When I stumbled upon the Rode NT1A and decided to purchase this mic as an upgrade to my pleasant but imperfect amateur recording device (that is, the MXL 990 condenser microphone), I have come to love this equipment to death. For a long time, I had this feeling that good quality recordings could be achieved with inexpensive mics and interfaces.
While in some respects this can be true, having a pricier mic can make the process of creating music less of an uphill battle. In fact, that is a phrase I have consistently used while making music at home as an indie musician myself. Every time I turn on my laptop and plug in my mixer, mics, and digital interfaces something always seems to go wrong.
With the MXL 990, it had a tendency to output a static noise, sometimes even picking up radio stations, and they were noted on my acoustic and vocal recordings. This is certainly no way to make music that one would intend to be perceived as any bit professional. After two albums were released with fairly amateurish recording standards, I opted to get the Rode NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone Package and my musical career has been significantly better for it.
What can the Rode NT1A vocal condenser microphone do for your music recording career?
Mics are a funny thing. Whether it is the Rode NT1A condenser microphone, the MXL 990 (which, in itself, is a common beginner microphone), or some really shoddy dynamic mic you decided to buy at RadioShack thinking “this will do the trick,” your needs are likely going to be the same across the board. You want something reasonably priced, yet packed full of quality. Indeed, the Rode NT1A is around $200 dollars as a package that includes a pop filter, shock mount, XLR cable, and a few other gimmicky accessories.
Fundamentally though, you are paying for the microphone, and in my personal opinion, it is well worth the expense. In a world where microphones range from $10 dollars all the way up into the thousand dollar range (if not higher for some really high-end models), $200 dollars is chump change for the quality packed into this little mic. At first, I was uncertain if this device would blow me away. After all, I was getting along just fine with lower-priced condenser mics for quite a while. But, again, the quality of my recorded sounds undoubtedly advanced as a direct result of this purchase.
So, a good starting point as we dissect the Rode NT1A A microphone would be taking a look at a few recordings that come from this mic. For this review, I’m essentially going to ignore the specifications on this model as for most people, these things will not matter. This is a very quiet condenser mic, and while you may struggle with lesser mics to get volume outputting from this mic (I know I struggled with that MXL 990 for quite some time), this device can plug into your mixer or interface and be ready to go in minutes instead of years.
Finally, the sound produced is very warm and the mic itself has a large dynamic range. I’ve seen it work on heavy metal-styled vocals (both screams and clean singing), rap, pop, and folk music. This is a large array for sure, so there is no doubt in my mind that it will work well for you at the end of the day.
The Rode NT1A condenser microphone will not replace good production values, a good interface, recording skills, and so on.
Many reviews on the Rode NT1A (or just about any mic on the market, honestly) do not showcase the reality of recording music with a mic. You need to learn how to properly record to unlock your mic’s full potential. While I struggled with my former mic (again, the MXL 990), I’ve seen others perform beautifully with it. Some of this comes down to having a really solid USB interface or a mixer, and the preamp contained within.
Not only this, but recording technique is a huge factor. If you took the Rode NT1A and put it in a room with unwelcoming reverberations and just a terrible sonic landscape, your recordings will suffer.
Many musicians end up purchasing sound control foam (among other things) to make their studio capable of producing better recordings. Still, even with average acoustics, you can still learn to take control of your mic. And this in itself does take time and effort. Without a doubt though, it is easier to achieve a higher quality sound with this $200 dollar mic versus lesser quality mics (most at a lower price point and some in the same range!).
A few resources and products worth checking out to collaborate well with your Rode NT1A would include finding a high-quality digital audio workstation (DAW) and looking into an array of mixers and interfaces. A few I use are as follows: Focusrite Scarlett Recording Audio Interface and the Behringer Xenyx 802 Mixer.
The Rode NT1A is an excellent product for the price. I have worked with a few mics, both in my home studio as microphones that I have personally owned, and elsewhere at more legitimate recording studios and at musician friend’s houses, and I’ve not really encountered a mic that was as diverse as this. While condenser mics are especially recommended for recording vocals and acoustic guitars (and most folk-style instruments), I’ve gone as far as to mic my half stack amp and recorded distorted heavy metal guitars to great success.
The real selling point for me with regards to this microphone is the simple fact that I was able to essentially set it up and forget about it, unlike some previous mics that required me to constantly change positions and tweak with the mic to make it work. The NT1A Anniversary Vocal Condenser Microphone is a really solid package and comes with a lot of useful equipment. Whether you are a novice musician or a bit more experienced, you will find this item to work very well for your recording needs.
You might also like to read Tube Microphones – Buyer’s Guide by Alan Steward.