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which ribbon mic ?

Discussion in 'Microphones' started by Smashh, Sep 28, 2014.

  1. Smashh

    Smashh Active Member

    Hey guys ,

    Which ribbon mic is worth looking at , under 1000 dollars ? ( Is there one in that price that can do a great job and handle a large dynamic range )

    At the mo we have a rode nt1a , but it sounds like it shits itself when my wife
    starts to let rip ( a rattly distortion ) , unless she moves back 3 feet or so .
    Its definately the mic doing this , I have looked at the gains and nothing is near to clipping
    but it still happens.

    I want to be able to capture her when she lets rip , at a closer range .
    We have had success with a sm57 in the past , but Id like a fuller range
    with a little more warmth warmth .

    Mostly I want to record vocals , but versatility would be a bonus .
  2. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    I think I asked you this before but, what are you using for an AD and pre?
  3. Smashh

    Smashh Active Member

    I,m using the personus studio live 16.0.2 and the ADL700 .

    I havent seen the studio live yet but its in the mail (y)
  4. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    What was the AD you were using for the nt1a?
  5. Smashh

    Smashh Active Member

    It was the 002 rack
    The vocals was the only thing that had this distortion
  6. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    right, I remember now. You are going to be much improved. Those 002 sound like crap compared.

    I want to say, look for an R121 as it will be the most versatile ribbon but maybe there are better choices than a ribbon for her. The R122 may be better for vocals , they also sell used for the same price as R-121. I owned 2 of those, regretted selling them.
    That ADL700 should power it just fine but, I have no idea so I'm merely just throwing out idea's.
    What about an AT4047 or for more coin, an AT4060. For your budget, I'd love either one of these.
  7. Smashh

    Smashh Active Member

    Cool , thanks Chris , just throw them out there and I,ll research them .
    I know stuff all bout ribbon mics so it will get me looking at the right type of mic(y)
  8. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    also the AT4080

    Shure is another I would be looking at.
    I almost got my paws on one of those. dvdhawk tried them. Maybe he will chime in with more info on them.
    paulears likes this.
  9. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    If she can drive a condenser to distortion, then no way would I risk a ribbon on her! Dynamic would be the only thing. If you can wreck a ribbon by blowing on them, it's not the volume of her voice but the wind, and it's risky to assume popper stoppers are going to work. I use my ribbon for delicate, intricate and expensive sound sources where tiny details are the aim. Have you tried different mic positions, so the diaphragm is out of the direct blast, as in above and downwards tilting? You probably have, but that can sometimes prevent the bottoming out distortion.
  10. audiokid

    audiokid Staff

    Actually my thoughts as well, but also why I wondered about your ad or pre.
    Royers have a really awesome wind screen so if you do go with one, be sure to include their mesh screen.

    I'm thinking the 002 was a huge reason why you aren't happy. Maybe after you get the 16.0.2 that rode will sound better too.
  11. Boswell

    Boswell Moderator Distinguished Member

    I would wait until you get the Presonus mixer before you make any decisions on the microphone. The Digi 002 can suffer from input overload even with the gain trim set to minimum when using high-output condenser mics that have no built-in pads.

    If you aim to continue using the 002, it could well be worth your while trying a 20dB in-line pad between the NT1-A and the 002 input. Try to get a low-resistance type of pad that does not give excessive voltage drop for phantom power.
  12. pcrecord

    pcrecord Don't you want the best recording like I do ? Well-Known Member

    All the above, OR the NT1-A is deffective, how does it run on other sources ?

    I had a customer once, she blasted my KSM-32 with My DBX576. She sang this ballad wonderfully and at a point she open up to a very powerfull chorus.
    I switched on the -10db pad on the mic and ask her to sing at an angle, then manually engaged the -20db pad on the DBX, just for this passage.

    If the mic is not defective, you will be impress of the ADL700. I'm pretty sure, you will rediscover all your mic through it.

    Also : there's nothing wrong with the sm57 ! If the sound is right, keep using it !! ;)
  13. dvdhawk

    dvdhawk Well-Known Member

    I investigated the Shure KSM313, based on Davedog's recommendation - sometime shortly after Shure bought out Crowley & Tripp. They claimed the "Roswellite" ribbon was significantly more rugged than a conventional ribbon without sacrificing any of the good traits of a ribbon. At this point, I still do virtually all of my recording on-location, so the last thing I need is something that has to be handled with kid-gloves.

    When I finally got a chance to grab one at a good price, (which is still a little north of your stated $1000 price-point in US dollars) I started using it on vocal tracks and electric guitars with very nice results. It certainly was a welcome addition to the collection which includes, AKG C414-XLS / Neumann TLM-192 / Shure SM7B as the most commonly used vocal mics and AKG D3600 / Audix i5 / Sennheiser MD441 / MD409 / e906 / Shure SM57 as the most used mics on a guitar-amp. I'm looking forward to experimenting with it in a M/S set-up on acoustic guitar too.

    The front-side of the KSM313 has the classic ribbon sound you're familiar with, and the back-side has a very distinct (and still quite useable) sound of it's own. I've had great results with it plugged directly into the PreSonus StudioLive and through various other preamps including other PreSonus pres, Sebatron, Focusrite green-range). The PreSonus Eureka has variable impedance capability, which I'm anxious to spend some time exploring - but I just haven't had the spare time, or consistent recording space to get a good comparison. Overall it's a very nice sounding mic and, at least theoretically, a lot more durable than other ribbons mics - but that's one of those situations where you won't know how tough it is, until you start abusing it.

    The big question that comes to my mind is, do you have a suitable room for a Figure-8 mic? You'll be capturing sound from the back of the mic, whether you want to or not. So you either need to control unwanted reflections that you may not like, or you need a room that won't stamp a big ugly room-sound into your vocal track.
    bigtree likes this.
  14. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    While my room is treated, I also have a small, light-weight diffuser 18" x 24", - I can even mount it on a mic stand - that I place at the rear of the mic that really helps to control those reflections. I suppose that a small broad band absorber, strategically placed, would also help. I'm sure you could fabricate one yourself for not a whole lot of money.

    Hmmm.... a condenser would be my first choice for that, and, I also use a ribbon on guitar amps all the time - which would be considered by most to be anything but "delicate" LOL - and I love the sound that the ribbon gives in that application.

    I'm not saying I would use one on a kick drum - although I do use mine as the figure 8 mic in an MS array for drum/room miking - I guess I'm saying that I don't reserve them for just "expensive" sound sources.

    To each his own, I guess. ;)

  15. paulears

    paulears Well-Known Member

    Indeed - I rather like them on violas - they seem rather nice, and clarinets. When I use condensers on those two in particular, I find it less easy to hear the 'expensiveness' of the instrument. When I was teaching in college, a great trick to impress the students was to blow candles out with the kick. I can confirm that Reslos do NOT like kick drums - thanks, students!
  16. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    You should look at your mic cabinet as a painter does with his brushes. Each mic (brush) gives the user a different texture. Condensers are traditionally bright, sharper, clearer sounding. Dynamics are robust and smooth, and are great for miking sources that are "hot". Ribbons are "dark", smooth sounding.

    Ribbons are most certainly warm... you can get very nice "syrupy" tones from them, and I've yet to hear a ribbon that I would consider to be "harsh"; this is why so many engineers will use them on sources that are harsh, because the ribbon really attenuates those frequencies, they have a tendency to smooth out harsher sources.

    Although, they aren't really all that versatile when it comes to vocals, though. It's a kind of "what you get is what you get" with a ribbon. You use them for a reason, and don't try to make them sound like any other mic.

    The transformer in the mic is a major part of the sound of a particular ribbon (as well as the cost). Many ribbon owners will often have the stock transformers replaced with a higher quality model - like a Lundahl, for example - and this will absolutely alter the sound. Also, as Chris mentioned, your pre is going to play a large part, too - not only in sound quality, but also in headroom. Ribbons are traditionally a much lower output mic than dynamics, and far less than condensers.

    And, if you are after that hyped top-end sparkly detail, I'm not sure that a ribbon is gonna get you the results you seek, if that is something you expect. Many ribbons top out up around 14, 15 k, ( some even lower) and while that would be plenty of top end for a lot of vocals scenarios, it's not really going to give you that "air" or "sparkle" that is inherent in a nice condenser. The upside is that they are great to us on singers who have a lot of sibilance. They tend to attenuate those frequencies nicely. They are incredibly warm, and can be made even warmer with the right pre, and can be "honest" yet still musical sounding.

    Ribbons vary quite a bt in terms of frequency response. A Royer 101 has a bit of a bump down around 100, then anther bump around 800 or so, a dip around 3-5k, and then a fairly severe roll off around 16k or so.
    Whereas an AEA R92 rolls off considerably below 200, a substantial dip between 4k-9k, and then another steep roll-off above 12k.

    So, you can see that not all ribbons are alike. In fact, they hardly ever are. BUT... frequency response needs to be taken into context. You can't go by specs alone. You need to determine what you would use it for the most, and then let your ears decide.

    here are a few vids that may help. The first is a ribbon mic shootout on a guitar amp:

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m-mNybnuiZc

    here are some vocal/ribbon vids:

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGxxwff_FPE

    View: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U1kifTk5xsU

    You can find many more on youtube.

    In the end... it's the vocalist that matters the most and plays the biggest part of which mic to use and as to how the track ultimately sounds..


    -d. ;)
  17. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    Heres a very very excellent ribbon mic you should all know about. This is an an active ribbon made by Cathedral Pipes. It is the Seville. It has some of that ribbon darkness as well as an extended but unobtrusive air to it. Under a grand by a lot and all hand built. Aint it purty? Mine next month. Read more about it on Charles' website. We will be using it on guitar cabinets tonight along with the ancient SM57 and the Royer R-101.

    Attached Files:

  18. Davedog

    Davedog Distinguished Member

    A follow up. This is officially my favorite ribbon mic. I also like my R101 Royer but this Cathedral Pipes Seville is the real deal. Used it on a 1975 Fender Deluxe Reverb for bed tracks today. Early 70's Tele and no pedals. We also took a direct through a LR Baggs Para-acoustic DI. The Seville is really well balanced and even though it has that darker warmth, it also has the upper end covered. This combination is really quite complete. Under a grand.....Worth every penny.
  19. DonnyThompson

    DonnyThompson Distinguished Member

    Honestly, the Rode NT1A is not the best mic, not even for Rode. I've used them several times at client's studios and have always found them to be harsh and brittle in the top end, and muddy and frumpy/loose sounding in the lows... and the client's preamps were pretty decent. One had a Focusrite, the other a Presonus Studio/Live... certainly not Neve's, but very good all the same.

    You've mentioned ribbon mics - this may or may not be an answer for you. Not that ribbon mics are one trick pony's as so many people seem to think, ( You can use them on many different sound sources) but they are definitely notable for a particular sound. If you are looking for crisp, clear highs, a ribbon is probably not what you want. Don't get me wrong, I love ribbon mics, use them all the time, but they are definitely one of those things that have a sound in and of themselves. This type of "dark" sound may be what you are looking for.. but, maybe not.

    If you are really leaning towards a ribbon, as an option to what Dave mentioned, if you can't afford to go that much right now - there are a few mods out there that can vastly improve the sound of an inexpensive ribbon mic.

    The mods can be extensive, from insulating the casing of the mic, removing mesh layers, tightening the ribbon tension, and switching out all electronics, to one as simple as just changing out the transformer; Lundahl makes several different ones, these seem to be the most popular transformers to use for mods, and they really aren't all that expensive. You need to find the right one of course, because beyond varying in voltage, they also vary in size.

    Now, unless you are very good with this kind of work, don't do it yourself. Ribbons are very fragile, and one tiny slip of the hand will turn your ribbon mic into a coffee table decoration.

    There are several well-respected mod experts out there, one of them is Michael Joly at OktavaMod.com - He is widely respected as a mic expert and one of the go-to guys for ribbon mic mods.

    A friend of mine had a Nady Ribbon mic (I don't recall the model), and sent it to Joly for a transformer swap out. I've heard it both before and after, and I have to say, it now sounds really, really nice compared to what it originally sounded like, which, honestly, was pretty bad. I'm considering sending him my MXL 860 for a transformer upgrade.

    Mods can be expensive, or, not so expensive depending on the extent of the modification. For around $250, you can vastly improve the sound of a cheap ribbon mic. It might not sound like a Royer - and of course, if you can afford one, you should absolutely get one - but it will sound much, much better than it does before the mod.

    So, if $1500+ is outside your range right now, you can still end up with a pretty nice mic if you have the right mods performed.

    That all being said, perhaps what you need is a good condenser, something in a middle price range....perhaps something like an AT 4047, 4050, or maybe a Neumann TLM 102...

    If you are willing to spend up to $1000, my primary recommendation would be an AKG 414. It is perhaps the most versatile condenser out there in it's price range. With a good pre amp, the 414 will deliver beautiful sonics, silky top end, tight, defined bottom, smooth mids. It also has switchable Cardioid, Omni, Fig 8, and Hyper Cardioid patterns, along with 3 position HP - 75, 150 and Flat, and a 3 position pad... 0db, -10, and -20.
    The 414 is an industry standard and a workhorse. It sounds fantastic on everything.

    IMHO of course.
  20. Reverend Lucas

    Reverend Lucas Active Member


    Your post reminded me of a shootout I listened to on sessionswithslau.com, where he compares an unmodded Nady to a modded one, and to a Royer 121. The results are interesting. I think there's mention of Cascade Fatheads in there somewhere, too. I'd like to buy a stock pair of those myself, then possibly upgrade the transformers to the Lundahls as budget allows. Unfortunately for me paying for a wedding means budget allows not much for the next year.


    It sounds like your wife has a hell of a voice. Congrats, and good luck finding what works for you.

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