RODE NTV: TRUE CONDENSER VALVE MICROPHONE

Nov 1, 1999 12:00 PM, Roger Maycock

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RODE microphones, which are designed and manufactured in Australia and distributed in the United States by Event Electronics, have earned an honorable position among recording professionals since emerging on the market just a few years ago. The company's first three models, the Classic, NT1 and NT2, have all been adopted by leading studios and the newest model, the NTV, a cardioid tube condenser microphone priced at $1,199, appears well positioned to follow in the footsteps of its predecessors.

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION The NTV is shipped in a package that leaves no question that this is a serious recording instrument. Opening the box, I was greeted by a heavy-duty aluminum flight case. Inside, foam pockets secured the various components, including the dedicated power supply and power cord, a 30-foot double-shielded oxygen-free multicore cable with custom-tooled, military-grade gold-plated connectors, a stand-mount, a birdcage shock-mount suspension and, of course, the microphone itself.

The RODE NTV is a substantial microphone. The instrument's body is milled from high-grade stainless steel and incorporates two grill meshes. The inner headscreen is tightly woven and, even without the use of a pop filter, provides reasonable protection from plosive sounds caused by close-proximity miking. The NTV employs a 1.15-inch gold-sputtered, edge-terminated Mylar diaphragm that is suspended in the capsule by its edges. This new 1-inch edge-connected design is significant, because without a center wire, the capsule is able to move more freely, resulting in far more natural extended low-frequency response. It is this single design characteristic that enables the RODE NTV to deliver a very pleasing warmth and transparency not found in many other microphones.

Every aspect of the NTV's design indicates there were no shortcuts taken. The unit incorporates a hand-selected, low-noise, twin-triode ECC81 valve combined with high-end, audiophile-grade capacitors from Solen and Wima, all of which feed a custom-made Jensen output transformer. The sum total of these components yields some impressive numbers. The microphone's sensitivity is rated at 15 mV/Pa while maximum sound pressure level is a very respectable 130 dB. The NTV's noise rating is less than 19 dBA, and its output impedance is 200 ohms.

SESSION PREPARATION The NTV's power supply is solidly built and clearly labeled. It should be noted that the unit will operate on both 120- and 220-volt AC supplies, so it is wise to check the setting before powering the unit. The cable that connects the microphone to the power supply is solid in every aspect: Both ends are of the multipin (gold-plated for optimum signal quality), threaded variety that secures into place by twisting the ring until it is tight.

The NTV's power supply provides an Earth Lift switch to reverse polarity in the event of a ground loop. After connecting the microphone to the power supply, all that's left is to run a high-quality XLR cable from the power supply to your console or preamp-ideally, one that is as short as possible. Powering the unit lights is a blue LED on the front panel of the power supply. (The LED's drive circuit feeds off the filament voltage of the microphone's valve and thus becomes brighter as the microphone approaches its operating level, providing a visual indication when the NTV is ready for use.)

As stated earlier, the NTV ships with both a stand-mount and a shock-mount support, each supplied with an inner ring adapter to fit European-style mic stands. Even though both supports are constructed of an industrial-grade PVC-type plastic, I found that the larger shock-mount unit secured the microphone much better than the more basic stand- mount adapter. In fact, I twice discovered that by the time I had connected the cables and power supply to my console, the basic stand-mount adapter had allowed the microphone to shift position ever so slightly. Given the price of the instrument, the stand- mount support did not exactly inspire confidence. I retired the stand-mount and relied on the considerably more solid shock-mount (which worked flawlessly) for the remainder of my evaluation.

The microphone itself is quite large and hefty, and secures to both supports by resting in the base of the support while the supplied cable attaches from the underside and locks the mic into place. This certainly works, but it appears to me a somewhat rigid method of securing the microphone. Shock-mount suspension systems from Shure, AKG and others provide considerably gentler microphone handling.

SESSION USE I began my evaluation by using the microphone for dialog recording. After checking to ensure that I was indeed receiving signal, I began experimenting with positioning. It became immediately apparent that the NTV is extremely sensitive and its single cardioid pattern is very clearly defined. For close-proximity dialog recording, I found the microphone did a wonderful job, particularly when the instrument was positioned at a side angle with the voice-over talent speaking across the mic as opposed to directly at it.

As mentioned earlier, the NTV's headscreen actually has an outer and an inner mesh, with the inner mesh functioning as something of a pop filter. I recorded the readings both with and without a dedicated pop filter to see just how much reduction in plosive sounds I could achieve. Although either set of recordings was more than sufficient for my project, I ultimately chose to work with the takes that had been recorded using the pop filter. I found that the takes with the pop filter exhibited fewer plosives, and those plosives that were objectionable were easier to clean up.

In terms of sound quality, I found the microphone provided a pleasant low-end fullness that gave the dialog a warm, rich quality without sacrificing the mid or high frequencies. The NTV's performance was very even and balanced, with no sound coloration.

I also had the opportunity to try the microphone in a small chamber hall. Here, I recorded acoustic guitar and flute, both individually and collectively. By positioning the NTV approximately six to eight feet from the guitarist, I was able to capture a fairly direct sound, yet there was also enough distance to pick up some of the refractive sound energy from the hardwood floor. In this environment, the NTV delivered a clearly defined performance, along with all the guitar harmonics that Heitor Villa-Lobos' compositions are famous for. I could distinguish fingerpickings while still gaining a sense of spaciousness that is characteristic of the room.

My experience in recording the flute was equally successful. In this case, the NTV's internal mesh enabled me to position the microphone fairly close without being disturbed by all the breath and plosives common to the instrument. I found the microphone captured both the instrument and the acoustic characteristics of the hall very accurately and without any harshness. In this case, the slight fullness in the lower frequencies did a nice job of making the recording seem big and full.

Priced at $1,199, the RODE NTV is a well-balanced recording instrument that provides exemplary performance under a variety of applications. I would feel confident using this microphone for ensemble recording, vocal work, piano and other acoustic instruments, as well as overhead miking of percussion. Its tendency to slightly round out the lower frequencies of a recording without coloring the sound adds a depth that many will find beneficial. The fact that the microphone offers only one polar pattern (cardioid) was initially somewhat disappointing, but I consider this to be a reasonable trade-off in light of the price. Aside from my experience with the stand-mount support and the mounting method in general, the new RODE NTV is a well-made, quality instrument that will make a fine addition to any recording studio's microphone arsenal.

Event Electronics, Box 4189, Santa Barbara, CA 93140-4189; 805/566-7777; fax 805/566-7771; www.event1.com.

15th Annual TEC Awards Winners

Nearly 800 people packed the Broadway Ballroom at the New York Marriott Marquis September 25 for the 15th annual Technical Excellence & Creativity Awards. Winners were announced in 27 categories, but the highlights of the evening turned out to be the special presentations. Les Paul and George Massenburg presented the Les Paul Award to Sting, followed by Gibson's presentation of a custom Les Paul guitar, handed over by the master himself. Then Atlantic Records co-founder/producer Ahmet Ertegun gave a heartfelt Hall of Fame presentation to his friend and colleague Tom Dowd. Next month we will have a complete photo wrap-up. Meanwhile, here are the winners:

OUTSTANDING INSTITUTIONAL ACHIEVEMENT Acoustics/Facility Design Russ Berger Design Group

Sound Reinforcement Company Showco Inc.

Mastering Facility Gateway Mastering

Audio Post-Production Facility Todd-AO Studios

Remote Recording Facility Record Plant Remote

Recording Studio Right Track Recording

OUTSTANDING CREATIVE ACHIEVEMENT Audio Post-Production Engineer Gary Rydstrom

Remote/Broadcast Recording Engineer Kooster McAllister

Sound Reinforcement Engineer Dave Kob

Mastering Engineer Ted Jensen

Record Producer Glen Ballard

Recording Engineer Ed Cherney

LES PAUL AWARD Sting

HALL OF FAME Tom Dowd

OUTSTANDING TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT Ancillary Equipment Apogee PSX-100

Amplifier Technology Bryston 9B-ST Pro

Mic Preamplifier Technology TC Electronic Gold Channel

Computer Software/Peripherals Sonic Foundry ACID

Microphone Technology Neumann M147

Sound Reinforcement Loudspeaker Technology Meyer PSW-6 Cardioid Subwoofer

Studio Monitor Technology JBL LSR-28P

Musical Instrument Technology Kurzweil AES (Audio Elite System)

Signal Processing/Hardware TC Electronic M3000

Signal Processing/Software TC Works MasterX

Recording Devices/Storage Technology Otari RADAR II

Workstation Technology Digidesign Pro Tools|24 MIX

Sound Reinforcement Console Technology Harrison Live Performance Console (LPC)

Small-Format Console Technology Mackie Digital 8-Bus

Large-Format Console Technology Solid State Logic Axiom-MT






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