I just spent about 3 weeks with the RØDE NT1 5th Generation microphone. And I really put it throught its paces.
The NT1 is not a new mic. It has been used by singers, voiceover actors, podcasters, audiobook narrators and musicians for a couple of decades now – since it came out in 1991.
So we know we’re starting with a trusted, professional quality mic right off the bat.
What is The NT1?
If you’re not familiar with the NT1, it is a large diaphragm condenser microphone. These mics are usually perfect for vocals, but can be great all-around mics too. They sound great on most instruments as well.
The NT1 has until now been a standard studio mic – meaning it has the 3-pin XLR connector. You need a recording interface of some kind to use these. These interfaces provide hi-quality preamps and analog-to-digital converters. You plug the mic into the interface, which then connects to your computer with a USB cable. I’m using one right now. I’m using my RODE NT2-A mic, which has been my main mic for 15 years or so, plugged into an interface called a Focusrite Scarlett 2i2 interface.
So what is different about his new 5th generation of the NT1? Several things.
One is that they improved the electronics to make it super quiet. It was already pretty darned quiet – meaning no noise coming FROM the mic itself. But now they say this is the “world’s quietest studio condenser microphone.
Another thing that is different is that it isn’t JUST a standard XLR mic. You can ALSO use it as a USB mic. It has a USM plug right next to the 3-pin connector. So in USB mode, you just plug it into your computer – no interface required! It’s a hybrid XLR/USB mic.
32-Bit Float, Baby!
The final thing that is really massive – well, for some people at least – is something called 32-bit float. Do NOT worry about the maths involved and exactly what it means just yet. If you really REALLY want to get into that, there are plenty of results in Google that will help. For now it’s more important for you to know what it DOES.
So in USB mode, if you engage 32-bit float, it will become impossible to ruin your audio by overloading the mic when recording! If you happen to have you input gain turned up too high, it will clip and result in horrible distorted audio still. But all you have to do when editing is turn down the audio until the overloaded waveform is under the maximum of 0dB and the audio is perfect! As if it had never overloaded at all!
If you’ve ever gotten too loud when recording and ended up with distorted audio due to clipping – which sounds something like this [play distorted sample], you know that audio is ruined. No amount of turning it down or even using de-clipping editing tools can help it. You’ll have to record it again.
But with 32-bit float. it literally, mathematically, cannot be ruined. Turning it down makes it sound perfectly normal. Here is what happened when I overloaded a recording in 32-bit float in Reaper, and then simply reduced the level of that distorted audio.
This is absolutely huge!
Issues With 32-Bit Float – Mostly ‘Cuz It’s So New
HOWEVER. you knew there had to be a however didn’t you? 32-bit float is still pretty new and so very few recording programs – DAWS – can actually use it! As of summer of 2023 anyway. RODE has a pretty comprehensive list on their website of programs that can and cannot use 32-bit float. But to give you an idea, Adobe Audition for Windows cannot use it, but Audition for Mac can. Audacity for Windows CAN use it, but Audacity for MAC cannot. And you cannot use it with Mac’s most popular recording programs – Garage Band and Logic Pro. Reaper can use 32-bit float in both Mac and Windows versions.
Another “HOWEVER” about 32-bit float is that a lot of people are shrugging their shoulders and saying “so what? If you set your levels properly in the first place, you’ll never need 32-bit float because you’ll never overload your input. That is undeniably true. But if you do a lot of recording, you know that sometimes – even though you set your levels right – things happen.
Singers sing very high notes that are much louder than the rest of the song and clip. Podcast guests get in excited conversations that can get loud. Audiobook narrators are acting, and sometimes characters shout. And if you’ve spent hours in a recording session, only to fin that you clipped several times, well you just have to re-record those parts.
That’s a massive frustration and time waster. Then if you’ve had to deal with it in the past, you’ll hold back when recording because you’re afraid of getting too loud, which can affect your performance.
Why not use 32-bit float and eliminate the possibility altogether? Then you never have to worry and you’ll never have to re-record audio that was ruined by clipping.
So I think 32-bit float is great. But before you decide that is a great reason on its own to buy this mic, you need to know that it is only something you can use in USB mode. So if you have a favorite interface that makes your mic sound plus ultra, you’ll have to not use that (USB mics don’t use interfaces). Just thought you needed to know that.
How Does It Sound – You Know, The Important Bit?
OK, so how does the mic sound? That is kind of the most important thing about a mic after all. I’d say it sounds much like the previous NT1, which is really good – very quiet and professional. I have a couple of samples for you.
Here are several comparisons – NT1 in USB mode, NT1 in XLR mode, NT USB+, and Blue Yeti. I read the same text for each:
So in addition to all of that, this mic also comes with a shock mount AND a pop filter, which is not typical. Usually you have to buy both of those things separately.
- There is no headphone jack on the mic. For USB mics, this is now pretty common. And for good reason. It allows you to monitor your voice (or whatever) while you are recording with zero latency (delay between what you are recording and what your are hearing). This is the biggest complaint I have about the NT1 5th generation.
- Can’t use it with mobile devices. Most USB mics can be used with phones and tables in 2023. But not this mic, sadly.
- Had some trouble in Windows 11 with USB mode. It sometimes wouldn’t recognize it. And when it did, I often couldn’t get RODE Connect software to ALSO recognize it. This is an issue because this mic comes with effects on board (weird, right?) like noise gate, and EQ to change the tone, and also compression. The noise gate was handy, but I really don’t recommend printing effects while you record. You can’t undo them if you don’t like them. You can always add effects later. ANYWAY, the effects are controlled with that RODE Connect software I was talking about.
And then there is the price, which is $250. For an updated version of of a well-known professional mic that has some pretty astounding new features, this is absolutely worth every cent.
CLICK HERE to find out more or buy your own from B&H (aff link).
Here is a YouTube video for this review, if you prefer to see my pretty face and hear my voice telling you all this stuff :-P.