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Author Topic: Rode K2  (Read 8118 times)

Glenn Bucci

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Rode K2
« on: August 13, 2010, 11:34:54 pm »

Rode K2:

Background information: Most high end studios have wonderful tube mics that are the envy of every project studio owner. The good news is due to newer technology, lower cost tubes mics are coming out of China by many companies that included Rode. With cheap labor in China, companies are able to manufacture improved sounding mic's at low costs. Rode, in wanting to be more compeitive - and to stand out from the pack - decided to move their manufacturing back to their home base in Australia.

Rode bought expensive high precision finishing machines and computer controlled metal lathes. Most of the mics are put together by automated machines, although some parts still need to be done by hand. Every mic is tested and has a 24 hour burn before it leaves the factory. With this format, they have much better quality control and with manufacturing a thousand at a time, they are able to keep their costs down.

Rode previoulsy released two low cost tube mics; the NTV and NTK. In wanting to improve on the NTK they used an improved capsule. To design a good capacitor capsule is extremely complex and very expensive. Many paramters are needed to consider from the diaphragm material, shape, thickness, and tension. There is also spacing on the back plate, signal connection, isolation dielectrics, polarizing voltage and damping arrangement. Not to mention rear chamber labyrinth, which affects the linearity of the off axis frequency response. I must say that the new K2 capsule design which is now also included in the NT2-A is a solid, very well built capsule in it's price range.

Once the capsule has been designed, it has to be mounted to a mic body. The grill size, and shape all come into play on the tonality of the capsule, there is the impedance converter circuitry, powering circuitry, and output circuitry, all of which affect the sound of the mic further.

The K2 circuitry includes the use of a 6922 dual triode tube, with a Class A configuration and holds the tube with a porcelain sockets with a plastic tube clip. A double layer stainless steel grille mesh is then installed on the mic which helps block radio frequencies while giving a attractive matte nickel plated finish. A good pop filter is highly recommended when recording vocals with it.

Another improvement over the NTK is having variable modes from Omni, figure-8, and caridiod, all which are controlled on the external power supply. The frequency range is 20Hz-20kHz, with no real peaks with the exception of one at 5 kHz in cardioid mode and a more subtle peak at 12 kHz in Omni mode. The signal to noise ratio is 81 dB, which is lower than many solid state mics.

Rode's founder, Peter Freeman, found the rejection rate of capsules is way down since the manufacturing days in China. The consistency between two mics are now so close, which can not be said about many Chinese mics. A six-milcron, gold evaporated Mylar diaphram are used as well as a secret process to age the mic to improve the precision.

The K2 is very well made for a mic in its price range, well thought out and has high quality control. But how does it sound? I compared the K2 against the AKG Solid Tube, Audio Technica 4060 and Rode NTK, all which are in similar price range (under $1,000). In comparison with the NTK, both give the subtle tube sound with the K2 having a slightly smoother top end. It also had less sibilance compared to the NTK. With a good shock mount included and not being a fixed cardioid-pattern as the other mic's, I found the K2 to be a real winner. It does not have a dark tube sound, or a tubby sound as with some inexpensive tube mics. Since it has more of an open and less colored sound, this mic can sound great on both male and female voices as well as other applications, including acoustic guitar, and wind instruments.

I found it gave a gentle smoothness to vocal and acoustic guitar tracks that my Blue Blueberry or Brauner Phantom mic could not give. The Solid Tube and 4060 both have a darker sound over the K2 though both had a nice sound; I feel their use would be more limited due to the stronger color character of both. Though this mic will not give you the sound of a high priced Neumann or Bock, the K2 is a mic that can be used successfully in many situations. The only thing I could find fault with is that the mic did not come in a nice wood box. But in order to keep cost down, they put the mic in a hard plastic case that included a cable, transformer, shock mount and mic. If you are looking for a nice sounding tube mic in the below $1,000 range,  I recommend checking out the K2.
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jetbase

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #1 on: August 15, 2010, 07:08:55 pm »

Hi Glenn, thanks for the review. I agree that the K2 sounds better than an AKG Solid Tube (I have no experience with the other mics you mention). I tried out the K2 last year when a studio owner of one of the studios I work criticised Rode mics in general in a mail out & the Rode sales rep then sent him out a K2 to try. I'll paste below my email to the studio owner reviewing my thoughts on the K2. I notice our thoughts on the K2 for acoustic guitar are quite different, perhaps it depends on the guitar. When I recorded with the K2 I used a Hux TC Pre (boutique solid state pre with Lundahl transformers), Urei LA4 (modified) compression & Prism AD124 conversion, no eq until mixdown. My review below also referenced the studio owner's original criticism which related to home studios using one, usually bottom of the range, Rode mic on everything.

Quote:

...As you probably know the K2 is back in your studio now. Jordy picked it up & borrowed my keys for his session on the weekend.
I gotta say I was a little disappointed in it.
I'm not saying it's a bad mic, or that it's not good value. I guess I was just expecting more. It sounds good on some things, bad on others, like a lot of mics, but it doesn't actually excel at anything that I tried it on. I have some mics that I picked up for 50 bucks here, 80 bucks there etc, that sound freakin' awesome on one or two things, so much so that I would use them first over expensive mics. But, whilst I wouldn't complain about having a K2 in my collection if someone gave it to me, I couldn't see it demanding to be used on anything in particular like these other mics I have.

Anyway, I used it on a 2 song project recently & I decided to persevere with it for most of the recording because I find it hard to judge these things well until I've mixed the results & heard how it all fits in. Here's what I used it on & what my thoughts on it are:

Drums overhead - Probably the most useful result in this project. Nice, clear even sound. Nothing particularly special, just neat & tidy.

Bass cab - Most potential IMO. I actually didn't end up using it in the mix (I used solely the DI), but it did make me want to try it on different bass rigs & players. It could actually be a really good bass mic, it just didn't suit for this particular recording which I don't think was the mic's fault in this case. If I was you I would be trying this out as much as possible (have you tried the Classics on bass btw? Have you tried the C12b's on bass yet for that matter?).

Acoustic guitar - I guess if someone held a gun to my head I might use this on acoustic guitar again. Then again, no - I would rather take my chances with the bullet. Actually, it would be a really good mic to demonstrate on acoustic guitar if you were trying to sell someone an equaliser.

Female vocalist - Generally too 'essy' & strident on the particular female vocalist I used it on. She is a bit 'essy' in the first place.

Female puppet vocals - Quiet good for character voices, which tend to be mid-rangey. The soft mids on this mic make for a more natural result. So maybe, if I owned this mic, it would be a first choice for puppets (which is a regular gig for me - I just have to remember to mic up the puppeteers mouth, not their hand).

Male vocalist - This particular male vocalist has quite a loud, harsh voice. I've had trouble over the years getting him to sound good & I find that the only mic that really seems to work for him is a Coles 4038, except that it's a bit darker than I would prefer. The soft mid-range on the K2 helps again here. It still sounded a touch harsh, but with more detail than the 4038. Somewhere in between the two mics would be perfect for this vocalist.

So there you go. I know Jordy tried it on electric guitar, so you might want to ask him about that. I think he thought it was ok.

I really do respect Rode & the general quality at their price point. But where they often suffer is when they are being used as the sole mic for an entire project. Lately I've mixed a lot of stuff where this is the case & it has a certain sound that builds up over the whole mix & sounds a bit harsh & unnatural. I think this is what you commented on isn't it?
It'd be nice if Rode produced for my clients some kind of affordable 'production pack' consisting of 3 mics - one of their condensers, a moving coil dynamic (providing it didn't sound 'hyped') & either a ribbon or perhaps just a darker or smoother condenser mic. IMO this would provide for more tonal balance over the recording of a project. I know that Simmo has advised along similar lines when being consulted about home studio set ups.
It'd also be nice if Rode came up with a really classy design as a flagship mic. I'm not saying I could afford to buy one, I just want something to be patriotic about. And, I could always afford to borrow one. Smile

Cheers,
Glenn

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Tim Halligan

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #2 on: August 15, 2010, 10:56:00 pm »

jetbase wrote on Mon, 16 August 2010 07:08


It'd also be nice if Rode came up with a really classy design as a flagship mic. I'm not saying I could afford to buy one, I just want something to be patriotic about.



I want to like Rode...just for the patriotism factor alone...but the truth is I've never heard a Rode mic that didn't suck.

I want to investigate Beezneez mics and see if they could fit the bill.

Cheers,
Tim
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jetbase

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #3 on: August 15, 2010, 11:18:20 pm »

Tim Halligan wrote on Mon, 16 August 2010 12:56

jetbase wrote on Mon, 16 August 2010 07:08


It'd also be nice if Rode came up with a really classy design as a flagship mic. I'm not saying I could afford to buy one, I just want something to be patriotic about.



I want to like Rode...just for the patriotism factor alone...but the truth is I've never heard a Rode mic that didn't suck.

I want to investigate Beezneez mics and see if they could fit the bill.

Cheers,
Tim


Hi Tim, I recently bought a Beesneez Jade (their lowest priced mic) with a K7 capsule. I've only tried it on female vocals so far & it did very well. It sounds quite natural, particularly in the top end where so many budget mics seem to get ugly. I'm looking forward to trying it on more sources. I have male vocals coming up next & later in the month will have the opportunity to try it on drums, bass, percussion, acoustic & electric guitars, so perhaps I could post my thoughts on this mic later in the year.

If they are compatible it would be interesting to hear a Rode valve mic with a Beesneez capsule. FWIW I personally don't think Rode mics "suck", at least the ones higher up in their range don't. It's just that they seem to be not quite 'there'. I know Dave Peach, formerly of Peach Audio, now works full time for Rode. I have no idea what he's working on but I'm very interested to find out what kind of developments he makes to the Rode range.

Cheers,
G
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Glenn Bucci

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #4 on: August 15, 2010, 11:38:54 pm »

Regarding the K2 on an acoustic, I tried it on a Taylor guitar with a Beatle-ish type of song going through a Langevin DVC mic pre. Depending on the mic distance from the floor, the low end changes of course. I found the sweetspot and it actually sounded best in the figure of 8 mode.  Like you said, on some vocalist the k2 works and others it does not...just like many other mic's. It's not my favorite mic in my locker, but it beat out some high end mic's on an alto and tenor singer that do not have silibant issues generally.
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deville

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #5 on: September 03, 2010, 09:11:37 pm »


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deville

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #6 on: September 03, 2010, 09:18:35 pm »

I would be curious to hear the difference between your Jade with the K-7 and mine with the K-47. Ben offered me an "upgrade" to a new power supply and a K-7 capsule (for a price of course) which I couldn't afford at the time so I didn't do it. Maybe you would like to review the K-7 Jade in the Acid Test forum. Oh, and it would be interesting to hear a Rode with a Beesneez capsule in it as well.
\
jetbase wrote on Sun, 15 August 2010 21:18

Tim Halligan wrote on Mon, 16 August 2010 12:56

jetbase wrote on Mon, 16 August 2010 07:08


It'd also be nice if Rode came up with a really classy design as a flagship mic. I'm not saying I could afford to buy one, I just want something to be patriotic about.



I want to like Rode...just for the patriotism factor alone...but the truth is I've never heard a Rode mic that didn't suck.

I want to investigate Beezneez mics and see if they could fit the bill.

Cheers,
Tim


Hi Tim, I recently bought a Beesneez Jade (their lowest priced mic) with a K7 capsule. I've only tried it on female vocals so far & it did very well. It sounds quite natural, particularly in the top end where so many budget mics seem to get ugly. I'm looking forward to trying it on more sources. I have male vocals coming up next & later in the month will have the opportunity to try it on drums, bass, percussion, acoustic & electric guitars, so perhaps I could post my thoughts on this mic later in the year.

If they are compatible it would be interesting to hear a Rode valve mic with a Beesneez capsule. FWIW I personally don't think Rode mics "suck", at least the ones higher up in their range don't. It's just that they seem to be not quite 'there'. I know Dave Peach, formerly of Peach Audio, now works full time for Rode. I have no idea what he's working on but I'm very interested to find out what kind of developments he makes to the Rode range.

Cheers,
G

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jetbase

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #7 on: September 05, 2010, 08:50:45 pm »

Hi deville. I'll write a review on the Jade w/K7 in about a month (or less) once I've finished tracking & mixing a current project.

Glenn, thanks again for the info. If I'm ever using the K2 again on acoustic I'll try fig-8.
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Michael_Joly

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #8 on: September 07, 2010, 09:38:46 pm »

Glenn Bucci wrote on Fri, 13 August 2010 22:34

...If you are looking for a nice sounding tube mic in the below $1,000 range,  I recommend checking out the K2.


That's interesting. Because I receive a regular supply of K2, NTV, and NTK (plus FET mics like the NT1000, NT1 and NT1A) for modification. While RODE has terrific industrial design and circuit implementation their capsules have a very consistently bright voicing many folks grow tired of and seek to re-voice.
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Hallams

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #9 on: September 08, 2010, 06:29:31 am »

Of those three, the K2, NTV,and NTK, i do think the K2 is not as brightly voiced as the other two.
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Tomas Danko

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #10 on: September 09, 2010, 11:20:46 am »

Michael_Joly wrote on Wed, 08 September 2010 02:38

Glenn Bucci wrote on Fri, 13 August 2010 22:34

...If you are looking for a nice sounding tube mic in the below $1,000 range,  I recommend checking out the K2.


That's interesting. Because I receive a regular supply of K2, NTV, and NTK (plus FET mics like the NT1000, NT1 and NT1A) for modification. While RODE has terrific industrial design and circuit implementation their capsules have a very consistently bright voicing many folks grow tired of and seek to re-voice.



I couple the K2 with API mic preamps and dial the pickup pattern a tad towards figure-of-eight (i.e. 1 o clock). Since the high end of the K2 is a lot cleaner and less strident/hissy compared to the NTK (especially), what I get is a very open and clear sound and not at all bright.

As a matter of fact, I've never needed any EQ (besides lo-cut sometimes) during post on any project where I've used the K2 for VO. It just sounds right in context from the get go.

I feel that a K2, and even more so with the NTK, feeding something such as a Focusrite Platinum or Producer Pack mic preamp will give you exactly that bright and tiresome sound. But with a proper high quality mic preamp, it's not an issue IMHO.
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Gustav

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #11 on: September 09, 2010, 05:14:02 pm »

A link, look at the PCB markings
http://www.diyfactory.com/projects/gus/ntkmods.htm
This is from some time ago and I would not do the same changes now.

When I changed caps in my K2 I changed C9 and a few of the electros.
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Didier Brest

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Re: Rode K2
« Reply #12 on: January 10, 2011, 06:03:32 pm »

I found the K2 being nicely brighter than most of my other mics.
A shoot-out between the K2, the FLEA 49 and the Brauner Valvet here.
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