Building on the Audio Technica AT2020 and AKG P220 entry level studio condenser microphone reviews, this time up we’re taking a look at the Rode NT1-A. Priced just over $200 ($229 – B&H, Adorama, etc.), the Rode NT1-A delivers a high end sheen that I’ve not yet experienced with the previous two microphones, while at the same time, keeping it’s signal to noise ratio remarkably low. The Rode NT1-A is roughly the same size as the AT2020 and P220, and features a large 1-inch gold plated capsule. And just like the other two, the Rode NT1-A is a condenser with a tight cardioid pattern.
As is standard with most of today’s condenser microphones, frequency range is from 20hz – 20khz. Now here’s where things start to get interesting. According to Rode, the Signal-to-Noise ratio is 88 db. Which is quite odd, as the AKG has an S/N ratio of 78db and the AT2020 74db. However, when viewing the bar graphs inside my recording software, the Rode NT1-A had the closest to ‘flat’ of all three of the mics. In other words, on paper, it may not be the quietest, but when put to the eyes and ears, you can’t hear a thing (which, in this case, is good). The Rode NT1-A features no pad or roll-off switches, but achieves a maximum SPL of 137 db SPL, giving it the lowest range of the three microphones.
And while both the Audio Technica AT2020 and AKG Perception 220 feel like solid, if almost heavy, microphones, the Rode NT1-A goes the completely opposite route. Upon first unboxing of this microphone, I almost dropped it, as I was expecting something much heavier. It has the look and sound of a vintage tube mic, but definitely not the same feel. Likewise, the AKG comes with a solid (if only heavy plastic and foam padding) case, that makes just about anyone feel like a pro. Rode, while they do include a spider mount and pop-filter, there’s no case anywhere to be seen. Not even a decent, padded pouch (i.e. the Shure SM58 bank bag). At the end of the day, Rode gives you a fancy dust cover with a draw string. Fair enough, I don’t expect to be doing any ‘on-location’ work with this microphone, but a case would have gone a long way to making me fall 100% in love with this mic.
The Rode NT1-A is an outstanding mic for studio, voiceover and podcast work. It’s high on tone quality and vintage sound, while being light on the wallet, especially for what it is. It is the most expensive of the three microphones I’ve tested thus far, but when put head to head with the AKG Perception 220, you’re really going to have to dig in with a set of closed-ear headphones to really hear the difference. Conversely, if you’re using the Rode NT1-A solely as a spoken word/voiceover/podcast microphone, it’s outstanding. Of the three, the AKG seems most suited to functioning as an amped instrument’s recording microphone, as it has the highest SPL, while at the same time, requiring the most amount of incoming volume. The Rode does stand head and shoulders above the other two in the sensitivity department though. The AT2020 and P220 are very capable of picking up sounds in the desired sonic pattern, but both require the speaker to sometimes ‘swallow’ the mic to get an upfront feel, whereas the Rode presents this feeling naturally.
- Power – P48 (48V), P24 (24V) phantom supply
- Acoustic Principle – Pressure gradient
- Directional Pattern – Cardioid
- Frequency range – 20 Hz – 20 kHz
- Output impedance – 100?
- Signal noise ratio – >88 dB SPL (A – weighted per IEC651)
- Equivalent noise – 5 dB SPL (A – weighted per IEC651)
- Maximum SPL – 137dB SPL (@ 1kHz, 1% THD into 1K? load)
- Maximum output voltage – +13.7dBu (@ 1kHz, 1% THD into 1K? load)
- Sensitivity – -32 dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (25 mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz
- Weight – 326gm
- Dimensions – 190mmH x 50mmW x 50mmD
Uncompressed .wav files:
Rode NT1-A Spoken Word Uncompressed
Rode NT1-A Singing Uncompressed
Rode NT1-A Guitar Uncompressed
I make no claims about my singing voice and paltry guitar skills.
As a follow-up to my previous review, let’s take a look at the AKG Perception 220 microphone. Priced around $50 more than the Audio Technica AT2020, the AKG packs a number of features into an agreeable (approximately) $200 microphone that are often found on much pricier microphones. Similar to the Audio Technica, the P220 is a cardioid condenser microphone, featuring AKG’s renowned 1-inch large-diaphragm true condenser transducer.
Both microphones feature a 20 – 20k hz response, with the AKG just edging out the AT2020 in the signal-to-noise ration department. The AKG clocks in at 78db while the Audio Technica scores only 4 db lower at 74 db. When it comes to miking up some amps or percussion, the AT2020 is capable of handling 144 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1% T.H.D. while the AKG P220 will handle 155 dB SPL, at .5% T.H.D. One unique advantage that the AKG has over the Audio Technica is it’s -20db pad. What this means is that users can simply flip a switch on the P220 if they’re going to be miking big amplifier cabinets, and don’t want to run the risk of distortion.
Another one of the AKG’s fancy switches will apply a bass roll-off filter. This is meant to filter out any unwanted low bass tones in your recording. For example, if used in a home studio, as I suspect many owners of the P220 do, in quiet passages, someone walking seemingly silent across the room, can sometimes register with a highly sensitive microphone such as the P220. To combat this, flip the roll-off switch and record low-end-rumble-free.
Overall, as you can see in the video above, I decided to go with the AKG. The Audio Technica AT2020 in it’s own right is a very strong microphone, and I would have no problems using it again. However, if given the choice, I just found the vocals to have a bit more sparkle on the high end, as well as some nice warm tones in the middle and lower end of my voice. Also noteworthy, the Audio Technica ships as mic only, whereas the AKG included a nice matte-black spider shock mount, as well as an aluminum padded carrying case. Certainly not deal breakers, but a further sign of AKG’s commitment to quality.
If you’ve got the extra $50 or so to spend, have a serious look at the AKG Perception 220 over the Audio Technica AT2020. Again, both good in their own right – but in my humble opinion, the AKG is a better piece of equipment. And as an added bonus, I also know that I’m supporting my local economy, as AKG has their headquarters not very far away from where I live.
- Type 1″ Large Diaphragm True Condenser
- Polar pattern cardioid
- Frequency range 20 to 20,000 Hz
- Sensitivity 18 mV/Pa (-35 dBV)
- Max. SPL 135 dB/155 dB (0/-20 dB) for 0.5% THD
- Equivalent noise level 16 dB-A (IEC 60268-4)
- Signal/noise ratio (A-weighted) 78 dB
- Preattenuation pad 0 dB, -20 dB
- Bass filter 12 dB/octave at 300 Hz
- Impedance <200 ohms Recommended load impedance >=1000 ohms
- Powering <2 mA
- Power requirement 48 V phantom power to DIN/IEC
- Connector 3-pin XLR
- Finish metallic blue/nickel grille
- Dimensions 53 dia. x 165 mm (2.1 dia. x 6.5 in.)
- Net weight 525 g (18.5 oz.)
- Shipping weight 1,970 g (4.3 lb.)
Update! Uncompressed .wav files:
AKG P220 Spoken Word Uncompressed
AKG P220 Singing Uncompressed
AKG P220 Guitar Uncompressed
I make no claims about my singing voice and paltry guitar skills.
The folks at Audio Technica have done an outstanding job at packing a much more expensive sounding microphone into a minuscule $79.99 price tag. A Condenser Cardioid microphone, the AT2020 is perfect for recording voiceovers for your video productions and/or podcasts. An excellent entry level studio quality microphone, I’ve demonstrated in the video below a few of the finer points of the AT2020, including the usage of a pop filter, and not.
I also put the AT2020 to the test over the weekend, and closely mic’d by bass amp, and am proud to report no overdrive at all. Even at a fairly loud (by apartment standards) volume level, the AT2020 didn’t flinch.
While Audio Technica certainly had the bottom line in mind when the AT2020 hit the market, it’s a shame that the normally included accessories, a pop filter and spider mount, are not included. This additional cost will put you in the same price range as some low priced ‘middle range’ similar studio microphones. Overall, for the cost, tone, and overall design, I give the Audio Technica an A-.
- Element: Fixed-charge back plate, permanently polarized condenser
- Polar Pattern: Cardioid
- Frequency Response: 20-20,000 Hz
- Open Circuit Sensitivity: –37 dB (14.1 mV) re 1V at 1 Pa
- Impedance: 100 ohms
- Maximum Input Sound Level: 144 dB SPL, 1 kHz at 1% T.H.D.
- Noise: 20 dB SPL
- Dynamic Range (typical): 124 dB, 1 kHz at Max SPL
- Signal-To-Noise Ratio: 74 dB, 1 kHz at 1 Pa
- Phantom Power Requirements: 48V DC, 2 mA typical
- Weight: 12.1 ounces
- Dimensions: 6.38 inches long, 2.05-inch maximum body diameter
- Output Connector: Integral 3-pin XLRM-type
- Accessories Includes: Stand mount for 5/8″-27 threaded stands; 5/8″-27 to 3/8″-16 threaded adapter; soft protective pouch
- Audio-Technica Case Style: R7
I’m also looking at AKG’s slightly more expensive Perception 220 model, which features a bass roll off as well as a -20db feature that would be beneficial for tightening sound in on the source, as well as maximizing gain (without creating distortion).
I recently purchased the Canon Vixia HF10 and can honestly say, I couldn’t be happier. As with any purchases that involve circuit boards and electrical power, I did a boatload of research before plucking down any cash. The total cost came to approx. $1200.00 at the end of the day, but in addition to the Vixia HF10, I also picked up the additional DM-100 Omni directional Microphone and the WD-H37 II wide angle lens adapter. Even after paying the 200 euro import tax to have it shipped into Austria, is still worked out being a better deal than if I had bought it here along with the additional accessories. Yet again, thanks for being my import/export specialist mom.
Right. Let’s get down to brass tacks here. Considering that I was previously working on a Samsung SC-X300, the Vixia HF10 is like stepping into the director’s chair on a Hollywood set. In addition to the obvious difference in quality of an SD camera vs. an HD camera, the Vixia has already allowed a number of variable shot lighting conditions, effects, shooting modes, etc. One of the main factors that attracted me to the Vixia HF10 is the lack of tape. I’ve never really worked with tape before, and with the advances in solid-state storage media, I don’t really see a reason to start now. The Vixia HF10 features a 16gb built in flash media drive. The Vixia’s less-expensive little brother, the HF100 is exactly the same camera, but without the internal memory, and a slightly less attractive silver paint job as opposed to the HF10’s sleek black finish. Because I’m slightly anal retentive, I also purchased an additional SDHC 16gb drive that simply slides into the side of the camera. So in total, I’ve got 32gb or approx. 4 hours of non-stop shooting time on this little wonder.
Size is also another key factor in my gear selection. I wanted something small enough that could easily be slipped in a large pocket, or not going to take up much space in a backpack. Weighing in at only 15.1 ounces and measuring 2.9 x 2.5 x 5.1 inches, it a fair statement to say that this junior packs senior power into a small package. While I did read a few reviews prior to the purchase that complained about the size vs. usability issue, I find the camera incredibly easy to use, buttons are well place, and the joystick navigation just to the left of the main LCD display is nothing but smooth sailing. The one and only minor gripe I have is with the power button. It’s located over on the left side of the top of the camera, and it does take a bit of juggling to turn the camera on. On the other side of the coin, perhaps this is done intentionally by Canon in order to prevent accidental on/off.
Moving up to HD video has presented a bit of a learning curve. The VH10 records in AVCHD format at a maximum of 17 mb/sec. At this capture rate, you can shoot in full 1920 x 1080 resolution. True HD. AVCHD is a new format to me, and I have to admit, I did have to check a few final cut forums in order to figure out exactly what to do with these files, and how to import them. On the Samsung, videos were encoded in mpeg4 format, and once plugged in, the camera showed up as an external drive and I was able to drag and drop the files on to the desktop. With the AVCHD files, I’m required to select the ‘log and capture’ option in final cut in order to bring the files on board. However, one of the benefits of this method is that I can preview the files in final cut and decide which files I want to bring over, and which can simply head straight to the bin. While even with my macbook pro with 4gb of memory, large HD files do take a while to move over from the camera to the machine. I don’t have a point of comparison, but my first guess is that even though taking a few minutes, they’re still transferring via the supplied USB cable faster than a traditional tape method import.
Here’s some test footage that I uploaded to Vimeo.com. Vimeo is one of the few video sharing sites that supports HD footage. The above footage has been resized by Vimeo, as HD is not supported via embedding. To see the full HD version, check it out over here.
The optically stabilized f1.8-3.0 12X zoon lens is slightly longer than most of the Vixia’s 10X zoon lens competitors, and really, who doesn’t need more zoom? The SuperRange optical image stabilization works well all the way out to the 12X zoom range, and focuses quickly in both bright and dim conditions. This is going to come in particularly handing while filming live musical performances. Other than the slightly bigger zoom, most of the features on the Vixia are industry standards for this price and model class. On video these features include:
- Aperture and shutter priority modes
- Three fixed, one variable zoon speed options. (I personally leave it on variable, as I believe it offers the most amount of control)
- Video light
- Instant AF
- Windscreen filter (on the built in microphone)
A nifty little feature that I’ve played around with a bit is the ability to record in 24 frames per second as opposed to the ‘normal’ 30 fps, and the ability to shoot in 60i. When hooking the Vixia up to an HD monitor via a mini HD jack, the 24 fps footage really does have a ‘cinematic’ look and feel to it, but sadly, I discovered that editing 24 fps footage in final cut is more or less next to impossible. It is entirely possible that I haven’t yet found the proper conversion setting, but I’ve also not been able to find much info on the internets about 24 fps editing.
As with 99.44% of video camcorders on the market today, the Vixia HF10 also functions as a digital camera. In photo mode some nice features include:
- Burst and exposure bracketing options
Another perk that sealed the deal for me was not only the additional shotgun microphone via Canon’s new ‘mini-hotshoe’, but the microphone and headphone mini jacks located on the backside of the camera. This comes in particularly useful when doing interviews and is an increasingly rare feature in cameras in the price range.
As is usual with compact designed cameras, the Canon Vixia HF10 ships with an 890mAh battery with a rating of about 55 minutes time. I’m not exactly sure where Canon is getting these numbers from, as I managed to pull of a full day of recording (over 80 minutes of footage) on a single charge. Maybe it’s better to underestimate the charge time and over deliver? If that is in fact the case, well-played Canon – I’ve yet to come up short on juice yet.
All in all, the Canon Vixia HF10 has met and exceeded all of my expectations thus far. It’s even pushed my boundaries in respect to the way I look at video and video editing, and am looking forward to growing with this camera.