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).
Hi! My name is Dan, and I make pretty things.
I’m 35 years old, living in Vienna, Austria. Here’s a short summary of what I’ve been up to:
- 1999 – Graduated the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, NY with a Bachelors of Music degree – Vocal Performance
- 2000 – In between singing gigs, I started doing client acquisition/business development with an internet startup, bla-bla.com
- 2001 – On 9/11 I was living in Manhattan, and experienced that truly odd day. Shortly thereafter I was offered a job in Oxford, UK where I worked as a graphic designer
- 2003 – Returned to the U.S. to start up the American sibling company of the UK parent company I was working with. This time around as the National Recruitment Manager
- 2006 – Served as Director of Marketing at flix55.com, a video sharing site working closely with a WLNY, a major NYC television outlet
- 2007 – Returned to Europe with my wife, settling in Vienna
- Current – Working as an independent digital media consultant
As you can see, I’ve worn a number of hats over the past 10 or so years, and each position has taught me something unique, which makes for the entire Dan Taylor experience. I’m a ‘learning through doing’ kinda guy, and I see no project too big to take on.
The goal of turnthescrew.com, which originally started out as an a place to host my images, is simply an outlet for any and all creative work, social media and all things digital news, things I find amusing, or anything else that might be of interested to like minded folk. In addition, it’s an experimentation platform, which means I try out a lot of ideas here, and pass the best practices on to my clients.
The Long Version
I grew up in a small town in Upstate, NY, went to University in Rochester, NY to study Opera singing, figured out it wasn’t really for me, and then landed my first ‘real job’ during the first internet boom at a company titled bla-bla.com. Even though the name was strange, I learned a ton of valuable information, not only about the business of ‘teh internetz’, but about business, specifically sales and marketing, from the good folks at bla-bla.
I’ve lived in Glens Falls, NY, Rochester, NY, Toronto, New York City, Oxford, UK, Philadelphia, PA, Mineola, NY, and Vienna, Austria. Some might say that being on tour all summer would qualify as a separate address, but I discount this. I enjoy traveling, but don’t do as much of it as I’d like.
My interests are so varied that I could talk your head off about each topic, but the main things I like to do outside of the work related sphere would include making person video projects, photo projects, skiing, and playing video games (although, technically – that’s part of one of my consulting jobs). I’ve also been known to lay down a groovy deep house set, or two, and like to pick up the 4 and 6 stings once in a while. I studied cello as a kid, and would like to start playing it again. And last but not least, as an American living in Europe, it’s just to hard not to sample some of the finest beers on earth.
I’m currently working with both MindMeister.com and fatfoogoo.com on various marketing initiatives. If you’re interested in what I can do for you, please fill in the contact form below, and I’ll get back to you shortly.
All the best,