Another Mic Comparison – Schoeps and Rode

Tuesday, June 15th, 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, for many years I believed the recording advice I found on the internet. I visited recording forums and searched for discussions of acoustic guitar recording, and bought gear based on those discussions. I was never happy with my tracks, and I hoped that I could find the combination of gear that would make my recordings sound great.

One consistent recommendation was the Schoeps line of microphones. I was lucky enough to find a deal on a pair of used Schoeps CMC64s (CMC6 modular bodies and MK4 cardioid capsules) a few years ago, and even though they were fairly expensive I bought them because I knew that once I had a pair of Schoeps, I could no longer blame the microphones for my less than satisfactory results.

Now, a few years older and hopefully wiser, I have come to realize that the difference between most mics is pretty subtle, the difference between preamps and a/d converters is even more subtle, and the big differences come in the instrument, the performance, and the room. Of course, believing that equipment has a minor impact has not kept me from buying more gear. Mics and audio interfaces, monitors and headphones, sometimes I just can’t resist trying something new.

A New Toy (er, Tool)

Since I’ve discovered the fun of videography I’ve found even more gear to consider. The recent Homebrewed Music comparison of stereo mics for the Kodak Zi8 stimulated my interest in a microphone that is widely recommended as an excellent medium priced tool, the Rode NT4. This mic combines the two capsules and electronics of the Rode NT5 small diaphragm condenser in a single body visibly similar to the NT3 model. This mic includes the option of using a 9 volt battery for power if 48 (or 24) volt phantom power is not available. It also comes with adapter cables providing either a conventional pair of XLRs or a 1/8″ stereo miniplug for cameras and field recorders. The NT4 doesn’t come up on the used market very often, but with a little patience I found one at an attractive price and added it to my collection.

One thing about high end (that is, high priced) gear like the Schoeps mics, in my little home studio they tend to stay in the drawer. Since Schoeps prices have gone up steadily for the last few years, my mic collection has become an investment as well as tool set, and I’ve become a bit protective of the “good stuff.” If I need a mic for a quick recording, I’m much more likely to pull out a less expensive unit, and the NT4 has been getting plenty of use lately. It’s simple to set up, useful with various recording systems, and sounds pretty darned good to me.

Shootout Time

In fact, it sounded so good, I started wondering how it might compare to the hallowed Schoeps CMC64. Once I listened to them side by side, would I still think the NT4 sounded darned good? I’ve gone into some detail on the procedure needed for a meaningful mic test, and I’ve done some other comparisons. But a recent flurry of “what is the best mic” postings on various guitar forums triggered a desire to evaluate the Rode and Schoeps side by side.

Naturally, I set the mics up as close as possible to the same position, using the same stereo arrangement. The Rode is constructed as a fixed X-Y array, so I used a stereo bar to mount the CMC64 pair in the same configuration.

Schoeps CMC64 and Rode NT4 for comparison

Schoeps CMC64 and Rode NT4

I connected both mic systems to the Echo Audiofire Pre8, and set the gain by eye. Next I setup Reaper to record two stereo tracks, and applied the Sonalksis FreeG meters to each track. This excellent plugin let me know that my preamp gain settings were within a couple of db of each other, as close as I am likely to get with the small gain controls of the Pre8. After recording, I pulled the files into Adobe Audition where I use the Group Waveform Normalize function to set the perceived average levels to – 12 dBFS.

It’s All in the Listening

Just listening to the tracks they sounded pretty similar, so I pulled the tracks into foobar2000 to use the ABX utility. Under this audio microscope I quickly discovered that I could recognize the files as different. The Rode recording was very (and I mean very) slightly “lighter,” less full than the Schoeps track. When I checked the frequency response curves I saw that the Rode had a reduced bass response and more pronounced emphasis on the highs compared to the MK4 capsule of the Schoeps.

Graph of Rode NT4 Frequency Response

NT4 frequency response showing low cut and high boost

Graph of Schoeps frequency response

CMC64 frequency response. more linear than the Rode

I immediately wondered if I could reduce the difference with some EQ. Back into Adobe Audition, where I used the Parametric Filter, adjusted to the opposite of the Rode frequency response graph, to process the Rode track and save it to a new file.

After this processing, I could no longer tell the files apart when I ran ABX in foobar2000. In the first test I made six consecutive correct choices with no incorrect ones, a better than 85% certainty that I could tell them apart. When I compared the Rode file with EQ to the Schoeps file, my results fell apart, with three incorrect choices out of four tries.

Based on this test, it seems that a little digital EQ can make a Rode NT4 sound like a Schoeps CMC64 when recording me playing solo acoustic guitar (in this room on this day). This is not to say that an NT4 is “as good as” a pair of Schoeps mics, of course. The Schoeps modular system supports many different capsules for different pickup patterns and uses. And a pair of mics give much more flexibility in placement than a fixed X-Y stereo mic. But in this one very limited use, simple stereo recording of a solo acoustic guitar, the NT4 reduces the complexity and cost while delivering sonic results that I find completely satisfactory.

Try for yourself. Here are the files (these are CD spec 44.1 khz 16 bit PCM wave files, so they’re large – about 14 Mb each):

Download O.wav
Download P.wav
Download Q.wav

One of these is the Schoeps, one is the Rode without EQ, the other is the Rode with EQ. Ideally you’ll use an ABX tool to listen carefully and determine if you can tell the files apart. However you choose to listen, post a comment here with your impressions and I’ll email you the identity of the three files.

***** June 17, 2010 Update *****
When I posted links to these files on the Acoustic Guitar Forum the folks there quickly zeroed in on the Schoeps CMC64, so I went back to foobar2000 ABX and, sure enough, once I found the right place to listen, I could hear the difference between the Rode, even with EQ, and the Schoeps. Which goes to demonstrate an important aspect of ABX testing – it’s quite possible to miss differences, due to tiredness or predisposition or some other cause.



This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 15th, 2010 at 11:56 pm and is filed under Audio, Comparisons. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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    44 Responses to ' Another Mic Comparison – Schoeps and Rode '

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    1. Darrell Styner said in post # 1,

      on June 22nd, 2010 at 8:53 am

      They all sound pretty close and I had to listen several times to find differences. I’m guessing that O is the Schoeps as it seems to have better bass and a slightly smoother high end. P must be the Rode with EQ since it has more bass than Q but the highs are a little sharper like Q. That leaves Q as the Rode without EQ. How’d I do?

      BTW, thanks very much for posting these mic shootouts. They’ve really made me rethink my biases in terms of what’s worth paying for in audio.

    2. Fran Guidry said in post # 2,

      on June 22nd, 2010 at 1:05 pm

      I’m glad the comparisons are useful. I’ll email you the key.

      Fran

    3. Doug Anderson said in post # 3,

      on July 23rd, 2010 at 9:11 pm

      I’m shopping for acoustic and nylon stringed guitar mics. I’m thinking seriously about Schoeps / mk22.

      can you please tell me the mic identities in your shootouts?

      Schoeps/Rode/Rode w/EQ

      Schoeps/CAD/Shure 44/Shure 141

      Thanks for your efforts and info.

      -Doug

    4. Ray said in post # 4,

      on January 31st, 2011 at 6:28 pm

      Hey Fran. I’m currently considering a pair of Schoeps CMC64’s so I’m really glad I stumbled upon your test. I’m just going to say right off the bat that I don’t know which mics are which, but the “P” file sounds much better to my ears. If that wasn’t the file you did with the Schoeps, maybe I’m no longer considering a pair! If you could email me the key when you get a chance, I’d really appreciate it.

      Really nice playing, by the way.
      Ray

    5. Curt said in post # 5,

      on March 20th, 2011 at 11:15 am

      Hi Fran,

      This site is a blessing….thanks! I have a chance to get a used NT4 at a good price but I’m an idiot in this field. What else do I need to hook up to the Zi8?

      Thanks

    6. Fran Guidry said in post # 6,

      on March 24th, 2011 at 11:43 am

      Hi, Curt, sorry for taking so long to respond. For the Zi8, the NT4 has everything you need, assuming yours comes with the 1/8″ (3.5mm) stereo plug. Just insert the 9v battery in the NT4, use the 1/8″ plug into the Zi8, and you’re in business.

      Fran

    7. Brian Dunard said in post # 7,

      on May 16th, 2011 at 5:50 pm

      I would say O is Rode, P is the Schoeps and Q is the eq’d Rode.

    8. on August 5th, 2011 at 12:47 am

      [...] op de naam komen. Best wel een interessante site (naast HR natuurlijk ) om eens door te lopen. Another Mic Comparison Voor mij is O de Rode NT4 no eq en de Q dan de NT4 met eq De P is volgens mij de Schoeps CMC64 Op [...]

    9. John Sorell said in post # 9,

      on November 18th, 2011 at 10:29 am

      Fran,

      I’m late to this but I settled on the Download Q.wav example as “best” sounding. Quality of the sound and separation of the notes stood out to me. I am more than curious to learn the identity of each file.

      Thanks again for your efforts. I’m learning a lot from you.

      ~ John Sorell

    10. Kreso said in post # 10,

      on December 26th, 2011 at 8:43 am

      O=eq Rode
      P= Schoeps
      Q= Rode

    11. catherine cunningham said in post # 11,

      on January 14th, 2012 at 8:32 am

      Hi, I just wanted to say “thanks” for these kind of reviews, they help hold the gearlust in check!

    12. Keith said in post # 12,

      on May 16th, 2012 at 1:48 pm

      O=Rode eq’d
      P=Schoeps
      Q=Rode

    13. Fran Guidry said in post # 13,

      on May 17th, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      Thanks, Keith, I’ve emailed you the key.

      Fran

    14. Micah said in post # 14,

      on June 15th, 2012 at 5:37 pm

      Fran,

      Can I get the key? Im saying P is the eq rode, , O is the schoeps, O is straight rode. I need a good mic and would rather not waste the money!

    15. mike said in post # 15,

      on June 21st, 2012 at 3:46 pm

      Fran

      Hello from Australia.

      I have a Rode NT3, which I am happy with. I bought a Nikon P7100 camera because it had a mic input. I thought I could make some ‘look at me’ videos of me singing and playing guitar. My intention was that I would put the stereo line outs from my Roland AC33 Acoustic Guitar amp (which mixes my vocals and guitar and sounds great via headphones) into the mic input. However I now find that the line outs are ‘hotter’ than the mic input and I get good sound but with digital bips, which makes it unusable. I do not record with computers and I can’t afford to buy much more equipment.

      I was thinking that I could buy a reasonably priced stereo mic designed for cameras for under $100. But I would have liked to have used the sound from my amp. I have heard you can get attenuator cords which can match the line out (-10dBu according to the Roland manual) to the mic input of the camera (not sure what that is).

      Do you have any suggestions?

      Regards

      Mike

    16. Jason said in post # 16,

      on June 21st, 2012 at 4:12 pm

      Hello Fran thank you for the shootout

      My answers: O=Shoeps P= EQ Rode Q= Rode

      They all sounded great very slite differenecs, but not by much.

      I think if a person who wants to save a little money, or can’t afford a Shoeps, could do quite well with the Rode. As long as the person uses the same mic most if not the whole audience won’t even know the wiser. I believe most people should learn technique, over buying thousands of dollars of music gear. That to me is how 90% of the quaility comes from.

    17. Fran Guidry said in post # 17,

      on June 21st, 2012 at 9:46 pm

      Mike, it can be really frustrating getting these devices to talk to each other civilly, I agree. The least expensive solution I’ve found is a “headphone volume control” sold by Radio Shack. Here’s a link to the device: http://www.radioshack.com/product/index.jsp?productId=2102975

      I hope this helps you capture your videos.

      Fran

    18. Fran Guidry said in post # 18,

      on June 21st, 2012 at 9:50 pm

      Jason, I’m emailing you the key, thanks for your comment. I certainly agree that a fine recording can be made with the Rode – in fact hundreds of fine recordings are probably made every day with the NT4.

      Fran

    19. Ken Whisler said in post # 19,

      on August 17th, 2012 at 11:03 am

      Hello Fran, I just found a pair of used NT5’s for sale 2 miles from my doorstep. Pure snobbery has prevented me from considering Rodes in the past, but the past few days I have been including them in my search, and then I stumbled on this pair in a friend’s store.

      I will not try to guess which mics are which in the blind shootout, I don’t have enough experience with mics to do so. But I will say that Q is my preferred sound of the 3 clips.

    20. Fran Guidry said in post # 20,

      on August 17th, 2012 at 12:43 pm

      It’s incredibly hard to get past our feeling that more $ must mean more performance of some kind. It might even be true if we emphasize “some kind” – Schoeps for instance offers the marvelous range of capsules that can be interchanged on one excellent mic body. This certainly represents added value for someone who can benefit from this feature.

      But when we address the issue most of us face – how to make an acceptable or better recording – there are some very effective mics out there with remarkably small price tags. Now if we can only let ourselves enjoy them .

      I’ve sent the key via email.

      Fran

    21. Ken Whisler said in post # 21,

      on August 17th, 2012 at 12:54 pm

      I understand the mentality, yet as a luthier and a classical guitar afficianado, I have personally witnessed very good players opting for a guitar that costs thousands more for very small, even almost imperceptible advantages.

    22. Tim Halse said in post # 22,

      on September 23rd, 2012 at 2:37 am

      I like ‘P’ best…I think… Would love to know which is which.

    23. Richard said in post # 23,

      on December 8th, 2012 at 5:50 am

      Hi Fran…Please send me the key…I cannot wait for answer ..:)…I think O – Shoeps,P – Rode without EQ ,and Q – Rode with EQ…I prefer O because i feel there is a more warm and natural bass frequences,rode is more thinner cheaper sounding for me…I have in my home studio SHURE SM81 for this recording,but yesterday I bought AUDIO-TECHNICA 4051A and I think its more better on crystal highs and presence articulation sonding and is really very very similar as SHOEPS CMC64,and I really like this AT 4051A more than Neumann KM184 !…thnx,Richard

    24. Fran Guidry said in post # 24,

      on December 9th, 2012 at 2:41 pm

      Hi, Richard,

      I’ve sent the key via email. Thanks for visiting and commenting.

      Fran

    25. Per Lindhof said in post # 25,

      on January 26th, 2013 at 8:31 am

      Very interesting indeed.
      I checked the prices of the NT4 vs. the Schoeps and the latter is about eight (8) times as expensive….!

      I personally preferred the first recording O…

      I’m curious and I would like to receive the truth by e-mail.

      Kind regards
      Per Lindhof – classical guitarist

    26. Fran Guidry said in post # 26,

      on January 26th, 2013 at 9:18 am

      I’ve sent the key via email. Thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      Fran

    27. Steve K said in post # 27,

      on February 23rd, 2013 at 2:28 pm

      Great test! I’d like to see the key as well. I like O the best, then Q, then P. Thanks.

    28. Fran Guidry said in post # 28,

      on February 25th, 2013 at 10:13 am

      Steve, I just sent the key via email. Thanks for visiting.

      Fran

    29. Tim A said in post # 29,

      on March 26th, 2013 at 7:49 am

      I’d love to know what’s what. I actually liked Q the best on first listen…

    30. Tim A said in post # 30,

      on March 26th, 2013 at 7:53 am

      Second listen – P actually sounds nicest, the higher frequencies really singing out

    31. Anton said in post # 31,

      on April 19th, 2013 at 6:20 am

      Fran, thank you for this interesting shootout! My preference is: P-O-Q. For my ears, P is better by an order of magnitude. It seems though that the O and Q would be able to deliver a pretty decent quality, if not some muddiness which is apparent in the higher mids. This kind of sound is usually produced by misplaced microphones that have phasing issues. How this is possible with a stereo mic, is beyond me. Or maybe this simply says something about the microphone’s definition in this (pretty critical) area?

      Would appreciate getting the key, to make sure my ears didn’t betray me.

      Thx

      Anton

    32. Fran Guidry said in post # 32,

      on April 19th, 2013 at 9:45 am

      Thanks, Anton, I’ve sent the key via email.

      Fran

    33. Guy said in post # 33,

      on July 9th, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      Nice test. I liked Q best, it seems to have better transients, is cleaner and more balanced. I would say that Q is the Schoeps, P is the Rode and O is the eq`d Rode.

    34. Fran Guidry said in post # 34,

      on July 11th, 2013 at 10:03 am

      Thanks for offering your impressions. I sent the key via email.

      Fran

    35. Euclio said in post # 35,

      on November 1st, 2013 at 3:15 am

      Hi Fran, many thanks for the test. I guess P is the Schoeps — or probably Q… may I have the key, please?

    36. Wilson said in post # 36,

      on January 11th, 2014 at 10:02 am

      Hi Fran, nice comparison. I am currently shopping for a pair of SDC’s for recording classical acoustic piano. I like P the most, with more presence and attack, more HF than the other two. O is nice too … relax and smooth. I guess Q is my least favorite … a bit opaque. But then my impression is hugely influenced by my playback system (generic computer sound card –> Yamaha HS5). If not too much trouble, please email me the key.
      Thanks!!

    37. Fran Guidry said in post # 37,

      on January 11th, 2014 at 2:27 pm

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. I’ve sent the key. This is rather a specialized comparison since I’m trying to match tonal balance in post.

      There are a couple of other mic comparisons on the site, but they’re all cardioids I think. It’s my understanding that the current preferred mic technique for classical piano is a pair of spaced omnis. This is the one that the guys in the classical section of Gearslutz like, and it’s the technique chosen by my buddy.

      All the best,
      Fran

    38. Felipe said in post # 38,

      on January 16th, 2014 at 2:37 pm

      Q = Schoeps
      P = Rode
      O = EQ Rode

      ???

    39. Fran Guidry said in post # 39,

      on January 16th, 2014 at 10:16 pm

      Thanks for visiting and commenting. I just sent you the key via email.

      Fran

    40. Haluk Kurosman said in post # 40,

      on March 12th, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      O: EQ Rode
      P= Schoeps
      Q: rode

    41. David Pardee said in post # 41,

      on March 14th, 2014 at 7:10 am

      O Rode
      P Schoeps
      Q eq Rode

      Pls send me key

    42. Fran Guidry said in post # 42,

      on March 16th, 2014 at 9:31 am

      David, I just sent the key via email.

      Fran

    43. Joe Key said in post # 43,

      on April 3rd, 2014 at 4:00 am

      Wow – I’d say:

      O Schoeps
      P Rode with EQ
      Q Rode

      Thanks,

      Joe

    44. Richard Ford said in post # 44,

      on April 17th, 2014 at 5:54 am

      My fave is P

      Pray tell which is which!!

    Leave a reply






    About the Blog

      Howdy, my name is Fran Guidry and this is my Homebrewed Music blog.

      I play Hawaiian slack key guitar and recorded my solo acoustic CD at home. Most of the recording information I find on the internet seems focused on bands, drums, multitracking, and so on but my main focus is recording solo acoustic guitar. Lately I’ve been enjoying video recording along with audio, so that shows up in the blog as well.

      I’m also a guitar nut. I love big ones and little ones, handmades and factory guitars, cheap ones and expensive ones. So I’ll be sharing the fun of exploring guitars as well, along with the challenges of amplifying acoustic guitars for live performance.

      Welcome!

    Philosophy

      My recording philosophy is pragmatic, skeptical, not super critical. After all, the performance is by far the most important component of a track, and every aspect of any recording is a matter of taste.

      But I do like to know “about stuff.” Back in hifi days I learned about double blind testing. I learned that we humans can easily hear differences that don’t really exist. The more I’ve learned about our human auditory system, the more I’m skeptical of what people say they hear, especially if they claim that a particular microphone or preamp or cable has some magical property.

      I’ve only been recording since 2001, and when I started I found the usual places on the internet. I sought advice and accepted it, thought I would improve my recordings by using more expensive equipment. It didn’t work.

      Two things that did seem to lead to better recordings were experience and room treatment. Getting an appealing sound is the combination of many small details, and learning those details only comes from experience. Amd the sound of the recording space is obviously a big factor.

      I’ve only recorded seriously using digital technology, but I remember trying to record rehearsals and gigs back in analog days. I don’t have any nostalgia for analog recording and playback systems at all. I think even low end digital systems can capture marvelous recordings. So when I look at gear, I look for good specs: low noise, broad flat frequency response, wide dynamic range, low distortion. I’m not interested in colorful components, mics and preamps with a sound, I want the sound to be the sound of my guitar.

      But the last word is that I’m just learning and I hope you find something useful in my posts.