Building on the Audio Technica AT2020 and AKG P220 entry level studio condenser microphone reviews, this time up we're taking a look at the Rode NT1-A. Priced just over $200 ($229 - B&H, Adorama, etc.), the Rode NT1-A delivers a high end sheen that I've not yet experienced with the previous two microphones, while at the same time, keeping it's signal to noise ratio remarkably low. The Rode NT1-A is roughly the same size as the AT2020 and P220, and features a large 1-inch gold plated capsule. And just like the other two, the Rode NT1-A is a condenser with a tight cardioid pattern.
As is standard with most of today's condenser microphones, frequency range is from 20hz - 20khz. Now here's where things start to get interesting. According to Rode, the Signal-to-Noise ratio is 88 db. Which is quite odd, as the AKG has an S/N ratio of 78db and the AT2020 74db. However, when viewing the bar graphs inside my recording software, the Rode NT1-A had the closest to 'flat' of all three of the mics. In other words, on paper, it may not be the quietest, but when put to the eyes and ears, you can't hear a thing (which, in this case, is good). The Rode NT1-A features no pad or roll-off switches, but achieves a maximum SPL of 137 db SPL, giving it the lowest range of the three microphones.
And while both the Audio Technica AT2020 and AKG Perception 220 feel like solid, if almost heavy, microphones, the Rode NT1-A goes the completely opposite route. Upon first unboxing of this microphone, I almost dropped it, as I was expecting something much heavier. It has the look and sound of a vintage tube mic, but definitely not the same feel. Likewise, the AKG comes with a solid (if only heavy plastic and foam padding) case, that makes just about anyone feel like a pro. Rode, while they do include a spider mount and pop-filter, there's no case anywhere to be seen. Not even a decent, padded pouch (i.e. the Shure SM58 bank bag). At the end of the day, Rode gives you a fancy dust cover with a draw string. Fair enough, I don't expect to be doing any 'on-location' work with this microphone, but a case would have gone a long way to making me fall 100% in love with this mic.
The Rode NT1-A is an outstanding mic for studio, voiceover and podcast work. It's high on tone quality and vintage sound, while being light on the wallet, especially for what it is. It is the most expensive of the three microphones I've tested thus far, but when put head to head with the AKG Perception 220, you're really going to have to dig in with a set of closed-ear headphones to really hear the difference. Conversely, if you're using the Rode NT1-A solely as a spoken word/voiceover/podcast microphone, it's outstanding. Of the three, the AKG seems most suited to functioning as an amped instrument's recording microphone, as it has the highest SPL, while at the same time, requiring the most amount of incoming volume. The Rode does stand head and shoulders above the other two in the sensitivity department though. The AT2020 and P220 are very capable of picking up sounds in the desired sonic pattern, but both require the speaker to sometimes 'swallow' the mic to get an upfront feel, whereas the Rode presents this feeling naturally.
- Power - P48 (48V), P24 (24V) phantom supply
- Acoustic Principle - Pressure gradient
- Directional Pattern - Cardioid
- Frequency range - 20 Hz - 20 kHz
- Output impedance - 100?
- Signal noise ratio - >88 dB SPL (A - weighted per IEC651)
- Equivalent noise - 5 dB SPL (A - weighted per IEC651)
- Maximum SPL - 137dB SPL (@ 1kHz, 1% THD into 1K? load)
- Maximum output voltage - +13.7dBu (@ 1kHz, 1% THD into 1K? load)
- Sensitivity - -32 dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (25 mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz
- Weight - 326gm
- Dimensions - 190mmH x 50mmW x 50mmD