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Rode NT1 5th Gen

XLR & USB Capacitor Microphone By Sam Inglis
Published March 2023

Rode NT1 5th Gen

Has Rode’s new USB‑capable NT1 made clipping a thing of the past?

Innovation in music technology can take many forms. Sometimes it means implementing features and creating products that have never been seen before. But it can also involve bringing existing developments to new markets, by finding ways to manufacture them more affordably. This latter kind of innovation has always been at the heart of Rode’s business model, but in recent years they’ve also scored some impressive design firsts. The NTR, for example, goes where no ribbon microphone has gone before, with its laser‑cut ribbon, insanely high build quality and extended frequency response.

The new NT1 5th Generation, arguably, innovates on both fronts.

One Up

Rode have had an NT1 in their line‑up for more than 25 years now. It’s always been a strong option for those seeking a no‑frills capacitor mic, and I’d hazard that it’s featured on more well‑known recordings than people are letting on! It’s a fixed‑cardioid, large‑diaphragm mic, and the no‑frills aspect of the design means you don’t get pad or filter switches. Unlike many fixed‑cardioid mics, its one‑inch capsule is truly single‑sided, rather than being a Braunmühl‑Weber design with the rear diaphragm disconnected. The current iteration of this capsule is called the HF6, and is unique to the NT1. In fact, this capsule is one aspect of the design that hasn’t changed in the new 5th Generation model. The cosmetics are also practically identical to those of the previous 4th Generation model, with a smart dual‑layer headbasket and functional matte black body.

So what has changed? Well, the key to the 5th Gen’s newfound powers is located in the base of the microphone. The conventional XLR connector from the 4th Gen model has been replaced by a new, patent‑pending socket that can accept either a female XLR or a USB Type‑C plug. When connected the old‑fashioned way, the NT1 5th Gen behaves much like its predecessors: it’s a conventional capacitor mic, which requires phantom power and delivers an analogue signal through your preamp of choice. And in this role, it has some eye‑catching specifications, most notably an incredibly low self‑noise of just 4dBA. But on that front, nothing much is new, because the 4th Gen already offered the same analogue performance. The focus of the next generation is digital.

All In One

Unlike many USB mics, the NT1 5th Gen is an input‑only device, and doesn’t have a headphone output of its own. Nor does it have a physical gain control. As we’ll see, this isn’t necessarily an issue, and for spur‑of‑the‑moment recordings where you don’t need to monitor anything, you could just plug in and go. For most use cases, though, you’ll want to install the Rode Connect utility. This allows you to aggregate multiple Rode USB devices and perform low‑latency cue mixing. It also reveals that there’s a lot more going on inside the NT1 than mere A‑D conversion.

Clicking on the NT1 icon within Rode Connect brings up an editing window that exposes multiple parameters, none of which is accessible from the mic itself or available when it’s used as an analogue source. First up is a gain control that runs from 0 to +60 dB in 1dB steps. Below this you’ll find radio buttons for a high‑pass filter which can be engaged at 75 or 150 Hz, but it doesn’t stop there.

Rode Connect is designed primarily for use with the RodeCaster Pro podcast production suite, hence the buttons for triggering sound effects!Rode Connect is designed primarily for use with the RodeCaster Pro podcast production suite, hence the buttons for triggering sound effects!

During their massive growth over the last 30 years, Rode have absorbed other companies including Aphex, makers of the original Aural Exciter enhancer and Compellor compressor. Their designers’ know‑how has been put to good use in the NT1 5th Gen, and four icons to the right of the gain control engage simple ‘one‑button’ noise gate, compressor, Aural Exciter and Big Bottom processing. These are implemented digitally and have no controls other than the on/off button, but since they come...

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