12 April 2013

Home Studio: Rode NT2-A Studio Solution Set and T.Bone Mic Screen


Note: this entry was already published in my old Spanish version of this blog, around January/2011. I am revisiting it here.

One of the most complex things for a Home Studio is to get a good record of clean and defined vocals.
The typical mic to start, that anyone will recommend you is the Shure SM58.
Honestly, I didn't liked any of the takes that I did with this mic. To me, vocals sound so close and dark and, the track needs to be hardly re-EQ'd to make it to sound similar to the real thing.
Overall, the mic lacks some gain, what forces you to sing closer to the mic, increasing the proximity effect of such a mic.

During my visits to a friend' studio, I had the opportunity to try a mic Rode (probably, one NT2000, memory fails here). That mic impressed me because of its clarity and detail so, I wanted to substitute my SM58 with some model from Rode.

I bought the NT2-A because of economical reasons. As per the articles of Paul White (SOS), there are just two levels of large diaphragm mics: those that cost a kidney (High end Neuman, AKG...) and the "affordable" ones.

The gap between "affordable" and the mythical Neuman U87 is really huge but, differences in price between the "economics" are less dramatic. After reading an article around the NT2-A, I've been convinced that this was the best solution for my financial state.

Paul White says that this is the mic with less floor noise of the affordable ones, valid for practically anything and, with a very plain response in frequencies. A bright mic that can help to opaque voices, as mine... so... the dices were rolling.

In other side, it's clear that there is a clear difference between a dynamic mic, as the Shure SM57 or SM58, that are designed to catch just the sound very close to its capsule, highly attenuating the sound with the distance and, a large diaphragm mic, as the Rode NT2-A, designed to catch everything around.

Trying to reduce the ambience noises that this mic can catch, I've tried also an absorbent mic screen, concretely, the T.Bone Micscreen.

Follows, my impressions about both things.

Rode NT2-A Studio Solution Set

This nice pack includes the mic NT2-A, the anti-shock mount, an integrated pop filter, an XLR cable, a CD with more marketing than useful info and, a fund for the mic.
First pack that I've received was faulty. The Omni and Eight mode of the mic were working ok related to gain but, they had a lot of floor noise produced by the mic itself, that was far away from that quietness that Paul White was talking about.
The cardiod mode didn't work and the floor noise was really high, with a very weak signal.

So, I did my first tests with the Eight mode and, despite of the floor noise, I was really impressed about how clear and defined were vocals and, best of all, no need to re-EQ the track (except a small dip around 5KHz, to remove some piercing presence).
After a while, I had the replacement pack, with a new mic and... this time was everything working fine!.
Impressive the low level of the floor noise and, impressive the high sensibility of this mic, able to catch the quietest sound happening in the room, even out of the cardioid pattern.

Also, impressive gain level. If my tests with the first faulty mic needed to raise the input gain in the pre-amp, for those tests with the second one, I needed to maintain the gain knob below noon, to avoid the bus to clip.

It's able to suffer high level of sound pressure, accepting 137 dB (normal mode) or, up to 147 dB (with pad set to -10dB). I've started to scream like a monkey asking for an autograph to Cheetah and, the mic get it all, without any distortion. Cool.
Fortunately, the pack include the antishock-mount, since this mic needs to be mount in a ring and, otherwise, I hadn't the opportunity to try it mounted in my mic stand.

The anti-pop filter is just correct and, a bit limited in movements. Possibly, better to buy an anti-pop filter with a flexible arm.

The antishock-mount seems reliable and strong.

The mic weight considerably and has an impressive size. Done to dynamic mics, as the SM57, SM58 and, some Sennheiser, to stand this mic on my hands was a religious experience.

Overall, it looks really professional. It doesn't seems a cheap gear produced at low cost in China and, in fact, Rode' series ending in A are being produced in Australia, where Rode were able to reduce costs by using sophisticated machines that reduced the mounting time and, excess of personal.

The takes I did with this mic (even the faulty one), leaved a track with a nice gain, awesome dynamic range, lot of detail and defined vocals that suited the mix naturally. I had to dip around 5K to remove some excessive bright there but, even without touching the EQ, the result is directly usable.

I am really happy with this mic, indeed.

Due to its high ability to get high preaure level, it's even possible to use it to record guitar or bass amp, and even Kick drums. To do that, we need to switch on the option -10dB pad.
So, a great mic, with an affordable price related to other large diaphragm mics, high quality, impecable finishing, very low floor noise, plain EQ and, the possibilty to use it for any micking task in the Studio.

To whoever that is sick about its SM57 or SM58, I highly recommend him to check this mic!.

T.Bone MicScreen

Well, I've tried to filter part of the ambience sound heard in the back side of the mic (not cardioid zone) and, to avoid room reflexions, by using this mic screen, because it was really affordable and, opinions were very mixed about this kind of solutions.

Comes unmounted but, the task is easy. Everything comes in a box with a very professional look. Has some interesting accessories, as a bar that allows you to mount two mics (for stereo tasks).

The screen as an adjustable wide (but, unstable and not accurate) and, it's easy to couple to any mic stand but, because of its weight, you better choose a stand with a weighty base.

Related to its function... does it really work absorbing the ambience noise?.

Answer is... NOT!.

I've put the stand with the mic facing a books shell (to avoid reflexions) and, with the screen behind, "protecting" the rear side of the mic (not cardioid).

In first place, the NT2-A is cardioid but not hypercardioid.
I've tried to click my fingers in the back zone and, it catches the sound with total clarity, with a volume level slightly lower respect to same sound in front the mic but, high enough.
Then, I've tried the same behind the screen and, the mic was catching the sound without any issues.
Vocals tests were also very clear about all this.
While I was adjusting the gain level, in my PC, far away from the mic and, with headphones on, I was able to hear the sound that I was producing on my desk, while working.

Therefore, in my honest opinion, probably can help to reduce the reflexions that catch the mic on its rear side but, in no way its absorbing the ambiental noise.
In the track, I was able to clearly hear the reflexions in the room (not acoustically treated).

The good thing is that, mounted on the stand and, with that big NT2-A, you seem like an astronaut handling a sophisticated device for spatial exploration and, this can help you to pick up girls. Take a picture of yourself with all this gear and then... forget the screen.

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