The Rode NT-USB Mini marks the arrival of one of the most recognizable names in microphones into the race to build the best USB microphones. Rode is best known for its on-camera video microphones or lavaliers, but as podcasting and streaming have continued to affect how people consume information and entertainment, rivals like Blue were quick to introduce products that catered to semi-pro and amateur broadcasters.
Ports: USB-C, 3.5mm aux out
Directional patterns: Cardioid
Size: 5.6 x 2.2 x 3.5 inches
Weight: 1.3 lbs
With the NT-USB Mini, Rode is ready to take on entries like the Blue Yeti Nano and the HyperX QuadCast. For $99, Rode’s new product is a hefty and premium quality microphone that delivers compelling recording for the price. But its limited control options and static stand makes its on-the-go use a somewhat cumbersome affair.
Rode NT-USB Mini review: Price and availability
- $99 MSRP
- Wide selection of stockists
The Rode NT-USB Mini can be found at just about every major retailer. The $99 mic is available at Best Buy, Amazon, Sweetwater, B&H Photo Video and Micro Center. As a recent addition to the Rode family of microphones, it may not drop below that $99 price point for a while.
The NT-USB Mini sits in the middle of the Blue Yeti Nano at $79 and the HyperX QuadCast at $139. There’s also the HyperX QuadCast S at $159, but the only major difference there is that it offers RGB lighting.
Rode NT-USB Mini review: Design
- Extremely compact, though no carry case included
- Easy to mount on different stand
"Short and stocky" is the best way to describe the NT-USB Mini. It sports an all-matte black and a clean design overall. It has one giant knob up front to control headphone gain, while the back has a USB Type-C port and a headphone jack.
The NT-USB Mini is also a hefty microphone with a substantial weight. The plastic and metal construction feel good in the hand, and you immediately know you’re holding something more professional.
The microphone floats on a mount that can swivel 360 degrees. This gives it great versatility, as the Rode NT-USB can be mounted on just about any stand from a simple desk mount to an overhead arm.
The stand that comes with the NT-USB Mini is fine. It has a firm base that magnetically clips to the mic. Unfortunately, its flat non-adjustable base makes it so that you have to adjust yourself toward the mic, not the other way around.
Given that the Rode NT-USB Mini might be used for traveling podcasters or musicians, it’s unfortunate that Rode does not include a carrying case; in fact, there’s not even one sold separately. While Rode does make cases for its other microphones, it would have been nice if the company used that approach for the NT-USB Mini as well.
The NT-USB’s design might not pop with color like the Blue Yeti Nano or the QuadCast S, but Rode does sell color identification accessories that can help set multiple mics apart in a podcasting room.
Rode NT-USB Mini review: Sound quality
- Good quality in the right conditions
- However, is gain-heavy, with no onboard gain control
The NT-USB Mini records decently for the most part. It can’t compare to the larger studio microphones that run through an audio interface, but for what it is, the resulting audio is acceptable. It definitely beats the built-in mic found on a pair of headphones or an iPhone.
As a podcaster, I took the NT-USB Mini with me on an extended trip. Getting it set up was easy. All it required was plugging in the USB Type-C cable into my Microsoft Surface Pro 5. Windows immediately recognized the device and let me start recording. There’s also the Rode Connect podcasting and streaming program that can be downloaded for increased functionality.
While good, my producer would complain about the high gain that the NT-USB Mini gave my voice. Adjusting it inside software didn’t do much, and unfortunately there isn’t a gain dial on the microphone itself: a missed opportunity on Rode's part. Because the NT-USB Mini is trying to be a condenser mic for spoken word, singing and music recording all at once, the base recording sound profile Rode has implemented tries to serve too many masters.
I recorded my show in a sound-insulated attic, but even then, the Rode gave my voice a somewhat hollow sound, as if speaking in a in a claustrophobic sound booth.
Unfortunately, the built-in headphone monitoring jack did not do a great job in letting me know how my voice sounded while recording. The monitoring picked up so much minute surrounding audio I was scared that a door opening down the hallway was also being recorded. Luckily, that was not the case. But that does raise the question: why was the mic relaying sounds to me that wouldn’t end up in the recording? Luckily, I had a producer on hand who could act as a second pair of ears, but many podcasters don’t have that privilege.
The NT-USB Mini also has an internal pop filter which did a good job of reducing any popping sounds, though it wasn't perfect. There were times when certain phrases would still crack.
Rode NT-USB Mini review: Verdict
Even with some complaints, the Rode NT-USB Mini is a good microphone for the price. There aren’t many other units on the market that can offer its level of quality for less than $100.
That said, be aware of the NT-USB Mini’s flaws before you buy. It won’t have that studio-like quality you’d expect from more expensive microphones running through an audio interface. But again, it costs a fraction of the price.
For those taking their first steps into podcasting or streaming, the NT-USB Mini can be a great starting point. Shows will sound much more professional than they will if you resort to the internal mics on phones or laptops, and the Rode Connect software, while basic, has enough functionality to get a podcast off the ground.
With its compact size, affordability and audio quality, we can’t complain too much about the package overall. As long as the Rode NT-USB Mini is approached with the right expectations, it’s a worthwhile purchase.
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