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Røde NT5 Rode continues its foray into the stereo image. Konrad Skirlis uses two new matched cardioids to practice some old stereo tricks.Januar 2003


RØDE NT-5 If you feel the NT prefix has become synonymous with prolific mic production, it’d be with good reason. Rode continue their recent prolific approach to new mic designs by releasing another stereo microphone package. It was only in last issue that the NT4 made its grand debut – and a hard act to follow it is too. But Rode has indeed followed up that release with the NT5, which presents a different slant on the idea of stereo recording. Unlike the NT4’s fixed XY capsules, the NT5 package comprises a matched pair of microphones.

A Perfect Match. If you intend on performing a stereo recording with two microphones then it’s rather important those two microphones are matched. (If you don’t have two mics that share the exact same characteristics then you’re leaving yourself wide open to anomalies in the recording.) The NT5s are designed to be just that – a matched, or identical, pair of microphones. This is their strong point and the aim of the Rode exercise. All too often, buying matched microphones costs an arm and a leg... not in this case! The NT5 stereo mic package is unbelievably affordable.
Essentially, you get two matched cardioid condensers for less than the price of one of one mid-priced condenser. (The package also ships with two mic clips and windsocks that comfortably fit in a hard plastic case with inner foam lining.)
Stereo Cardioid Choices
. So in the world of stereo miking what are the pros and cons of using a integral stereo mic over a matched pair. Well, conveniently, we can take a look at the Rode range for a case in point. In the last issue, the NT4’s fixed XY capsules at 90° was seen as a popular and solid stereo miking technique – ready to go, ‘point and shoot’ convenience. Now, the NT5 gives the user the power to alter angles and distance between microphone capsules. As a rule of thumb, while it’s generally permissible to adjust angles between 80 and 130 degrees, doing so will have a considerable bearing on the outcome of the pick-up coverage. In short, decreasing
the angle between microphones increases recording coverage as well as centre image pickup. While the XY pair is indeed the most popular stereo miking technique, the AB stereo recording method is also widely used. It seems to be the preferred method for capturing overhead drum sounds. Each capsule is placed a foot or so apart, which has
the effect of covering large spaces with considerable fullness in semireverberant environments. However, stereo information relies on time differences between the spaced mics and this lends rise to the possibility of phasing problems. Although this phase difference is inaudible for low frequencies, it can become prominent for frequencies above 2kHz. Generally speaking, the useful acceptance angle varies between 60° and 180° depending on the angle and space between the microphones. By decreasing the angle between mics or the physical spacing, the coverage angle may be increased.
RØDE NT-5 sæt i kuffertStereo Cardioid Mic Techniques. With a matched pair of mics at your disposal, you can tread in the footsteps of many an engineer over the decades, experimenting with a variety of stereo techniques. Some of these techniques date back to the ‘50s and hail from various countries. For example, the NOS method, was developed by the Dutch Broadcasting Foundation and takes two cardioid mics spaced 30cm apart at an angle of 90°. The German DIN method also uses a 90° angle but with a mic spacing of only 20cm. On the other hand, the OLSON method, which also uses 20cm spacing, employs an angle of 13°. The Italian Broadcasting Corporations RAI method uses a spacing of 21cm at an angle of 100°. Finally, the ORTF method developed by the French Broadcasting Organisation places two cardioid mics at an angle of 110°and 17cm apart. This system is the most popular as it provides a consistent sound for localisation and depth.
Slim ‘n’ Silver. The NT5 is a compact mic – almost what you’d expect a hi-hat or overhead drum mic to look like. In fact, its size reminds me of the now discontinued Neumann KM84. The diaphragm size is 0.5-inch, just like the NT4 capsules. On the side of the diaphragm are sound ports needed for an operational cardioid pick-up pattern. At only 100 grams, the NT5 is certainly light yet feels solid and durable. With an
all-silver appearance, they do indeed look impressive. Apart from the customary Rode gold dot and a screw holding the body, a thin black band at the base provides manufacturer details and a serial number. There are no other features to be had such as roll-offs or pad options. Matching NT5s have consecutive serial numbers and this is the key to being assured of their bona fide status.
Specs. Considering the release of the NT5 is hot on the heels of the NT4, it’s not surprising that both mics share similar specifications. Just like the NT4, the NT5 diaphragm is an externally polarised condenser transducer. Similarly, its active electronics employ a JFET impedance converter with a bipolar output buffer. Like the NT4, frequency response is an attractive 20Hz to 20kHz – so the 0.5-inch diaphragm does not compromise on low frequency reproduction. To round off the other specs, the NT5 has a maximum output figure of +13.9dBu, dynamic range is greater than 128dB, a healthy pounding of up to 143dB SPL can be managed and a 12mV sensitivity rating is quoted – all very respectable figures.
Stereophonic Sound. I was very impressed with the sound of the NT4, and I must say the NT5 does it for me as well – both mics share many similarities in design and specs and share an open and clean sound. Miking up an acoustic guitar is always a good litmus test for mics such as these. Which is exactly what I did, using two approaches, both at a distance of approximately 50 cm. One was an XY pair (90 degrees) and the other an ORTF setup. While the coincident miking technique proved to be stable in stereo, the ORTF approach provided a enhanced image width. Much like AB, the increased stereophony seems more pleasing to the ear. I imagine that for the same reasons, AB miking on drum overheads is considered preferable to an XY approach! Furthermore, the NT5 gives a sense of realism to the art of reproducing an acoustic guitar. Colouration is kept to a minimum and I found the NT5 mics to be faithful to the original guitar sound.
Acting as drum overheads, the NT5 mics did not detract from the cymbal sound in any way. Upper frequency response was quite smooth and I would personally rate them as good as a pair of AKG 451s. In short, I found the NT5s more pleasing than a pair of Calrecs – plus there is the comforting thought that the NT5s are matched.
Out of interest, I tried one NT5 as a single cardioid microphone on vocals but I would not make it my first choice unless I was recording a chorus of vocalists in stereo. While I
didn’t mind the sound, the NT5’s smaller capsule lacked the ambience of a large diaphragm condenser. However, I would keep the NT5 on standby for an alternative vocal mic sound.
After all, ‘dimension’ within a recording can be achieved by using a variety of mics at various perspectives. Interestingly, combining a single NT5 with a Shure SM58 on electric guitar in a 90 degree XY configuration provided excellent results– the sound of a rugged up front dynamic along with the presence of a forgiving cardioid condenser worked very well. So while the NT5 is packaged as a stereo mic kit, and NT5 in isolation can be more than handy.
Just the Two of Us. It’s hard to find fault with these matched NT5 microphones. These mics’ wide frequency response and high SPL handling capability will make them a popular choice for a number of stereo (and mono) sound sources. But apart from the NT5’s flexibility and sound, the price is probably its single most important feature. If you thought that experimenting with various stereo microphone techniques was only the preserve of the rich, then think again – if you’re new to the stereo miking game then now’s your chance to get your feet wet. The price also makes these mics an obvious addition to any studio’s arsenal – the low cost really takes the umm’ing and
ahh’ing out of the equation. Again, Rode has spotted a niche and filled the void with
quality and affordability. I can’t wait to see what’s next!



Maj 2003

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Rode NT4 & NT5 Capacitor Mics

Januar 2003


RØDE NT-4RØDE NT-5The stereo pair NT4 is a coincident, 90-degree angled, pair of half-inch diameter diaphragm condenser cardioid capsules on a chunky body, taking a 9V PP3 battery as an alternative to phantom powering with a range of 12V to 48V. The single mono Rode NT5 is a smaller, phantom powered-only, 'stick mic' with the same cardioid capsule.
Both mics are supplied with basic foam pop/windshields, adjustable angle mic-stand mounts with UK 3/8-inch Whitworth adapters. The NT4's foam windshield is a neatly sculptured piece of 'artwork', encompassing both capsules.
The NT4 has a five-pin XLR for its outputs and two supplied adapters. One is a splitter to provide two balanced connections via three-pin XLRs, the other is a longer unbalanced lead terminating in a mini jack plug, allowing connection to domestic portable MiniDisc recorders and so on.
I installed a PP3 battery, coupled the NT4 to a Sharp MiniDisc, and went to interview my neighbour. The sound quality was very good, handling noise very low with no wind disturbance, as I walked along or moved the mic. The stereo was not up to the usual result I get with ear-spaced baffled omnis - more on this later.

The sound of these mics is excellent with a low noise floor and a high SPL acceptance.

Using the NT4 and the NT5 pair in balanced phantom powered studio conditions on an 'acoustic sampling' session at classical music composer and conductor, James Wood's studio, we were both impressed by the natural sounding quality acquired on to DAT via an Aphex mic amp.
This was confirmed by my usual tests and comparisons back at base. There is indeed a low noise floor and it was easy to prove that the same capsules are used on both mics - consistency. These are easily detachable on the latter, but seemingly not so on the stereo NT4.
I really wanted to investigate the stereo performance of the coincident crossed 90-degree pair on the NT4 versus the NT5 units, perhaps as a spaced apart and wider angled ORTF pair and even against a Mid & Side rig with an NT5 as the Mid?
The 90-degree crossed coincident pair on the NT4 do produce a 'narrow' stereo. But this is a bit of a 'double' trade off in comparison with the 110-degree angled and 17cm spaced pair of NT5s. These do give a more 'active' stereo presentation with an expected greater ambience perspective, but what about the increased off-axis aspect affecting the centre soundstage pick-up?
So, happily without bias, I ventured one of the NT5 mics as the Mid unit with a figure-of-eight Sennheiser MKH30, as the Side mic. A revelation, straightaway confirmed visually on the Audio Vector Display of a DK-Audio MSD600M. The stereo came 'alive' and the centre sound stage was on axis to the Rode and hence fully covered. You also have variable width, so is there a future possibility of Rode developing a figure-of-eight capsule for the NT5 body and go forward into this field of acoustic stereo recording?
The sound of these mics is excellent with a low noise floor and a high SPL acceptance. The NT4's battery option for location use is a very attractive facility. I would, however, encourage a 'next step' move into the Mid & Side use of an NT5 with a 'side fire', figure-of-eight capsule in use on another NT5 body. Standing by. Mike Skeet.

* Low noise floor.
* Optional battery power.
* High SPL acceptance.



Maj 2003

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