Developed in conjunction with renowned recording engineer Tony Faulkner, Rode's new stereo miking kit is intended not just to compete with the established competition, but to better it. Have they succeeded?
Australian manufacturers Rode have come a very long way since Peter Freedman introduced his very first microphone — the Chinese-sourced budget model, the original NT1 — in 1990. Today, the company is a state-of-the-art, high-volume microphone manufacturer with more than $60 million (AUD) invested in precision manufacturing machinery located in three large factory buildings on the outskirts of Sydney. With a workforce of over 250, Rode employ some of the very best designers and engineers drawn from around the globe and they have created a broad range of increasingly impressive microphones and related technologies. And on that last point, it's also worth mentioning that Aphex, Event, and Soundfield are also wholly owned companies sharing relevant knowledge and expertise within the Freedman Group.
From its very humble beginnings, Rode have grown over those 30 years to the point where their volume sales are in the video and project studio markets, but the company's flagship high-end products are now rubbing shoulders with the long-established European and American standard-bearers.
My colleague Sam Inglis described Rode's NTR active ribbon mic (SOS June 2015) as a watershed product for the company, and I think he was absolutely right. It was, arguably, the microphone that moved Rode beyond the project studio market and into the serious professional environment. Since then several other high-end mics have been announced, such as the NT‑RV valve ribbon, and the keenly awaited NT‑49 multi-pattern and TFM‑50 'spherical omni' large-diaphragm mics (the last being Rode's take on the classic Neumann M50, of course). There's also an Ambisonic offering in the form of the NT‑SF1 (SOS December 2018). All of these microphones demonstrate Rode's serious determination to be counted amongst the very best microphone manufacturers in the world — an aim which is backed up by a 10-year warranty upon product registration.
The 'TF' initials in the model numbers of some of these latest microphones are significant: they indicate the close involvement of British recording engineer Tony Faulkner in their development. Classical recording aficionados will already know the name very well; Tony has been a classical recording, editing and mastering engineer for over 30 years. He founded Finesplice in 1980 and has been trading as Green Room Productions since 1986, creating well over 2000 commercial classical recordings in that time, a remarkable number of which have won top awards. And as if that wasn't enough, Tony also has a specific stereo mic array named after him — what more evidence is needed to confirm the man knows his onions? So his involvement in Rode's development of the TFM‑50 (and other) microphones is genuinely noteworthy and definitely much more than just some marketing 'puffery' or endorsement deal.
As it happens, I bumped into Tony at an industry event a few months ago and, during our conversation, it became clear to me that his role in helping to define and steer the developmental and tonal directions of Rode's new microphones was both very active and highly significant. Perhaps more importantly, he is genuinely using these mics in his own recordings now, alongside 'traditional' high-end mics from...
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