RODE NT2 Review – Studio Sound
Originally published at www.rode.com.au/stusound.htm; rescued from Internet obscurity 2010-05-14.
by Dave Foister
So which came first, the model number or the company name? Did the hitherto-anonymous designers come up with the NT2 and seize on RØDE as an amusing brand name, or did RØDE already exist and the model number follow? Either way, I smell a rat, or more likely some obscure Australian marsupial.
The resurgence in interest in microphones has already been noted in Studio Sound and elsewhere, surrounded as we are by ever more shiny new computers, we have rediscovered the pivotal role of the microphone and the fun and variety on offer from the plethora models available. This trend has been helped on by the appearance of several previously unknown microphones, many from Eastern Europe, and a renewed interest in vintage microphones from both users and the original manufacturers. In fact there have been so many new and revived microphones introduced to us over the last couple of years that it must be getting more difficult for yet another model to get itself noticed. Yet that is precisely what the RØde NT2 has done.
Some new microphones attract initial attention by virtue of their appearance — new materials, a new sleek shape, an unusual color — but no-one could accuse the NT2 of using such a ploy. It follows a remarkable number of recent introductions in shamelessly modeling itself on the basic U87 shape, complete with something approaching the original Neumann color. It has a similar side-fire grille assembly concealing a 1-inch diaphragm, mounted on a fat, tapering body with an XLR fitted at the base. Just to catch you out, the XLR plugs is facing neither the front nor the back, but the side, an orientation I have never seen before and which must have been specified out of sheer bloody-mindedness.
Given that both Cardioid and Omni are present, a figure-of-eight characteristic must be knocking around somewhere, so why is it not available?
The NT2 carries fewer switches than the original for reasons which are, on the face of it, hard to fathom. The one switch on the back selects a 10dB pad in one direction and a bass roll-off of unspecified frequency in the other — the two cannot be used together (an odd compromise), although a center position disables both. The polar-pattern selector switch is mounted in the expected place on the front of the body, but curiously offers only cardioid and omni patterns. One or the other alone would be understandable, but given that both are present a figure-of-eight characteristic must be knocking around somewhere, so why is it not available to the user? This seems a curious omission which, if put right, would make the NT2 even more of a contender.
A big plus is that is comes as standard with an elastic suspension, which is just as well as there is no other way of mounting it on a stand. The suspension is sturdy and well-balanced, firm enough to allow easy aiming while light enough to provide effective shock absorption, and the swivel includes a locking knob, which is small but adequate for the not inconsiderable weight of the microphone. A very unexpected bonus is a spare set of elastic bands for the mount. Unusually, the suspension’s stand-mounting thread is 3/8- inch and an adaptor for 5/8-inch stands is supplied as standard.
The packaging is designed more for safe long-term storage that for cosmetic presentation; the whole kit comes in a big anonymous white cardboard box, with the microphone and suspension separately packed in pretty basic, black, plastic cases. The microphone itself is in a soft pouch within its case, complete with a bag of silica gel which RØDE take the trouble to suggest should be kept with it, at the diaphragm end, to reduce the risk of moisture-related problems arising.
The build quality of the whole kit is reassuringly solid and careful, if not as sleek as the icons it seeks to emulate. The fit of the body parts and the engraving quality are good, the suspension is well-designed and nicely finished, and removing the body sleeve reveals a carefully assembled PCB with high-quality components and wiring and moisture protection applied where appropriate.
This is a microphone with a definite character.
The performance of the NT2 sits well with the visual impression and the specs, and confirms the rumors one has heard about it. This is a microphone with a definite character, although not so pronounced as to make it only suitable for certain applications. It is honest enough to fit snugly into various specific areas where its undeniable high-mid lift is a pronounced advantage. Pulling solo instruments, particularly up-front ones such as saxophone, out to the front of a mix is an effortless job for the NT2, and it shines on vocals, bringing a singer a step or two forward of the backing with no EQ whatever.
This is by no means to suggest that its sound is bright or hard — in fact the depth and body of the large diaphragm is always in evidence and nothing ever sounds thin. What we have is a full, rich sound with a subtle but exploitable presence — for many people the ideal way to get a result. The noise floor is as low as one has a right to demand of a modern condenser design, and the off-axis coloration is minimal. All in all, the performance of the RØDE is quite extraordinary for the price; it joins the growing ranks of newcomers who together are redefining what we can expect of inexpensive microphones, and is likely to find its way into an awful lot of studios from the most cost-conscious to the most exalted.
Read more about the RØDE NT2 condenser microphone.