The RØDE NTR Ribbon Microphone
(first published in CX magazine – May 2015)
I must take my hat off to Røde. It really is a company of doers, its latest release the long awaited active ribbon microphone, the NTR.
Looking like its design inspiration came from Sydney’s Anzac Bridge, the Røde NTR is a sturdily constructed mic that makes a bold feature of its key component: the 1.8 micron, bi-directional ribbon element. Clearly visible through a semi-transparent perforated metal grille, the element rides atop a hefty base that contains the step-up transformer and active electronics.
The overall impact of the physical design is impressive. The mic on the one hand looks almost old-fashioned – art deco even – while at the same time feeling modern and refined in its fit and finish. The NTR weighs just over a kilo, and comes with a decent screw mount that holds it firmly in place. I was particularly impressed by the large tightening wingnut that makes locking the NTR into position easy as pie.
Sonically, the Røde NTR, like all good ribbons, is a mellow microphone that captures a full tone with a bias towards thumping bottom end. It’s smooth in the tops but reluctant to express it, the benefit of this being that simple shelving EQ, when required, reveals a gentle, far less aggressive tone.
The problem with ribbons in the past – apart from their unreliability and fragility – was that they were typically both dull and noisy… a dubious combination. This meant that any attempt to liven up the top-end commonly brought with it a snowstorm of hash, making them difficult to work with.
The NTR has none of these issues. It has great noise specs (equivalent noise level – A-weighted – is 15dB-A). It’s quiet as a mouse, and being an active ribbon, has far more output that passive designs. This takes the load off preamps being required to crank huge levels of gain into the signal path, which typically added even more noise to recording chains.
The NTR offers classic ribbon tone without the noise problems, making it a versatile workhorse. I’m glad there’s not been too much emphasis placed on trying to make the NTR sound more like a modern-day condenser.
Two of these mics work brilliantly as overheads on drums, are superb on brittle sounding percussive instruments like tambourines and shakers (which, through a condenser, can often sound hyper-metallic) and horns likewise sound full and true, rather than harsh and emphysemic.
On some vocals the NTR sounds mellow and smooth, reducing sibilance to a minimum. On others it inevitably requires some high-end shelving EQ to lift the highs, and when you do the results are typically clear, quiet and un-hyped. In a nutshell, the NTR does all the things you want a ribbon mic to do, and none of the things you don’t.
This mic looks intriguing, sounds smooth and balanced, is built like a tank (in Sydney), and importantly, has a 10 year warranty, which includes a free replacement ribbon in that time period.
If you like ribbons I’d urge you to check out the NTR.
RØDE Microphones: (+612) 9648 5855 or www.rode.com