Rode NTK Tube Mic - Partial Report

LSchefman

Member
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13,435
This is only a partial report on the Rode NTK tube mic. I posted in another thread that I got this thing on Monday at the GC Memorial Day sale when I was quoted a truly irresistible price.

First things first: this is a big, heavy, solid mic that needs a big mic stand with a heavy counterweight. The mic is beautifully made on the outside. I wouldn't know quality mic guts if they hit me in the face, so I can't comment on that. It comes in a plastic injection molded case with a power supply, stand mount, and cable (tube mics need special cables to their power supplies in most cases). The power supply is utilitarian, and could use nicer jacks, but this is a small niggle at this price point.

Unfortunately, I didn't have my Focusrite Red 7 preamp (had a minor incident with it), so I couldn't tell much about comparing the mic to the Blue Mouse or Kiwi on vocals, other than it sounds nice. I don't care for the mic preamps on my console, and I'm completely spoiled by the Red 7, so it isn't fair to compare the mic to the Blue mics that I recorded with the Focusrite, using only my console preamps.

But the preamps on my board sound fine with acoustic guitar, or even on a vocal if the singer doesn't get too close and loud.

First, I had my son go into my recording booth, and play his Tacoma DM-18. Then I put the mic up at singing height, and had Jamie do some vocals at about a foot or two away. It sounded quite good! In fact, I like the mic better than several other more expensive mics. Hard to compare it to a Blue Kiwi; they're different, but the Kiwi is a little more 3-D. What both have in common is a very nice top-to-bottom balance.

Then I went into the booth with my Collings, while Jamie recorded me. If you'd told me that I recorded the Collings with a more expensive mic, I'd have believed you. In fact, I liked the NTK far better with the Collings, than an AKG 414 or Neumann TLM 103. And anyone who knows me knows that I love the 414 as an acoustic guitar mic. There was a solid, nicely balanced sound, with a lot of sheen and sparkle, without the added "zing" on the top and bottom you sometimes get with certain Neumanns.

So far, I am very impressed. But the toughest test of a good mic, for me, is vocals.

I'll report on vocals as soon as I get a decent preamp in here; I'm going to borrow a Manley for a few days next week, so we'll see.
 

Scott Peterson

Administrator and Co-Founder of TGP
Staff member
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37,413
Cool report - have an idea for you short term on the mic pre. Check your email.
 

Chiba

Gold Supporting Member
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7,832
Good info. Between this and the Oktava pair you're raving about, I'm getting some good ideas for my next mics.

--chiba
 

LSchefman

Member
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13,435
I like the Oktavas on overheads a lot; they're fine for acoustic guitar, but not as solid sounding in the mids as I like.

I haven't tried them yet on piano, but I have a feeling they will sound good.
 

MichaelK

Member
Messages
6,476
Originally posted by LSchefman
Michael K was right.
It's still 90 degrees here - I expect to see snow any minute now! ;)

Nice report. Glad it's working out for you!

What happened to your Red 7? That's not good.
 

LSchefman

Member
Messages
13,435
I was moving stuff around in one of the racks, and bumped it funny, damaging a pot.

I'm going to order a Focusrite ISA 220 next week anyway, so no problem. I need the additional features. I'll get the other one fixed, one of my buds wants it anyway.
 

eugewong

Member
Messages
726
I think if you go to the Rode website, there are a whole bunch of video clips that you can download with a band recording tracks using the Rode mics.

If i can recall correctly, Vinnie on drums, Luis Conte on Percussion. I can't remember the other musicians, some kind of Latin/new-age/smooth jazz thing if i remember correctly.

They also had a clip of some alternative rock/folk singer type dude singing solo with his acoustic guitar.

I'll see if i can come up with the link..
 
P

PRS GEEK

I had a Rode NTK that I also got at a great price. I also have 2 TLM 103's... Personally. I like the TLM 103 much better, because the NTK is even brighter! The Neumanns are pretty bright too, but in a sweeter way, but I digress. There's a fizziness on the NTK that I can NOT get rid of and the Neumanns are much creamier (IMHO)...

The "typical" mic pres I use on vocals and acoustic and electric guitars are a Crane Song Flamingo, and a Phoenix DRS-2. Even the Phoenix couldn't hold back that zippy stuff (some folks may like it)... Not me...

I ended up getting a Brauner Phantom C and a Soundelux U199 to compare all my LDC mics and did a blind vocal shootout using both mic pres. Well, for MY voice, the Brauner Phantom C blew away all the other mics by far, so I bought it.

However, on acoustic guitar I liked the TLM's better. And The NTK never sounded good on acoustic for me, plus I like SDC's on acoustic anyway...

Just curious how you may find the top end of the NTK to become annoying in a few weeks like I did. Oh, the Phantom C is like $1400, so it's really not fair to compare to the NTK. Don't get me wrong, I'm not putting the NTK down, but I did dump it in the long run.

I used the NTK for the vocals on "Never Never Land" at my link below. I used the Brauner Phantom C for the vocals on "She's Alright"... Much thicker and complex sound. TONS of compression on both vocal tracks. Oh, and I'm not a singer, I'm a guitar player that tries to sing. :D
 

LSchefman

Member
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13,435
Jeff, first and foremost, I enjoyed your tracks! Really nice! And frankly, the vocals on both tracks sound really good, just different.

You know how this stuff is, it's all subjective. Every microphone has a personality of its own, and every recording need is different. That's why it's good to have a lot of mics on hand, and that's why I bought the NTK. To me, there isn't a "best"; it's a matter of what you need to accomplish on a track.

My favorite mics are the Blue line, especially the Kiwi and Mouse. I like the way vocals cut with them sit in a mix. They are bright, but round. However, I will be the first to admit that the Mouse isn't a great choice for acoustic guitar, though the Kiwi is nice.

I lived a long time with a U89i, and it's still around, but I never use it on vocals. In fact, it sits in my partner's studio, he likes it.

The mic I couldn't bond with, at all, is the TLM 103. I had a pair, and just couldn't find a use for them except standup bass. I thought they were hyped, but not in a good way. So they were outta here after a short interval. The caveat here is that I wouldn't be going for the sound you went for on the cut that features the acoustic strumming stuff. My sound is completely different, so it's no wonder that we have different takes on the 103 - you and I even use acoustic guitars in tracks differently*.

The way I've used the NTK for female vocals testing is to have the vocalist sing with her mouth right up close to the pop screen, an inch or so in front of the capsule. This, of course, is the traditional way to close mic vocals with a tube mic, and the mic sounds fine. It's not as 3D as the Blues, but I like it for certain things. It imparts a nice vibe on certain tracks.

There are songs I'd choose it over the Kiwi for, and songs I wouldn't.

*I generally go for a mic that offers some coloration, and helps me to create a sound, rather than a mic that offers an uncolored, hi fi detail, kind of sound. With acoustic guitars especially, I don't want that much high end shimmer, I'm looking for more grit than is typical. This probably explains why I liked the NTK on the acoustic guitar.

Anyway, I think the NTK is a very nice addition to the arsenal of recording tools we are lucky enough to have these days. :D
 

LSchefman

Member
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13,435
>>I agree about the TLM being overhyped and I like the NTK alot better.<<

It's weird, because the TLM got such good reviews, that's why I got excited and bought a couple.

Then I started using them, and couldn't relate. Except they were great on upright bass, for some reason. If I recorded a lot of jazz, I'd want one for that purpose.

On vocals, there was something going on in the lower mids that I just couldn't dial out, and finally I latched onto the Blue mics, which are mostly perfect for me for vocals.

There are a few voices that I might prefer the NTK on, or some songs that would benefit from that vibe.

I'm currently testing out the NTK on some scratch vocal tracks for a record I'm producing, along with a Focusrite ISA 220, just getting started, really. If the combination proves good-sounding, I'll be really pleased, because I basically like the mic; it's a nice alternative to the Blue mics, at least I am guessing so at this point.

I don't know why this is, but of all the current Neumann mics, I basically like the small diaphragm models, the 87, and their new tube mics best, and don't really care for most of their other models. Their tube models rock, but they're a lotta coin.

I think Michael K has one of the newer Neumann tube models, maybe he can chime in. My impression of them is very good.
 

Bassomatic

Member
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12,341
My Rode Tube Classic II (a different animal than the new Tube NTK, for sure) has become a go-to mic for *so* many tracks, around here - vocals, drums, acoustic guitar, and percussion, in partiular. I *love* this mic - smooth, full, detailed, and decidedly unhyped sounding.

Rode has a pretty varied line, and generalizations are probably best avoided with them (as with most othe mic mfr's.).
 
P

PRS GEEK

Originally posted by LSchefman
Jeff, first and foremost, I enjoyed your tracks! Really nice! And frankly, the vocals on both tracks sound really good, just different.

You know how this stuff is, it's all subjective. Every microphone has a personality of its own, and every recording need is different. That's why it's good to have a lot of mics on hand, and that's why I bought the NTK. To me, there isn't a "best"; it's a matter of what you need to accomplish on a track.



Thanks for the kind words!

Of course there's no "best"... I just could NOT get rid of that buzzy high end and the sculpted mids drove me nuts... And for me it wasn't even close to the 103's... Just a difference of opinion I suppose.
 

LSchefman

Member
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13,435
>>Just a difference of opinion I suppose.<<

It's good that we all don't sound alike and use exactly the same gear anyway.
 

MichaelK

Member
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6,476
>> I don't know why this is, but of all the current Neumann mics, I basically like the small diaphragm models, the 87, and their new tube mics best, and don't really care for most of their other models.

Agreed on all counts. I have a pair of KM-184s and the Tube M149. I'm not familiar with the other tube models, but I think they're more specialized. I like the 87 a lot for upright bass, B3, horns and other big warm things, though I don't own one.

I've heard the TLM 103 used for vocals and was not all that impressed. The Tube M149 has been wonderful on everything I've used it for, mainly vocals and percussion, but it needs a big Atlas stand which has to be set up one room away from my desk so it's not convenient for me to experiment with if I'm recording myself. I use it on all my wife's vocals and it's very flattering for her.
 

LSchefman

Member
Messages
13,435
>>but it needs a big Atlas stand <<

And I really hate those big Atlas stands. They are so poorly made (I have one, of course); I could go on and on about how crummy they are, especially considering their cost (I paid around $275).

I noticed some new and interesting stands made for heavy mics have just come onto the market, and they look worth investigating. They run about $400, but appear to be made much better, and they seem to have many more adjustments in terms of height, width of the base, rigidity, etc.

There are also the Manley Starbird stands, but they run about $1000.
 


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