Monday, April 23, 2012

Rode NTG-3 Shotgun Mic - Ready For Action

This Australian-made Rode NTG-3 microphone ($699) seems extremely well-placed for its price and performance. Like the Sennheiser 416, the NTG-3 is an RF-condenser unit that combines a somewhat sophisticated RF circuit with the capsule to reduce the deleterious effects of high humidity. It's tricky to design, but worth the effort. That design element has contributed greatly to a "bullet proof" reputation for similar mics and should do the same for the NTG-3. 


Rode NTG-3
The RF environment is growing significantly more hostile, though, and Rode seems to have taken shielding a bit farther than some other manufacturers. Attention to the mechanical and electronic layout 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 immunity and mic performance. 
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 about 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 ground pin (1) into a very well designed grounding scheme. The XLR connector used is not stock. Its base is machined from solid brass and 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 @ 1 kHz, EIN noise is 13 dB-A, and it can withstand a 130 dB sound pressure level. The NTG-3 weighs less than 6 ounces and it matte champagne finish is not reflective.

It's not unusual to have to roll the low end off on a 416 these days unless you're in the middle of nowhere or in a studio. Sanken rolled off the bottom a bit with their CS-3e and Rode has followed suit with the new NTG-3, so there's not quite as much in the upper bass or lower midrange on the NTG-3. That makes it 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 mics pretty unnoticeable. However, the fact that my 416 is more than 15 years old could suggest that it might not be as bright as it once was. Regardless, with a zep and a furry, of course, you'll lose a bit of top end.


The NTG-3 pattern is a little wider than that of the 416, with more gently sloping shoulders. This translates into a more forgiving pattern for two-shots, but you'll also hear a bit more ambience. My 416 has a little spot about 90 degrees off axis where there's 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 when used with my K-Tek carbon fiber boom and a Rycote Softie suspension mount. The NTG-3 had less low frequency boom handling noise, mostly because the 416 has more low frequency response.

After checking for interference pickup from my Verizon cell phone sitting next to the NTG-3, I made a point of taking the NTG-3 to the mall, along with my location recorder and headphones, to visit T-Mobile, the Apple store and AT&T. There was no interference observed, even with cell 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.


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 you'll be seeing NTG-3s show up in more kits soon. At the moment, I can't see why not. Nice job Rode.

List Price $699
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