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Production

Review: RØDE VideoMic NTG hybrid shotgun microphone with extraordinary versatility

Beyond its great sound quality, the VideoMic NTG has astounding versatility, even at 200 feet (≈61 meters) away from the camera or recorder, using an under-promoted accessory.

Here is my review of the VideoMic NTG from RØDE. The VideoMic NTG is the first hybrid shotgun I’ve ever tested, with several attractive features and technology borrowed by the new NTG5 microphone I already reviewed. Hybrid means that the VideoMic NTG has both analog and the latest digital USB-C. I even made a video at 200 feet (≈61 meters) from the camera, thanks to an under-promoted accessory. The VideoMic NTG has an internal battery with a rated runtime of 30+ hours, and the analog output automatically detects whether the connected device is TRS (i.e. a camcorder or recorder) or TRRS (i.e. a smartphone or tablet), therefore preventing the misconnection epidemic in advance, without any required adapters. When used in digital USB-C mode, the VideoMic NTG offers latency-free monitoring with plenty of volume for virtually any headphone, irrespective of its impedance. Ahead watch a video and listen to audios.

videomic-ntg-dimensions

Multiplatform compatibility, connections and power

Analog connection

The US$249 VideoMic NTG (AmazonB&H) has a 3.5mm TRRS jack and included cable which are designed to solve the misconnection epidemic which I covered in 2015 in TS/TRS/TRRS/TRRRS: Combating the misconnection epidemic (illustrated above). The auto-sensing function automatically detects and adjusts depending upon whether the TRRS cable is plugged into a device with a TRS or TRRS connection. This same jack offers an audio output whose potentiometer covers the whole spectrum of levels from mic level output to line level output to speaker level output to connect your 3.5 mm stereo headphones. Although this analog output is not balanced, ahead in this article in the section called Test recording—outdoor at 200 feet (≈61 meters), you’ll see how the VideoMic NTG can be included within a balanced environment with 48 volt-phantom power with a optional US$25 converter.

Digital connection

The VideoMic NTG has a modern USB-C port and it includes a cable which goes from USB-C to USB-A. RØDE officially states that the VideoMic NTG works (with a digital connection) with macOS 10.12 (or later) and Windows 10 (including Windows 10 LTSC. See my article: Windows 10 LTSC: better for production & sanity than Home or Pro).

In addition, at least one of RØDE’s official dealers states that the VideoMic NTG also works with Android and iOS (which should also include iPadOS). I personally tested its use with Android using my own USB-C to USB-C cable to my Pixel XL running Android 10 and the latest version of the Auphonic app for Android (reviewed here for Android and the updated version for iOS here). However, I recorded all of the audio-only recordings you’ll hear ahead in this article using Hindenburg Journalist Pro (covered in many articles and in an interview with one of its parters) on a computer powered by macOS 10.14.6  (Mojave).

This same USB-C port is used for charging the battery. (More about the battery ahead in this article.)

Pickup pattern

videomic-ntg-polar-pattern

The VideoMic NTG’s pattern is supercardioid.

Frequency response

videomic-ntg-frequency-response

For the VideoMic NTG, RØDE quotes a frequency range of 20Hz – 20kHz and a frequency response 35Hz – 18kHz ±3 dB when in flat mode. There is an option to activate an HPF (high pass filter, aka low cost filter) at 75 HZ or 150 Hz to cut rumble (low frequency background noise). There is also an option to activate a high frequency boost. I have examples in the test recording section (indoors).

Available sampling rate and resolution

On behalf of the 48 kHz Alliance, I would like to congratulate RØDE for offering 48 kHz as its exclusive sampling rate. I also congratulate RØDE for the 24-bit resolution, which is important to have in production even if not distributing the final audio at 24-bit. See my 2015 article Understanding 24-bit vs 16-bit audio production & distribution.

Bulletproof and strong latency-free monitoring

When the VideoMic NTG Pro is connected digitally via the USB-C port, its 3.5 mm jack for monitoring is designed to be used with either TRS stereo headphones or even with TRRS headphones with a microphone included. The VideoMic NTG is fortunately designed to ignore the microphone on a TRRS headset, if present, while outputting the latency-free audio.

The same 3.5 mm jack also works just as well for playback monitoring (or listening to a remote guest or panelist), as long as your app and system are set to send audio playback to the VideoMic NTG. I personally tested this with Android and macOS.

Unlike some other devices I have tested recently (which have a much weaker headphone amplifier), using my favorite CB-1 isolating headphones (which are rated at 32 ohms, shown above, reviewed here), the output level in my headphones fortunately fine even at about 10 on the volume pot (potentiometer) which goes up to 15. Since the headphone amplifier in the VideoMic Pro is so powerful, even the popular Sony MDR-7506 headphone (which is rated at 63 ohms) should be fine.

Inboard rechargeable battery with auto-power feature

The VideoMic NTG has an inboard rechargeable battery which RØDE rates at 30+ hours of recording. It is charged via the included USB-C to USB-A cable.

Although this inboard batter is not user-replaceable, after registration, the microphone has a 10-year warranty, and RØDE promises to address any battery issue within the warranty period.

RØDE’s spiel about the auto-power feature

The auto-power feature was first introduced to the VideoMic range with the VideoMic Pro+. It is a handy function that automatically turns the microphone off when it detects that the camera is switched off, helping conserve battery life, and turns it on when the camera is turned on, so that you never have to worry about missing a take. The auto-power function only works if your camera delivers plug-in power (most do), as this is what tells the microphone if it is on or off, or if you are using the microphone in USB audio mode. The VideoMic NTG also features a power button, so that it can be manually powered on and off. Check out our list of cameras that deliver plug-in power here.

Ahead when you reach the section called Test recording-outdoor at 200 feet (≈61 meters), you’ll see how the auto-power feature worked perfectly in that setup too 🙂

Included shock absorber and mounting options

sm7-r-shockmount

The VideoMic NTG includes an SM7-R shockmount (shown above, not currently available for sale by itself). The included SM7-R shockmout fits a standard camera cold shoe or boom with a 3/8″-16 female. During my testing, I used VideoMic NTG with SM7-R together with a RØDE PG1 pistol grip with cold shoe mount which I owned previously (not included with VideoMic NTG, shown below, shown below, AmazonB&H) which also has a 3/8” female thread at the bottom, which to date I have not used:

pg1-pistol-grip

 

If you ever want to mount the VideoMic NTG onto a flexible desk boom like my Heil PL-2T which uses 5/8” (shown above, US$109, AmazonB&H) you could purchase an adapter like the On Stage MA100 from 5/8” female to a 3/8” male (shown below, US$4, AmazonB&H) to fit into the SM7-R.

5-8-female-to-3-8-male-adapter-on-stage

The included SM7-R shockmount would indeed fit RØDE’s own PSA1 flexible desk boom (US$99, AmazonB&H) directly, since it uses 3/8”. However, the PSA1 does not hide the cable internally as the PL-2T does.

Wind protection

rode_vm-ntg_windshield_front_rgb

The VideoMic Pro includes a basic windscreen. However, it didn’t offer sufficient protection on a windy day in Miami, Florida, US the first day we went out to shoot the video you’ll see ahead. As a result, we had to go and shoot again a different day, when it was less windy.

ws11

I had requested the optional WS11 artificial dead cat from RØDE (US$39, shown above, B&H), but it still wasn’t available when they shipped me the VideoMic Pro. I recommend you purchase the WS11 or the similar Rycote Mini Windjammer for VideoMic NTG (shown below, US$35, B&H).

rycote-windjammer

How the VideoMic NTG introduces itself to the system (digital connection)

Like most mono USB microphones I have tested (but not all), the VideoMic NTG introduces itself to the system as “stereo” (two channel) with the same signal on each channel, although in the case of the VideoMic NTG, one of the two is intentionally 20dB quieter, as explained in the next section.

Safety track, aka audio bracketing

The VideoMic NTG offers the same signal at two different levels to protect you from possibly peaking the audio. The secondary channel is at 20dB lower. This is true if you are connected digitally (USB) recording a “stereo” signal or via a stereo analog 3.5mm connection like many lower-priced cameras and audio recorders have. If you connect with most smartphones or tablets with an analog TRRS input, there will be no safety track since their inputs are mono (single track). (There are some older Sony smartphones with a stereo TRRRS for stereo input, with a total of five conductors instead of four. You would have to supply your own adapter for that.)

The safety track (audio bracketing) works well for pre-recorded situations, but not live broadcasting situations. For that, we have to be conservative or use a mixer/interface with a hardware limiter.

Consistent pot (potentiometer) and buttons

The only potentiometer on the VideoMic NTG is fortunately numbered from 1 to 15 with sufficient contrast to read even under bright sunlight. This makes it both memorable and consistent, unlike some other portable audio devices I have reviewed.

videomic-ntg-buttons-pot

The buttons and their respective LEDs are also very intuitive to operate to activate a pad (attenuator) high pass filters (HPF, aka low cut filters), a -20dB pad or high frequency boost, which I cover in the indoor audio recordings section.

Test recordings (indoor)

All below recordings are uncompressed 48 kHz WAV, and normalized to -16 LUFS. Use Ethernet, wifi or unmetered data.

 

Above, flat in hardware settings, flat in software treatment.

 

Above, flat in hardware settings, with mild Hindenburg Journalist Pro noise reduction.

 

Above, flat in hardware settings, with mild Hindenburg Journalist Pro noise reduction and mild dynamic compression.

 

Above, 75 Hz high pass filter in hardware settings, flat in software treatment.

 

Above, 75 Hz high pass filte in hardware settings, with mild Hindenburg Journalist Pro noise reduction.

 

Above, 75 Hz high pass filter in hardware settings, with mild Hindenburg Journalist Pro noise reduction and mild dynamic compression.

 

Above, 150 Hz high pass filter in hardware settings, flat in software treatment.

 

Above, 150 Hz high pass filter in hardware settings, with mild Hindenburg Journalist Pro noise reduction.

 

Above, 150 Hz high pass filter in hardware settings, with mild Hindenburg Journalist Pro noise reduction and mild dynamic compression.

 

Above, 150 Hz high pass filter and high frequency boost in hardware settings, flat in software treatment.

 

Above, 150 Hz high pass filter and high frequency boost in hardware settings, with mild Hindenburg Journalist Pro noise reduction.

 

Above, 150 Hz high pass filter and high frequency boost in hardware settings, with mild Hindenburg Journalist Pro noise reduction and mild dynamic compression.

Test recording—outdoor at 200 feet (≈61 meters)

The below video was shot in 1920×1080 at ≈29.97p at 50 Mb/s and 48 kHz uncompressed PCM audio with the Sony PXW-X70, transcoded with Final Cut Pro X to ProRes 422, edited with ScreenFlow, exported and uploaded in ProRes 422 with uncompressed 48 kHz PCM to Vimeo.

Please click the box in the lower right hand corner to play full screen, to facilitate reading the onscreen graphics and notes.

vxlr-plus

In the park where Francisco Javier Arbolí and I recorded this video in Miami, Florida, US, FM radio stations plague long unbalanced connections. Even though the VideoMic Pro is not balanced, I was able to make this this 200-feet (≈61 feet) from the camera using the under promoted yet wonderful US$25 VXLR+ from RØDE (shown above and in the video, reviewed here, B&H). The 48-volt phantom power from the Sony PXW-X70 camcorder powered the VXLR+ which I held in my left hand. The VXLR+ down-converted the 48-volt phantom power into ≈5-volt bias voltage (aka “plugin power”) which triggered the auto-sense feature in the VideoMic NTG and turned it on, so I didn’t have to do it manually.

Within the video, I summarize the three types of balanced audio connections: transformer balance, electronic balance and impedance balance.

For more details, see my 2017 article Balanced audio: benefits and varieties (illustrated above). Even with impedance balance with the VXLR+, RFI (radio frequency interference) injected into the cable’s hot and cold conductors in inverted phase were fortunately cancelled out. This was the case both with an FM radio station which generally plagues the area with long unbalanced cables and with a mobile telephone which made a phone call right next to the mic cable.

Thanks to Diego Pocoví for lending me some XLR cables for this shoot.

Other reviews

I am recommending reviews from two colleagues, Curtis Judd and Bandrew Scott, since I delve into areas where they don’t, and they delve in areas where I don’t. Curtis Judd has been a guest on my BeyondPodcastingshow and Bandrew Scott has been invited.

RATINGS

Looks and build quality

Connectivity for USB and standard computers

Connectivity for analog devices

(Directly via unbalanced or using the VXLR+ in a balanced environment with 48 kHz.)

Zero-latency monitoring

(Loud enough for even higher-impedance headphones; allows hearing both the local microphone and remote return audio without switching back and forth to hear a remote guest or panelist.)

Sound quality

Potentiometer behavior

(due to its numbers, consistency and contrast for visibility)

10-year warranty (after registration)

Included windscreen

3 stars

(I recommend one of the artificial “dead cats” indicated earlier for outdoor use.)

Conclusions

The US$249 VideoMic NTG (AmazonB&H) offers extraordinary audio quality and versatility and connections, from a digital connection (USB), to an unbalanced audio connection (TRS or TRRS to a balanced one by adding an optional US$25 converter. The included shockmount works well and also offers mounting versatility, and in a single case would require a ≈US$3 adapter. For outdoor use, I recommend one of the optional artificial “dead cats” I covered in the article.

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Born in Connecticut, United States, Allan Tépper is an award-winning broadcaster & podcaster, bilingual consultant, multi-title author, tech journalist, translator, and language activist who has been working with professional video since the eighties. Since 1994,…
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