The Røde NT-SF1 is finally here. We’ve been hearing murmurs, jealously watching Richard Devine posting beta test images of it, and trying to prise pre-production models out of Røde’s fingers, but now the Australian company has finally released its first broadcast-grade ambisonic microphone since it purchased SoundField.
Quick primer: SoundField was the leader in ambisonic microphones prior to the purchase, handing the mantle to Røde. What’s ambisonics? The gist is, it’s using an array of microphones — tetrahedral array, in the case of the NT-SF1 — to record in a spherical pattern around the microphones. You can then decode the signal of all those mics, and create any polar pattern you like. It’s very useful for capturing environments in film, and indispensable if you’re engaging with VR content.
The huge news about the NT-SF1 is Røde has managed to bring the price down under US$1000; an unheard of price point for SoundField microphones. Not to mention it comes with a blimp, the proper 4-into-1 cable you’ll need, and a custom suspension mount.
If you’ve been following along with other Røde news lately, you’ll also remember the patent recently awarded to Røde for its ultra-accurate microphone backplate manufacturing techniques, which allows it the ability to create four matched diaphragms with relative ease.
“With four of our incredibly transparent new TF45C half-inch cardioid capsules set in the striking tetrahedral array, the NT-SF1 rivals the finest ambisonic microphones in the world,” says The Freedman Group’s Founder and Chairman Peter Freedman AM. “Thanks to our unmatched investment in precision automated production, we can make these mics at a fraction of the cost of our competitors – and its sound quality is superior in every way.”
CONVERTING THE MASSES
It’s a harsh reality, but creating an affordable mic is only half the journey towards accessible ambisonics. The other half is the decoding software. With other systems, this often required a chunky piece of hardware with onboard processing. Røde has managed to keep it all in a free plug-in called ‘SoundField by Røde’. It’s perfectly matched to the new mic and decodes the ‘raw’ A-Format into a more workable B-Format. According to Røde, “it operates in a completely different way to traditional ambisonic processors. Eschewing the matrices and correction filters of previous generations, it utilises state-of-the-art frequency-domain processing to deliver unparalleled spatial accuracy at all frequencies. And with the embrace of beamforming technology, B-Format™ can, for the first time, create shotgun-type patterns.”
We’ll experiment more with the mic and new plug-in, but be sure to go to the Røde website and download the free plug-in to see what it’s all about — rode.com/soundfieldplugin. The NT-SF1 is available now in Australia for $1649RRP, expect to pay $1499.