Microphone Review: The Rode NT-USB Is Great for Podcasting

Rode nt usbI record several podcasts, and co-host two: The Next Track, a podcast about how people listen to music today, and The Committed, a weekly tech podcast about Apple and more. I’ve used a number of microphones over the years for podcasting, but I finally decided that I needed something better. After reading a number of reviews, I settled on the Rode NT-USB. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK)

As you can see from the photo on the left, the Rode NT-USB comes with a desk stand and a pop screen, both useful accessories. While the pop screen is excellent, the desk stand is too low for any serious use; you need to be much closer to the microphone than you can be with this stand to make it sound good. You could use the desk stand for, say, Skype calls, but you don’t need such a good microphone for that use.

Onboard monitoringAs the name suggests, this is a USB microphone. Just plug it into a computer or hub, and choose it in your recording app. The sound is very good, and it’s best if you are very close to the mic. There is a 1/8″ headphone jack on the side of the mic, and two knobs for onboard monitoring. The bottom one is for the headphone volume, and the top one is a monitor mix control; if you want to listen to yourself through headphones, you adjust the balance between your source and your incoming audio.

This is a cardioid mic; here’s the polar response from the manual :

Rode response

In order to be comfortable, I mounted the microphone on a boom. I first bought one that mounted on my desk, but the NT-USB is too heavy. I then bough a standard microphone boom, which is highly adjustable. (I bought this one from Amazon UK; you can find something similar on Amazon.com.) When I record, I place the boom to my right, and the microphone in front of me.

I worked like this for a while, but then realized that I needed a shock mount. This not only protects recordings from parasite noises, but also makes it easier to mount the mic on the boom so it’s straight up. I bought the Rode PSM1 shock mount. (Amazon.com, Amazon UK) The shock mount is “compatible” with the NT-USB, but it’s not perfect. You can’t use the pop shield, and the two buttons on the side of the mic aren’t as accessible as some people may want. Here’s how it looks on the stand with the shock mount:

Rode stand mount

How does it sound? You can listen to Episode 10 of The Next Track, which is the first episode since I got the shock mount. My co-host and editor Doug Adams applied some compression to my voice, but it sounds quite good, if I say so myself. The only negative is that it doesn’t have a mute button.

The problem now is that I need a pop filter. Rode has one that fits this mic – the WS2 – but it’s not available from Amazon UK. I’ve ordered a generic foam windshield from Amazon, in the hopes that I won’t need a true pop filter that mounts on the microphone, and gets in the way. If that doesn’t work, I’ll get a pop shield and mount it on the shock mount.

I’m very happy with this microphone. It cost about £170 for the mic, boom, and shock mount, which is a decent price for a microphone like this. It took a bit of work to get everything just exactly right – getting the right boom, and then the shock mount, and soon the windshield – but I’m happy with my choice.

Update: I’ve since found that the shock mount I bought isn’t the right one for this microphone. Rode told me on Twitter that the MSR is the appropriate shock mount. However, if you look on Rode’s website, you’ll see that, in the product data sheet, the NT-USB is not listed as being compatible. In addition, this is a very expensive shock mount, that is only available in the UK from one third-party seller on Amazon. I also found out that the Rode WS3 is the appropriate windshield. Again, nothing on the Rode website says that this windshield is compatible with the NT-USB microphone, and it’s not sold on Amazon UK. Unfortunately, Rode doesn’t seem to want to dedicate many resources to ensuring that their website has reliable information. I’ll see how the cheap windshield I bought works out, but I’m disappointed that I wasn’t able to find the correct information.