First Listen: sE Electronics & Rupert Neve Designs RNT Microphone

sE Electronics and Rupert Neve Designs' brand new RNT tube condenser microphone is the third mic in a collaboration series between the two brands. It is pure class-A and fully discrete in both stages of the microphone. On the large, very retro looking power supply, you have the option to choose between nine polar patterns including omni, cardioid, figure eight and everything in between.

The first stage of the microphone is the tube based section and includes an ultra-low noise ECC82 tube in the microphone chassis, as well as a custom-built RND output transformer. The Class-A circuitry helps provide a wide dynamic range and highest SPL possible while maintaining the lowest noise-floor. The diaphragm, tube and internal workings of the microphone are encased in a durable all-metal chassis, all constructed by hand in the sE factory.

The second stage of the microphone happens in the power supply. Through the power supply, you can select your polar pattern, two high pass filters at 40Hz and 80Hz and three gain staging options. The standard gain staging is at 0dB, which I found to be quite a bit of gain compared to a normal tube condenser. +12dB is a good option for sources that are very soft and intimate, -12dB works great with a louder vocalist, closer drum microphone or electric guitar amplifier.

The op-amps used throughout the RNT are the same custom amp used in Rupert Neve Designs’ flagship 5088 recording console. The 5088 is known throughout the recording industry as one of the best consoles ever made. It has extremely high headroom, full low end and pristine clarity in the higher frequencies. In order to provide the best signal path possible, a second custom RND output transformer has been implemented into this stage.

Want to hear the sE Electronics and Rupert Neve Designs RNT microphone in use? Watch below as Bryan Reilly demos the RNT on vocals, acoustic guitar and drums, then continue reading to learn about the microphone's performance during the recording session.

 

Vocals
This was my first experience with the RNT. Fresh out of the box, I set up the microphone in the live room at the 45 Factory and had our friend Ali Shea come in and sing. I had the gain on the power supply set to 0dB with a cardioid polar pattern. I used a Shadow Hills GAMA preamp through the nickel transformer followed by an UnderTone Audio UnFairchild.

Ali has a powerful voice, even when she’s singing delicately it fills up the room. As she was singing I started to mess around with the gain on the Shadow Hills preamp, I quickly noticed that very little gain was required to hit the sweet spot. She prefers to be a little off the mic, so there wasn’t a crazy amount of low end due to the lack of proximity effect. Her voice also has a slight natural breakup to it, almost as if the preamp is being oversaturated.

I was hearing a little bit of saturation through our AE1 monitors, so I thought I’d switch the gain staging on the RNT's power supply. After engaging the -12dB switch, I went back into the control room to re-dial in the sound. I found I had much more control of the preamp with the pad engaged, but it changed the sound a bit. I couldn’t quite get it back to the fuller sound I had on 0dB, so I went back into the live room and changed it back.

Although I was getting a little bit of breakup between the microphone and the preamp, I thought it was the best choice for Ali’s vocal style. One of the characteristics I noticed right off the bat is the RNT has an exaggerated high frequency response, similar to the sound of an AKG C12. Without any added EQ, the natural sound of the RNT is as bright as a vocal needs to be.

The RNT did a great job on this vocal example, but I think it would perform even better when used on a male or female vocal in a lower register. The RNT has a great low end response and very detailed high end response, which would cater well to a vocalist that primarily sings that way.

Mono Drum Room
The second way I used the RNT was as a mono drum room. For the close microphones, I used a pair of Mesanovic Model 2 ribbon mics in a Blumlein pattern as the overheads, an SM57 for the snare top and a Neumann U47 FET on the outside of the kick. All microphones, including the RNT were running through our Shadow Hills GAMA preamps on the nickel setting. The close microphones were also running through API 550As.

I set up the RNT about eight feet away from the kit with an omni polar pattern. In the video example, we start off with just the close microphones and turn on the RNT about halfway through. I have to say, the RNT might be one of the best mono room mics I’ve ever used.

The raw drum example sounded great, the 45 Factory has some of the best treatment of any live room I’ve had the pleasure of working in and the Tree Audio Roots console has this magic ability to glue all the channels together. Once the RNT comes into the mix, the overall sound and image of the kit opens up.

As I mentioned earlier in the vocal example, the RNT is inherently bright, which worked great to extenuate the ambience of the room. The brightness of the mic brought the drum tone to life, as it added a little bit of sizzle and air around the close microphones. The high hats and snare began to pop and the kick got some added snap to the attack. Even with the added brightness, the cymbals didn’t become overbearing at all, as the high end of the RNT is very smooth. The low end of the kit filled out a bit as well. There was some meat added to the kick, snare and toms, and full-bodied ambience of the room tone.

There’s a handful of mics I enjoy using for a mono drum room including the Neumann U47, AKG 414, Aston Spirit, Townsend Labs Sphere, Sony C800G and Soyuz SU-017. The RNT held up to all of them and might be my new favorite. With no added EQ or compression, the RNT was doing exactly what I wanted it to do all on its own.

Acoustic Guitar
As I always end up saying, acoustic guitar is one of my favorite sources for testing a new microphone. There is so much information happening across the entire frequency spectrum, as well as percussive elements, the mic needs to be smooth and exciting all at the same time.

I plugged the RNT into a Shadow Hills GAMA preamp on the nickel setting, the print ended up having a +2dB bump at 80Hz from the onboard Tree Audio Roots shelf EQ, but no added compression. I used a cardioid polar pattern and placed the RNT a few inches away angled in somewhere between the sound hole and the 12th fret.

Acoustic guitar and the RNT are a match made in heaven. The bright quality of the mic did an excellent job of capturing the percussive elements and harmonic overtones without sounding thin, harsh or brittle. The low end and body were pure and full without becoming muddy, even without the use of a HPF and the added +2dB bump from the console EQ.

The RNT made the acoustic sing, which is always what I’m looking for. When you can achieve that type of sound without any surgical EQ on the first positioning of the microphone, you know you have a winner. I highly recommend giving the RNT a shot if you record a lot of acoustic music. It’s hands down one of best sounding mics I’ve used on an acoustic guitar and was so easy to dial in a “finished mix” tone.

It was a pleasure using the RNT on all these examples. The collaboration between sE and Rupert Neve Designs has been right on the money, as every mic they put out together just keeps getting better and better. The RNT is listed at $3,249, a great price point for how versatile the sound is, the quality of construction, the custom RND output transformers and various polar patterns.

This would be a great choice for someone buying their first high-quality mic to use on every source. From vocal to drums, you can’t really go wrong. It could also add a fresh new sound to a mic locker full of the most sought-after mics, as the RNT has a beautiful sound all its own.

If you're interested in learning more about this new microphone from sE and Rupert Neve Designs or would like to order your own RNT, please feel free to contact our team of Audio Consultants via email or by phone at 888.653.1184.  

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