When a microphone has been around for 30 years, it must be doing something right. The Rode NT1 is arguably the company's flagship studio mic and origin story for the brand's name. The mic was originally called the Rodent1, shortened to Rode NT1 and the rest is history. Today, the company is unveiling the fifth iteration and it comes with two key updates that should interest podcasters and vocalists alike. Those would be 32-bit float recording and the addition of USB connectivity.
The inclusion of USB might feel like something that should have been there all along, but typically "pro" studio microphones are XLR only, with USB being the reserve of desktop microphones. Times are changing though and more folks are seeking a classic microphone but without the need to use an audio interface. Now, with the NT1 you have both. The USB connection is tucked away right at the base of the existing XLR port. It's a clever solution, but you will need a USB cable with fairly slim connections else it won't fit.
With the new USB connectivity comes the option for tailoring the sound of the mic. Usually that part is offloaded to an interface or mixer, but now there's an onboard DSP that allows you do apply things like a noise gate or compressor to the mic directly (via Rode's Central or Connect apps). Not to mention this makes the microphone much more portable as you won't need to bring a separate, often clunky interface along with you.
Easily the biggest benefit of the MK5 (and that built-in DSP) is the introduction of 32-bit float recording. In a nutshell, 32-bit allows for an exponentially larger dynamic range than 16- and 24-bit (which is what most systems use). This means you can forget about clipping (when audio is too loud and distorts) as there's enough headroom for almost any sound that would be possible. Or, put another way, you can effectively forget about setting levels safe in the knowledge you can adjust them in post without any audio loss.
What this means for podcasters and vocalists is less time worrying about levels at the point of recording, knowing you can set things as you want in post. Of course, good levels at the point of recording is always adviseable if possible, but it at least means any sudden sounds won't ruin your take. It's also currently very rare to find 32-bit float on a microphone like this - typically you'd have to buy a pro-level audio recorder if you wanted this feature.
At $259 the NT1 sits in an interesting spot. Shure's MV7 also offers XLR and USB connectivity and retails for $250 without 32-bit float (it's also a dynamic mic which will be either a benefit or a disadvantage depending on your needs). Sennheiser's fantastic MK 4 condensor typically runs for around $300 and doesn't offer USB connectivity. Similarly, if you're using something like a Blue Yeti and looking for an upgrade, the NT1 makes a compelling option.
The NT1 goes up for pre-order today.