In my quest for the perfect recording setup, I was pleased to discover an audio recording solution that minimizes the amount of gear I require to produce my YouTube content. I create educational videos on an almost daily basis and having a simple and effective audio recording setup is essential to my workflow. That's why I'm pleased to have discovered the RODE NT-USB microphone. The NT-USB is a Condenser Microphone which means that it's capable of recording the human voice with far clearer quality compared to something like a lavalier or headset mic which contain a Dynamic Microphone.) There's nothing worse than listening to poor quality voice narration, so I'm a big fan of using a condenser for all of my videos.
This microphone can be purchased at The Vocal Gear Store.
To connect a condenser microphone to a computer requires a USB or Firewire audio interface or a soundcard that can receive an XLR microphone cable. Typically, the interface will also need to support Phantom Power for a condenser microphone to work properly. In my previous recording setup, I was using an M-Audio Firewire Audio Interface connected to an AudioTechnica AT2020 Condenser Mic. While this setup certainly does the trick, it has a lot of cables and individual parts. This Summer, I found myself doing a lot of recording outside my studio. In an attempt to keep my gear to a minimum, I tried recording ambient audio with my camera microphones. To my disappointment, all I got was a lot of noise from wind and not much ambient audio. My goal for my outdoor videos is to paint a landscape, but also to capture nature sounds like birds and leaves rustling. It was apparent that if I wanted to get a good audio recording outdoors, I would need to start bringing a condenser mic with me on my recording sessions. On each trip, I would have to carry my drawing tablet, easel, tripods, cameras, supplies and sometimes a camping chair. I didn't want the burden of transporting, assembling and disassembling a Firewire interface, so I was relieved to discover the RODE NT-USB which doesn't require an audio interface. It simply plugs in and is powered through USB.
As far as the specs, it's a studio-quality microphone which means that you can use it not only for voice narration and podcasts, but also for recording vocals and instruments. As with most condenser mics, the polar pattern is Cardioid. The NT-USB's frequency range is 20Hz ~ 20kHz so it going to do a marvelous job of capturing a natural sounding human voice with clarity. It's dynamic range is 96dB and its Max SPL is 110dB. As I mentioned before, it's powered by USB 5V DC and its weight is 520g, which is a little on the heavy side, but not uncommon for a condenser microphone. The NT-USB is very well built using high quality electronic components. Its metal case feels rugged, but as with all condenser mics, their internal parts are delicate, so I recommend taking caution with this type of mic. You certainly can't toss it around like you would a handheld Dynamic mic. The kind you typically see performers singing into.
Aside from a computer and recording software like Garageband, the NT-USB comes with everything you need to setup and record. It even works with the iPad as long as you have the USB Camera Connection Kit. Included in the box are a tabletop tripod microphone stand, a 20” long USB cable and a Pop Shield. I appreciate the inclusion of these accessories because having a stand eliminates the need fo r a mic stand which takes up a lot of space. The long USB cable reaches pretty far as USB cables go. And the Pop Shield is especially useful for protecting your recordings from being ruined by plosives which are the loud pop sounds you get when you accidentally breathe too hard on the microphone. Condenser mics are particularly sensitive to plosives, so a Pop Shield is essential. I must admit, everything is so nice and compact once you get it assembled. It's super portable and it takes a lot of the hassle out o f setting up to record audio.
Now let's talk about some of the pros and cons of the NT-USB. I don't have much that's negative to say about the NT-USB so I'll start there. While RODE states that the NT-USB is pre-set to an optimal recording gain, I have to disagree. Not all recording setups are the same and in my studio, there is some fan noise from my computer which means I need to set my gain lower to get a good recording. The NT-USB does not have a volume gain knob, so I have to set the recording gain by opening the recording properties on my computer and setting the levels there. While that does work, it's kind of a hassle compared to just turning a knob. Why this knob was left out, I don't know, but I sure do wish it were there.
As far as the pros, there are several. First, there is a handy on-board headphone monitoring feature which allows you to adjust the balance between your voice and the background audio while recording. What this means is that while singing or narrating, you can make the background music louder or quieter to make it easier to hear your own voice in the mix. As I mentioned earlier, the NT-USB is USB powered, so it only requires a USB cable to connect to your computer and record audio. No preamp, audio input box, phantom power or XLR cable required. Less gear means less time setting up to record and I like that.
don't miss the chance and