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