Fast FactsApplications: Studio, broadcast, live sound
Key Features: Omni, cardioid, figure 8 patterns; condenser element; 1″ capsule; 5 dB, 10 dB pads, 40 Hz, 80 Hz high-pass filters
Contact: Rode at 877-328-7456, www.rodemic.com.
+ Takes SPL
– May have difficulty finding a place in a market crowded by lesser, cheaper mics.
A good utility condenser. What’s not to like?The new Rode NT2-A ($699) is an FET, condenser, studio microphone with a one-inch diameter, gold sputtered, dual diaphragm. It has three patterns; omni, cardioid and figure 8, 40 Hz and 80 Hz high-pass filters, 5 dB and 10 dB pads. The switches are well marked and easily accessible. Switching circuits have been designed so that switching is quiet except for a slight thump when changing from cardioid to omni.
The output impedance of the NT2-A is 200 ohms. Equivalent noise (self noise) is a low 7 dBA. Maximum SPL is 147 dB (@ 1% THD into 1 kohm), or 157 dB (@ 1% THD into 1 kohm) – pad at maximum. Sensitivity at 1 kHz into 1 kohm is -36 dB re 1 V/Pa (16 mV @ 94 dB SPL ±2 dB). Maximum output voltage is +16 dBu (@ 1% THD into 1 kohm). The NT2-A requires 48V phantom power and is pin 2 hot.
Rode is using the same Type HF1 dual diaphragm capsule as on the NT2000 ($899). The “Big Brother” NT2000 has very neat, continuously variable controls for pattern, pad and high pass filter. I did a quick comparison and found that the three patterns sounded virtually identical. The NT2-A comes packed in a zipper pouch with a clip. The more expensive NT2000 comes in a road case and includes a suspension mount.
Rode has been progressively improving their line of mics. The NT2-A (and NT2000) continues that trend. Each model gets less peaky, smoother and stronger. The first NT2-A arrived with a problem; the rear diaphragm wasn’t working in figure of eight pattern. Another quickly arrived.
The head grille of the NT2-A is extremely transparent. As a result, sound that enters can more easily leave, instead of bouncing off the inside of the head grille and back to the diaphragm. I think the more transparent grille also reduces the potential for off-axis phase anomalies. In the cardioid pattern, while the loss of high frequencies was apparent at about 45 degrees off-axis, there was not much phase smearing. Sound arriving at the end of the mic was also fairly smooth. You may not point the end of a side address mic at a source, but reflected sound usually gets in there anyway.
The NT2-A capsule is fairly well isolated from the body, better than a TLM 103. You probably don’t need an optional suspension mount unless you’re very picky. If you haven’t used a mic with self noise this low (7 dBA), you may be surprised to hear things in your space that previously went undetected.
Given the low self noise and other factors, comparisons to a Neumann TLM 103 were inevitable. Through matching channels of a set of GML mic preamps, an RME AD-8 DS A/D converter to a Pro Tools system, I adjusted for the fact that the TLM 103 is about 4 dB more sensitive than the NT2-A. After adjusting for sensitivity the one decibel difference in self noise was barely audible.
At a distance of eight inches, the NT2-A sounded slightly louder, even though the levels had been matched. After listening three different times over as many days, I came to the conclusion that the NT2-A was slightly more aggressive, with an “in your face” sort of sound; the TLM 103 slightly smoother.
The NT2-A is also slightly brighter than the TLM 103, which is part of its “in your face” sound. At close range, vocals at three to four inches, the proximity boost of the TLM 103 developed lower, more smoothly and was slightly pillowy. The NT2-A remained more restrained on the bottom.
The NT2-A omni was very smooth, very warm and very natural. I recorded tracks of finger-picked and acoustic flat pick strumming with the mic placed two inches in front of the sound hole. An inch or so away from my Super Reverb cranked to 9, the NT2-A never complained. This mic can take some level. These and others tracks are in the Rode folder in the Review Archives on my website (www.tyford.com). No EQ or effects have been added to any of the tracks.
The figure 8 was equally good with tight nulls and a very close match between front and back sides; good enough for M/S work.
So what we have is a new mic (well, two if you count the NT2000) that are not competing for the lowball price because they don’t have to. These solid mics are a bit bright sometimes but very tameable. They are extremely quiet and versatile enough to work in any number of applications. Another solid peg in the board for Rode.