Rode makes some fabulous microphones that don’t cost the earth. My main mic in the studio for more than a decade has been the Rode NT2-A. Rode’s first large diaphragm condenser (LDC) mic was the NT1, and was a basic standard (3-pin XLR) cardioid LDC.
The 5th Gen NT1 just announced today (Feb 21st, 2023) is an amazing upgrade. One super cool thing is that it is the first mic with 32-bit float digital output (more on this below). Another is that has something Rode came up with called Dual Connect, which means you can use it EITHER as a USM mic (!) or a standard XLR mic. It isn’t the first mic to have that capability (Blue Yeti Pro and Shure SM7V have this). But the tech that makes it work is “patent-pending” for Rode. It also has some digital signal processing. This is some pretty hard-hitting news in the home recording market!
It used to be that the NT1 was not quite as “good sounding” as the NT2-A. But with Gen 4 that gap was pretty much closed. The high end used to be a bit iffy – sounding a bit over-hyped and harsh. That wasn’t great for vocals because it caused problems with sibilance (harsh “S” sounds). But Rode improved that. Now it is much clear and smooth in the higher frequencies and detailed in the mid range. So it sounds great on vocals – ideal for broadcast, voiceovers and podcasting.
It is also better able to handle bigger and louder sounds. so you can use it confidently with drums or electric guitars. And at the same time, it has a self-noise (hissing caused JUST by the mic, itself) of just 4dBA. That makes it quieter than just about any known studio mic!
And due to the high SPL (its ability to handle loud sounds [sound pressure levels] without distorting, you can record just about anything with it, including using it for live sound. That is pretty unique for dynamic microphones.
About That 32-Bit Floating Point Thing
Around 5-6 years ago, people starting talking about “32-bit floating point.” But it seemed like very few people knew what that actually meant. Even now, it seems a tad mysterious in the “why is that good?” category.
I don’t want to delve too much into bits and other digital recording minutiae. For a bit on that (see what I did there?), see my post 16-Bit Audio Recording – What The Heck Does It Mean? At the risk of oversimplifying things – up to a point (sorry :-P), it is “better” to record with more bits. the audio quality is better, mostly because it is less noisy.
But think in terms of computer graphics for a minute. You know how 8-bit refers to the old blocky, lo-def/lo-rez video game graphics. If things were measured that way still in the graphics world, today’s computer games would be considered 256-bit or 512-bit video. It’s kinda like that.
Anyway, that still does not answer the floating point question. Back to audio recording. It’s pretty standard for most interfaces to record in 24-bits. Then many DAWs upscale that to 32 bits for processing and then when you’re ready to put it on a CD (yeah, those are still around), it goes to the standard 16-bit format for consumers.
OK, I still haven’t answered the question. Let me try again. 32 bit floating is 24 bit recording with 8 extra bits for volume. So what does THAT mean? Here is a definition from SoundDevices.com: “For ultra-high-dynamic-range recording, 32-bit float is an ideal recording format. The primary benefit of these files is their ability to record signals exceeding 0 dBFS. There is in fact so much headroom that from a fidelity standpoint, it doesn’t matter where gains are set while recording.“
So basically it means that regardless of where you set gain levels, the sound won’t distort when recording. That is very different from “normal” recording. It is quite easy to distort when recording, say, the Blue Yeti, if you turn its gain knob up too high.
32-bit float also has many advantages under the hood when processing audio in the computer – mainly having to do with headroom – the amount of audio level that can be processed without distorting, which means going above 0dB.
This is a big deal for an already good mic. I’m ordering one ASAP for testing and review. Is is available for preorder at B&H here. And it will cost $249.