Rode NTG5 – The ultimate all-rounder shotgun microphone

Dec 19, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Rode NTG5 – The ultimate all-rounder shotgun microphone

Dec 19, 2019

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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The Rode NTG5 short shotgun broadcast microphone came with a lot of interest and intrigue. The biggest question being “What’s with the holes?”. The NTG5 has an all-new design over Rode’s previous shotgun microphones, which Rode says helps to produce a more natural true-to-life sound. We put the NTG5 to the test to see how that claim holds up.

YouTube video

Unboxing and first impressions

The NTG5 comes as a “Location Recording Kit” which includes both the PG2-R pistol grip and the WS10 deadcat. These might be items you haven’t needed with other shotgun microphones if you’ve never taken them outdoors, but the NTG5 is at its most comfortable out on location where they can become quite essential.

As well as these, you get the usual microphone clip, a foam windshield, the PG2-R Pro XLR cable for the pistol grip as well as a zip-up pouch to the store the microphone and some of the other bits in when not in use.

Each item that comes as part of the kit is individually boxed inside the main box.

I posted an unboxing video of the NTG5 the day I received it to my own channel, so you can see exactly what it all looks like and hear a little how it compares to the Sennheiser K6/ME66 and the Deity S-Mic 2.

YouTube video

One thing you immediately notice about the NTG5, and you can see it in the video, is its small size. It’s slimmer than many of Rode’s previous microphones, coming in at a diameter of 19mm and a length of only 203mm. As well as the small size, it’s extremely low in weight at only 76g. For comparison, my Sennheiser K6/ME66 weighs only 111g and the Deity S-Mic 2 weighs a hefty 198g. These might not seem like huge differences, but on the end of a 10ft boom pole, you definitely feel the difference during the course of a day’s filming.

The lighter weight of the NTG5 can largely be attributed to the aluminium construction, rather than brass found in many other shotgun microphones. But the build quality doesn’t seem to suffer any as a result of the lighter weight material. It feels rock-solid, and even the XLR socket feels a little firmer than most of my other shotgun microphones, including my older Rode NTG1.

The Rode NTG5 next to the Rode NTG1. The NTG5 is a little shorter, and only 19mm in diameter, but it’s much lighter.

You have to assemble the pistol grip yourself – kind of. I say “assemble” but you basically just need to screw the pair of shock mounts onto the handle. There are several slots into which you can screw the two shock mounts so that you can position them appropriately for other microphones, which may be longer. The screws and tool required to attach them are all included in the box, too. A couple of spare screws are also included in case you lose them.

The shock mounts come unattached to the PG2-R pistol grip, and there are various slots to screw them in to account for different lengths of microphone.

Once assembled the microphone fits very snuggly into the two shock mount clips, which has a lot more bounce than other shock mount pistol grips I’ve used. This might sound like a bad thing, but it’s exactly the opposite. The more bouncy it is, the better it can potentially reduce handling noise as it’s easily vibrated away.

That being said, my old Rode PG2 and the Rycote shock mount that came with the Deity S-Mic 2 are noticeably stiffer than this one, and handling noise has never been a problem with either of them. But attached to the end of a long boom pole, the PG2-R gives me more peace of mind.

Two windshields are included in the box. One is the standard foam, and the other is the WS10 deadcat. I’ve never been a big fan of foam windshields, personally. They do act as a sort of “pop shield” indoors, although my shotgun mic placement has always been such that plosives aren’t really an issue and they can degrade the sound just slightly. Outdoors, a foam windshield doesn’t compare to an actual deadcat.

It’s unlikely that I’ll ever use the foam windshield on the NTG5 in practical use. Either it’ll be indoors and naked or outdoors with the WS10.

The WS10, too, fits quite snugly over the microphone. There’s no way it’s going to accidentally fall off in the middle of a take, although it’s easy to slide on and off as needed when required. The PG2-R pistol grip feels very comfortable in your hand and has slots for routing the PG2-R Pro cable internally so it doesn’t get in the way.

So far, it all feels like very solid equipment that easily lives up to the standard we’ve come to expect from Rode’s higher-end kit.

First use

As I mentioned, the XLR socket on the end of the NTG5 seems to be firmer than that found on most of my other shotgun microphones. The PG2-R Pro XLR cable for the PG2-R pistol grip slides into the microphone very smoothly. I was going to say “almost as if they were made for each other” and then it struck me that they are, in fact, literally made for each other. But every XLR cable I’ve tried slides very nicely and smoothly into both the back end of the NTG5 and into the receiving end of the PG2-R Pro cable.

I generally record audio from XLR mics in one of two ways. Either it goes through my Alesis mixer and into my PC’s audio line input to be recorded in Adobe Audition or it goes into my Tascam DR-100 field recorder.

After plugging it in and setting the levels, using it is essentially the same as using any other shotgun microphone. Point it at the sound source and hit record. Indoors it did a great job of getting rid of sound reflections in the almost completely sound-untreated room in which I normally record at home.

In my first tests, I was really quite surprised by how much hotter (louder) the microphone was than the Sennheiser K6/ME66 or the Deity S-Mic 2. This means that I can set my mixer or DR-100 inputs to a lower level for the same overall loudness, reducing any hiss that might be caused by the preamps in those devices. The microphone itself only has 10dBa of self-noise making for very clear recordings – as you can hear in the videos above.

I didn’t include it in the video, but I did briefly try the foam windshield. It doesn’t impact the quality of the audio all that much, but on a pair of Beyerdynamic DT100 studio headphones, I did hear a slight difference. It’s not a hugely noticeable difference, though, unless you listen to the two recordings side-by-side very closely.

Taking it outside

Out on location is where the NTG5 really shines, particularly outdoor locations. It’s an RF-Bias microphone which means lots of technical things for which there seems to be very little information online. But the ultimate benefit for us as microphone users is that it’s less prone to interference and better protected against rain and other debris in the air, allowing it to produce decent sound in much harsher conditions than other shotgun microphones may be able to handle. The internal electronics are also sealed from the outside elements.

Fortunately, the outdoor conditions here in Scotland aren’t too bad just yet. No severe rain or snowstorms at the moment, it’s just rather chilly. So, I went outside to do an off-axis test. You can hear in the video how well it does at cancelling out my voice when off-axis to the microphone, even at very close range. This is due to its polar pattern which, despite being shorter than many other shotgun microphones, is still quite narrow.

I also took the NTG5 on a recent location shoot to see how well it performed in a more normal outdoor use case. This time, I have the microphone boomed overhead around half a metre from my mouth. And in the location recording, it easily picked out our voices from the environment. Even the hooting owl was barely noticeable to the NTG5, and that hoot was extremely loud at the location, sounding louder to our ears than each other’s voices while stood right next to each other.

One of the big selling features of the Rode NTG5 is its ultra-low weight. At only 76g, it’s ideal for boom operators to use on location all day long. The Rode Boompole I use is 3 metres long (about 10ft), and in the video, I had it on a stand, but I did handhold for a little while at full extension just to see how it felt. Holding it was a breeze compared to my other shotgun microphones. I felt very little strain on my arms, and I wouldn’t think twice about using this handheld over the talent on a real shoot.

The PG2-R pistol grip also helps with this weight reduction, too. Although the official weight of the PG2-R is listed as 224g on the Rode website, I saw 166g when putting it on the scale here (not including the PG2-R Pro cable). This is significantly lighter than its PG2 predecessor. All of this weight saving adds up to a much easier time when using it on a long boom all day.

Extra weight on the end of a 10ft pole adds up really quickly in no time at all, and can really make your arms sore quickly.

Conclusions

The Rode NTG5 marks a pretty significant step for Rode. It’s a new flagship, joining the Rode NTG3, except it’s less expensive and – subjective opinion time – a better microphone. When I’ve tested the NTG3 in the past and put it side-by-side with my Sennheiser K6/ME66, I’ve always held off getting one. It just felt a little too heavy on the low-end frequencies for me – a common complaint about Rode shotgun microphones. The NTG5, on the other hand, practically has me ready to sell my Sennheiser K6/ME66 in order to fund a second NTG5.

The hotter signal, the lower noise, the size, weight and more natural and pleasing quality of the sound all add up to a rather outstanding microphone, especially with only a $499 price tag. Why is it cheaper than the NTG3 if it’s better? Well, one can only surmise that Rode’s technology has come a long way since the NTG3 was released back in 2008. It’s not as expensive as it once was.

And when you consider that the PG2-R and PG2-R Pro cable total $140 when purchased separately and you’re paying around another $60 for a deadcat (I don’t see the WS10 available separately, but the WS6 is $59), the microphone itself works out to around $300 – which is an absolute steal. That’s not that much more than the Rode NTG2, for which you would need to buy those extra bits to use it on location, and the NTG2 is nowhere near the level of the NTG5.

Rode has not stated that the NTG5 replaces the NTG3 in their shotgun microphone lineup. It seems to be in addition to the NTG3. Given that it’s an arguably (if subjectively) “better” microphone than the NTG3, then it makes me wonder if we might see a redesigned NTG3 replacement coming at some point soon, too. Or perhaps an update to 2012’s Rode NTG8.

Pros

When it comes to the pros, there’s a lot

  • Super lightweight
  • Small and easy to pack
  • High-quality sound
  • Built for just about all weather conditions
  • Low self-noise
  • Hotter signal to record at lower levels and reduce preamp hiss in your recorder
  • The pistol grip eliminates handling noise beautifully
  • It’s inexpensive for the quality it offers

Cons

This is the most difficult part of this review. I really have no complaints. I thought the lack of a high pass filter might turn out be an issue, although, in reality so far, it has not been. I’ve not heard it pick up any unwanted rumble or other noises that a high pass filter would ordinarily need to cut out.

I do, perhaps, wish there were a hard storage case available for the microphone, rather than the pouch, maybe. Even if it was an optional extra. Yes, you can just go and buy any little Pelican or similar style hard case if you wish, but an official one would have nice neat cutouts in the foam for all the bits. But I’m being picky, especially as there are other options out there ideally suited to the task of microphone protection.

Final Thoughts

The Rode NTG5 is being marketed as a professional microphone, and it most certainly feels and sounds like one. But at $499, for the versatility it offers and the included extras, it’s well within the reach of serious hobbyists and YouTubers who want to step up their audio game, too. I’ve used it to record several recent review videos here on DIYP, as well as for videos on my own YouTube channel.

There are less expensive microphones out there, but I’ve not heard one that sounds as good as the NTG5. There are better microphones out there, too, but I’ve not seen one that’s as inexpensive as the NTG5. This may very well be the best balance of price vs performance on the shotgun microphone market right now, and it easily stands up to many of the higher-priced short shotgun microphones on the market.

If you’ve been thinking about getting the NTG3, but it was always just a little out of budget, and you’re wondering if you should get the NTG5 instead, then just get the NTG5. You won’t be disappointed. Unless you know you have a certain need for a specific microphone, perhaps the longer throw of the NTG8, for example, I don’t think you can go wrong with this one.

The Rode NTG5 is available to buy now for $499 and comes with the PG2-R pistol grip and PG2-R Pro microphone cable, the Rode WS10 windshield, a foam cover, mic stand holder and a zip-up case.

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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