately, we have some options.
If your problem is too much noise, then you'll want to consider using a dynamic microphone. They often have a strong cardioid response pattern for blocking out noise, like the Shure SM58, which requires you to sing directly into the front. See our review here. However, while quiet a bit more expensive, our favorite dynamic microphone for recording (and streaming) is the Shure SM7B, which offers prestine quality above all else. See our review here.
If you're looking for a cheaper alternative to the Rode NT1, you should definitely look at the AKG Project Studio line. Their P220 model is about $100 cheaper (see our review here), and the P120 model is about $150 cheaper. See our review here. These make for good entry-level condensers, and work good for vocals and acoustic instruments.
The Rode NT1 is one of the finer choices when discussing lower-end condenser microphones. It comes in strong with sound quality, and the authentic vintage sound it produces is one of the most notable highlights. The mid-range emphasis, softened by the crisp highs and warm lows really helps the Rode NT1 shine amongst microphones even double the cost.
Coming packed with a pop-filter and shock mount saves you the extra purchases, so it's almost ready to go right out of the gate. This is an absolute must have for any beginners home studio.
Posted on Sep 14, 2020
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