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Rode NT-USB Mini Microphone Review

Big things come in small packages

By Christopher Coke on March 03, 2020 | Hardware Reviews | 0

The world of microphones is ever-expanding, and it can be hard to figure out exactly which is the best choice for you. Today, we’re looking at a microphone that combines a small size with high-end capture for your podcasts, streams, and Discord calls. Coming in at $99, is the Rode NT-USB Mini the right mic for you? Hot on the heels of the excellent Rode VideoMic NTG, this is an exciting one. Join us as we find out. 

Specifications

  • Current Price: $99
  • Acoustic Principle: Pressure gradient
  • Active Electronics: Electret condenser, A/D and USB interface
  • Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  • Frequency Range: 20 Hz – 20 kHz
  • Input SPL @ 1% THD: 121dB (A-weighted, as per IEC651)
  • Sample Rates: 48 kHz
  • Bus Powered: Yes
  • Bit Depth: 24-bit
  • Analog Outputs: 3.5mm headphone
  • Computer Connectivity: USB - simultaneous I/O
  • Mono input, stereo output
  • Output Connection: USB-C
  • OS Requirements: macOS 10.12 / Windows 10
  • Weight: 585g
  • Dimensions (mm):
  • Height: 141.9
  • Width: 54.5
  • Diameter (base): 89.3
  • Warranty: 1 year with free extension to 2 years following registration here

The Rode NT-USB Mini is a successor to Rode’s original NT-USB. As the name implies, this is a shrunk-down version, perfect if you want to have high-quality vocals without a burly microphone hogging the screen. Even if you’re not streaming, there’s a definite benefit to having a smaller microphone when it comes to space on your desk and tucking it away when not in use. 

That’s definitely the case here. The NT-USB Mini measures in at only 5.6 inches tall and 2.1 inches wide. That’s when it’s mounted on the desk stand which adds an extra inch of height. Even though it’s small, it’s fairly heavy at 585 grams. Surprisingly, the vast majority of its weight is in the microphone itself. The stand appears to be mostly plastic with a rubber ring along the bottom to keep it from moving around on the desk.

One of the neat features of this mic is that it attaches to the stand with a strong magnet. With a good enough pull, the two pieces separate and reveals a rubber plug in the bottom of the U-bracket to keep the mic from listing around. Remove that, and you’ll find a standard thread for mounting to a boom arm that can be adapted for your region using an adapter also included in the box.

Don’t let its small size fool you. The NT-USB Mini offers full 24-bit, 48kHz recording. For spoken word, that’s a stellar resolution for its price point. For context, that’s higher than both the original NT-USB and the streamer favorite, Blue Yeti (original). 24-bit is more common today than it was when those mics released, at least in this price category, but few competing microphones from major brands can claim that resolution with such a small footprint. If all of that sounds like gibberish to you, the important thing to know is this: the Rode NT-USB Mini is capable of high-resolution capture to make sure your voice comes through sounding natural.

Arguably more important, though, is how the microphone captures that audio. The NT-USB Mini uses a condenser microphone capsule, which is great for capturing very true-to-life vocals. It uses a single cardioid polar pattern, which means it records from the front and sides while attempting to reject noise from the back. It would have been nice to see multiple polar patterns to add utility, such as for recording an interview or a podcast with two hosts, but the vast majority of users only ever broadcast themselves and only need a cardioid polar pattern. As a cost-saving measure, I think it’s a good choice, but if you do need more versatility, you’ll want to look elsewhere.

The NT-USB Mini keeps it simple with controls. There is a single dial around the front to control your headphone volume. Around the back is a headphone jack for zero-latency monitoring and a USB Type-C port for connecting it to your PC. I definitely prefer to have a physical knob to control my microphone gain versus adjusting it through software, so was disappointed to see that there was no way to do that on the Mini. Thankfully, since you can monitor your audio in real time, you can accomplish the same thing by adjusting your distance to the microphone. You can also click the volume knob to mute the microphone, which is a nice touch.

Usage Impressions

After spending a couple weeks with the NT-USB Mini, I have to say: this is a very nice little microphone. The quality of the audio capture is excellent and easily competes with the best condensers currently holding sway in the streaming space. When properly positioned, it offers a nice, full sound that brings out the low notes in my votes. Unlike the Blue Yeti, it doesn’t over-emphasize this and keeps a pleasant crispness to the mids and upper-middle frequencies. This also makes it a much better fit for instrument recording if you’d like to snapshot an acoustic guitar, for example.

The key here is that the mic needs to be close to the sound source. Even though Rode did a good job with the magnetic stand, I couldn’t actually use it to record something I was happy with. The ideal positioning of the mic is 1-3 inches from the sound source (in this case, your mouth, so an additional pop filter is recommended) to get a full-bodied sound. Since it’s so small, I found myself having to lean down to do voice-overs and test recordings. With it on my desk, sitting back in my chair, my voice sounded much thinner than I would like. Once I mounted it up on a boom arm, I was able to use it comfortably.

I was also very pleased by how unobtrusive it is on video. Since the NT-USB Mini is so small, I was able to position it in the bottom of the frame where I could almost forget it was there when watching the video back. That’s not something I could say about any other desktop mic in my collection right now (exception: Rode VideoMic NTG).

The NT-USB Mini also has an excellent headphone amplifier built-in. I was able to run my Sennheiser HD6XXs, which have an impedance of 300 ohms, and still get a volume I was happy with. Any “normal” set of headphones, even in the mid-range of impedance are absolutely no problem. Your Beyerdynamic DT-770s and Sennheiser HD58Xs will work perfectly.

Sound Sample

Final Thoughts

For only $99, the Rode NT-USB Mini is a great choice for your streaming and podcasting needs. Its small size makes it easy to travel with and keeps it from eating up screen space on your face cam. You’ll need an additional boom arm to make the most out of it, and I wish it had on-board gain control, but it’s a worthy investment for anyone looking for a small form factor microphone that can still deliver excellent results.

The product described in this review was provided by the manufacturer for evaluation purposes.

8.0Great
Pros
  • Very small, easy to travel with and is unobtrusive on streams
  • Affordably priced
  • Offers full, rich capture when used correctly
  • Very good built-in headphone amplifier
Cons
  • For best results, you'll need a boom arm and pop filter
  • No on-board gain control for the microphone (headphone only)


GameByNight

Christopher Coke

Chris cut his teeth on MMOs in the late 90s with text-based MUDs. He’s written about video games for many different sites but has made MMORPG his home since 2013. Today, he acts as Hardware and Technology Editor, lead tech reviewer, and continues to love and write about games every chance he gets. Follow him on Twitter: @GameByNight