Rode S-1 Live Vocal Condenser Microphone
Rode Microphones, an Australian-based microphone company has been bringing high-quality studio microphones such as the NTK, NT-1, NT-4 and the Rode Classic since 1990.
With the S-1, priced at $599 (MSRP) and about $300 street priced, Rode is now focusing on the handheld condenser market for professional live sound that has recently seen microphone entries from Neumann, Shure, Audix and others.
The S-1 features a gold-plated diaphragm with an externally biased condenser transducer and ultralow-noise FET circuitry. The S-1's polar response is supercardioid with a maximum SPL of 151 dB, .7% THD into 1 kohm. The capsule is protected by a five-layer, mesh, windscreen.
I put the S-1 through several tests. The first test was through monitors. With a vocalist, I ran the S-1 through a Soundcraft Spirit 8, 40 x 12 monitor console, BSS DN3600 equalizers, Crest 8002 power amps and Community XLT42 monitors.
The supercardioid pattern made placing monitors on each side of the vocal at 120 degrees off axis of the microphone possible. Feedback was not an issue. I was able to hit levels of 105 dB easily without feedback. Handling noise rejection was very good, and the feel of the microphone was sleek and smooth, which is different than many handhelds we have used.
The five-layer windscreen seemed to take the breath off of the vocal a bit, but the sound was still very good in the upper frequencies. The mesh on the screen is also close enough to block contaminants from getting to the condenser element.
The next test was to use the S-1 in a live band clinic, sponsored by the Conservatory. Here we set up a complete band: guitar, vocal, bass, keys and drums. The S-1 was then put to the test through a Yamaha PM-1D mixing console, dbx 480 Drive Rack, Crown VLZ 5000 power amplifiers and a JBL 4888 VerTec line array.
All that was really needed, as far as EQ, was a high-pass filter at 100 Hz. Off-axis rejection was good, so bleed into the mic was minimal from drums and other instruments. The pattern of the mic is pretty tight.
All in all, the Rode S-1 is an excellent live sound vocal mic; it sounded nice and warm with just enough top-end to make it cut it in the mix. The microphone is durable as well. It was dropped, but the windscreen was okay -- no dents or damage to the microphone.
A five-stage pop filter, an incredible 151 dB SPL, low THD and a supercardioid condenser element are reasons enough to make this mic a standard for any live event.
Using a number of mixer preamps and a tube pre, I can say Rode got this condenser right -- especially the low proximity level changes at 100 Hz -- at one inch, two inches, four inches and eight inches.
Singers that know proper voice inflection and projection will find the upper midrange, starting around 2 kHz, a welcome friend. Through my tests, the upper range bumps, make the S-1 perfect for any vocalist. Nice and breathy with precision detail at mid proximity. This is a great handheld, condenser mic!
--James M. Bender Live Sound Instructor
The promotional literature states that the multi-layer mesh capsule was designed to reduce 'plosives and I think that the S-1does do a very good job of reducing them, as well as sibilance -- especially with the source on axis.
I liked the use of a rubber insert to isolate the condenser element from the housing. I noticed slightly less noise from handling compared to dynamic mics, in both handheld and mic stand scenarios. I recommend the Rode S-1 for live sound use.
-- Brian Burrill Live Sound Instructor