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Best preamp for R84 ribbon

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by StevenGurg, Nov 24, 2004.

  1. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    I just purchased an AEA R84DJV (voiceover version) ribbon mic and discovered that my preamps cannot develop enough gain. Part of the problem is that I do softly spoken word recordings (medical hypnosis applications) and the quiet source needs lots of clean, quiet gain. I have a Universal Audio 6176, and even using both the 610 and the 1176LN sides, the noise level is way too high for the material recorded. In fact, the 610 by itself cannot deliver enough to record above -25db.
    I would love your opinion(s) about which preamps would be best for quiet source material into an R84 ribbon microphone. Some suggested to me have been: Great River, DW Fearn, Grace, FetCode, Millennia, and Pendulum.
    Ordinarily, I would just fall back on my trusty RE20 or Rode NTK... but the R84 is so captivating and lovely... just lending itself to spoken clinical hypnosis. I am grateful for your advice on how to lower the noise.
    thank you all.
    Steven G
  2. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    I would go for the Great River ME-1NV.
    I use it with my R84's and they match up quite well. The GR has an impedance switch that makes it a good match with ribbons.

  3. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    Thank you, Chris. I have been doing some internet searching and found a couple of other preamps that look promising for what I do with spoken word recordings and the R84. They are the Millennia HV-3B, and the Buzz MA2.2.
    I am also looking into examining the wiring in my project studio to reduce noises inherent in the circuitry. And I have also discovered, by trial and error, that my Apogee PSX-100SE and the 610 side of my UA6176 don't play well together; that is, they hum only with each other.
    I would like to get my studio in the best order for the quiet source recording I do with spoken word, and welcome any and all advice and suggestions for using the R84 ribbon and lowering noise.
    Steve G
  4. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Hey Steven, could you drop me an email, I have a question for you regarding your specialty?


  5. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    It has been my experience with 'spoken word' that while you want a clarity of tone, which both the HV-3 and the Buzz will provide, you will also want a bit of excitement and "larger than life" which neither of those will provide.

    As Chris mentioned the Great River ME-1NV is a good choice for the 'larger than life' thing as is the Speck 5.0 and maybe the Manley Mono Mic Pre.

    Best of luck with your search.
  6. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    Thank you, Fletcher. I value your opinion. I remember your statements about the STT-1 being the most boring preamp you heard. My problem is that my source is very quiet. The spoken word I am doing are applications of medical hypnosis... soft, soothing, help-you-into-trance material. And my current setup, UA6176 is great with my RE20 ro Rode NTK, but way too much noise with the R84DJV. I didn't think that my quiet source material would make that much of a difference, but it does; much more than I would have thought. Using the UA6176 I have to use the +10 gain which gives too much distortion for this work. Wes Dooley suggested that I consider a Forssell FetCode for low noise and high gain. Others have suggested the STT-1 with +78dB gain option for the same reason. Fletcher, you have experience with the R84. Do you think that the ME-1NV can supply enough quiet gain? I am not looking for the larger-than-life sound for the medical hypnosis recordings. For that, I am considering one of your DW Fearn's. Thank you for your advice.
  7. RecorderMan

    RecorderMan Distinguished Member

    a ribbon mic isn't the best choice for something very soft. I'd stick with the RE20 or get a Condenser.
  8. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    RecorderMan... your advice is sound. And my RE20 and Rod NTK do a great job for me. But, you know how it is, I got this lovely sounding mic from Wes... a special voiceover version noless, and it sounds so lovely with voice. Even with the cleanest, most transparent preamp, the R84DJV has a sound you just fall in love with. Part of it is the fact that you can get 2 inches from this version and there is little, if any, proximity effect and the sound is so mellow. In short, I have become obsessed with how to make this work for me. And again, your advice is sound (pun intended).
    Steve G
  9. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Ribbon mics are great for VO work... they often get a wonderfully deep and substansive character that reinforces the spoken work.

    The Forssell stuff is great!!

    The Pendulum Audio "Quartet" is about the same price as the STT-1 but way more expressive and in no means even remotely boring [clean as a whistle, but with an expression of emotion with all the tools you could require for a little "sweetening"... along with a ton of very clean and clear low noise gain].

    The Speck [for a scant $700-] is still in my opinion an option worthy of exploration and the Manley still doesn't suck... I didn't know the budget range you were in... but if you're also in the Fearn regions of financial outlay you might want to take a gander at the Martech "MSS-10"... it's one of the largest clearest sounding things while reinforcing the beauty and emotion of a sound I have ever experienced... between that and the Fearn... it's like trying to choose between which super model you'd like to sleep with... either one is a dream come true.
  10. maintiger

    maintiger Well-Known Member

    I have an old RCA D77 and I use it with a hi gain model grace 101 and I get wonderful results. I've used it for voice overs and narrations and I tell you no one beats my 77 for that! Since your R84 is supposed to be a clone of the 77 I don't see why you could not get the same kind of results as I do with a grace 101- Make sure you get the hi gain version, though. And it will only set you back $600 or so... I mean, is not about the money, its about results... or is it? 8)
  11. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    I dare say that the R-84 is not a "clone" of a 77-DX. Similar in shape, but not that similar in construction nor tone. I don't ever recall the R-84 being marketed as a "clone" but as it's own microphone with it's own character.

    FWIW, I have found the Grace stuff a bit "hard" sounding for my taste in general... but that could be a plus when using a ribbon mic on a VO.
  12. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    I agree that the R84 is different from the RCA 77, but I am delighted to hear that I am not the only one using a ribbon for spoken word recording.
    I have been experimenting with the R84 and Wes suggested that I get right on top of the mic as the DJV model I have allows it. And it does. I find that I can get 6-8 inches from the mic without proximity effect and my 6176 (with +5gain and max input on 610; and 5-input and 9 output on 1176) will produce a lovely sound with noise at -48 to -51dB. Without running the signal through the 1176, it lacks the color and warmth. I assume that is what Fletcher means about the lackluster of the STT-1 and the advice about looking at the MSS-10 or the Pendulum or Fearn.
    Reading about AC noise, ground hums, isolating sources of interference are a must for me now if I keep my desire to use the R84 for soft spoken word.
    I greatly appreciate the advice about the Martech.MSS-10 and the Pendulum Quartet. Actually the Mercenary version is more appealing. I am researching those models at present.
    Again, I am very grateful for the wonderful suggestions from such knowledgable and experienced individuals.
    Steve G
  13. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    OK... now I am stumped. In my explorations to find the best match for my R84DJV ribbon mic, I have encountered a mystery. For a nameless (for now) preamp, when using the ribbon (R84DJV) or dynamic mics (RE20, Beta58), I experience a very annoying hum and noise, which is present at low and high gain, with and without transformer (but greater with xfmr), tube or solid state, regular or DC input. But when I use a self-powered (MXL or Rode NTK) or condenser mic there is no noise or hum, even at the highest gain settings. I moved the preamp to a different circuit, isolated it from the rack and other equipment, matched cables and tried other cables, and it makes no difference. The ribbon and dynamic mics are too noisy; and the condenser or self-powered are quiet, noiseless and sound great. And again, the amount of gain has only a small or slight effect on the hum and noise.
    Any ideas?
  14. LittleDogAudio

    LittleDogAudio Active Member

    Is the mic placed near a computer screen?
    Does the hum change if you slowly rotate the mic while listening?

  15. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    Thanks Chris. No, I have moved the mic around the room and listen to the sounds. The only time I could hear alterations to the "hum/noise" was when I would move the mic very close to the preamp or converter. I noted that near the power supply in the preamp (or converter) the hum would modulate and if I reversed the phase it would increase or decrease in volume in specific locations of the magnetic field. But, even getting next to the flat panel monitor, the amplified speaker/monitor, or elsewhere (10' away) in the room didn't really effect the hum. Now, if I plug the same mic into another preamp in the rack, there is no hum... only when plugged into one of them. It has me baffled. Usually, it is the dynamic or ribbons that are quiet, but not in this case. Thank you for asking that question, Chris. I spent a half hour experimenting with the mic and location before responding with this response.
    Steve G
  16. anonymous

    anonymous Guests

    Your getting stray field radiation into the output transformer of the mic... move it away from the power transformer in the power supply of the pre and the converter and you should be fine.
  17. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    Thank you, Fletcher. I had to put the mic within 3-4 inches of the power supply to get the hum/noise to change in volume while experimenting with moving the mic. I also had the hum moving the mic 15' away, and by moving the preamp to a different room with different circuitry. What baffles me is that only with this preamp do the dynamic and ribbon mics have this hum noise. I connect the same mics to a preamp 2 rack spaces away, and they are fine. Also, if I move the preamp to different locations it still creates the hum with dynamic or ribbon mics. And, as I mentioned, when I plug a condensor or self-powered into the pre it is just fine. I don't understand this one.
    Steve G
  18. DanKennedy

    DanKennedy Guest

    Is it possibly a cable problem?

    Not a bad cable per se, but one that has pin 1 connected to the shell and is potentially setting up a ground loop that this preamp is sensitive to?

    Pin 1 and the shell should be exactly the same at the chassis entry point of a preamp, this is where a large part of the rf rejection comes from, but some designs keep pin 1 seperate from the chassis. This is in an attempt to make the input quieter, but sets it up for issues outside to affect it.

    The whole AES/Muncy grounding magazine issue addresses this.

    Just a thought...
  19. StevenGurg

    StevenGurg Guest

    Thank you, Dan. I unscrewed the cable ends and couldn't find a place where the Pin 1 wire touched the shell. Pin 1 was soldered to the braided sheath around the other two wires. I am using a Prolink Studio Pro 1000, ultra-high resolution studio reference microphone cable with three multigauge bandwidth balanced wire network by Monster Cable (that is what is written on the cable). I did experience something unusual tonight. On one of the occasions I activated the phase reverse switch (putting it out of phase) the hum disappeared when phase-reversed. That had not happened with prior times of putting it in or out of phase. And I also discovered that a condenser mic has no problem at all. The preamp has a transformer that can be put in to circuit or out of circuit, but it causes too much hum under any of the possible configuration. Now, why would a self-powered or condenser mic work fine, but a dynamic or ribbon cause a hum? Baffles me.
    Thank you again, Dan.
    Steve G
  20. DanKennedy

    DanKennedy Guest

    The cable sounds fine, expensive, but fine :)

    When you say a condenser or self-powered mic works ok, is this at the same gain settings, or do you have to lower the preamps gain by a significant amount, like 20db?

    If this is the case, you might just be at the limits of performance of this particular piece. It is also quite possibly defective, because hum really shouldn't be the limiting factor, hiss should be.

    Maybe a power transformer has rotated in shipping or something.

    It's a pretty good trick to cram a lot of stuff in a small box and keep noise totally under control, and certainly your case of softly spoken vocals with a low output mic puts this to the test.

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