The Rode NTG3 is the latest in the NTG shotgun series and Rode's answer to expensive broadcast supercardioid mics. It follows Rode's tradition of solid construction and good value, but can it compete on a level with equipment that is usually much more expensive?
I will state here and now that my decision to purchase the NTG3 was not made under normal circumstances. I had recently purchased some other mics and had no plans for further purchases at the time until Rode announced their $1 Blimp offer. I already own a Rode Blimp and I have been so impressed with it that I was planning on buying another in the new year. Rode's $1 offer and the fact that under certain circumstances a second shotgun mic would be extremely useful made the decision easy for me. I had already looked into the NTG3 and it would most probably have been the shotgun I would have chosen. Their special offer just brought my decision forward a few months. I guess that's good news for Rode, but I can't fault an offer that saves me a couple of hundred dollars, and I was happy to make the purchase as my experience with Rode equipment has been nothing but good so far.
My very first impression of the NTG3 was that it had a very crisp sound. Its first trip out was a horribly wet and cold day and I was thankful for Rode's claim of high resistance to moisture. I was recording a series of vintage vehicles so it was a good test of both frequency and dynamic ranges as there were a great many clicks and clanks mixed in with low rumbles of the various vehicles. The results were quite surprising, not that I didn't expect the mic to capture good quality sound, but characteristically the sound was quite different from the Sennheiser MKH60 I usually use. The mic itself comes with a good selection of standard equipment, and I personally really like the metal "cigar" case it comes in to protect it. This is a very practical solution that protects the mic without having to carry an entire hard-case around. The NTG3 slips inside easily and the case screws shut from either end. This fits nicely into my gear bag without wasting space. My only worry is that it looks a little like a pipe bomb from a computer game, so it might be interesting to get through customs security.
I had someone say to me that I would be pleasantly surprised by the quality of sound from the NTG3 and I have to say that after some use I am surprised. I'm not surprised that it is a good quality piece of equipment. I have used enough things produced by Rode to know they make damn good gear, it was more just how good the NTG3 is for its price range.
The crispness of sound achieved by the NTG is of a quality I would expect from a microphone closer to twice the price of the NTG3. My first real outing was in the pouring rain with me stumbling to keep things dry and still get good material. It was certainly a trial by fire as I doubt I ever truly aimed the thing properly as I was too busy feeling miserable for myself, and yet the material I got back was beautiful and had an excellent presence. It captured the high frequency material of some old vehicle engines with a sharpness to the sounds without making them harsh. This made it an instant hit in my books. I am sure I will submit the NTG3 to many more challenges in the future, so far I am confident I can trust it to capture a true representation of anything I point it at.
In the real world
I use shotguns because they are directional and they capture a good sample of the things I point them at. These characteristics can sometimes be critical to a days work. The work I have been doing lately to capture some vintage aircraft has really been a test for most of my gear and definitely my skills, but when it all goes right the results make all the effort worth it. Recordings like this make me very confident to take this mic out in the field day after day.
Sound quality equal to more expensive microphones
Includes excellent accessories
They don't make a stereo version
Rode continues its tradition of quality design and construction at reasonable prices, but in this instance its not a new microphone, but something designed to help you get the most out of your microphones. A Blimp system is not a new concept, but with this model Rode are hoping to show they are just as capable of making good support equipment as they are of making good microphones.
This was a unplanned purchase at the time. It wasn't that I didn't want one, I just didn't know they existed. I had used a Rycote system years ago at a studio I worked for, but for the entire time I was in Japan I was using a system that consisted of a simple shock mount, a foam windshield and a fluffy over cover all made by different companies. The system worked, but not brilliantly. Shortly after I returned to Australia I was in John Barry replacing some cables when I saw the Rode Blimp for the first time. My very first impression was " Wow that's a big box!" because the blimp comes in a very large box. My second reaction was " I bet I can't afford one." It was a week before Christmas and I had no plans on buying any gear, but I was curious of the price anyway. When the woman at John Barry came back and told me they were $250 I couldn't get my wallet out fast enough. At that price I will eventually own three of these, and three of these is still half the price we paid for the Rycote system 6 years ago. (although I do believe they have come down in price)
I have always been amazed at how Rode produce really well designed, manufactured and accessorized equipment at the price they do, but the Blimp was just so far beyond my expectations. It came packed with a huge number of bits and pieces including a variety of clip sizes, spare elastics, a brush for maintaining the fluffy as well as the actual microphone mount, cage and fluffy setup itself. All the components are beautifully deigned and well manufactured. The Rode website also states it comes with a ten year guarantee. This level of care and service is something that is sadly missing from manufacturers and impresses me when I see it. It may seem strange to get so excited about a piece of equipment, but this purchase made me happier than the last couple of actual microphone purchases because it was something I really needed and to be able to get such a good piece of kit for the price was great. Now I just hope it lives up to the huge expectation I have placed on it.
The first thing I noticed is that the cage itself is really large in diameter. This system could easily house just about any microphone including things like Rode's Nt4 with the large stereo head and bulky body size. The strange thing is the NT4 would really benefit from just such a system because it is so intolerant of wind and yet the Blimp does not come with clips big enough to hold it. (amazing considering they are both Rode products) This I really didn't understand, but as I had bought it to house my MKH60 almost exclusively I was not really too fussed by it.
Living in The Docklands in Melbourne gave me the perf4ect opportunity to really test out the blimp system as its one of the most consistently windy places in Melbourne, and the wind can get really severe. All the initial tests I put the blimp through it passed with flying colours. Either hand held or mounted on a boom pole or tripod it dealt with vibrations well and I would need to practically jam this thing down the exhaust of a fighter plane to have an issue with wind noise (and I have just about done exactly that.) I will continue to test this system out as I use it every week, but currently it is one of the best pieces of equipment I have ever owned and has quickly become an integral part of my kit list.
After 12 months my Blimp system still looks practically brand new and it gets used almost every week. I do take care of my gear pretty carefully, but this thing has been on road trips, stored in overhead lockers on planes, carried on bikes, rollerblades, iceskates, skateboards, horses, boats, trains, trams, in rain, wind and extreme heat. I have been accused of being overly passionate about things sometimes, but when I find something that I think is good I will not apologize for singing its praises. ( and you should see me if I don't like something). This system is simply an excellent piece of equipment, made even more so by the low price. I will be buying a second one in the new year as I plan on setting up multiple tripod mounts for location recordings. This puts serious recording capability into the hands of everyone.
In the real world
There is nothing better to prove the effectiveness and necessity of a wind protection system than trying to record wind sounds. The extreme conditions of a violent wind storm will put any recording gear to the test, but the ability to capture the sound of strong wind is something that is simply not possible without something like the Rode Blimp. This gear works consistently well and I generally would never attempt any serious recording with it.
Excellent Value for Money
All the accessories you'll need
Could have clips for a few more mics
The Rode NT4 was one of the first duel capsule stereo microphones on the market. Allowing the user to work with a single mic to record accurate stereo images adds a new tool to a recordists arsenal. The inclusion of optional internal battery power and different output lead sizes makes the NT4 a versatile tool.
I had used some Rode mics before I purchased the NT4, namely a pair of NT3 microphones which I had hanging up in the lighting rig in a theater to capture a live show. The NT3s performed very well. They were a considerable distance from the stage in height and yet they captured an excellent range at good quality. At the time I purchased the NT 4 I wanted a single stereo microphone for various applications. To be able to record live performances in the same way I had with the NT3s was definitely one of them, but I was also hoping to get a quality microphone for capturing outside ambiance in stereo.
The NT4 is an excellent package as purchased. It comes in a hard plastic road case that does a very good job of protecting what’s inside it. (In fact I now use this case to house three microphones) It includes the microphone and a special mic clip because the NT4 is much bigger than standard mics. It also includes two cables one that splits into two XLR leads and a second one that ends in a quarter inch stereo jack which is very useful for people using any of the more recent hand-held digital recorders. Lastly there is a large foam pop shield included that fits over the two stereo capsules. Overall its very good value for money, although I do have to say, shop around and don’t be afraid to haggle a little. The difference in the recommended retail price, the price I was initially offered and what I actually paid for the unit was quite considerable. Although I suspect you could say this about pretty much any piece of audio gear.
From a performance point of view it really depends on what you are trying to do with the NT4. (like most things) I found that for inside recordings of live musicians it is an excellent microphone. I’ve recorded everything from choirs to acoustic wind instruments right up to giant Japanese Taiko drums and as long as you set your levels right and position the mic carefully the NT4 will reward you with a good recording. I found the sound particularly warm and pleasant when recording voice and woodwinds. It is also quite good for general ambiance in an interior environment. The sound quality and frequency range is good for both uses. The convenience of duel power from either phantom power or a 9volt battery housed within the unit is another indication of the attention to detail that Rode appear to take with their designs.
Outside becomes another matter. I realize that most microphones are susceptible to wind noise, but the diaphragms on the NT4 seem to be very prone to wind issues. The first real attempt at outdoor recording was in a swamp near Adelaide and even though there was barely any wind on the day the NT4 struggled badly. I was using just the foam wind shield supplied with the unit but any slight breeze resulted in a loud crackling that made any recordings unusable. I have since bought a fluffy wind shield to use over the pop screen for added wind protection, but in general I do not use the NT4 outdoors. This is disappointing as the built in mics in my hand-held units are better able to cope with wind without a windshield than the NT4 can with its foam cover.
Build quality is excellent and overall you feel like you are using a well made precision piece of equipment. I generally like Rode products and their approach to building quality equipment without it being unnecessarily over priced. They are also usually very well equipped and include many of the accessories that other companies charge extra for.
I have come to believe that maybe my issue with the NT4 is less what it can't do and more that I have been using it for the wrong purpose. As a microphone for inside use it has an excellent sound, which is exactly what it was designed for. Coping with the issues of recording outside is something that many microphones would struggle with so to expect the NT4 to be any different is probably doing it a disservice. I only have a few pieces of Rode equipment currently, but they are all excellently designed and constructed and serve the purpose for which they were designed very well. So the only conclusion I can come to is that if the NT4 does not cope well with outdoor recording then it was probably never designed to do so.
In the real world
Revising slightly on the previous comment, I now believe that the NT4 was produced before the equipment it needed to really be a flexible microphone. Having now used an NT4 safely positioned inside a Rode blimp cover I can say that not only is the NT4 capable of recording outdoors, but that it can produce excellent results. The Blimp is not an optional extra when using this mic outdoors, but once that limitation is accepted the NT4 has quickly become a regular part of my location setup.
Rode's typical high quality of design and construction
Very good for capturing live music indoors
Great value with all the accessories
Simply can’t cope with being used outdoors without major wind protection