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Røde NT3

December 2000


Following the recent Olympic Games in Sydney, Australia, we potentially have warm feeling for any output from that city. This proves to be the overall impression I hold, having examined and used this Sydney product - the Røde NT3 condenser microphone. Probably primarily seen as a vocal microphone, such single use should not be seen as the only one. There are many assets in the design and I'll start with these.

The Overview
It has a 19mm diameter, externally polarised condenser capsule, and can be powered by conventional balanced phantom means — from 12V to 48V. In addition a 9V PP3 battery can be installed in the body to provide the powering. In this case unbalanced feeds can be used, which will suit some less elevated situations. In these cases the output XLR Pins 1 and 3 are both connected to the cable screen.

There is a sensibly recessed on/off switch which can still be finger operated. This is primarily for use when a battery is installed, but it also operates when the mic is externally phantom powered. Associated with the switch is a red LED that momentarily flashes with either powering system.

In the battery case it indicates it has a potential on-going capacity. A longer flash indicates that it is nearing the end of its capacity. The switch is physically quiet, but when battery powered there is a greater accompanying click on the mic output.

The Instruction Guide was obviously written by someone who uses microphones. I particularly like the comments that ‘no amount of EQ can correct a bad recording environment'. More specifically, regarding battery life, it suggests that a high-quality alkaline PP3 will give over 400 hours of use, adding that ‘this is equal to eight hours recording per day for a year — excluding two weeks of holiday!'.

Handling noise is surprisingly low, considering how directional the hypercardioid polar pattern proves to be. Actually it is hard to detect a ‘rear lobe' as such, the overall impression being of a lot of forward directionality with an absence of any narrowing of this pick-up at HF.

There is a substantial mesh grille over the capsule and between this grille and the capsule there is a fine foam screen. The capsule is rubber shock mounted, which accounts for the low handling noise and absence of resonance. Supplied is another fine foam screen that neatly slides over the mesh grille. This double layer protection proves to be very effective in 'plosive' reduction.

Static Comparison Tests
The output level proved to be very similar to what I would like to see as the 'standard' for capacitor microphones — to that of a DPA4060, for instance. The noise floor is a little higher, with more ‘mid range' in what is heard. I did experience some occasions when dampness was affecting the output. (See comments later on some practical solutions.)

The published frequency response curve shows an upper mid range rise of a few decibels and another similar rise above 10kHz. Speech use at one metre sounds very natural, so much so that one accidental playback had me turn around thinking that the person recorded was still present in the room! The few decibels spread HF rise above 10kHz is audible in comparison to some other well known mics, when there is such a content present in the acoustic source.

Recording And 'Local' Use
I do like to put review mics 'up against it'. The first outcome was thought provoking. Some vocal track laying, initially with the singer very close with the supplied fine foam screen, in our usual damp British Autumn weather along with the singer's emitted humidity did produce a reaction from the capacitor diaphragm, something we don't experience with moving coil vocal mics.

The solution was easy. Remove the external fine foam shield and use a mesh pop screen at around 300mm from the mic. This keeps the singer at a more sensible distance and, in any case, noticeably improves the delivered voice quality, apart from preventing dampness induced reactions from the capacitor diaphragm. The Røde Instruction Guide covers this aspect, encouraging the drying out of the supplied pack of absorbent silica gel crystals.

Having personally taken to the Røde NT3 I can recommend its use for other than solo vocal situations. Particularly encouraging is the fact that there is no narrowing of the directional pick-up pattern towards the HF, so its use as a Mid mic in an M&S rig proved to be another asset. A coincidently placed AKG Blue Line figure-of-eight, as the sideways firing Side mic of the pairing, worked very well in 'stereoising' the Røde for my usual recording uses. With the necessary M&S decoding such a pairing is very attractive in all sorts of 'stereo mic' applications.

I did indeed take to this Sydney manufactured Røde NT3 microphone, which has a number of practical assets, as outlined earlier in the review. The phantom powering voltage range, the alternative of the PP3 battery powering and the working over balanced or unbalanced connections in the latter case, the consistency of its polar pattern's characteristics, and finally the very good sound quality possible, with the ‘precautions' outlined earlier taken into account, all attract me to this microphone.



December 2000

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Røde NT3

Oktober 2000


RØDE NT-3THE AUSTRALIAN COMPANY Røde has built up a strong reputation over the last few years as a manufacturer of extremely competitively priced studio condenser microphones, whose sonic qualities have engendered a strong following from recording engineers of all backgrounds. The NT3 is the company's latest offering, building on the success of the NT1 and NT2 models.

Out of the box, the NT3 bears a striking resemblance to an AKG C1000, with its thick body, power switch and space in the body for a 9V battery to drive the electronics should phantom power not be available. A small red led above the power switch indicates the state of health of the chosen supply--a quick flash on switch-on indicating all is well, a longer period of illumination suggesting that the battery should be replaced or phantom supply checked.

Initial impressions of build quality are that it is very good--despite the fact that the tiny badge above the power switch fell of as soon as I unpacked the microphone. Construction is heavy-duty cast nickel throughout, and the mesh head--usually the Achilles heel of these designs, seems very sturdily welded indeed.

Perhaps because of its similarity to other microphones, I have to confess that I set the NT3 up in front of an acoustic guitar convinced that I knew roughly what to expect--and was completely taken by surprise. Great bass extension, a smooth response and a level of high frequency detail that had me double checking that I had the correct fader open. A quick glance at the technical documentation started to explain why. The NT3 is a true, externally biased condenser microphone, with a 3/4-inch diaphragm and J-FET electronics package--putting it in a completely different league from the many small diaphragm, back electret condensers at the budget end of the market.

Polar response is hypercardioid, and quoted frequency response is 20Hz - 20kHz (±4dB). Closer inspection puts that figure better in context at 35Hz - 20kHz (±2dB), and, although by no means flat, (the published figures show a wide dip around 7kHz, and peaks at 4kHz and 15kHz), in use the NT3 sounds very flattering on a range of sources. Used on male vocals, it delivers quite a warm sound, with a very gentle bass tip when used close in. The peak at the upper end of the microphone's response does tend to exaggerate sibilance slightly, but nothing that a slight shift off axis won't cure. On brass, too, the NT3 fares well, although the lack of a built-in pad does make positioning less flexible with high SPL sources.

The NT3 is generally very quiet in terms of self noise when powered from a 48V phantom supply. Unfortunately, I was unable to test it when running from a 9V internal battery, although the suspicion is that it wouldn't turn in as good a performance in this respect when self-powered.

I was quite taken by this new Røde, and it's served to remind me never to take things--especially microphones--at face value. A switchable pad and high-pass filter would be particularly welcome enhancements, but as an affordable studio condenser with a sensible balance between accuracy and character, it would be a great addition to any microphone cabinet.



Oktober 2000

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