Røde NT1-A (NT1A) cardioid mic compared with Neumann TLM 103

Here are some clips comparing the Røde NT1-A with the Neumann TLM 103. The Rødes are new, the TLMs are an oldish pair that have been in a private London studio for years and have probably seen some very smoky sessions.

The first example is from Fauré’s song C’est l’extase. The singer is Corinne Orde and the pianist is Jonathan Cohen. Unlike for the other mics compared on these pages the recordings were made on different days. Two longish excerpts are followed by a short AB comparison. (Recorded on HHB Portadisc using 75 Hz rolloff on Portadisc; no other processing)

Two one-minute samples for each mic:

Fauré/extase/TLM103 160 kb/s, 1.2 Mb

Fauré/extase/RodeNT1A 160 kb/s, 1.2 Mb


A-B comparison with Neumann first, then Røde. The Neumann excerpt has been amplified by 150% to match the Røde track. Each excerpt is 6 seconds long.

Neumann-Rode AB 160 kb/s, 260 kb

The second example is from Louis Vierne's setting of Verlaine's L'heure du berger (re-recorded Oct 2007 and replacing previous clips). These are simultaneous recordings made with both mic pairs plugged into an Edirol R-4 four-channel recorder. Here are two 2-minute samples of the first part of the song recorded with the Neumanns (first clip) and the Rødes (second clip). Tracks are as recorded, with no bass rolloff. A lovely and rather mysterious piece. For the poem and a translation go to this anchor at the bottom of the page.

Vierne/berger/TLM103 192 kb/s, 2.8 Mb

Vierne/berger/RodeNT1A 192 kb/s, 2.8 Mb


Here are some A-B comparisons using the Berger piece. First is the second set of opening chords on the piano. In this and the other Berger A-Bs I've amplified the Røde excerpts by a small amount (1.5 dB, or 20%) to match the volume of the TLM clip. The TLM is always the first excerpt in the A-B clip. All mp3s are sampled at 192 kb/s.

Berger opening chords 6.3 sec + 6.3 sec; 304 kb


Next a comparison of two high notes by the singer:

Berger high singer 9.7 sec + 9.7 sec; 456 kb


Finally, a quick comparison of the first high note in the previous A-B clip. Here I've put a brief silence between the two mic excerpts as otherwise it was a bit odd to listen to. What's interesting is that the wave traces produced by the two mics are really rather different (though you need a sound editor to see this).

Berger first high note 3.1 sec + 3.1 sec; 156 kb

Last example is just for the TLM 103. It's from Ravel's delicate setting of Le cygne. Corinne has edited and processed this, adding a bit of reverb. I make no sound quality claims for it as the extract has been taken from a 128 kb/s mp3 she emailed which I then recompressed to put up here -- but it still sounds acceptable. The clip is the first 1 min 20 s of a piece that lasts just over 3 minutes.

Ravel/Cygne/TLM103 128 kb/s, 1.22 Mb

For something completely different, here's a Nightingale singing with dawn chorus and two Cuckoos. Recorded 12 May 2006 with the NT1-As and Edirol R-4. On speakers there's a "hole" in the middle of the stereo field -- the mics must have been angled apart too much. Also, especially with headphones, some noticeable low-frequency noise from distant traffic. Must've forgotten the bass roll-off . . I'll have to try a hi-pass filter some day. AND there's me walking around. But oh, these nightingales are a delight to record!

Backtilt Nightingale (3.83 Mb) 160 kb/s mp3, 3 min 21 s

There are more voice & piano samples made with the TLM 103 on Corinne’s cd site (appears in new window). She’s done some reverb filtering, so they sound slightly different.


Pages about using the Røde NT1-A as a field mic

Rob Danielson's* site has several pages on how to make rigs for recording in the field with this microphone, and he also discusses its special qualities. Rob has quite exceptional ears -- and he thinks very highly of this mic. He also notes, importantly, that his Rødes have never given problems in humidity conditions. There are pics of Allan Haighton's and John Hartog's field setups here. In fact it's where I discovered Allan's owl recordings. There are 11 long field samples on the Sample field recordings page. Don't miss Allan's vintage steam train.

Four more NT1-A samples of Tawny Owls by Allan Haighton on my site here: Recordings page 3.

* Rob is an associate professor in the Department of Film, Peck School of the Arts, at the University of Wisconsin--Milwaukee. There's a summary of his activities and approach to recording on this UWM Research Profile page . . . click down to the "Sound" section. This is his website.


John Hartog's Rock Scallop website

John, who lives in Portland, Oregon, USA, uses the Røde NT1-A mics quite a bit, and he's put up many long samples on his Sound Journal page (more than 40 when I checked in June 2007). Almost all of the entries have notes about the equipment used. Mostly the mics were the Rødes, but some are the Shure WL-183, and a couple of early samples were made in Hawaii with the Sony ECM-MS907.

There are also a couple of cds for sale at very reasonable prices on this page. One that's not mentioned there is a double cd called Springtime at Lost Lake. This was recorded with Røde NT1-As, and in my opinion it's brilliant. John is clearly drawn to wild sounds in wild places, and he drives hundreds of miles to get them, but he doesn't hesitate to record, for example, long passages of pre-dawn silence punctuated by distant owl calls and the plopping of feeding fish in a lake. Exactly the sort of thing where a dead silent, crystal clear mic like the NT1-A performs perfectly.


A zZounds review page and Sweetwater reviews page

Plenty of satisfied user reviewlets of the NT1-A here. Many speak of the clarity and accuracy of the mic and the fact that it turns in results that compare with well-known studio mics that cost much more. I would agree. The only problem for field recordists is that it is a big, heavy, cradle-hung studio mic with a big diaphragm! You have to use it on stands or design a portable hand-held support that uses an elastic suspension. You cannot hand hold these mics as they pick up every little noise your body makes, like muscle creaks and even blood circulation. See Rob Danielson's site above for field cradle designs.

My impression is it's also a powerful mic (I think the technical term is hot). In other words with the right recording gear you can get a lot of gain. I recorded with the Rødes beneath an owls' nest about 50 feet away at the same time as I was using the Telinga dish mic, and with the gain turned only moderately up was quite surprised to find that the owls sounded as if they were just a few feet away -- not all that much different from what the dish picked up!


Raphi Giangiulio's homemade pipe organ website

This site is fascinating in its own right, but Raphi happens to use a pair of NT1-A mics to record his recently completed organ. Here's the sound samples page. Most are just the organ, but try Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme by J.S. Bach, in the first block of samples, as this has his dad accompanying on trumpet. (To hear the original recordings click the links in the "Without Reverb" column.) Further down, in the "Music samples" section, try the first 3:15-min clip, Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor, as it's good fun. There's even a couple of short clips of Louis Vierne -- the "Beginning of Vierne's Prélude using Montre and Soubasse" is a tantalisingly brief 30-sec clip that leaves one wanting to hear more. Then move on to finding out more about the organ . . it's a real accomplishment. A treasure of a website!



Paul Verlaine's L'heure du berger, or The Shepherd's Hour (Poèmes saturniens, 1866)

The extracts above are the first two verses. A preliminary translation is given below (we're still working on it!). Musically what strikes one is the seeming contrast between the subject matter and the piano accompaniment. On the surface we have a poem about the countryside settling down to sleep -- moon coming up, mists settling on the fields, flowers closing for the night -- but the piano is all drama and passion, driving the piece forward and sweeping the emotions along with it. So what's Vierne up to? I think it must be that mysterious last verse, where the night is shown to be full of shadowy activity and the scene is set for the dramatic entry of Venus, goddess of love. I do like Verlaine's description of the owls' flight, Rament l'air noir avec leurs ailes lourdes, "[They] row the black air with their heavy wings". Spot on.


La lune est rouge au brumeux horizon;

The moon is red on the misty horizon;

Dans un brouillard qui danse, la prairie

In a dancing fog the meadow

S'endort fumeuse, et la grenouille crie

Falls asleep in a haze [lit. smokily], and the frog calls

Par les joncs verts où circule un frisson.

Among the green rushes where a shudder circulates.


Les fleurs des eaux referment leurs corolles;

The water flowers close up their corollas;

Des peupliers profilent aux lointains

Poplars are silhouetted in the distance,

Droits et serrés, leurs spectres incertains;

Upright and bunched together, their forms uncertain;

Vers les buissons errent les lucioles;

Towards [but possibly "Over by"] the bushes roam the fireflies.


Les chats-huants s'éveillent, et sans bruit

The owls awaken, and noiselessly

Rament l'air noir avec leurs ailes lourdes,

Row through the black air with their heavy wings,

Et le zénith s'emplit de lueurs sourdes

And the zenith fills with muffled glows.

Blanche, Vénus émerge, et c'est la Nuit.

White, Venus emerges, and it is Night.

powered by owls