The NTG5 shotgun microphone, with the included shock mount, works great for handheld sound effects and ambient recording.
These days, choosing the right shotgun microphone for your audio kit can be a tricky thing. That’s because there are so many interesting and diverse models from many manufacturers, all of them vying for your money in exchange for high-quality sound. But it’s also because selecting a microphone can be a personal matter as well. It’s why you should never buy one without actually listening to it and trying it out.
Of course, if you’ve been in the world of “sound for pictures” for any time at all, you already know that there are many renowned shotgun microphones from well-known brands, including Sennheiser, Sanken, Audio-Technica, AKG and Beyerdynamic, just to name a few. And they’ve been at it for years. In short, it’s a competitive field.
But another brand, RØDE, has recently been working hard to set itself apart from the competition. In fact, RØDE’s latest microphone, the NTG5, which I’ve been using in the field for a few months, is an excellent example of just how RØDE plans to break out from this crowded and competitive field.
A New Direction For RØDE?
The RØDE NTG5 mic appears to signal a new direction for RØDE in that it seems designed very much for the working professional, location-sound mixers and boom operators.
But the NTG5 isn’t the first higher-end pro shotgun from RØDE. In fact, it has made several other models aimed at working sound pros, including the relatively inexpensive NTG1 shotgun, which has low handling noise (meaning you can move the mic around without generating much noise) and deals with high sound pressure levels without distorting. (The NTG2 is similar but adds an internal battery for phantom power.) The NTG3 RF-Bias Shotgun Microphone is moisture resistant, has low self-noise and is resistant to RF. It’s a true condenser (external RF biased) and is considered a super cardioid. There’s also the NTG4 Directional Condenser Microphone, with a switchable treble boost, -10dB pad and also has low handling noise. (The NTG4+ Directional Condenser adds a built-in rechargeable battery to the NTG4.)
So where does the new NTG5 fit into the product line and did RØDE actually need another shotgun in the lineup?
You’ll find some of these answers on RØDE’s website. For example, the site states the NTG5 is built “on the ground-breaking technology of the NTG3…with a focus on making it the ideal location-recording microphone. It’s much shorter and lighter than the NTG3, which makes it easier to handle on a boom pole.” The site also notes, “It also features…natural and uncolored sound and it has a less pronounced low-end response than the NTG3…lower self-noise than the NTG3 (10dBA vs 13dBA).” Plus, it “excels as a location recording mic.”
An Impressive Kit For Less
But there are other factors that make this an interesting shotgun mic: competition, pricing and the importance of new technology.
The industry-standard Sennheiser MKH 416 shotgun microphone retails for $999. And the existing RØDE NTG3 goes for $699, which is $300 less. But the NTG5 retails for $499, which is half the price of the Sennheiser and $200 cheaper than the NTG3. Those are big pluses.
Also, the NTG5 has newer technology than both the NTG3 and the industry-standard but old MKH 416. And it’s lighter than both the NTG3 and MKH 416. That’s important to boom operators and one-man bands.
Lastly, the NTG5 retails as a kit, which, aside from the mic, includes some impressive accessories: a pistol grip shock mount, a pro cable for RØDE shock mounts, a stand mount, a furry windshield, a foam Windscreen, a RØDE zip pouch and a limited one-year warranty (extendable to 10 years).
But the real test of any audio gear is how it performs in the field.
Hands-On With The RØDE NTG5 Short Shotgun Mic
When reviewing mics, I’m generally concerned with how a model objectively sounds to my ears, using my recording device, recording in environments that I’ve chosen and that I’m familiar with. And because I’ve owned and rented enough shotgun and cardioid microphones, I can quickly recognize if I like the sound of a given microphone pretty quickly.
What am I looking for? The quality I value most is transparency, meaning that the microphone itself acts as a faithful transducer of the sound it records. That’s because many microphones add or subtract elements of the sound they record, which is often referred to as “coloration.” These mics change the sound considerably from the sound that actually occurs, which appeals to some. But for location sound mixing, I like to walk away with a recording that sounds like what actually happened. (I can always enhance and polish that sound in post.)
While testing the NTG5, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the first time I plugged the NTG5 into my Sound Devices MixPre-3 and dialed in the gain, I was struck by the openness and neutral tonality I was hearing in the headphones. The sound of the NTG5 wasn’t harsh and didn’t seem to have an overly large amount of presence, which is another good indication of good off-axis rejection. But the NTG5, true to what RØDE claimed, didn’t present the low-end frequencies as overly emphasized, either.
I also did a quick test comparing the headphone audio to what was occurring in the real world: I lifted my headphones just a bit so my ears could hear both the recording through the headphones and the sound of the live event happening in front of me. The two sounds seemed to be pretty close to each other, which is something I like to hear.
Next, I used the NTG5 for a few video interviews on a shoot for a local community interface client. I ran the NTG5 into the Sound Devices MixPre-3 as well as the XLRs directly into camera, a Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro G2. These were video interviews shot outdoors in a local park, early in the morning before the noise from lawnmowers and leaf blowers would make our shoot too frustrating.
As any good shotgun microphone should, the off axis “less than desirable” freeway noise from a distant overpass didn’t overly intrude. I could hear every detail I wanted in the talent’s breathing and voice without the sound becoming strident or harsh. Once again, the NTG5 rendered the sound of the talent’s voice pretty much as I heard it live when I’d lift my headphones off
Overall, the NTG5’s sound for voices was pleasant and neutral. Other microphones I’ve tested over the years often have a tendency to color the sound, which can be an artistic choice. But I try to record voices as realistically as I hear them. It’s why I value neutral-sounding microphones—while it’s easy to tweak a voice in post, it’s more difficult to change an affected sound back into more neutral tone.
Additionally, I used the NTG5 to record some sound effects for a current editing project: I took our Sound Devices MixPre-3 and the NTG5 to a local hiking area to record some ambient sounds of a local creek. Specifically, I captured the sounds of water running over rocks, like a small brook or creek, which I needed for an edit I’ve been working on for the past few weeks. To do this, I mounted the NTG5 on its pistol grip mount for handheld recording. (It can also easily mount onto boom poles.) I also affixed the RØDE furry windshield in case there was a breeze during my recording session.
The results? The audio captured with the NTG5 of the creek was excellent. Even the furry windshield included in the kit was definitely the right accessory choice for the NTG5 that day since it was a little breezy when I went to record. The windshield mitigated any low-frequency wind buffeting.
The RØDE NTG5 Microphone: A Great Value
When it comes to gear—from audio to cameras to accessories—you might think paying top dollar is the way to ensure the best quality. If you simply buy the most expensive microphone—for, say, a few thousand dollars—you’ll end up with a well-built mic that produces extraordinary sound. Right?
Well, it’s not that simple, particularly with mics. That’s because, unlike with other tech gear, there are too many variables when choosing a microphone that make it a very personal process. It’s why I believe there simply isn’t a single, best, most expensive, all-around shotgun microphone in the sub-$1,000 market.
With that said, I’ll also say there’s a lot to like about the NTG5: For instance, one nice thing about the NTG5 is that it punches way above its cost, especially when you count the cost of its included accessory kit.
As I also mentioned, the audio I recorded with the NTG5 has a neutral, fairly transparent quality, and as far as handling, the mic is lightweight, which you’ll love when hand-booming with it. Plus, it’s weatherproof. So, you can use it in almost any shooting situation.
RØDE also has a manufacturing process that’s innovative and that has given the NTG5 a sound and quality that makes it look and feel like a superbly designed premium product. It’s why I strongly recommend the NTG5 be on your list of microphones to consider if you’re looking for a sub-$1,000, high-quality shotgun microphone.
Nevertheless, it’s important to note that I wouldn’t say the NTG5 sounds “better” than some of its competitors—and these days, the field is fully loaded with candidates. The reason I can’t say “better” is that microphone choice is very subjective, and you should listen with your own ears to draw your own conclusions. For some, the NTG5 may be too neutral and not color the sound in a way that you prefer.
But based on my experience with it, the NTG5 should be included in your evaluation process since, for the price, the NTG5 is a superb value.