Rode NT1 KIT Condenser Microphone Review / Test

Today I'm talking about possibly my favorite condenser microphone I have tested to date; the Rode NT1 Kit

This is a higher end XLR condenser microphone which means it requires a USB Audio Interface that offers +24v or +48v of phantom power to work.

If you are interested in this microphone kit, it will set you back $270 on Amazon

What's In the Box

  1. Microphone
  2. Storage Pouch
  3. Shockmount
  4. Pop Filter
  5. Documentation

Specifications

  1. Frequency Response: 20Hz - 20kHz
  2. Polar Pattern: Cardioid
  3. Sensitivity: -29dB
  4. Max SPL: 132dB
  5. Impedance: 100-Ohms
  6. Power Requirements: +24v or +48v Phantom Power

Performance / Features

As you would expect, the build quality of this microphone is top notch. There are no dials or extras on this microphone; just a gold dot to indicate the front of the microphone, and an XLR port on the bottom. It has an all metal construction, and some nice substantial weight to it. However, unlike other microphone's I have tested, it does not feel like a tank, so I would be gentle with it. I should also mention that the carrying pouch offers no padding, so it will only protect the microphone's capsule from dust contamination.

The frequency response on this microphone is excellent, ranging from 20Hz - 20kHz. What really sticks out to me is the nice full bass the microphone provides without sounding boomy or muddy, and the crystal clear highs that do not sound shrill or harsh. It is an all around very smooth sounding microphone, and I think it performed excellently on the Electric Guitar, Acoustic Guitar, and Voice.

When dealing with condenser microphones, I'm always worried about the polar pattern picking up too much background noise. This microphone definitely does pick up more ambient noise than a Shure SM7B, however it is not an exorbitant amount by any stretch of the imagination. I even recorded an entire podcast with this thing and while editing had zero issues with distractions caused by room noise.

Pros

  • Outstanding Audio Quality
  • Comes with Shock Mount & Pop Filter
  • Sturdy & High Quality Construction

Cons

  • The price
  • The pouch offers no protection except from dust

Conclusion

I love this microphone. It has a high quality build, an excellent sound, and it comes with everything you need (less interface & cables). It is likely even my favorite condenser microphone that I have reviewed to date. That being said, I'm not going to recommend this to everyone. 

If you are just starting out on youtube, or just starting a podcast, or just diving into home recording, I would not recommend this microphone. I think that a beginner can get away with a cheap mass produced condenser mic to begin. Down the road if you are still working on your passion project, then consider upgrading.

On the other hand, if you have been working on your podcast, studio, voice over work, or youtube channel for a while and you are looking to take your audio game to the next level, I absolutely recommend this microphone!

If you have any additional questions about this microphone, leave them on the youtube video, and I will try to reply ASAP. 

Buy the Rode NT1 Kit
US: http://amzn.to/2i1eWfO
UK: http://amzn.to/2i3uFh8

Buy the Focusrite Scarlett Solo
US: http://amzn.to/2haKwpx
UK: http://amzn.to/2hhfgbz

Buy the Neewer Boom Arm
US: http://amzn.to/2i1lzPh
UK: http://amzn.to/2hA1RsP

 

Fifine K668 USB Microphone Review / Test

Today we are looking at another budget USB Microphone, this time by FiFine: The Fifine K668 USB Microphone. This microphone is plug and play and is listed as compatible with windows and mac computer.

If you are interested in this microphone, it will set you back $20 on Amazon

What's In the Box

  1. Microphone
  2. Attached Microphone Mount (No Stand Adapter)
  3. Attached USB Cable
  4. Desktop Mic Stand
  5. Documentation

Performance / Features

The construction on this mic feels pretty nice. It has an all metal construction as well as some nice weight to it. There are no additional features on this microphone. It is the bare essentials. 

They do not list a sample rate or any information about the interface. It is pretty apparent when listening to the review that this microphone was calibrated incorrectly. With my microphone input gain set to 1%, I was clipping at 1-foot. I had to be approximately 2 feet away from the mic at 1% gain to avoid any clipping artifacts.

The frequency response is listed as 50Hz - 16kHz which is fine for a cardioid microphone of this size. To be honest, the frequency response is irrelevant because the audio clips at such a low level.

The polar pattern is not listed on the specs sheet, but on the amazon listing, they list it as cardioid. When I tested it, it seemed to be fairly omnidirectional, or at least a VERY WIDE cardioid polar pattern. It picked up audio very well all the way around the sides well past 180-degrees.

Pros

  • Decent construction
  • Affordable
  • Plug & Play
  • Windows/Mac Compatible

Cons

  • CLIPPING AT 1% INPUT GAIN!!!
  • Super wide cardioid polar pattern 
  • Sounds all around bad

Conclusion

If you couldn't tell by the previous portions of this review, I do not recommend this microphone to anyone. The fact that it clips with the gain set at 1% is absolutely unacceptable and it makes any audio you record unusable. The only situation I was able to derive that you might be able to use this mic for is a makeshift USB Shotgun mic. If you set it a few feet away, it seemed to work decently. However, if you end up using the mic in this situation and you have a loud sound source, you have no wiggle room to decrease your input volume, and ultimately, you would be screwed. This problem alone makes me label this microphone a complete piece of junk.

If you have any additional questions about this microphone, leave them in the comments on this site or on the youtube channel, and I will try to reply ASAP. 

Buy it on Amazon
US: http://amzn.to/2bqQhA2
UK: http://amzn.to/2c06qyN

Free RPG Society: Golden Sky Stories Demo

In the April episode of The Shrieker I mentioned Golden Sky Stories, which I'm going to elaborate on here. Originally published in Japan in 2006 as Yuuyake Koyake by Ryo Kamiya, the game was translated and brought to the US in 2013 by Ewen Cluney. That year, to promote the game and to celebrate Tabletop Day, the US publisher, Star Line Publishing released a 23 page simplified free demo, which will be the focus of this review. The demo version is a complete, playable game, with a couple mechanics streamlined and a few character build options withheld.

Golden Sky Stories is radically different from any other game I've played but that's not because of it's country of origin. I am in no way an expert in Japanese games but some quick research indicates that their most popular RPGs tend to play like a mixture of D&D and JRPG video games. Golden Sky Stories does not bear much resemblance to either of those. Golden Sky Stories is powered by an unusual set of mechanics and emulates a genre of story that I've never seen an RPG tackle before.

Most RPGs thrive on high octane adventure, tales of powerful heroes facing perilous danger to thwart great evil. Not Golden Sky Stories. This game takes place in a rural Japanese village where minor animal spirits (controlled by the players) help the citizens sort through their everyday problems. Strictly slice of life stuff. The characters might help an elderly lady reconnect with her grandchildren, visiting from the big city. They might advise a local forest god who has fallen in love with a rice farmer. No dragons to slay, no treasure to collect. It's from this cute genre that Golden Sky Stories derives it's tagline, "Heart-warming Role-playing". This kind of game won't appeal to every gamer, obviously, but it could be refreshing after an intense adventure in another game or it could be the perfect game for someone who is turned off by an RPG's usual violence. My players found Golden Sky Stories to be a nice change of pace.

Combat isn't the only RPG staple that is missing from Golden Sky Stories. It's also missing the dice. Instead of dice this game bases all it's mechanics on a slightly complicated token economy. Players earn one currency (Dreams) by making their characters do cute/clever/in-character things. Dreams can be spent to increase a character's Friendship score which determines how much of two other currencies (Wonder and Feelings) the character earns at the start of each scene. Feels are spent to succeed at ability checks and Wonder is spent to activate supernatural powers. Friendship is the biggest change between the free demo and the complete game. In the full game, instead of a Friendship score you track the details of your character's relationship to every other character in the game, including the kind of relationship, the strength of your connection to other characters, and the strength of their connection to you. For it's simplicity and the easier bookkeeping, I kinda prefer just using a Friendship score. Another difference is that the full game has a system for storing relationships between games, which builds up the character over time, where as the demo version just has you reset your Friendship to 4.

Normally, at this point in the review, I like to write up a short play example that demonstrates the mechanics I just summarized. I don't think I can really do that for this game. The ebb and flow of the Dream/Friendship/Wonder/Feeling economy really takes place over a whole game and I can't really do it justice here. If you need help understanding how everything connects, as I did, try downloading the demo and diagramming how things affect other things in a flowchart as you read through it. That's what worked for me.

The demo also has more limited character options. There are four types of animal spirits available (Fox, Cat, Dog, and Bird) which is two shy of the full game (lacking Rabbit and Raccoon Dog). This isn't really a big deal, there's still enough diversity to go around the table, though Raccoon Dog seems to be a popular choice when the full game is played. Characters also get a few less powers to play with in the demo version (3 as opposed to a maximum of 5 in the full game) but that could be a feature, speeding up character gen a bit.

I adore Golden Sky Stories for the unique genre niche it fills. The demo is wonderful game available for free, which should make it easy for any gamer to give it a try, broadening their gaming experience with very little investment. The included pages on setting, GMing advice, and prepared scenario could even make the demo an ok choice for potential players who have never played an RPG before, though their experience with this game might not translate to more typical games readily. All in all I give it a solid 4 warm hearts out of 5.

If your group tries it and likes it, you can grab the full game for more character options and improved long term play. And if your REALLY like it, there have been expansions released for playing as fairy-folk in the English countryside (Faerie Skies) and a D&Dish setting (Fantasy Friends). If you want greater insight before trying the demo, Six Feats Under recorded an actual play of the full game with translator Ewen Cluney using some content from the Colors of the Sky expansion. There's also a pretty cool song that a fan made about the game.

V-Moda Boom Pro Headset Mic Review / Test

Today I am testing out the V-Moda Boom Pro Headset Mic. This is an add on microphone for any headset that has a 3.5mm microphone port. It is listed to be compatible with the V-Moda M-100's and some Beats headphones. However, I found that it is compatible with any headset that has a 3.5mm line input. This is not the microphone input jack, but rather, the 3.5mm jack that you plug the cable that runs to your computer into. 

What's In the Box 

  1. V-Moda Boom Mic
  2. TRRS Splitter Cable
  3. Warranty

Performance / Features

The build quality on this thing feels pretty nice. The joints all feel like they are sturdy. You can articulate the microphone. The cable is braided so it will hopefully last longer. The remote in the middle of the cable feels decent, and it has a headphone volume knob and microphone mute switch as well as a clip. Lastly the TRRS splitter is rubber and feels slightly cheaper than that actual headset. 

The frequency response on this mic is not listed but based on the performance I think it sounds really nice. The voice sounds natural and doesn't sound overly compressed like most headset microphones. The microphone was also fairly hot. I was plugging directly into my computer and had the level at about 5%. 

The polar pattern based on my examination seems to be omni-directional. That means that it picks up sound in every direction. When typing on my relatively quiet keyboard you could hear a bit of the noise in the background. This leads me to believe that the microphone will pick up a lot more noise if the user were using a mechanical keyboard.

Pros

  • Nice voice sound
  • Braided cable 
  • Compatible with many headsets

Cons

  • Picks up background noise
  • Overly hot signal

Conclusion

I think that this is a really nice product. It's great to have the option of replacing a crappy microphone on a headset with a much higher quality one. However, this does require that your headset have a 3.5mm line out. So you will have to do your own research and find out if the headset you own or the headset you're looking at fulfills those needs. Just be careful with clipping because this microphone has an incredibly hot signal.

Other than that, I would just recommend this to anyone who isn't happy with their mic, and has a compatible headset. If you have any additional questions about this headset, leave them in the comments on this site or on the youtube channel, and I will try to reply ASAP. 

V-Moda Boom Pro Headset Mic: http://amzn.to/1n3YYDo
V-Moda Crossfade M-100: http://amzn.to/1J5WmhZ
Afterglow AG-9 Headset: http://amzn.to/1J61HFW

Tonor Stereo Shotgun Microphone Review / Test

Today I am testing out my very first Shotgun microphone, the Tonor Stereo Shotgun Mic. If you don't know what a shotgun mic is, it is a uni directional microphone on steroids; meaning it is very very uni-directional. These are typically the kind of microphones you will see on film sets at the end of long boom arms, hanging just above an actors head to pick up what they are saying. These are used in those situations because they are great at isolating what they are pointing at while ignoring the surrounding noise. And if you are interested in this mic, it'll cost you about $30 on Amazon.

What's In the Box 

  1. Super Cardioid Microphone
  2. Windscreen
  3. Microphone Mounts
    1. Cold-Shoe Camera Camera Mount
    2. 5/8" Mic Stand Mount
  4. XLR to 3.5mm Cable
  5. 3.5mm to 1/8" adapter
  6. Documentation
  7. Storage Box

Performance / Features

Before I mention anything, I want to mention that this thing requires a single AA battery to work. Moving on. The construction is all metal and feels relatively sturdy. The metal construction does not lead to a heavy microphone; it is still fairly light, which is what you want with a shotgun microphone (when you have a mic on the end of a 7 foot boom pole, you want the microphone to be as light as possible). As far as accessories, the microphone clips feel cheap, the box won't offer much protection, the cable is super long, and I'm sure the adapter would work.

The microphone has two settings on it: (1) Normal, and (2) Tele. The normal setting is what I use for the majority of the video, and I think it sounds natural and pretty good for the price. The tele setting is supposed to zoom in the microphones focus and make the polar pattern even more narrow, which it does. However, once you switch to the Tele setting, the audio sounds overly processed and becomes unusable in my opinion.

The frequency response lacks on this mic providing 100Hz - 16kHz. I wish that this microphone didn't omit everything above 16kHz and below 100Hz, but it is a $30 microphone and I can't expect it to rival a $200 shotgun mic. That being said, the normal mode still sounds pretty decent.   

Pros

  • Super Directional
  • Power Provided via Battery
  • Metal Build Quality
  • Light Weight
  • Included Mic Mounts
  • Normal Mode Sounds Decent
  • Low Cost!!!

Cons

  • Tele Mode is Unusable
  • Lacks Full Frequency Range
  • Bulky

Conclusion

I was rather impressed with the normal mode on this microphone, but once we switch to tele mode, this microphone becomes a paper weight, so as long as you stick on normal mode, you'll be fine. I think that this microphone has a very specific target audience that can benefit from it's use, that is video creators who have a home studio and are on a budget. Let me explain.

If you are making a film, I do not think that this will provide clean enough audio to work for you. However, if you're on a budget and can't afford anything better, this is a decent option. If you're a vlogger who goes out and about who wants to improve your audio, this microphone is definitely not for you. It is too big to put on top of your camera and use. Basically the only people who I can see using this are people who have a boom arm at home, and can place this microphone just out of frame in their videos, who are also on a budget...those are the only people I can fully recommend this mic to. 

If you have any additional questions about this headset, leave them in the comments on this site or on the youtube channel, and I will try to reply ASAP. 

Buy it on Amazon: http://amzn.to/22qS5Mu