Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison with sound samples!
Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison: fair, the only on the whole web and with free downloadable sound samples so you can base your decisions on what you hear instead of what someone else tells you he/she is hearing.
A year into production there’s still no fair or any Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison?
First of all, I craved to review these two mics, because both of these are an obvious choice once seeking quality improvement over internal voice/sound recording devices. And shockingly – a year into Blue Raspberry’s production, there’s still not one Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison? Not to speak a fair review or fair comparison of Blue Raspberry to something else.
What is FAIR?
Yes, there are several reviews, but most of them either involve useless un-boxing and wow’s of inadequate and incompetent reviewers. Or more competent reviewers perform comparisons by making one core mistake – recording their test lines in separate takes going one after another. This leads them and us, credulous and subjective creatures, to perform (speak) “better” into things (microphone in this case) that are newer, prettier, more expensive or just subjectively “better”.
Rules & conditions for a fair microphone comparison
- Capsules aligned on all exes.
- Equal distance and angle to the source.
- Equal powering conditions.
- Equal input gain settings.
- No post processing except volume normalization to RMS as opposed to peaks.
- Most importantly – if we’ll consider a voice-over to be our test source, then the reference line read by the voice talent needs to be captured by both (or all) mics at once.
If you’re giving each mic a repeated take, fairness is gone because of human factor interference. Remember that for your next mic or “stuff-capturing-gear” shootout and you’ll be way ahead of the others. Not to mention that if you’ll meet all six conditions your comparison will be at the peak of objectiveness.
Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison: features, accessories, knobs, bugs.
250€ later I got my brand new Blue Raspberry mic sitting on my table (Rode NT-USB cost me something about 170€). And immediately I was disappointed with it’s plastic finish. If not plastic, then heavily plasticized lightweight aluminum powder at best. It felt like a toy compared to Rode NT-USB’s black metal housing. FYI regular price in of Blue Raspberry on Amazon is 199$ and you can get a brand new Rode NT-USB for 169$ there as well.
Prevention of plosives
There’s no condenser microphone that can be used in close proximity and not require pop-filter or pop-shield. Blue Raspberry doesn’t have one, and Rode NT-USB does. It’s not perfect and is probably more of a design solution, than a practical blow stopper. Yet it’s better to have one that’s not perfect, or you’ll need to slide your mic further away from your mouth and loose some “fullness” of your award-winning-sexy-deep-voice.
Plus one to Rode NT-USB for at least trying to help the user deal with plosives out of the box. And if you’ll want that sexiness with Blue Raspberry you’ll need to buy a third party pop-filter. Up side is that even if you’ll need to spend money on a pop-filter, the result will be much more efficient than using Rode NT-USB with its bundled beautifully designed anti-plosive-shield.
If a manufacturer includes a cord with Apple-esque connector it’s always very clear what people are its target. Yes, the ones who embrace design and external beauty over actual quality of performance or efficiency. Maybe not 100% truth, but let’s be honest.
At least Blue had the decency to put a usual micro-USB socket at the back of their Raspberry mic and didn’t made fools of themselves like Apogee with their “unique sound preserving” data transfer cable (you can read my review and listen for Apogee samples here).
If you’re the one who is being recorded all the time while sitting in front or next to your computer – then a 1.5 meter long cable (two in fact) bundled with Blue Raspberry USB microphone will do the trick and you’ll even have few centimeters to spare.
However if you’re like me – then Rode’s 3 meter long cable is a big advantage. I record voice-over talents most of the time and like to have them out of my sight so I can focus on how they’re talking instead of how they’re looking. I cherish every additional inch that separates me from the talent. And if I want to put him or her into a vocal booth, Rode NT-USB’s bundled 3 meter long cable allows me to do that with very little adjustments (I’m always recording onto my laptop – so, I’m quite portable).
If I needed to do the same using Blue Raspberry microphone, length of the cable would be a problem.
Input gain adjustment
Another problem would be its built in control features. Or should I say a combination of ’em. But first – one thing that is really great about the Blue Raspberry mic compared to Rode NT-USB, is that it has an actual input gain knob, which let’s you to control how hot you want it to capture the source.
Rode NT-USB doesn’t have a knob. You sill can adjust its gain trough software’s (OS) sound properties, but that isn’t as convenient as having a dedicated and large knob. So plus one to Blue Raspberry here.
Blue Raspberry also has a headphone volume knob. So does Rode NT-USB. However Rode’s internal headphone amplifier is much more powerful. I usually feed two sets of headphones from it’s headphone output without need to turn the volume knob to the max.
During my “Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison” video shooting I set Blue Raspberry’s input gain so it matched Rode NT-USB mic’s preset input gain. Although I had a healthy -18dBFS level in my DAW from both mics, I felt that I wouldn’t be able to hear myself comfortably if monitoring trough Blue Raspberry’s headphone output set to maximum.
I should note that there was still plenty of gain-road left for Blue microphone. Theoretically I could get more signal in my cans by turning up the input gain, yet as I mention in my video review – that could eventually lead to overloaded signal, which is always a bad thing.
With all that being said, you shouldn’t fear to not hear yourself while using Blue Raspberry. You’ll only need to have your levels at -12dbFS or even a bit hotter to feel comfortable. Oh, and watch out for overloads!
Input / playback volume balance capabilities
Another important thing in regard to convenience is both mic’s ability to give user control over balance of input signal and playback. Either you record game-plays, songs or voice-overs (video blogging and podcasting might need less of it) you will most likely use some sort of playback. Be it in-game sound, backing track or any sort of reference – you’ll need to hear it and be able to record whilst playing it back.
Rode NT-USB has a dedicated knob for that and I use it all the time to adjust balance between my voice-over talents and reference tracks. Basically you have a small three channel mixer inside this mic. Mono (dual mono in fact) for input source and stereo for playback source. Great!
Unfortunately Blue Raspberry doesn’t have such a knob and you’ll need to reach out for your software mixer as well as play with Blue mic’s input gain knob for full comfort. Nothing too impossible, yet a bit inconvenient (same as before mentioned lack of physical input gain knob on Rode NT-USB mic).
Muting the input to only hear playback
In my experience and humble opinion the ability to mute microphone’s input and still use it as an output device is pretty important. For Rode NT-USB it’s simply achieved by turning the mix knob all the way to the playback position. This way you’ll hear zero input and only the output of your device you have Rode connected to.
Blue Raspberry mic on the other hand can not be completely muted (probably it’s doable trough OS’es sound properties). Even if the gain knob will be turned all the way down, there will still be input signal present. Here’s why it’s not too good.
Say if you’ve recorded your vocals for your latest piece and want to mix it with the playback immediately. Some EQ, compression, maybe a bit of delay, touch of reverb… And also touch of ambience (reverberation, noise, cat – everything goes) of your actual mixing space being captured in real time by Blue Raspberry microphone. I can imagine it wouldn’t be too hard to induce feedback if mixing at higher volume and monitoring trough speakers.
And in case you’re thinking “who would mix while monitoring trough USB microphones output?”. Well maybe someone who’s constantly traveling and looking for a quality sound capturing device with small footprint that looks good next to the latest MBP…
Which leads us to the fact that Blue Raspberry USB microphone is smaller, lighter and can be comfortably carried in a pocket with all its bundled accessories. Reminder – to unleash the deep sexiness of your voice you’ll still need a third party pop-filter.
Rode NT-USB mic’s size is easily comparable to any other studio condenser. And if you’ll be insisting on taking 3 meter long cable, table stand, pop-shield and pouch with you, you better have deep pockets and don’t skip leg day in your gym.
Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison: the actual sound
Download the original tracks first!
Congrats, you’ve made it to the tech part! Before reading further and getting biased by my personal opinion set in stone after a fair and the only one on the web Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison, I invite you to download 48kHz / 24 bit samples (dropbox or google drive) of both mics and listen to them for yourself. Then get back here to check if we’re on the same track.
Although Rode NT-USB can actually record only at 16bit depth (not that we need more, in my opinion) and converting the file to 24bit doesn’t add anything, I thought I’ll use Blue Raspberry mic’s ability to capture sound at 24bit depth as a reference for both recordings.
Internal Acoustic Diffuser (IAD)?
As I mentioned in the beginning of this article, Blue Raspberry got my attention after I read that it has an innovative grill design, that “resembles treatments found in studios and concert halls, focusing your voice or instrument while minimizing the sound of the room“. Internal Acoustic Diffuser (IAD) as they call it.
Since majority of consumers link quality of a voice recording to ambient noise (which in fact is two things – ambience and noise), a technology like that should help everyone in video blogging and podcasting “business” make their voice sound more professional and dry (or focused – this term doesn’t make any sense, but anyway…).
That’s exactly why I was hooked! As a voice-over director, and voice-over recording studio owner I’m constantly looking for opportunities to minimize reverberation in voice recordings hence encourage my voice talents to record their lines remotely at home and not in my studio. Ah, convenience…
Differences and similarities in sound
- Fact is both mics are pretty close sound wise – at least on my voice. Rode NT-USB has slightly less exaggerated lower end of frequency spectrum, thus it may sound a bit thinner if switched on right after Blue Raspberry. And Blue Raspberry has less exaggerated high frequencies. You can clearly hear sibilants having “darker” color, which means that Blue Raspberry has a high frequency bump somewhere @ 6 to 8kHz as well as a high frequency roll-off and octave+ later. Optimists would call a bump in low frequencies and shaped high frequencies “warmth”, while pessimistic ones might prefer a term “boomy” or “dull”, or “phony”, which would bring Rode NT-USB and its lifted up highs to be “airy” or “clear” or “bright”. It’s all soooo subjective…
- Probably because of its plastic finish Blue Raspberry is less prone to plosives and low end action in general. Not only it adds lots of sub frequencies to P’s B’s and D’s it also sometimes starts ringing in the sub domain, which isn’t nice at all. Because of that you can expect it to catch the resonance of your laptop or desktop motor being transferred through your desk. The sexy flexible table-top stand won’t help to decouple it. It’s not horrible and there’s nothing a HPF at 80Hz couldn’t fix, yet occasional more passionate “P” or “B” can easily induce internal overload, which you won’t be able to get rid off. Another thing to watch out for.
- Blue Raspberry’s IAD is scam and does not help to “focus” on the voice, whilst minimizing room reverberation or any sort of noise at all. No matter how hard I tried to justify the technology I always ended up hearing or seeing zero effect of the Internal Acoustic Diffuser. Izotope RX’es nor Reaper’s spectrum view didn’t show any differences in tails of phrases too. Yes, I may be missing something here, but even if Blue Raspberry’s IAD in fact does something, it is very close to nothing and they shouldn’t put their marketing campaigns on it, because it deceives the customer.
- Last but not least thing I look for once testing new gear and especially microphones is self noise levels or signal to noise ratios. For this Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison both mics were set to same gain and had exactly the same amount of self noise + room noise combination, which is good to know. Simply speaking self noise or hiss isn’t something you should be concerned about if you decide to buy either of those mics.
Four things why you would want to buy a Blue Raspberry mic are:
- Beauty and retro-ish looks.
- Small footprint, lightweight.
- Absolutely a better quality recordings compared to built-in things.
- You don’t mix on such random devices, hence lack of input muting doesn’t concern you.
But in case you consider getting Blue Raspberry because of the “revolutionary” IAD – don’t! As you’ll hear in the original files I’m giving for download (from dropbox or google drive)- Internal Acoustic Diffuser makes absolutely no difference. There is zero extraordinary focus on the voice and zero room ambience rejection.
Obviously Blue Raspberry mic would be a huge step up from your built-in DSLR, smartphone or laptop microphone (not because they suck, but because they’re most likely positioned too far from your mouth to perform as good as an more expensive “dedicated” USB mic pointing at your mouth and sitting few inches from it).
However so would any USB mic you could get at half the price of Blue Raspberry, because for 199$ (somehow 250€…) it lacks features, build quality and feel, and most importantly – the Internal Acoustic Diffuser effect itself.
Four things why you would want to buy a Rode NT-USB mic are:
- Usability out of the box (pop-filter, long cable, higher table-top stand).
- Robust and reliable metal finish.
- More useful physical controls (source mix & headphone amp knobs)
- You get more accessories quality and features for less money without sacrificing quality of performance at all.
In my opinion, Rode NT-USB would be a much wiser choice. Unless, of course, you’re after looks, a bit more convenient portability, brand-loyalty or money doesn’t matter to you.
As always I really hope you found this Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison useful and I could help you decide to buy one of them (or not to buy). Comments, opinions, suggestions and questions are always appreciated. Feel free to say out your mind below. Thank you for reading and in case you didn’t see the actual video version of Blue Raspberry vs Rode NT-USB microphone comparison – here it is: