Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A: Is there REALLY a difference?

Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1 A

A quick look at these two mic names, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that the NT1A is just the updated version of the NT1.

However, that’s not exactly the case.

Though these two mics are pretty similar in nature, they’re different enough in sound character to justify having both in your mic closest.

But if you’re only looking to get one, then you’ll want to know which is best for your needs, which is what we’re going to help you out with.

Here’s what we’ll cover in this Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A comparison:

  1. Design
  2. Frequency Response
  3. Potential Uses
  4. Self-Noise
  5. SPL Handling
  6. Accessories
  7. Finish
  8. Price & Value For Money
  9. Pros & Cons

Ready? Let’s get started…

1. Design: Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A

Design: Rode NT1A

The NT1A was originally released in 2004, and for a long time, has been described as the world’s quietest microphone.

That’s a pretty strong claim for a budget-friendly condenser mic, but it’s held up.

Here’s what you need to know about Rode NT1A’s design:

  • Fixed cardioid polar pattern
  • No additional pads or high-pass filters
  • High-SPL handling
  • Bright, forward sound
  • Nickel finish with a strong metal body and grille

Design: Rode NT1

The history of the NT1 is a little tougher to follow.

A Rode mic with this name first came out way back in 1997, but this was back before Rode had the reputation they do know.

A few short years later, they re-designed the mic entirely and re-launched it as the NT1-A.

So yes, the NT1-A is a newer version of the original NT1.

But here’s the thing:

The NT1 that’s on the shelves now (and the one that basically one who refers to the NT1 is actually talking about), is a newer, updated version of the NT1A.

Told you it was a bit hard to follow.

It’s redesigned from the ground up, keeping only the metal grille, though it offers most of the same specs:

  • Cardioid polar pattern
  • No high-pass filters or pads
  • High-SPL handling (even higher than the NT1A)
  • Smooth, flat, natural sound
  • Matte black finish with a strong metal body and grille

Design: Bottom Line

It’s really a matter of opinion, as the mics do a very similar job, but offer quite different sound palettes.

In the next two sections, we’ll discuss what these differences mean in the studio.

Design Winner: Tie

2. Frequency Response: Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A

Frequency Response: Rode NT1

The frequency response of the NT1 is almost dead flat, which is nice to see in such an affordable mic, as this kind of response is typically found in only more expensive mics.

It reaches right down to 30Hz before it starts to roll off subtly, giving the mic a nice warm, full low-end.

The transparency of the response then reaches right up to 4kHz, where you get a subtle lift (2dB at most) until it slops off gently at around 10kHz.

This profile gives the NT1 a really natural, transparent, honest sound, that doesn’t get too in your face and sounds great on a subtle vocal or piano performance.

Frequency Response: Rode NT1A

The NT1A’s frequency response is pretty much the opposite, and it’s far from flat.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, by the way, it’s just a different approach.

The response of this mic is incredibly shaped, with the low-end rolling back from around 80Hz, and peaks sitting in the low-mids (150Hz), and right throughout the upper mid-range, with the biggest peak being a 6dB at around 13kHz.

This profile is qhat has given the NT1A its name as a very forward, bright, and airy microphone, which brings vocals and acoustic guitars forward in the mix.

Frequency Response: Bottom Line

Though both frequency responses definitely have their place, some find the NT1A to be a little harsh in the top-end, which is quite common for budget-friendly condensers.

On the whole, I find that more natural-sounding mics are better for most applications, as you can adjust amp settings or performance details to achieved the desired timbre.

Frequency Response Winner: Rode NT1

3. Potential Uses: Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A

Potential Uses: Rode NT1

Thanks to its flat, natural sound profile, the NT1 is well-suited to applications such as:

  • Piano pieces
  • Drum overheads where you’re looking to pull back on some of the sizzle of the cymbals
  • Bright, strummed acoustic guitars
  • Vocal performances of almost any kind
  • Voice recordings, like for a podcast

Potential Uses: Rode NT1A

The NT1A can be used for many of the same reasons, but bear in mind that it has a much brighter and more forward profile.

Here are some instances where it might be a good fit:

  • Acoustic guitars with old, dull strings
  • Vocal performances that need to be brought forward in the mix
  • Bringing the string and box noise out on a violin or cello
  • Recording drum overheads or hi-hats when you need the top-end to really cut through in a mix

Potential Uses: Bottom Line

There’s no clear winner in this category, as it ultimately depends on the sound you’re trying to achieve.

Both mics can be used for many of the same purposes, but if you have both in your mic cabinet, you’ll be able to pick and choose which mic to use to further shape the sound of whatever you’re recording.

Potential Uses Winner: Tie

4. Self-Noise: Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A

Self-Noise: Rode NT1A

The NT1A has, for a long time, been touted as the world’s quietest mic.

It has a self-noise of just 5dBA SPL, which is pretty impressive considering the Neumann U87 (often described as the gold standard for condensers) has a self-noise of 12dBA.

Self-Noise: Rode NT1

The Rode NT1, however, takes this claim to the next level, by offering a self-noise of just 4.5dBA.

Sure, it’s only slightly lower, but making the world’s quietest mic even quieter is no small feat.

Self-Noise: Bottom Line

The NT1 takes the cake in this category, with a virtually non-existent self-noise of just 4.5dBA SPL.

That said, the NT1A is equally impressive, and it’s far from being a noisy mic.

Self-Noise Winner: Rode NT1

5. SPL Handling: Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A

SPL Handling: Rode NT1

SPL handling, if you’re new to the term, is essentially a measure of how loud a sound source a microphone can handle before the mic capsule gets damaged.

On the NT1, that level is 132dB SPL.

To put that into perspective, a chainsaw at a 1m distance measures 110dB SPL.

Because every 10dB is a doubling in perceived volume, 130dB SPL is four times as loud as that chainsaw, and the Rode NT1 can handle sound sources even louder than that.

SPL Handling: Rode NT1A

Despite the NT1A being an older model, it actually has slightly better SPL handling than the NT1, topping out at 137dB.

At this level, 5dB is a pretty huge jump (10dB is double, so this is 50% more than what the NT1 can handle), though, in reality, you’re probably not going to be recording anything in this range anyway.

SPL Handling: Bottom Line

The bottom line is that both of these microphones can handle pretty much anything you throw at them.

If we’re talking pure numbers, though, the NT1A wins it, with 137dB SPL vs the 132dB of the NT1.

SPL Handling Winner: Rode NT1A

6. Accessories: Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A

Shock Mount

Both microphones come with Rode’s SM6 shock mount, which helps to acoustically isolate the mic from bumps and knocks, and keep the recording nice and quiet.

It’s a well-built shock mount and is custom-designed for these mic bodies (which are virtually the same), but it’s nice to know that you can also use the mic with a traditional mic stand mount if you need or want to.

Pop Filter

Pop filters are essential for reducing plosives (P and B sounds) and controlling excessive sibilance (S sounds).

So, it’s great that Rode throws one in with both the NT1 and the NT1A, and it’s even cooler that it screws right into the shock mount, making it super easy to position.

Additional Accessories

Both mics also come with an XLR cable with a velcro tie, and a dust cover to keep the mic capsule clean while not in use.

Basically, as long as you’ve got an audio interface, purchasing either of these microphones gives you a plug-and-play kit.

Accessories Winner: Tie

7. Finish: Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A

Finish: Rode NT1

The NT1 is available in a matte black finish, which is modern, grippy (so you won’t drop it), and scratch-resistant, so it won’t wear down after just a few uses.

It’s not exactly a classic look, but after all, it’s not really a classic mic either.

Finish: Rode NT1A

On the other hand, the NT1A comes in that classic nickel livery that you’ve seen countless times over, notably on mics from the likes of Neumann and AKG.

It’s pretty similar to the NT1 in feel, though it feels a little more polished, with more of a satin finish than a matte one.

Finish: Bottom Line

A microphone’s finish is hardly the main consideration, but it’s still important.

This is especially true if you’re looking to purchase a mic for video purposes, such as a YouTube channel or podcast show.

So, it’s up to you on this one really!

Finish Winner: Tie

8. Price & Value For Money: Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A

Price & Value For Money: Rode NT1

The NT1 slides in just under the $400 mark, including all the accessories mentioned earlier.

There are certainly cheaper mics, but it’s fair to say that it would be difficult to find a mic with as smooth of a frequency response and as low of a self-noise as the NT1 offers.

So, we’d say this package offers pretty decent value for money, especially when you consider that you could easily pay the same amount for a similar quality mic without all of those important accessories.

Price & Value For Money: Rode NT1A

The NT1A kit is about $30 less than the NT1, and ships with all of the same accessories.

The value for money you get when buying the NT1A is pretty damn good, all things being equal.

Price & Value For Money: Bottom Line

So, you could probably say that the NT1A offers better value for money on an item for item basis, given it comes with more or less the same stuff, and costs you a little less.

However, in our opinion, the NT1 is the better microphone, and given the price difference between the two is pretty negligible, we’d say that the NT1 offers better value for money.

Price & Value For Money Winner: Rode NT1

9. Pros & Cons: Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A

Rode NT1 Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Flat, smooth response
  • Incredibly low self-noise
  • Comes with a bunch of really helpful accessories, like a shock mount

Cons:

  • Cardioid polar pattern only
  • No low-cut filter or pad

Rode NT1A Pros & Cons

Pros:

  • Modern, present sound
  • Respectably low self-noise
  • Comes with a bunch of really helpful accessories, like a shock mount

Cons:

  • Cardioid polar pattern only
  • No low-cut filter or pad
  • Can sound a little harsh on some instruments

Conclusion & Takeaway

To summarize our findings in this Rode NT1 vs Rode NT1A comparison, here are the winners for each category:

  • Design – Tie
  • Frequency Response – Rode NT1
  • Potential Uses – Tie
  • Self-Noise – Rode NT1
  • SPL Handling – Rode NT1A
  • Accessories – Tie
  • Finish – Tie
  • Price & Value For Money – Rode NT1

Overall: Rode NT1

Pound for pound, the NT1 is objectively the better microphone.

It might not be able to handle the same SPL levels as the NT1A, but 132dB SPL is still way more than you’ll ever need, and with a more natural, transparent response, and lower self-noise, the NT1 is a better option for most studio applications.

That said, get the NT1A if:

  • You’re overly concerned about loud sound sources
  • You want a more hyped, present frequency response profile
  • You’re in love with the vintage nickel finish

Product Links:

Rode NT1

https://www.amazon.com/Rode-NT1KIT-Cardioid-Condenser-Microphone/dp/B00GGGQK56

Rode NT1A

https://www.amazon.com/Rode-Anniversary-Cardioid-Condenser-Microphone/dp/B002QAUOKS

Products Comparison Table:

Spec / Feature

Rode NT1

Rode NT1A

Dimensions

Length – 187mm / Diameter – 50mm

Length – 190mm / Diameter – 50mm

Net Weight

395g

326g

Acoustic Principle

Pressure Gradient

Pressure Gradient

Active Electronics

JFET impedance converter with bipolar output buffer

JFET impedance converter with bipolar output buffer

Polar Pattern

Cardioid

Cardioid

Frequency Range

20Hz ~ 20kHz

20Hz ~ 20kHz

Output Impedance

100 Ohms

100 Ohms

Equivalent Noise

4.5 dBA SPL (as per IEC651)

5dBA

Maximum Output

8.0mV (@ 1kHz, 1% THD into 1 kOhms load)

13.7mV (@ 1kHz, 1% THD into 1 kOhms load)

Sensitivity

-29 dB re 1V/Pa (35mV @ 94dB SPL) +/- 2dB @ 1kHz

-32 dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (25 mV

@ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz

Maximum SPL

132 dB SPL

137dB SPL

Power Requirements

24/48V Phantom Power

24/48V Phantom Power

Output Connection

3 pin XLR

balanced output between Pin 2 (+), Pin 3 (-), Pin 1 (ground)

3 pin XLR

balanced output between Pin 2 (+), Pin 3 (-), Pin 1 (ground)