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Rode NT1

Cardioid Capacitor Vocal Mic By Paul White
Published August 1997

Paul White comes to the end of the Rode, and finds it pretty good to sing into!

With digital equipment sounding more anonymous all the time, choosing the right mic to give you the sound you're after at source is probably more important now than it ever was. A good studio mic must be quiet; it has to sound good on vocals; and in most cases a flattering quality doesn't go amiss either. If it's the only good mic you can afford, it must also double as an instrument mic, at least for acoustic instruments. It also doesn't hurt to have a good‑looking mic that will impress the clients!

Rode's NT2 was a breath of fresh air in a mic market dominated by relatively few big names, and when their tube Classic turned up for review at the SOS offices, everyone who tried it proclaimed their undying love for it. Sadly HHB wanted it back anyway — but now they have a new vocal microphone with a price tag that puts it within reach of just about anyone who wants to have at least one good capacitor mic in their studio. Like the NT2, the NT1 bears more than a passing resemblance to Neumann's classic U87 but, rather than adopting the metal finish of the earlier models, this one has a creamy grey enamel coating that gives it a reassuringly vintage look. As far as I can see, no corners have been cut on quality and the standard of engineering is excellent. What's enabled Rode to cut back on the price is that this model has a fixed‑pattern cardioid capsule using a single large‑diameter diaphragm. This is obviously much cheaper to build than the dual‑diaphragm capsules used in Rode's switchable‑pattern mics, though it features the same one‑inch gold‑sputtered diaphragm construction as the other mics in the range. The capsule sits in a specially developed shock‑mount system and feeds an integral FET preamp that has an electronically balanced output stage rather than a balancing transformer. Again, this saves on price, but if done properly it can also sharpen up the transient response. All the electronics are mounted on a monocoque sub‑assembly, and the internal standard of design and construction is as high as that on the outside.

A stand clip fastens onto the bottom of the mic via a locking ring, and a simple thumbwheel effectively locks the assembly at any desired angle, unlike some mounts which insist on slipping even if you've just tightened them with mole grips. I'd buy an elasticated shock mount for this mic if it were mine, simply because it deserves one, but the mount that's included is functional enough providing the mic stand is resting on a solid floor.

The wire basket protecting the capsule has a fairly open weave, and a secondary layer of fine mesh is bonded to the inside of the basket via a high‑pressure press, resulting in a very tough but acoustically transparent structure. The open outer basket helps deliver a more natural open sound, but at the expense of sacrificing some pop shielding — as I've said before many times in these pages, vocal mics should always be used with an external pop shield, simply because any mic basket is too close to the capsule to be fully effective on its own. The NT1 comes with its stand mount in a padded, rigid plastic carry case.

Rode Test

The frequency‑response graph of the NT1 is very similar to that of the NT2 and, in common with most large‑diaphragm capacitor mics, it adds a little subtle colour to the sound by introducing a hint of frequency‑response tailoring. Nominally flat up to around 10kHz, the response shows a gentle presence hump centred at around 15kHz, and the overall useful response extends from 20Hz‑20kHz. Such spectral trickery as is built in isn't enough to create an unnatural sound, but helps enhance the detail and sense of air at the top end of the spectrum. Quoted noise is 17dB and the sensitivity is 18mV/Pa, which is slightly higher than the other two models in the range; in a direct subjective comparison with Audio Technica's very excellent ATM4033, the sensitivity appeared roughly similar. In a loud environment, the maximum SPL handling is 135dB, but there's no pad switch, so if you're planning to work at such punishing levels, you'll probably need to bring in the pad switch on your mixer. There's also no LF rolloff switch either but, again, these are commonly found on mixers, and if missing these things out has helped keep the quality up and the price down, that's OK by me.

With digital equipment sounding more anonymous all the time, choosing the right mic to give you the sound you're after at source is probably more important now than it ever was.

Some of the lower‑cost capacitor cardioid mics, especially those with cast grilles rather than wire baskets, can sound slightly nasal, but this one has a lovely open character, along with a hint more warmth than you might expect from a non‑tube, transformerless mic. This works particularly well on vocals, accentuating the chest and throat resonances without boominess or boxiness. The tube Classic does have a rather more mellifluous quality, but the NT1 is able to hold its own as a quality vocal mic in any company. Tested using my faithful acoustic guitar, the NT1 managed to inject more depth into the sound than my wimpy light‑gauge strings normally allow; in comparison, some of the other low‑cost capacitor mics I tried alongside sounded decidedly thin. The mic that sounded most like the NT1 was probably the ATM4033, though there were slight differences: the NT1 had a marginally thicker sound, and the 4033 seemed a hint more 'airy' at the top end.


Though this is a very straightforward mic with no pattern switching, no pads, and no filters, it has classic looks, a build quality that can't be faulted, and a warm, flattering sound that doesn't go so far as to introduce unnatural coloration. Most sales will probably go to project studio owners, though the performance is well up to the level of big‑league studio work, so I wouldn't be surprised to see a number of these mics appearing in mic lockers alongside the more established names. As an acoustic instrument mic, the NT1 also does extremely well; and, though I wouldn't let a drummer get within a stick's length of one, a pair would also make great drum overheads.

Possibly the best news is the price, which allows the NT1 to qualify as a credit‑card impulse purchase — and in the presence of a mic like this, who wouldn't feel impulsive? With few exceptions, if you want a low‑cost capacitor mic, you have to settle for imports that may fall well short of the constructional standards enjoyed by the top names, but from what I've seen (and heard), of the NT1, the only thing that's been compromised is the price.


  • Detailed sound with a rich, warm character.
  • Very nicely made.
  • Comes with plastic carry case and stand mount.


  • No shock mount, pad switch or LF filter, but at this low price, I can live with that!


This is one of the nicest sub‑£1000 mics I've heard to date, and at £329 it must qualify as one of the best bargains around at the moment.