Rode NT1 vs NT1A – what’s the difference?

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Looking back, it looks like there are reviews of the Rode NT1 back in the mid 1990s, so what’s the story? We’ve had all the stories of a new condenser mic from Rode, but that doesn’t really fit when you can find mention of it in 1997. So just what is going on? Let’s cover the basics first: yes, it is a new mic; no it’s not the old NT1 in a new colour; yes, it’s got the sound and build quality we expect from Rode; no it’s not a down-specified version of the NT-1A. Which brings us on to the next thing: NT1 vs NT1A, what’s going on there?

Rode NT1 Kit at Red Dog MusicThe new Rode NT-1

The Rode NT1 – the new generation thereof – comes across as just another working studio condenser microphone. It is available on its own, or as the NT1 pack with pop-filter and suspension mount.

And we’re not just talking your usual collection of a few rubber bands here, this is a shockmount borne from Rode’s licensing of the Rycote system. Not only does it do the job of isolating the mic from knocks and bumps, it also looks pretty dang pro while it does it…

With a completely new capsule – the HF6 – designed in house, the new Rode NT1 isn’t about taking a few old bits and pieces of previous mics from the shelf and putting them together in a different combination to come up with a new mic, this is a new mic.

The name NT1 does perhaps cause some confusion. Where does it fit in with the Rode NT1A? Is it one beneath it? A less-evolved version? But it’s more expensive. You can have an NT1-A pack for £131.99, the NT1 pack is £179, so that argument doesn’t seem quite right.

The trick is to ignore the name: these are both very good, but very different microphones.

Really very quite different as it turns out. While the NT1-A is very much a modern, bright-sounding mic, the NT1 is a very modern, vintage-sounding mic; with all the incredible technical specifications – such as low self-noise and high sensitivity – that you would expect from a modern mic.

A modern mic maybe, but very much designed to model a revered classic. Such as – for the sake of argument – a European mic with the name of a two digit number that follows a letter, where the number equals a prime number minus two (where the prime is a Chen, Pythagorean, Fortunate, Fibonacci and minimal prime, but not a lucky, happy or Gaussian prime). And the first letter is a U.

For example.

And the prime number might begin with an 8.

NT1 vs NT1A: comparing the tech specs

As we’ve come to expect from Rode, the technical specifications of both the Rode NT1  and NT1A are superb. In particular, the low self-noise, coupled with high-sensitivity makes both of these microphones great for capturing soft, quiet sources, letting you increase the gain without swamping your signal in hiss from the microphone circuitry.

That said though, the high maximum SPL capability means you don’t need to shy away from sticking either of these mics in front of a guitar cabinet…

With both the NT1 and NT1-A sharing similar technical specification, you might be wondering what the differences are. These are both modern mics, with all the benefits we’ve come to expect from a manufacturer such as Rode, there might be a few % between them here and there, but hey, what’s a few % between mic locker buddies?

But let’s look at the frequency plots…

Rode NT1 Frequency Response Plot

NT1 Frequency Response

Rode NT1-A Frequency Response

NT1-A Frequency Response

Not so similar now though, are they?

The NT1A  gives you a little bump at the low end to round things out a little, but then hits you hard with plenty of hump in the presence and air regions to bring things to the front of the mix without having to reach for an eq. The new NT1 on the other hand, keeps things nice and flat. Really, really flat as it turns out, before serving a gentle palate-cleansing dessert bit of air at the top end for a bit of sheen, but without over-egging the microphone pudding.

If that’s not torturing the metaphor too far.

Check out the frequency plot of that particular U (prime-2) microphone I mentioned earlier if you’re interested in a comparison…

Both the Rode NT1 and NT1A are great mics, particularly when you consider the sub £200 price point! Now, the ‘forward-ness’ of the NT1A may not suit all sources, and the ‘vintage-ness’ of the NT1 might occasionally need a bit more work to fit into the mix, but neither of these mics will have you leaving the session without a great take down on tape.

And isn’t that what a good microphone is all about?

And, if you needed more convincing that the Rode NT1 is a great, vintage-sounding microphone, let’s take a listen side-by-side with another favourite from the classic mic locker- the Neumann U47:

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Fynn Callum

producer, guitarist, engineer & dj
From indie guitarist to deep house producer via Northern Soul dj; mix engineer, producer and gear enthusiast. Jaffa Cake aficionado.

3 Responses to “Rode NT1 vs NT1A – what’s the difference?”

Read below or add a comment...

  1. Archie Darcy says:

    Hi, nice review as always – thanks. I was wondering if you'd do a post on the best microphones for putting in front of guitar cabs for live sound? I'm so used to having a 57 shoved unceremoniously in front without any thought to placement that it'd be really interesting to see what the options are. Love the blog. Cheers, Martin Vogwell

  2. This (NT1 vs NT1A) is the most hilarious review I have ever read on microphones! It also is a simple, concise description that clearly separates these two. I have NT5s so I know about Rode quality. However, I use AKG 214s for female vocals. I love 'em and I've made utterly gorgeous recordings with them. But I wish I had seen this, I would have gotten Rode without hesitation. It's too late now. The wife would let another woman in the house before another microphone.

  3. Calder says:

    Hilarious, even if my maths is limited. As the guy said above, I’ve never laughed out loud, in a public place too, whilst reading a review on microphones. making a dry subject entertaining and getting the facts across better than the article I read prior!! Thanks..

    I still don’t know what I want to choose but I know what to consider ! I’m leaning towards vintage NT1 but worry that the fixing it in the mix issue may make a harder job of using it.. hmmmmm.. decisions

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