Rode NT1 vs AT2035: vocal microphone shootout

Before we dive into this head to head between the Rode NT1 and the Audio-Technica AT2035, rest assured that whatever microphone you choose here, you’ll be getting a high quality, large diaphragm condenser microphone that will serve you well in a wide range of applications.

Because both are found in their droves in professional studios, amateur studios and home recording setups everywhere. Both are from highly reputable brands; both are worth their asking price; both are insanely versatile and both will give excellent results.

A couple of caviats. We’re going to be assessing both of these products predominantly as vocal microphones – but they have a multitude of other uses too.

The other thing is that room/studio acoustics will play a significant part in the quality of your recordings in general so we can’t emphasize enough the importance of acoustic treatment in your recording space. Before you buy any recording equipment, if your budget will allow, invest in some acoustic panels and bass traps – or make your own. It’s money well spent.   

Okay. This is a head to head and there is a winner so let’s get started.

Can’t wait? The Rode NT1 pips the AT2035 to the post but we recommend you read on to see why. The Rode NT1 won our Absolute Best Microphone for Recording Vocals award in this article. There’s also a comprehensive product review here.  

Specifications: at a glance

Feature

Rode NT1

Audio-Technica AT2035

Capsule diameter

1"

0.8"

Polar pattern

Cardioid

Cardioid

Frequency response

20Hz - 20kHz

20Hz - 20kHz

Maximum sound pressure level (SPL)

132dB

148dB

158dB with 10dB pad activated

Self-noise level

4.5dB

12dB

Switches

None

80Hz high pass filter; 10dB pad

Weight

0.97lbs (440g)

14.2oz (403g)

Dimensions

7.4" (187mm) length x 2" (50mm) diameter

6.7" (170mm) length x 2.1" (52mm) body diameter

Shockmount

SM6

AT8458

Popshield

Yes. Removable

No

Phantom power required

Yes

Yes

Body material 

6061 aluminum/nickel-plated/ceramic layer

Metal

Output connection

3-pin XLR

3-pin XLR

Polar patterns

As a side note, we should mention that both of these microphones feature a cardioid polar pattern. A polar pattern is terminology used to describe the directionality of a microphone – that is how it responds to sounds coming at it from different directions.

We’re not going to go into chapter and verse here but the common types are cardioid, supercardioid, hypercardioid, omnidirectional and bidirectional (figure of eight) and they all behave differently when you throw sound at them.

In this case, both the Rode NT1 and AT2035 are cardioid microphones – which is the most common type of polar pattern. This means they’re most sensitive to sound from the front; least sensitive from the back and have reduced pick up from the sides.

In a recording environment, the main benefit of cardioid microphones is that they’re pretty effective at isolating background noise and the ambient sound of the room which makes them a sound choice for vocals.


Construction

Condenser microphones contain sensitive internal components so they need decent external protection.

Both the Rode NT1 and Audio-Technica AT2035 score well here. The former is constructed from 6061 aluminum which is then nickel-plated with a layer of ceramic for good measure. The AT2035 is somewhat less eloquently described as being manufactured from ‘metal’.

At 440g the Rode is heavier than the AT2035 and this gives it a more reassuring feel – but it’s the internal gubbins that set the Rode apart. The transducer itself is suspended inside the microphone using Rycote’s industry-leading Lyre system, minimizing external vibrations at the capsule level.

In practical terms, according to Rode, the high-quality electronics combined with the Rycote Lyre system means the Rode NT1 produces the lowest self-noise of any studio microphone available. A whisperingly quiet 4.5dBA.

And the winner is: The Rode NT1. Both microphones are solid and well-capable of taking a knock or two, but the bulletproof exterior and Rycote internal system clinch it. 


Sound

Rode NT1

The first thing you’ll notice about the Rode NT1 is its flat frequency curve and that means it’ll faithfully reproduce any source you throw at it with no coloration. 

[Image courtesy of Rode Microphones]

Some microphones deliberately accentuate certain frequencies in the sound spectrum to produce a particular sound. The Rode NT1’s stablemate the NT1A is a good example of this: it sounds brighter than the NT1 which, depending on the application, can be a good or bad thing. 

We’d rather start with a flat curve and tailor it to suit in the mix using EQ. The NT1 produces an ‘honest’ rich, rounded almost vintage sound that we really liked with plenty of low end, balanced mids and an airy clarity in the upper frequencies.

The fantastically low self-noise – just 4.5dBA even at high mic gains – produced by the NT1 is a gamechanger. Beware of background noise though; despite its cardioid polar pattern, it will pick up next door’s dog barking, air conditioning units and fans. Another good reason for effective acoustic treatment.

As a vocal mic, it’s superb. Good on other stuff as well though like acoustic and electric guitars.

Audio-Technica AT2035

Like the Rode NT1, the AT2035 really shines on vocals, but it turns in a highly creditable performance on acoustic guitar, electric guitar and other applications like piano and even drum overheads.

On acoustic guitar specifically, aim the AT2035 at the 12th fret about 10 inches away and it sounds like music to our ears. It captures the lower frequencies particularly well.

For those that like a microphone that can withstand a bit of sonic torture, the AT 2035 can handle an impressive 148dB SPL compared to the NT1’s 132dB. Whether this makes a blind bit of difference will be down to your vocal/instrument style but if you’re into highly dynamic vocals or want to mic a loud guitar amp, it could be significant.

Although it can’t compete with the NT1’s self-noise performance, at 12dB the AT2035 certainly is no slouch. It’s quite a loud mic, which means you won’t need to crank up the gain – and the background noise – to get the volume you want. As the frequency curve shows, the

The AT2035 offers a relatively flat frequency curve up to around 2kHz. After that, there’s a presence boost up to around 14kHz when things start to roll off again. This is what gives the AT2035 its clarity in the mid to upper frequencies.

And the winner is: The Rode NT1 – but only just. We like starting with a flat frequency curve and coloring it later if required. The low self-noise of the NT1 is industry leading at this price point. 


Additional Features

Here the AT2035 makes a bit of a comeback with a couple of additional features that the Rode NT1 doesn’t have in the form of two switches: a 10dB pad (for loud sound sources like guitar amps); and a low-cut switch to bass rumble below 80Hz – essentially a high pass filter.

In practice, these are two useful additions. Activating the 10dB pad, effectively turns the volume down when you’re recording a loud source like unrestrained death metal vocalist wailing like a banshee or a lead guitarist who doesn’t know any volume below 11. It’s aim is to prevent clipping and overload and with that in mind it’s a useful inclusion.

The low-cut switch does what it says on the tin. Mixes can get a bit murky in the lower frequency regions and this nifty feature ensures low end mud doesn’t wander off into places where it shouldn’t.

And the winner is: The AT2035. The additional switches are very usable offering functionality that the Rode NT1 doesn’t. Not a dealbreaker by any means but nice to have.


Accessories

Two absolutely essential items for any condenser microphone are a popshield and a shockmount. With vocals, the former is necessary to reduce the effects of sibilants (‘s’ sounds) and plosives (‘p’ sounds) and the latter is designed to minimize vibrations caused by knocking or banging the mic inadvertently.

Both microphones ship with plastic shockmounts. They’re both adequate and do a good job of holding the microphone but neither are particularly effective at resisting knocks and vibration. The obvious workaround is don’t do it!

The Rode NT1 comes with a removable popshield built into the shockmount. The AT2035 doesn’t have a popshield at all. The Rode package includes an XLR cable; the AT20135 doesn’t; the AT2035 ships with a protective pouch and NT1 is supplied with a dust cover.  

And the winner is: The Rode NT1. Mainly because you’ll need a popshield and an XLR cable and it comes with both.


Bang for Buck

It’s easy to overlook price when comparing two products. For some this won’t be a primary consideration, but if you’re strapped for cash or working within a budget, it can be the overriding factor.

Pricing will vary but as a general ballpark figure, the AT2035 is around $120 cheaper than the Rode NT1 which makes it absolutely amazing value for money. Both mics are excellent and as you’ll see from our verdict, the Rode generally has the edge but it’s probably not $120 better than the AT2035.

And the winner is: The AT2035. In our best vocal microphone review, the AT2035 bagged the best value for money spot. It’s not hard to see why. A great microphone at a great price.


Warranty

A no brainer. Rode warranties are industry leading. On any of its products you get one year from date of purchase but if you buy from an authorised dealer, this can be extended to five years, ten years or lifetime. With the NT1 it’s 10 years!

Check out this link for more details.

And the winner is: The Rode NT1. A done deal.


The Verdict

On face value, this review may suggest otherwise but this was a really close contest.

You’ll be looking at both of these products either as a cost-effective way of getting a high-quality large diaphragm condenser microphone integrated into your recording setup or as a step up from a USB microphone. If the latter is you, remember you’ll need to buy an audio interface.

But cutting to the chase, the Rode NT1 is our overall winner. Its flat frequency response, astonishingly low self-noise levels and tank-like construction ensure it takes pole position. 

 

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