Røde''s S1 features a tapered housing and five layers of protective mesh as well as a frequency response that minimizes rumble and proximity effect.
Røde, the studio mic company from Australia, has stepped up on stage with the S1 ($599), the company's first live-performance mic. The new handheld condenser is designed specifically for live vocal applications but boasts studio-quality sound. The S1 features a tight supercardioid pickup pattern for combating feedback and bleed. The mic is built to reduce handling noise and plosives and has a frequency response tailored to minimize rumble and proximity effect.
The S1 has a sleek profile and is bound to make the performing vocalist feel classy. The mic's satin nickel finish gives it a polished look that sets it apart from the common assortment of sound-reinforcement transducers. It also features a durable, easy-grip design. The elegantly tapered housing flairs slightly at its base, and a five-layer rounded fortress of mesh protects the delicate capsule inside from particles and external buffeting. This woven high-strength grille forms an effective pop filter for the sensitive element. The head twists off to reveal the small diaphragm capsule, which is secured in a rubber mounting that helps to isolate it from the rest of the housing and reduce handling noise. A steep frequency response rolloff below 100 Hz also serves to negate structure-borne noise and control proximity effect. The mic comes with a carrying pouch and stand adapter and carries a generous five-year warranty that covers even accidental damage.
Stage and Studio
I tested the S1 on vocals and electric guitar during live performances and studio sessions to see how the mic fared on vocals, trumpet, guitars, drum overheads, and percussion. I used preamps that included a Mackie 1202-VLZ, a Crest V12 live console, and an M-Audio Octane. The sessions were held at Ex'pression College for Digital Arts, Sound Arts Student Assaf Lotan's project studio, and my own home studio. The S1 sounded fantastic on stage and proved its mettle in the studio over a range of applications. In its dedicated assignment as a vocal mic, the S1 performed like a champ both onstage and in the studio. The sound was remarkably smooth, present, and clear. The live-sound instructors at Ex'pression admired the tight, clean response and the mic's excellent gain before feedback. Eric March, the vocalist for the band Jingle Punx was disappointed by the steep low-end rolloff because he liked to make use of the low-end boost from proximity effect, but he appreciated the way the vocals cut through the mix without sounding harsh or brittle. The S1's frequency response shows a presence boost around 4 kHz and another rise centered at -approximately 12 kHz. That accentuated airiness enhanced a softer female vocal, giving it presence and definition. Recording a trumpet in a jazz quintet during a single-room session was easy with the S1 because of the mic's excellent off-axis rejection and high SPL-handling capabilities. The trumpet track sounded clear and bright with very little bleed from other instruments in the room (including a drum set). So effective is the integrated plosive screening that no pop filter was needed. The S1 wasn't full in the low mids as I prefer with both nylon- and steel-string acoustic guitar, but the mic did capture a sparkly and detailed sound while recording both guitar types. The S1 shone with electric guitar in the studio and on the live sessions. Its dip in the lows and enhanced airiness gave the guitars plenty of cut and definition in a dense mix. The mic's brightness and clarity also worked well to represent shakers and claves. Since I received a pair of S1s for testing, I tried them out as drum overheads. The tight pattern enhanced stereo separation and focused on the source without picking up a lot of room sound the way a broader-pattern mic would. While the mics were a bit on the bright side for the brilliant Paiste cymbals used on the session, they brought out a pleasing crispness and definition from the drum set. The S1 could definitely help out a darker-sounding drum/cymbal setup by enhancing the attack.
The Røde S1 is road ready and excels as a top-quality live-vocal mic. But the S1 is also a versatile studio mic for vocals and for other applications. Bright but not brittle, the S1 sounds smooth, airy, and clean. For a $599 list price, the S1 offers a great onstage vocal sound and makes an easy transition to the studio. With its great off-axis rejection, excellent plosive control, crisply defined sound, and sleek appearance, the S1 will add class and versatility to any mic cabinet.