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audio example of ribbon mic on vocals

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by DonnyThompson, Dec 14, 2012.

  1. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Lots of talk regarding ribbon mics these past few weeks, I thought I'd post an audio example of the sound of a ribbon on my voice.

    I chose to write a track that would be reminscent of when these mics were used in their heyday - kind of a jazzy/pop standard thing.

    For this track, I borrowed an RCA 44BX for the vocals on this one.

    Pre amp was a Grace Model 101.

    All instruments are the real thing with the exception of the Strings and the B3, which were both soft synths from Native and Garritan.

    Special thanks to Ed McGlaughlin on upright bass, and to Jamester for a great 335 guitar track.

  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

  3. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Thanks, audiokid.

    I appreciate you taking the time to listen. :)

    It was a fun track to work on, anytime I can work with real players with real instruments, it takes things to a different level.

    Sometimes I get so bogged down in the virtual soft-synth / instrument world, or doing all the overdubs myself, that I think the feeling in the music gets lost from time to time.

    very little overdubs were done, while I didn't dislike my original tracking cue vocal, I did end up re-tracking it, as I was kind of writing the part as I went along.

    **edit here: I remember now that I did in fact overdub this several times... this was a month before I had throat surgery to remove nodes on my vocal chords, so there are parts that needed fixed because of vocal breaking

    The RCA microphone was borrowed, a dear friend of mine was happy to oblige - as long as I put my house and wife up as collateral. LOL

    It didn't take long to dial up the tone I was after, it was pretty much immediate, and with the exception of a little top-end presence boost to get more of the "air" that I wanted, along with grabbing the rasp that is inherant in my voice, it was pretty much an "instant" tone thing from the get go.

    I don't own the Grace preamp either, that was also borrowed... but I was very happy with the results.

    Thanks again for listening. :)
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    That's an understatement!

    Many of us do it like that now. A DAW has made writing so easy. The ease of capturing the emotional content as it comes out has been the best part of our DAW domain. What a tool for composers and song writing.

    I can see the wife going but the HOUSE! ...

    One of my goals is to track and entire project all with ribbons. I love them.

    Thanks for sharing this. Nice to have you with us on RO!
  5. mberry593

    mberry593 Active Member

    Excellent! Not just the vocal mic sound but the entire thing. Thank you for sharing this with us.

    I would not have guessed that it was a 44. I would expect a 44 to sound darker than this.

    FWIW, I have been using a 77D recently. I have had an old one kicking around here for a long time. Last spring, I sent it to AEA for a new ribbon. When I got it back, I was very pleasantly surprised at how good it sounds. My wife sings & I had been using an AT3035 for her. We both prefer the 77D. Most of the time I don't use any eq other than a high-pass.

    I also have had some very good results recently using a BK-5 on brass (a bugle).

    I don't have a 44 and it has been over 40 years since the last time I worked with one. I believe that the 44 has a larger ribbon than my 77D & BK5. I would love to try one sometime.
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Just an assumption on the mastering, but another reason ribbons are so awesome is they take EQ well right to the mastering stage. I can clearly hear that the mastering added a nice sizzle to the top end without creating the ess'y characteristics that often come from condensers.
  7. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    That's a great observation... and one I hadn't made myself.

    I am lucky enough to know a very talented Mastering Engineer. I don't know exactly what he did on the track EQ wise, but I was very happy with the results ...I'm not an M.E. in any way, shape or form LOL so I sent it to a real guy. I know that he did mention that he enjoyed working on the track.

    Well your guess - as well as your ears - is actually right on the money. It did sound much darker on the original unprocessed track.

    I didn't have a variety of ribbon mics to choose from, LOL... so I used the only one I had at my disposal.

    I ended up adding quite a bit in the 3-4k area for presence. Don't get me wrong, I loved the dark sound of the original track... but, I wanted to get a little more presence to grab the rasp in my voice (it's inherent) without having to sacrifice the warmth at the same time. The thing I loved about working with that mic is that I was able to add the presence, without - as audiokid mentioned - adding harshness or sibilance at the same time.
    If I had used the same EQ sculpting on a condenser that I did on the ribbon, I'm positive it would have ended up brittle and harsh.

    I almost ended up tracking this with a condenser. The ribbon was kind of a last minute thing...and since I had a friend who had one, I went that route. In the end I was very glad I did.

    I've never used the BK5, although I've seen it used many times. Can you share what your mic technique was when you recorded the bugle, as far as placement and distance? Would it be a hassle for you to post a sample? I'd love to hear how a ribbon sounds on a brass instrument.

    If budget would allow, I'd love to have a whole collection of ribbons. As the years have gone by I find I like the sound of them much more than most industry standard condensers, at least for what I do musically.

    I'm not going to throw out my U89 or my 414's, but I sure do love the warmth and silk of ribbon mics. ;)

    Thanks again for taking the time to listen, guys.

  8. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    Grr i need to update my browser to use soundcloud now days.
  9. RemyRAD

    RemyRAD Well-Known Member

    Donny that was absolutely fabulous, beautiful. What recording and the art of recording is all about when you leave out all of the science blah blah, superior specifications, ultimate clarity cleanliness BS. Now listen to these tracks good kids because this guy knows what he's doing and this is what it is all about! This is real audio engineering. This is real talent. This takes real practice and real work and is not accomplished by a single plug-in. And this is why there has been such a huge resurgence of ribbon microphone technology. The oldest high quality microphone technology, in existence. A microphone technology created around 1928. Even before we had electrical recording capabilities. It's like hearing a fine violin on the Mozart fourth violin Concerto and not a Stratocaster with a tube Fender. Which might in its own right, sound interesting but highly unorthodox in its delivery method. Especially as a solo instrument in front of an 80 piece orchestra. That would sound like...? Well I would sound like most of the recordings I hear everybody else trying to make with their Chinese condenser microphones and somebody's $150 lollipop USB computer audio interface that was on sale. You don't get these kinds of recordings that way.

    That's what I've been trying to tell everybody since we got PCM digital recording back in the early 1980s! The condenser microphones were far more important for cutting into lacquer and rolling on analog tape. And with digital, I feel it's important to throw the baby out with the bathwater LOL.

    Yeah, I was wondering where that top end came from on your BK 44? And it was the mastering engineer, very nice. And yes, the 44 is quite a bit darker than a short geometry 77 or Beyer M-130/160. The sound of your 44 on that track made me think it may have been an active one? Lots of folks doing interesting mods today ya know?

    Conversely and without any Mastering Engineer, I got this with a Omni 414, after midnight, without headphones, with a cue speaker, on the gravel in front of the garage and behind my truck LOL. This had been an all day tracking and overdubbing event in this guys two-car garage and was used as the garage and never a studio. And the only difference between this and the new Foo Fighters release is the DA-88's instead of the Studer. And all first-generation 16-bit converters. Which gives it that nice rasp (inherent in 16-bit, 44.1 kHz) LOL.

    So mine sounds like this from 1993 on a 414 vocal microphone with old-school all transistor microphone preamps and all going through a VCA before it hits the two track bus. And even that's going through a VCA LOL.

    These of course are MP3's from the.wav Masters that were transferred on an Digi design Audio Media III card back in 1996, via early useless software. And this was mixed at the end of the tracking session when I was quite burnt out. We tracked, overdubbed, mixed, all within 16+ hours, an entire album. And these are a couple of cuts.

    And there should be a second cut also from the same session. This is all analog except for the PCM recording and storage.
    Mx. Remy Ann David
  10. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Yup. Been there, done that, although I wouldn't recommend it. LOL

    Thanks for the kind words Remy, I really appreciate your feedback and taking the time to listen.

    I really enjoyed the audio you posted... the first thing that struck me was the separation that you managed without it sounding separated.
    (I know that may sound like a confusing statement to some, but I know you get what I mean)...Nice definition, and very nicely all glued together... I'm assuming, besides your skills as a cooker, that the 1176 and the dbx 165's played a part in that... ( I loved those 165's... thumb)

    So here's what I'm thinking...

    The ribbon mic I used on that track wasn't mine...it was borrowed from a friend. I've been out of the 24/7/365 side of the biz for so long now, I've kinda lost track with what's hot and what the best bang for the buck is in regard to newer mics, especially ribbons.

    If I was looking at spending around $600 for a ribbon that's primary use would be my vocals (but also well rounded enough to do acoustic, electric and nylon guitars, as well as other other uses like ambient/room miking), based on what you heard vocally in the song I posted, what would be your recommendation, or am I being foolish to think that I could get what I want for that price?

    Also, I know that nearly all the old vintage ribbons were Figure 8, is that still the case or has that changed?

    I guess my question is, What ribbon you would get if you had around $600 to spend, or ...would you wait til you had more $ than that?

  11. mberry593

    mberry593 Active Member

    The microphone was approx. 3' from the bugle. The room was fairly dead. The microphone was pointed at the instrument and at an angle of about 45 degrees from the axis of the instrument.....I tried to place it so that it was not directly in the path of the sound coming from the horn.

    I'm sorry, I can't share the track at this time.

    I should also add that when I say that I got good results what I really mean is that it sounded good to me without using a lot of equalization.

    Again, thank you for sharing your excellent performance.
  12. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Hey Donny,
    I had a few hours to mess around in the studio today so I thought it would be fun to load your beautiful song into my hybrid rig and tweak it for about 5 mins total. Makes good conversation to say the least and I'm an aspiring "something in this business" so I do all I can to improve my skills.

    I heard some things the other day in the mix and thought they would be fun to try and fix. I am a big fan of George Benson. I studied his playing for years. Man, you have his sound down on this! I love the riff you do in this.
    Anyway, I felt there was too much sizzle around 12k, a dip in the mids that IMHO, took out important energy in the whole song and a bit of a howl in the 270hz area so I tweaked, ran it through my analog rig and have it online if you are interested?

    Since we are talking about ribbons, as mentioned a few posts back, I feel there was about 8db of extra top end on the Vox that I would have not added on the ribbon but whats remarkable, if this was a condenser, it would be ripping our ears big time. Ribbons are the greatest and I think everyone should have a few in the locker.
    I pulled out 6db in the recording and there is still too much info there. Not sure where its all coming from but I thought it would be interesting to talk about it.
  13. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Absolutely! Upload it!
  14. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    bummer, I can't access soundcloud all of a sudden, can you?
  15. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    No problem accessing it here, tree.
  16. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    working now. stand bye...
  17. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    I'll check back later... I had back surgery yesterday so I can only sit in this position for so long, but I really do look forward to hearing what you've done with it. ;)
  18. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Here the first one that was simply eq'd a bit. I used a Fabfilter Pro L on it. I've been playing with this for a week, its the best limiter I've found so far. Just posting this as a FYI. It does kill some transients but overall, its pretty impressive. Most limiters I'm tried don't get close to this one. I think the next best would the the Weiss DS1 which is 8 grand. This is 250 bucks lol.

    Got to run. I'll post a few loops after I make supper.

    Also Note the area near the end, lyrics: How much "I miss you" everyday. 1:34 ) I was able to clean that one hot spot up quite a bit without effecting the rest of the track. Sequoia 12 is incredible software.
  19. pan60

    pan60 Active Member

    I have not been able to for a few day maybe a week now.
    I get a message telling me I need to upgrade my browser.
    Not something I am willing to do at this time.
    : (
  20. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    That sucks Pan! It came back on for me right away. Soundcloud upgraded their system, and its way better! You can compare tracks side by side now without reloading them back and forth. For me, this is a big step forward. Its a lot smother too.

    FWIW, I notice the newer browsers utilize java better. These are interactive functions that you don't know are missing or see on older browsers.

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