Rode’s 5th Gen NT1 microphone makes it impossible to clip your audio
Rode has announced the Rode NT1 5th Generation large-diaphram cardioid condenser studio microphone. Building on the sound of the classic Rode NT1, the new 5th generation model offers some great advantages over its predecessors. It still brings features we’ve come to expect, like extremely low self noise, wide frequency response, high sensitivity, high SPL handling and an XLR socket that utilises 48v phantom power.
The new 5th gen NT1 has an extra trick up its sleeve, though. It also has USB-C output for plugging directly into your computer. The USB output uses an ultra-low-noise, high-gain Revolution preamp, offers up to 32-bit float digital output at 192kHz. It also features an on-board DSP with advanced APHEX processing, including compressor, noise gate, high-pass filter, aural exciter and big bottom.
Although primarily marketed as a microphone for musicians and singers, the Rode NT1 is also an excellent microphone for other things like voiceovers, podcasters or talking head videos for YouTube. The new USB connectivity just makes this even more viable as you don’t need to mess around with hardware mixers or USB audio interfaces to bridge that XLR interface and supply phantom power. Now, you can just plug it straight into your USB socket and record straight into Adobe Audition, Reaper, or other DAW of choice.
And one of the big advantages of being able to record directly through USB is that it supports 32-bit float recording over USB, too. This means you never have to worry about your microphone clipping. If you’ve got several of these plugged into your computer, recording them all at once, you can whisper, scream, shout, whatever you want, without worrying about whether or not the levels are too high or low.
If you’re not yet familiar with 32-bit float, what it means and how it works, you can think of it as like the 4K UHD of audio. It’s new and offers greater versatility and quality over the old ways, but it’s still something of a controversial topic – just as 4K UHD was in the transition from 1080p and how 6K, 8K and 12K resolutions are seen today. It’s become a very common feature of field recorders over the last three or four years and it’s even made it into the Zoom UAC-232 USB audio interface now, but the Rode NT1 5th gen is the first microphone with USB output that supports the format.
Rode says that it’s the world’s quietest studio condenser microphone at only 4dBA of self noise and utilises a 1-inch large-diaphragm gold-sputtered capsule that’s “precision engineered to sub-micron tolerances”. The dual connection with XLR and USB-C connectivity allowing for direct connection with computers and mobile devices is patent-pending, so this is a feature we’re unlikely to see on competitors devices for a while.
The USB-C socket is actually hidden in the XLR socket, so unfortunately, you can’t output to two devices simultaneously – like a mixer over XLR for live performance and your computer via USB-C for recording. As soon as you plug an XLR cable into the device, the USB-C socket is covered completely and plugging in a USB-C socket leaves no room for the XLR cable to plug in. So, it’s one or the other.
The USB-C connectivity offers significant advantages over previous iterations of the Rode NT1 – and just about any other microphone rode makes. The ability to record directly from the microphone into your DAW using 32-bit float makes this an extremely versatile microphone for all kinds of uses, whether it’s spoken voice, singing or picking up an instrument. No matter what you’re doing with it, it’s basically impossible to blow it out.
And it does it while still offering the same classic tone we’ve come to expect from the Rode NT1 microphone. Except, now it does it even better, featuring an on-board DSP that allows you to use APHEX audio processing features like a compressor, noise gate, two-step high-pass filter, Aural Exciter and Big Bottom. We’ve seen similar effects on other Rode microphones, such as the Rode VideoMic GO II (review and samples here).
I expect that the Rode NT1 is only going to offer these on-board DSP features when using USB-C and you won’t get them through the XLR output. This is the same way that the VideoMic GO II works. When you’re plugged into your computer over USB, you can enable and disable all of the processing via the Rode Connect app, but you get no such features when it’s plugged into the 3.5mm microphone input on your camera.
The Rode NT1 5th generation is available to pre-order now for $249 in either black or silver. It comes complete with the Rode SM6 suspension shock mount, as well as a pop shield. Units are expected to start shipping at the end of February.
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.