|NTG-3 and MKH 416 open for close inspection|
A $699 USD street, the Australian-made Rode NTG-3 seems extremely well-placed for its price and performance. Like the Sennheiser 416, the NTG-3 is an RF-condenser that combines a somewhat sophisticated RF circuit with the capsule to reduce the deleterious effects of high humidity. Tricky to design, but worth the effort. That design element has contributed greatly to the 416ʼs “bullet proof” reputation and should do the same for the NTG-3.
The RF environment is growing significantly more hostile, though, and Rode seems to have taken shielding a bit farther than Sennheiser did back in 1974 when the MKH 416 came to market. Attention to the mechanical and electronic lay out of the NTG-3 including the surface mount technology (SMT), PCB layout, component selection and dual chamber design of the internal brass tube that appears to separate most of the circuitry from the tunable RF section and capsule, all contribute to RF resistance and mic performance. Sennheiser has also gone to SMT and other upgrades with all of their later model MKH 416 mics.
The upper chamber and part of the lower chamber of the internal metal tube in which the circuitry and capsule sit is completely covered by a thin grounded metal mesh. Just behind the capsule a rubber o-ring in a small groove and one closer to the tip snug the internal metal tube inside the slotted outer tube. The internal tube runs the full length of the outer tube for increased shielding. A small foam plug a little over a half inch thick sits within the top of the internal tube to reduce popping. The extended upper section of the internal tube, above the capsule, has two rows of precision holes drilled on opposing sides covered with a thin fabric to mechanically filter the sound once it has already been filtered by the slots on the outer tube.
Rode also adds some further insurance by integrating their longer pin 1 ground pin into a very well designed grounding scheme. The XLR connector is not stock. The base is machined from solid brass. The ground pin is permanently mounted into that case. Pins two and three are isolated via Teflon bushings. All pins are gold-plated.
The Rode NTG-3 employs a line gradient supercardioid capsule. Output impedance is 25 Ohms. Sensitivity is listed at -30 dB re 1 Volt/Pascal (31.6 mV @ 94 dB SPL) +/- 2 dB @ 1kHz, EIN noise is 13 dB-A and it can withstand 130 dB SPL. The 416 and NTG-3 share the same 13 dB-A selfnoise and sensitivity. At about a quarter inch longer and about the same weight as a 416, the NTG-3 weighs less than six ounces. Its matte champagne finish is not reflective.
Itʼs not unusual to have to roll the low end off on a 416 these days unless youʼre in the middle of nowhere or in a studio. Sanken rolled off the bottom a bit with their CS-3e and Rode follows suit with the NTG-3, so thereʼs not quite as much in the upper bass or lower midrange on the NTG-3. That makes the NTG-3 sound slightly crisper and brighter. More so when used very close. As you back it off, though, normal air diffusion makes any high-frequency differences between the two mics pretty unnoticeable. However, the fact that my 416 is over fifteen years old may suggest that it may not be as bright as it once was. Regardless, with a zep and a furry, of course, youʼll lose a bit of top end.
The NTG-3 pattern is a little wider than the 416, with more gently sloping shoulders. This translates into a more forgiving pattern for two-shots, but youʼll also hear a bit more ambience. My 416 has a little spot about ninety degrees off axis where thereʼs a slight return of high frequencies. The NTG-3 does not. Both mics sound about the same from the rear. The NTG-3 sounded fine on my K-Tek carbon fiber boom with a Rycote Softie suspension mount. The NTG-3 had less low frequency boom handling noise, mostly because the 416 noise had more LF content due to its response.
After not picking up any interference with my Verizon cell phone sitting next to the NTG-3, I made a point of taking the NTG-3 to the mall with my location recorder and headphones to visit T-Mobile, the Apple store and AT&T. There was no interference, even with phones operating right next to the NTG-3. I was using Whirlwind Accusonic +2 cable and connectors. The shield was not tied to the XLR shells.
Want to hear the mics? Download an mp3 here. https://www.dropbox.com/s/yo15m9r0897zxeo/TyFordNTG3MKH416.mp3
The Rode NTG-3 appears to be a very solid piece of gear. The efforts to eliminate RF are noted and appreciated. I like the unique and very handy padded metal storage tube. The foam windbreaker and simple mic clip all add value to the package. I think youʼll be seeing NTG-3s show up in more kits soon. At the moment, I canʼt see why not. Nice job Rode.
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Ty Ford may be reached at www.tyford.com.
Application: Film, ENG/EFP audio.
Key features: Designed to withstand todayʼs harsh RF environments.
Price: $699 USD Street.
Contact: Rode www.rodemic.com