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Old May 19th, 2006, 02:52 PM   #1
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Is stereo necessary? Rode NT4 for documentary, interviews...

Hello

In another thread, the Rode NT-3 was recommended as a very good mic that can rely on an internal 9v battery or phantom power. I also noticed the Rode NT-4 stereo mic was highly rated and also ran on a battery.

I will be working part-time on a documentary that includes interviews and musical performances in rural China. When I have spare time, I will be documenting folk martial arts and musical art forms that are dying out and so want to do the best job I can with very tight budget restraints. For this reason, I'm considering the NT4 instead of using 2 mics for stereo.

Is stereo necessary for good musical recordings? For interviews?
Is the pickup pattern of this mic good for indoor and outdoor work?

I also have a Rode NTG-2 shotgun. From what I understand, this would be best for outdoor shots in which I want to reduce side and background noise. Can it be used indoors? Or would the NT-3 or NT-4 be much better for that?

I'd appreciate your opinions. Perhaps these questions are pretty elementary, but your opinions will help me to begin assembling my gear now.

Thanks!!
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Old May 19th, 2006, 03:15 PM   #2
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I had a Rode NT-4. The stereo image was great, if apparently backwards. That is, with the trademark gold dot and power switch up, the right was left and left was right. No mention of this in the manual. So I mounted it upside-down. My Audio-Technica AT-825 actually has an icon with "L - R" printed on the mic.

The other, and more troubling problem was handling noise. No matter what the arrangement, powerful subsonic noise would be generated. Even though inaudible for the most part, it so overloaded the input to my Sony DSR-1 that everything would distort. How bad was it? Even with the mic switched off the camera's meters were registering sound! So I got a pair of inline attenuators. -10dB helped, but it also diminished the desireable sound.

Mounted in a Rycote WS-4 with zeppelin and dead cat, wind noise wasn't too bad, but the slightest vibration or even simple motion would generate a nitroglycerine-like response from the NT-4. I sold it to a rocker who wouldn't know the difference. The other gripe was the size of the barrel and the weight. It would pop out of the Rycote suspension rings.

Caveat: It may be that I got a lemon. But how a mic this bad would get out the door is beyond me.

I went back to using my old AT-825. Zero handling noise, and gale-force winds are silent with it inside the Rycote WS-4. Very light, too.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 03:28 PM   #3
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Thanks Doug
That's not a very good experience. The last thing I want is strong low frequency noise.

How does the AT-825 compare accoustically to the Rode NT4. Is it supposed to be technically better?

I found these reviews of NT4 online. They really praised the performance of the mic. Of course I'll consider other options! http://www.digitalplayroom.com/rode/...&5/NT4&5p3.htm
http://mixonline.com/mag/audio_rde_nt/index.html
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Old May 19th, 2006, 03:52 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Boze
I had a Rode NT-4. The stereo image was great, if apparently backwards. That is, with the trademark gold dot and power switch up, the right was left and left was right. No mention of this in the manual. So I mounted it upside-down. ...
I hate to ask about the obvious but I have to wonder if your NT-4 really was wired backwards - Rode generally has good quality control and it would be very unusual for something that basic to slip through manufacturing inspection. The mic is preset as an X/Y stereo pair. That means the centre axis' of the two capsules crosses over each other and so when the mic is mounted correctly with body parallel to the ground pointing towards centre stage, the gold dot up, and you're standing behind it facing the stage, the capsule on the right-hand side of the mic picks up sound from the stage-left and generates the stereo LEFT channel signal while the capsule on your left is producing the RIGHT channel signal.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 06:05 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ray Ambrosi
Is stereo necessary for good musical recordings? For interviews?
Is the pickup pattern of this (Rode NT-4) mic good for indoor and outdoor work?
Stereo is not neccessary for interviews. Conventionally, all interview audio will be mono or multiple channels of mono. The mono recording will then usually be placed in the center of the stereo field in post, or sometimes to the side.

Stereo is great for acoustic music recording, I like it a lot and reccommend it.

The NT-4 is two cardoid capsules in an X-Y configuration. What is handy about it is that it contains the two caps in a single microphone body, so you don't have to configure 2 mics, two mounts, a mounting bar, etc. every time you want to use it.

The NT-4 requires phantom power or an internal 9v battery. Best is if your camera or mixer accepts xlr connections and supplies phantom.

I'm really surprised to read of Doug's bad experience with the NT-4, I have a couple of friends who record from it to Marantz CF recorders, I've heard their recordings, they don't have the LF and handling emphasis Doug is reporting.

Yes, the barrel is unconventional, which is sized to fit a 9v batt. and two capsules, this thing is wide.

My sense of the mic is that it is one of the least expensive and least hassle ways to get into stereo recording. For me, X-Y doesn't provide the stereo image I want, I use two cardoid mics in an ORTF (110 degrees, about 7" apart) configuration, which can be as inexpensive as an NT-4, but lots more hassle to rig.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 06:50 PM   #6
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I just picked up an AT835ST, which has a front and a mid-side element. It can be set to deliver mid/side or two stereo patterns (one wide, one narrow).

So far it seems to work really well for recording ambience outdoors. I will be testing it more extensively over the next few days.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 06:57 PM   #7
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Yes, my NT-4 was bass-awkwards, so to speak. It must've been a Monday or Friday mic, or whatever day that is down under beyond the international date line. <g>

I set it up exactly as described, and conducted very simple and careful tests. Sure enough, the right-hand capsule, which is pointed to the left to pick up the left of the scene, recorded to the right channel, and vice-versa. I swapped the supplied XLR cable with that of my AT-825 cable, and it was the same.

As for the A-T 825, it is acoustically very transparent and quiet. The NT-4, were it not for the terrible bass transients, I think was, as the specs suggest, more sensitive.

I'm a one-man operation with an XL-2. That camera is the quietest I've every had, really astonishing. I run the AT-825 on phantom power with ALC, which works exactly as Canon promised, no pumping or breathing characteristics. I don't do people, I work outdoors, natural environmental sound. Hearing the birds singing, the rustle of the wind through the trees (but not the boxing of the ears), the lap of water at the shore is fantastic. Yet it can handle high SPLs with ease. No distortion.

Now, I realize that's not what you are aiming at, but this is my input. Maybe someday I'll rent an NT-4 to see if mine was the rabbit that got through the fence.

As for stereo for interviews, Jay Rose describes in one of his books the M-S setup used by the BBC to get that remarkable "presence" their video has.
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Old May 19th, 2006, 10:57 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Boze
I had a Rode NT-4. ...
Mounted in a Rycote WS-4 with zeppelin and dead cat, wind noise wasn't too bad, but the slightest vibration or even simple motion would generate a nitroglycerine-like response from the NT-4.
I've noticed this in mine, too, that if it's shaken
when mounted in a mount, that it makes a noise
that makes you think the capsule inside is loose
or something, like a loud BUMP or THUD sound.
Is that what you mean about the "nitroglycerine"?
I haven't been able to replicate
it with hand shaking it, and haven't figured out
what causes it.
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Old May 20th, 2006, 12:56 AM   #9
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Dave,

I first noticed the handling noise holding the mic in my hand and simply turning it this way and that -- rumble rumble rumble. Okay, I'm no spring chicken (more of a Tyson chicken, now) and my joints aren't as quiet as they should be, but c'mon!

I had a piece of 1/4" thick polyurethane open-cell foam and cradled the mic in that. This produced a dramatic reduction in handling noise. I scratched my noggin trying to think of a situation where the supplied mic stand adapter would be useful and gave up.

Believe me, my faith in the Rode NT-4 was so great that I thought all the hype over Rycote's suspension was pure bull byproduct (now that is something I can use!). I even built an experimental suspension using the ultimate vibration canceller: wool felt. Unfortunately wool, when it moves, creates slight rasping sounds which the NT-4 would pick up, much like a lavalier will pick up a heart-beat if taped to the chest.

Aarghh! The final irony is that my AT-825 has a low-frequency rolloff switch and the Rode doesn't. The AT-825 would never need it.

Part of this is on my shoulders. I did the research prior to purchase and found virtually nothing on the NT-4, certainly nothing about it being used in the real world. The articles were always about studio applications in front of some guitar or other noise-maker.
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Old May 20th, 2006, 01:12 AM   #10
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I do mount the NT-4 on a camera but only use it for
tripod use. When I try it handheld and mounted on
a camera it makes that thumping noise, like it cuts
out recording and there's a major glitch in the
sound.
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Old May 20th, 2006, 01:31 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gian Pablo Villamil
I just picked up an AT835ST, which has a front and a mid-side element. It can be set to deliver mid/side or two stereo patterns (one wide, one narrow).

So far it seems to work really well for recording ambience outdoors. I will be testing it more extensively over the next few days.
Gian Pablo, would love to hear more about this mike, especially if/when you get it in front of an acoustic musical performance. I'm also very interested to know how it works indoors, is the mid element overly sensitive to reflected low freqs? If you're listening to the mid element alone, is it more towards a hypercardoid or a short shotgun?

Its spec says "line cardoid", and it looks like a short shotgun, but they're fitting that side capsule in somewhere, I've always been curious about how much of the tube is side and how much is mid...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug
As for stereo for interviews, Jay Rose describes in one of his books the M-S setup used by the BBC to get that remarkable "presence" their video has.
M-S is great. My understanding is that BBC mandates M-S recording from all suppliers of field production, which has done a tremendous benefit for stereo recording worldwide. What's rough is that we've got all these great suppliers of "value" short mono shotguns - you can get into a pretty decent mic for a very few hundred dollars US. Still searching for that "value" M-S mic.
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Old May 20th, 2006, 01:58 AM   #12
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What concerns me, Seth, is that these things
are listed as shotgun and "line". Is that like
"line gradient"? Normally you wouldn't want
to use a shotgun indoors due to the
hollow sound they develop, so I'm wondering
if these "stereo shotgun" mikes are really
for outdoor use?
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Old May 20th, 2006, 11:37 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Largent
What concerns me, Seth, is that these things
are listed as shotgun and "line". Is that like
"line gradient"? Normally you wouldn't want
to use a shotgun indoors due to the
hollow sound they develop, so I'm wondering
if these "stereo shotgun" mikes are really
for outdoor use?
Yeah, that's the question alright.

In this case, how "line" is line, how "shotgun" is shotgun? Within what looks to be the interference tube of a short shotgun, there's the figure-8 capsule, which must be in the slotted section of the tube, plus the mid capsule... so how much interference tube is left to provide side cancellation to the mid capsule? Does the mid-mic have the (hollow sounding) characterstics of a shotgun when used indoors?

I'm looking for a single-housing M-S mic for primary use indoors. With what I can afford there are really only two I'm aware of, the AT835ST and the Shure VP88. However, I don't know anyone who has either one, nor a retailer in this area, so I'm very interested in Gian Pablo's experience of the AT.
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Old May 20th, 2006, 12:01 PM   #14
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I've seen mixed reports about the VP88. Some mention
of it being pretty thin, even brittle.
I think (been awhile) I've seen
where some fellow had both the VP88 and the NT4
and he said the NT4 was better.

I, too, would like to have a single M-S mic but the
shotgun "appearance" of the AT mikes would
be quite a concern.

I know Sony used to make one that went for
in the upper-hundreds, I believe, but you don't
see it around at all. Somewhere I was reading
where a guy was looking for repair on this
M-S Sony. I think the list of the thing was ~$1400.
Looked similar to the VP88 and even had a AA
battery option.
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Old May 23rd, 2006, 03:14 AM   #15
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Rode NT4 or AT-825

Thanks for the comments.

It seems that I'm still unsure which mic is the 'one to get'.
I've heard good reports about the AT-825, yet I've also heard good things about the Rode NT4. Doug provided info about problems with the NT4.

Does anyone else have experienc with these 2 mics?

I found these reviews of NT4 online. They really praised the performance of the mic. Of course I'll consider other options! http://www.digitalplayroom.com/rode/...&5/NT4&5p3.htm
http://mixonline.com/mag/audio_rde_nt/index.html
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